FEATURE ARTICLE

Barth U. Amakihe, Ph.D.Thursday, February 14, 2013
bamakihe@msn.com
Ilisan, Ogun State, Nigeria

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SOUTHEAST NIGERIA DESERVES ADDITIONAL STATE


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he agitation for the creation of more states in the Federal Republic of Nigeria, took a higher dimension, when the former Military Head of State General Yakubu Gowon Rtd., spoke in a meeting of Northern Nigeria leaders, and appealed to the National Assembly Committee on Constitution Review, not to create any more states in Nigeria. It is on record that Gowon's name is recorded down in history as the creator of the twelve state structures in Nigeria. It is also on record that one of the major reasons for the breakup of the four regional governments existing in the first republic was based on inequity and injustice that was the lot of the ethnic minorities. The state creation not only dosed the tempo of ethnic domination, it induced a sense of belongingness and cohesion in the country. As the Nigerian nation continued to expand and grow, subsequent states were created, which brought it up to the present 36 states plus the capital Territory of Abuja.

In as much as the state creations have brought some negative dimensions to national cohesion, as clannishness including state residency and indigenship had continued to pose challenges to both political and national integration of the country, the advantages on overall national development, far outweigh its negative consequences. It must be noted that several towns and villages in Nigeria that have metamorphed into mega cosmopolitan towns and cities would not have achieved much if they had remained rural outposts. Cities like Uyo, Damatru, Owerri, Akure, Lokoja, Bayelsa, Lafia, Katsina, Asaba, Bauchi, Makurdi, and Abakaliki in this context would have remained mere sleeping outlying districts. The puerile arguments of States inability to generate revenue and fend for themselves without the support of the federal government can only be based on poor leadership and the endemic corruption that is hemorrhaging the country. States that have produced focused leadership had always done well. This testimony can be seen in Imo State under Sam Mbakwe, Lagos State under Fashola, Akwa Ibom State under Akpabio, and Katsina State under Musa Umaru Yar Dua

Secondly it must be noted that the equity and justice which galvanized Gowon and other State Creators to embark on the exercise are still being denied to some ethnic groups in present day Nigeria. The numerical strength of the Ibo population and the fact that the Southeast is the only area with the least number of states among the six geopolitical zones of the the Federal Republic, are facts that can never be denied. To redress this imbalance therefore, the National Assembly should very urgently ensure that each of the geographical zones of the country has at least six states.

For several decades, prominent Nigerians had opined that the Ibos of Southeast Nigeria should not be marginalized in a nation that their forbears struggled hard to build. It is not right for a blanket statement for-closing the creation of states to be made, when there are glaring imbalances, injustices and inequities which are creating underdevelopment in certain parts of the country.. Equity and justice demand the creation of an additional state in the South East Zone of Nigeria to balance the six zonal federating structure of the nation. One major criterion that had often been adduced in the creation of new states had been Population Density rather than Geographical size and Land mass that are most often scantily populated by human beings. In the above instance, the South east population density warrants an additional state in the zone.

Nigerian citizens of the present generation must eschew the bitterness and ethnic sentiments of yester-years. Protagonists must realize that peace and harmony coupled with equity and justice are the fundamental pillars of national development in the 21st century Nigeria. The beauty of democracy is the leeway it gives everyone no matter how big or small to air their views in important national matters. The National Assembly must therefore listen to the vast majority of Nigerians, and boldly correct the injustices or decisions that were taken in most cases without the consent of the people.

In addition the vast majority of this nation, no longer want a nation where one region or groups will dominate the rest but rather build a country where the ethnic diversity of the society is allowed to blossom to the benefit of the entire country. The average citizen wants to chart a new course. The Civil War protagonists, whose numbers are daily declining in an expanding population, and who with hindsight are now advancing in age, and wisdom, must tone down their rhetorics, especially on burning issues that relate to the structure of Nigeria. As elder state's men and women, advice on controversial or contentious national issues must be given in a subtle manner, without creating sensation or drama from the news media.

In conclusion, the continued demand for the creation of an additional state in the South East Zone of the country, portrays the passion of the entire citizens of the area, It must be recognized that the Igbo's and their cousins in the South-South zones of Nigeria had for several decades suffered more than other ethnic groups in Nigeria in terms of economic deprivations, political exclusiveness and environmental pollutions. It is therefore very pertinent for the National Assembly to seriously address issues that border on marginalization especially in the areas of resource control or creation of equity state which will definitely produce a sense of acceptability and furthering integration in the Nigeria project.

While the above issues are being addressed, the Jonathan administration must double its efforts in the provision of education and job creation in the whole country, particularly in the North-east Geo-political zone. The task to keep Nigeria one will be fully achieved and the labors of our heroes especially those that fought for equity and justice in our land shall not be in vain, when every citizens' rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are fully guaranteed and protected.

The national Assembly must therefore create a balance in the number of states in the nation and to give every citizen a sense of belonginess justice and equity. May Nigeria continue to experience love, peace, justice, and unity in the New Year, and other years to come.

Dr. B. U. AMAKIHE Is a Senior Lecturer in International Relations and Comparative Politics of Africa and The Middle East, Babcock University, Ilisan, Ogun State, Nigeria

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