STATE CREATION MUST RIGHT PAST WRONGS
Each time I hear the Senate President, David Mark, assure proponents of state creation that the present senate would not shy away from the exercise simply because of non-viability factor, I feel happy to be a Nigerian.
Mark has impressed it on the critics of state creation that it is a means of bringing government nearer to the people. Beyond that, it is a means of atoning for past wrongs.
I hope Mark meant what he has been saying on this issue as evidenced each time a group of state creation movement called on him. Why I say this is because I do not want to be disappointed over this issue which is very dear to my heart and I believe, the hearts of other patriotic Nigerians.
Mark, like a shrewd politician has each time assured the agitators that their demand will be considered when the present Senate would carry out the exercise. There is no doubt that some of the requests for state creation make good sense. At the same time, some others are unreasonable and can never be justified by any rationality.
I do not want to tabulate those that merit it and those that do not because I am highly involved in the matter by virtue of my coming from the South-east zone, the only geo-political zone with five states, while the rest had six, except the North-west zone that had seven.
I do not know David Mark from Adam. I have not met him or any of his aides. But in this very matter, the man appears patriotic and convincing. Mark stands tall in the matter and I salute his courage and consistency in the crucial matter that would help balance the shaky federation we have right now.
Having fought the Nigerian Civil War and being at the epicenter of military politics cum civilian democracy, Mark has seen it all and knows what is to be done to salvage the situation. The senate Mark leads has not failed the nation in this regard. Remember the doctrine of necessity the National Assembly invoked to make Goodluck Jonathan the acting president until the demise of President Umaru Yar'Adua when he was sworn in as the president. Such heroic performance is the hallmark of great leadership which David Mark currently epitomizes.
My first formal contact with the name David Mark, then a major in the Nigerian Army was through a document on 'abandoned property' issued to my late uncle, Mr. G.C. Iriele, over his one storey building on Ikwerre Street, Port Harcourt. Iriele was one of those Igbo men fortune smiled at early in life through business enterprise.
He deployed part of this fortune to build the house in question. That house was taken over by the Rivers State Government under Diette Spiff, and the owner paid a paltry sum simply because the owner was Igbo. That injustice of one abandoning his property in his region is bad and should be addressed.
Back to state creation which is my main topic today. I want all the legislators in Nigeria-states and National Assembly to rally round David Mark in this crusade to right the wrongs of the past state creation exercises. State creation initially was used by Gowon to break Biafran resistance in 1967. In Gowon's 12 state structure, six apiece for both North and South, all the Igbos were lumped into East Central State.
Subsequent state creation did not adhere to Gowon's balance. Murtala's 19- state structure, Babangida's and Abacha's still maintained the imbalance. All state creation in Nigeria is detrimental to the South-east. In all political decisions, the South-east is short-changed by one state. Lack of one state meant great loss in revenue, reduction in the number of federal legislators, recruitment into the military, police, customs, immigration, prisons and federal ministries and parastatals. The list is not exhaustive.
This is the injustice that Mark and co want to address by insisting that the present National Assembly is duty bound to create more states. Mark's reasoning on the issue is in tandem with national and international historical developments. David Mark knows that Nigeria cannot stand long on the lopsided and unethical balance it has been unwittingly consigned to. If Nigeria wants the current architectural imbalance to stay, there is no doubt one day the edifice called Nigeria would collapse.
For this house to stand and remain solid there is urgent need to restructure Nigeria in line with modern political thinking and reflect truly its federal character. The way to redress this imbalance is to give equal number of states and councils to all the federating six geo-political zones in keeping with Gowon's state creation formula.
We cannot run away from the reality and imperative of state creation in Nigeria based on the illogical arguments of non-viability. I regard those opposing more state creation as being comfortable with the present structure. The mindset of ganging up against state creation because the Igbos are concerned is stupid, unreasonable and unacceptable.
Other Nigerians should not play politics with state creation simply because the South-east is championing the exercise. That people of the region are in the forefront of the issue is understandable. They wear the shoe and know where it pinches. But I have a point of disagreement with the National Assembly's statement that any state creation agitation that is controversial would not be considered. The Senate should not allow this to happen because some interest groups may use this as an alibi to cause disaffection on the issue.
If during the military era, such controversies could not derail such, why in a democratic dispensation. Using such criterion to deny some people a state of their own would amount to great injustice.
The National Assembly should like the unbiased umpire in this case, use its leadership to create states where desirable. They should use their knowledge of the people's culture and history to create the number of states that can satisfy the yearnings of all Nigerians.
How many states would be created in view of the plethora of requests? Without preempting the outcome of the exercise, let me offer some suggestions. If the National Assembly wants to give each zone seven states apiece, it is then going to create additional six states, two to the South-east and one each to the four geo-political zones with six states already.
The North-west zone with seven states will remain so. But if it wants to create eight states apiece, it is going to create 12 new states, three to the South-east, and two to each of the zones with six states and one to the North-west to make theirs eight. Either of these propositions holds better promise and prospect for a well-balanced Nigeria federation.
When this is done, the council areas can be adjusted accordingly in keeping with equity among all the federating geo-political zones. I hope that this is what David Mark-led National Assembly might have in mind for insisting that they must create new states.
I have strong belief too that the Nigerian ecology and economy can adequately support either 42 or 48 states in Nigeria. Such would be a balanced federation where each component unit contributes to the national pool. Nigeria will not fall because it is divided into 42 or 48 states as the case may be. Rather, it will make for a stronger and more balanced federation.
The choice is now before the National Assembly. They have the chance of writing their names in gold and I believe that they can rise up to the occasion. I use this occasion to urge David Mark to rise up to the challenge as history beckons on him to make a difference. He should not deter in this duty to help cement the already fragile unity in the country. No doubt, this edifice needs re-structuring. Such re-structuring would commence with the creation of new states.
Therefore, in this journey, many Nigerians are behind Mark and the National Assembly to break the jinx that parliament cannot create states in Nigeria. This is where Mark needs our prayers and support. If Mark can really rise to the occasion, which I hope he would, he would have written his name not only in gold but in the minds of most Nigerians. If the defunct Mid-west region came to be through parliament, I do not see why the present National Assembly cannot do the same. I believe that they can do so and let it be done in our time.