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Federalism is the answer, after all – Part 43

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PHOTO: NASSNigeria

All the issues and the contradictions besetting the floundering Nigerian state are piling up and the relief that is seen is a benumbing heap of problems. All problems are solvable with the application of critical thinking, selflessness and commitment to the goal of freedom. For nation-states or states, they implode when all that the ruling elite do is planning for domination. The reason being that domination would always meet with a corresponding resistance. It is just a question of time. The “rightfulness of the units of the Nigeria state” is one major point at issue in the ongoing calls for restructuring of the country. For strange reasons, some took the atomisation of the components nationalities of the Nigerian state, thereby its federal essentiality as the norm, ignoring its politics of domination that has become a blight on the polity.

The prevalent hegemony in Nigeria have been driven by two dominant motives, namely, to implement domination of the country aftermath of the 1966 coup and counter-coup and to facilitate the primitive accumulation of resources from resource endowed areas for their aggrandisement. These reasons account for the lopsided creations of states and the local government areas all of which serve as a basis for revenue allocation in the country and entrenched and reified in the reprehensible 1999 Constitution as amended.

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Unfortunately, those who are the victims of identity effacement carry on as though the salvation lies in indiscriminate state creation. If any honest Nigerian takes a tour of the country, he/she would discover that the so-called governments are conduit pipes for looting and not for implementing development objectives. This is the Nigerian story. We must, however, add a caveat, that is, not the quest of minorities for states or regions of their own, a fact that was an acknowledgment by the Sir Henry Willinck Commission before the British disengagements have a concrete historical basis. It should be noted however that even when Mid-Western Region was created in 1963 in the First Republic, the politics of domination ensured that Calabar- Ogoja-River and the Middle Belt quests were truncated.

Last week the newspaper headlines speculated the impending creation of new states by the national parliament in the broad context of the ongoing processes to review the 1999 Constitution as amended. Reportedly, the Senate Committee on Constitution Review had recommended that a referendum be conducted for 20 new states by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). The committee was ostensibly inclined to respect “the genuine desire of Nigerians.” The request list includes ITAI State (from Akwa Ibom State); State status for the FCT; Katagum State from Bauchi State; Okura State from Kogi East; Adada State from Enugu State; Gurara State from Kaduna South; and Ijebu State from Ogun State.

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Others are Ibadan State from Oyo State; Tiga State from Kano State; Ghari State from Kano State; Amana State from Adamawa; Gongola State from Adamawa; Mambilla State from Taraba State; Savannah State from Borno State; and Okun State from Kogi State. Others include Etiti State from the South East Zone; Orashi State from Imo and Anambra states; Njaba from the present Imo State or the excision of Aba State from Abia State; Anioma State from Delta State; Torogbene and Oil River States, from Bayelsa, Delta and Rivers states; and Bayajida State from parts of Katsina, Jigawa and Zamfara states.

Apart from the Southern Kaduna people under ethnic cleansings from the Fulani invaders, the list of states is driven by the quest for a share of the national cake. As observers have rightly noted of the current 36 states in the country just about five states can perhaps survive on their own. Much of the Nigerian elite need to go beyond this convenient myopia and understand the rationale for the quest for genuine federalism. Our arguments in line with expert reasoning on the subject are that for a federation to emerge, two factors are critical, namely, agreement by the people who desire to federate and the constitutional framework to embed the federal principles or terms of the union. Today, many state agitators are now falling into the traps set by those who have perpetuated domination and the skewed federal structure that is in place.

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Let the people covenant and decide whether they want six or ten regions and the required number of local governments. The state creation post-1966 has divided the country than unite it, vitiating the federal essentiality of the Nigerian state. They were not created to unite and develop the country, they were in the main exercises in brinkmanship to dominate and exploit the resources of the country. The selfish elite again want opportunities to be governors, commissioners and local government chairmen. This is base and not the reason for restructuring. Restructuring means the autonomisation of the peoples of this country in ways that they can chart the course of their development without hindrance and domination. It does not translate into bureaucratic overload.

However, the Senate has denied that there is any such plan. Nevertheless, the recommendations are already with them as part of the constitutional review process. We make bold to say that given the present non-viability of the states, many of them should be merged. State creation does not address the quest for federalism. In fact, states should be merged. The present structure encourages state begging and indolence. But federalism translates to the state’s autonomy and independence. That means growing and developing according to the proportion of your endowment and creativity. The Buhari administration will face a harsh judgment of history if he fails to restructure this convoluted federation, already a failure that keeps failing.

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