EKWEREMADU'S BURDEN OF STATES
By EMMANUEL AZIKEN
I Could imagine the burden on Senator Ike Ekweremadu, the Deputy President of the Senate last Friday as he gave his views on the status of the demands for new states before the National Assembly during a lecture in Lagos.
By Ekweremadu's account there were at least 45 demands for new states lying before the National Assembly.
Whenever the campaigners for new states submit their demands to the National Assembly the occasion is often marked with much fanfare.
The agitators are often escorted by some of their outstanding personalities as if to show that they have the brains to govern the new state. They also come with cultural tokens, masquerades or anything to give the proposed state a different cultural identity.
In the Second Republic, agitation for new states was often to promote development. The assumption then was that the more states Nigeria had, the more development would percolate to the grassroots.
The logic was simple, the creation of a state and the establishment of its capital in a rural village would overnight transform that village and neighbouring villages into urban showpieces with funds channeled from the national treasury.
Suffice to say that the interplay of political and other considerations became a hindrance to the National Assembly of that era, such that it was not able to create one single state.
The military usurpers that took over were in the absence of any national debate able to multiply states as they desired. Banality, primordial considerations and chauvinistic inclinations propelled many of the state creation exercises of the military.
It is as such not surprising that one good reason for the creation of more states, that is, the promotion of development, has today become almost inconsequential as many of the created states are today unviable.
With the possible exception of Lagos and Rivers many of the other states are simply unable to generate enough money outside of the handouts from the federal allocation and the derivation funds.
Lamentably, many of our governors are in the deficit when it comes to mobilizing the elements needed to boost revenue needed to promote good governance.
It is no wonder that all the governors including former activists ganged up with the presidency last year to take a common stance on the removal of the alleged subsidy in the price of petrol. The puerile argument was that without the removal of the alleged subsidy that the states would go broke and be unable to discharge their duties. But come to think of it, what services do these states provide.
Matter of private schools
Education for most Nigerians is now a matter of private schools. Water comes from the borehole, light comes from private run generators for most part despite recent improvements by the electricity monopoly.
It was as such a relief that Senator Ekweremadu in his Lagos lecture raised the argument on whether Nigeria should adopt the geopolitical zonal structure in the administration of the country.
It is a worthy debate.
The colonial government at its peak administered the country through 24 provinces and about 87 divisions that supervised the native authorities.
It is remarkable that then Nigerians felt the impact of governance much more than we feel now. With most states utilizing a disproportionate amount of the handouts from Abuja into maintaining their relatively vast bureaucracies it is no wonder that development has continued to elude the country.
As Ekweremadu said 'At a time the global trend is aggressively moving towards the contraction of the size of government and cost of governance and at a time the nation is already sweating profusely under the yoke of unwieldy size of government at the federal, state, and local levels, can we really sustain the status-quo, let alone create new burdens?'
Regretfully Ekweremadu's immediate burden may be how to tone down the aspirations of his long time political ally, Senator David Mark who has promised his politically 'suppressed' Idoma people an Apa State as his heritage from his years in government!