No, We Don’t Need More States

One of the most interesting political battles that have taken place in this last week has to be about the viability of states and the need to create more. Mallam Sanusi Lamido, the Central Bank Governor, in his characteristic frank way of talking, at an event, wrote off many of the states as being unviable economically and even went as far as calling for the merger of some of the states, as not only would it reduce the cost of governance, but it would be more productive. On the other hand, the Senate, through its President, David Mark, and then its spokesman, Ayogu Eze said that there will definitely be new states created by the present Senate. Both sides have supporters: those calling for the merger of states or even a return to the regional governments of the First Republic behind Sanusi; the many movements for new states behind the Senate.

Personally, I find myself somewhat in the middle. I do not support the call to merge states, because I do not see how possible that would be. What parameters are going to be used to determine that one state is viable while another one is not? No state is going to fold its hand and watch itself merged with another state. This is also not mentioning the fact that such a move requires a constitutional amendment, which is bound to fail at the states’ level, especially in the states proposed to be merged. At the same time, I am not a fan of creating new states. This is where I find myself most likely to do the most explaining:

To start with, at present, only a handful of states can survive on their own without federal allocations. All the other states are dependent on the Federal Government for their existence. Creating more states would be creating more dependents on the FG, and might just be starving the rest of funds. This dependence at present doesn’t bode well for our political system nor for our economic level. This is because it concentrates power at the centre and makes nonsense of our federalism. Also, it does not allow us to fully tap into our potentials, both human and material, since there is ‘free’ oil money.

Also, most, if not all the calls for new states are based on perceived marginalization against a smaller ethnic or religious population by the larger one. However, this is not enough reason for a new state to be created. This is because the feeling of marginalization does not go away when you have been given a state, but rather, there will be new victims of marginalization. The Nigerian political mind-set is so complex that even in a state such as Abia or Kano, which are entirely homogenous, both religious and ethnic-wise, allegations of marginalization still exist. We can marginalize against each other, even on a family/clan basis, mainly because we have a scarcity mind-set, the belief that the resources are few and won’t go round. We believe that if we do not pack all the jobs and admissions and projects for ourselves, the others will pack it all. Rather than creating a level, competitive playing-ground that brings out the best in all of us and creates more wealth for all of us, we rather tilt the playing-field in our favour. This requires a change in our thinking processes, not new states. Let us take the example of the proposed Apa State out of the present Benue State. Idoma people, long groaning under the suppression of the Tiv people, are pushing for this state, especially since their son is now the Senate President. But if Apa State should succeed, it will only be a matter of time before other smaller ethnic groups in the state such as Igede would start complaining of marginalization. Do we then create their own state? At this rate, we could end up having 100 states.

Furthermore, even though the constitution has set out a process for creating new states, the process is so cumbersome that I fail to see how this would be achieved. Besides the Senate and the House of Representatives voting for the proposed state by two-thirds, 2/3 of the State Houses of Assembly (i.e. 24) must also vote for it by two-thirds. When you start to factor in the geo-politics played in this country, you being to realize the herculean task before any movement pushing for new states. How can a House of Assembly in the South East vote for a Tiga State out of present Kano State, bringing the states in the North-West, when they want one more state themselves in order to achieve ‘geo-regional balance?’ The sheer amount of lobbying to get one state created is beyond imagination.

Lastly, how do we choose which states to be created out of the many being proposed? At the last count, almost half of the states have new states being proposed to be created out of them. How many states are we going to add? These are all questions that need to be answered.

Personally, I feel that the main problem that leads to calls for new states, i.e. marginalization can be better solved if the structure of our federalism is looked at. In other words, we need to introduce true and fiscal federalism in Nigeria. Once this in place, states would have to justify their existence by striving to survive and also to grow. This will then make them results-oriented in their actions and also compete against each other, and common sense says that sentiments cannot survive true competition. In a situation like that, it would not matter whether the governor of Benue State would be Tiv or Idoma, but rather, whether he would be able to perform. We would then see all these cries of marginalization lessen and die. A good example is Kaduna State, where since Patrick Yakowa became governor, we rarely hear the people of Southern Kaduna make calls for the creation of their own state.

It is about time we outgrow this primitive scarcity mind-set and begin to create all-inclusive societies and governments. But since it is unlikely that this would happen in this present condition, then it is necessary that we tinker with the conditions and force that mind-set to be changed.

5 Comments on this post

  1. Honestly! Gbam with this post. If only the people who made the decisions would listen, or if Nigerians could mobilize themselves to create a change here

    Muse Origins / Reply
  2. I don’t think more states should be created. It’s just an avenue for more thievery. I actually think that states should be merged but like you pointed out that would be near impossible. They should just leave everything as it is.

    lade / Reply
  3. @Mark, I am a Christian from Borno. I remember just a while back, I was against creation of a new state. I remember not long ago, an indigene of my state, from my area, created a page on Facebook supporting creation of a new state from southern Borno where I come from. I remember in my university days, when fellow Christian indigenes were always complaining of marginalization from the Kanuri (Muslim) which was d dominant tribe. I used to wonder why I had a different viewpoint from my kinsmen. Maybe because my mum was kanuri and so I accepted them as mine or maybe because of the the kind of upbringing I had- to always tolerate the Muslims just as I will of a Christian. Mark I understand you position on the state creation issue and I used to hold the same belief. However i no longer hold that belief. I believe it is time for a state to be carved out of Borno state precisely from southern Borno. The Kanuri have shown us (southern Borno) they no longer want our presence. If not how do you explain the genocide happening in maiduguri now? Boko haram have said it, the war is against Christians! I dont understand why a human being will be tracked and killed because of his faith or tribe. We have heard of cases where businesses owned by some ethnic groups or a religion have been targeted and put out. We have heard and seen how these miscreants have been aided by their immediate community in this barbaric and senseless campaign. The years of conquest through war has passed. If after the pain we have suffered in the state for quite some time now, we cant still be accpted for who we are, then I think it is time we go our seperate ways. This is my position. We have suffered years of marginalization because of ethnic and religious sentiment. Even if we can endure the ‘administrative marginalization’, I doubt we can endure the systematic genocide that is happening against us now. Time will not permit me to go on.

    Mr Dee / Reply
    • I’m also a Christian from Borno State, and I know very well this marginalization you’re talking about. However, creating new states only temporarily stops marginalization. Even worse, it creates newly-marginalized ppl. And this is because as Nigerians, we’ve a scarcity mindset – the belief that the resources aren’t enough and we’ve to hoard all of it and the opportunities for ourselves. Instead, we ought to create a collaborative environment which would lead to the creation of more wealth.
      For instance, have you not noticed that once the governor or president isn’t from your place, you immediately feel ‘marginalized’?

  4. I’m surprised to read that there are supposrter for the merger of States; in a country where 90% of its citizenry is convinced without a doubt that the path to development is New LGAs, a new Capital etc, I’m happy to find there is a significant enough number in opposition to this. I find it ludicrous that a senate President allegedly said that no state has ever been created by a Civillian regime as such betraying an even more purposeless motive. If we take an purely economical approach just like several thinking people have suggested, we would find what most states need now is some form of independence and not to be further split and birth huge liabilities. But Nigerians want their States, and an ever greedy political class finds this as an “all sides win” path to “Heeding the aspirations of the people”. I wish we were into public debates, pros and cons, heck a SWOT analysis…. I’ve said too much, I guess this matter bothers me so much because even people as young as me tend to buy into this obvious path to further endangerment of the Nigerian state

    Oshomha (@heyshomy) / Reply

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