THE ongoing National Conference in Abuja on Thursday, July 3, 2014 concluded deliberations and arrived at final decisions on a number of critical issues. Prominent among those issues is the proposal that 18 new states be created in the country. The demand and pressure for the creation of more states have been persistent, not just for years but for decades. The National Assembly has received more than 60 requests for new states while so many communities have sent delegations to Abuja to press their demands. The National Conference itself is reported to have received 34 requests within just a few months. To some of the agitators who have not bothered to reflect critically on the reality of the Nigerian situation, a new state will be a centre of development. To some others, the unstated reason is that a new state will be a fiefdom or political empire in which their influence will be near total. From all indications, participants at the conference have given very little, if any thought, to Nigeria’s contemporary predicaments and the actions and lack of action that brought the country to the sorry pass in which it has been for so long.
In spite of the wealth at its disposal, Nigeria is incapacitated in almost every facet of national life. The government has been celebrating the country’s emergence as the largest economy in Africa. The fact, however, remains incontrovertible that poverty is pervasive largely because the basic necessities for a meaningful existence are not available. The transfer of power supply from government to private enterprises has not brought about the promised improvement in service delivery. A substantial percentage of the country’s population has no access to potable water. The management of education has been problematic. Unemployment has assumed a frightening dimension. Nigerians are emigrating in droves because there is no hope for fulfillment at home. The number of Nigerians in jailhouses and on the death row in foreign lands is mind-boggling. The criminal justice system permits endemic and unfathomable corruption.
In the face of this catalogue of woes, politics has gained ascendancy as the most lucrative vocation offering unlimited access to public funds to people in positions of authority. While retirees who spent their entire productive life in the service of the country are having difficulties collecting the pittance they earn as pension, politicians who rendered more service to themselves than to the public while in office, are being paid mouth-watering severance packages. The expectation was that these and other sources of Nigeria’s national malaise would be the primary focus of the delegates’ attention. Those who enthusiastically welcomed the convocation of the National Conference expected a collection of participants who would see their assignment as a rescue mission. It should be obvious to the distinguished delegates that the present multitude of 36 states constitutes a major drain on the nation’s resources. They should have availed themselves of necessary facts and figures on how many of the 36 states can survive for two months without the allocation from the central purse. They also should have taken cognizance of the states’ capacity to generate revenue internally.
If the 18 states are created as desired by the National Conference, there will be 18 new executive councils. There will be numerous board members and chairmen. The governors, their deputies and commissioners will have innumerable special advisers and special assistants. There will be 18 new judiciaries and different levels of courts. There will be 18 new state assemblies and legislative complexes. There will be 18 new bureaucracies and their secretariats. What will it cost and how long will it take to put all these requirements in place? When and how will the needs of the ordinary people – for whom the states were ostensibly created – be met?
It should be apparent to the delegates that their proposal can only aggravate Nigeria’s woes. There is no doubt that the frenzied demand for new states are predicated on the rabid desire for a share of the oil money that has been flowing freely into the coffers of state governments. With the diminishing prospect of oil, the agitators for new states should be educated that the ‘party’ will not last for too long. It should be obvious to whoever cares to think that the total dependence of a multitude of 36 states and a bloated Federal Government on a single product is a precarious existence. The creation of additional 18 states will further reduce the capacity of the constituent units to function as effective political entities.
The conference should strengthen Nigeria’s federal structure instead of weakening it. This can be done only by reverting to the first republic arrangement. In spite of its enormous powers and the disproportionate resources at its disposal, the Federal Government has not been meeting the needs of the people. For Nigeria to change for the better, some of the powers and functions vested in the central government should be transferred to the constituent units. A Nigeria of 54 states is nothing but a pipe dream. It is outlandish, ridiculous and unworkable.