In the bid to right the wrongs and correct the mistakes, errors and blunders of our leaders past, the National Conference was inaugurated on the 17th of March, 2014. It will not be the first time the National Conference will be convened; indeed, several conferences had been convened all aimed at correcting the mistakes made by our leaders. However, what makes this one volatile is because of the issues that the conference will attempt to resolve. These are issues that touch the core areas considered to be responsible for the disharmony, conflict, corrupt state and underdevelopment of our nation.
At the onset, several memoranda were submitted by various ethnic groups, religious groups and zonal groups. The memoranda which consisted of several critical areas for consideration included devolution of powers, creation of more states, adoption of six geopolitical zones, local government autonomy, fiscal federalism, revenue allocation, removal of immunity clause etc. However, one of the proposed memoranda that has caught my interest has been the issue of state creation.
The agitation for state creation has being in the air with several proponents totaling above 60 making their own bids. One of the major reasons with which proponents have based their agitations has been the need to make room for equity and fairness and also to bring government closer to the people. Unfortunately, it should be known that this is not the road to equity. This discourse therefore disagrees with the eminent persons agitating for more states. This is because I strongly believe that new states are not what the citizens of Nigeria need at this present time because it has been noted in the past that the exercise had not served the much propagated objectives of bringing government closer to the people.
One major setback in all the exercises is that states have been created by military rule, often times defying logic and showing little respect for cultural affinity and historical ties. The consequence is that one gesture creates not just states but more grounds for further agitations. That is why I find objectionable any attempt to give the National Conference and by extension the Legislators, the license to further balkanize the Nigerian nation.
In contrast, China, the world’s most populous nation with 1.33 billion and a land mass of about 4 times that of Nigeria has 22 provinces, 5regions, 4 municipalities and 2 self governing regions. Also, India which is next with about 1.2 billion people and a land area of 3.7 million square kilometers compared to Nigeria’s 923000 has 28 states with 7 territories. Indeed, Uttar Pradesh, one of the states in the northern part of India has a population of about 200million, far above Nigeria’s 170 million. Therefore, it stands to show that the resources of these countries will be better utilized for the people instead of the few public officials that earn higher than the resources allocated for development. The problem is therefore that Nigeria’s proposed 54 states will then struggle for the meager resources distributed at the centre with little investment in those areas that may affect the lives of the people on behalf of whom the agitators supposedly lobbied for the new states in the first instance.
It should also be of importance to note that almost all the currently existing states are going bankrupt due to the high level of debt incurred to prosecute developmental projects which the meager resources they depend upon from the federal government cannot satisfy due to high level of recurrent expenditures. Therefore, further creation of more states will lead to 1. Decrease in the amount of resources the present 36 states will receive and 2. Creation of about 200 new state legislators, 54 new senators, about 120 new representatives, 18 new ministers, array of personal aides, uncountable special advisers, horde of senior special assistants and multitudes of commissioners. Consequently, the beneficiaries will not be the people at the local level whose interests were the supposed case in point for the creation of new states but our erstwhile political big weights.
Furthermore, it is unfortunate that because oil money comes free from the centre, agitators of new states do not fashion out strategies for the survival of their pet states and how they will help drive development and help improve the welfare of the people. This practically shows that creation of more states is not desirable in a country where recurrent expenditure eats up 71% of the national budget, even as some states beat that record thus making creation of states a delinquent attempt to further deplete the country’s resources and stifle developmental efforts.
In conclusion, it is my believe that creation of more states is not the solution to the myriads of problems confronting our statehood. Therefore, I will suggest that until recurrent expenditure is reduced to the barest minimum in the existing states, until capital expenditure takes the center stage in budgetary allocations, until the existing states are able to cater for their needs without much dependence on the allocations from the federal government, until there is a reduction or probably limitation to the numbers of personal aides, special advisers, senior special assistants and commissioners that a governor is allowed to appoint, we should all say NO TO CREATION OF MORE STATES.
ADETAYO OJO is a graduate of LAUTECH, Ogbomoso, Oyo state
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