Mark’s Obsession With States Creation–Thisday Editorial

Posted: November 8, 2012 in Uncategorized

Thisday|amebo|burningpot

Nigerians are asking for better governance, not new states
For the umpteenth time last week, Senate President David Mark, who has never hidden his desire to carve out Apa State out of the present Benue State for his Idoma kinsmen, declared almost with oracular authority that more states would be created in Nigeria. Relying on the well-worn argument that “creation of additional states can only bring government closer to the people…”, an assertion that is neither valid nor true, Mark has refused to see the bigger picture of the economic implications of creating more cost centres in an environment where resources for development are ever dwindling.

Former Commonwealth Secretary General, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, brought this issue home rather aptly last week when he said, “as long as the country maintains the existing structure of 36 states and the federal capital territory, with all the paraphernalia of the institutions for administration, we are not likely to achieve the level of reduction in the cost of administration that would enable the country develop as we ought to”.

Incidentally, the Senate over which Mark presides had last year reasoned along this line. Senate Leader, Senator Victor Ndoma Egba, while supporting a motion calling for the merger of some of the states said: “This is a warning to those calling for the creation of new states. I think we should have a provision in our constitution for states to freely merge considering the situation facing the states right now.”

Unfortunately, when viewed against the background that the current structure is becoming so increasingly difficult to maintain such that some senators have actually advocated merging the states, one cannot understand why Mark would be far away removed from reality. But motivated purely by the rent from oil being shared every month, the senate president has continued to delude himself into believing the current structure is sustainable.

As we have repeatedly stated, beyond the complex (and almost impossible) demands of the constitution before a state could be created, there are questions as to whether such adventure will even serve the interest of the people. While decentralisation of government ordinarily presupposes that the nearer such institution is to the people the better they are served, that has not been our experience in the country. In the Nigerian experiment, only the conspirators in favour of states creation at any given point in our history are usually the ultimate beneficiaries. In any case, if what currently obtains is any guide, it is safe to project that the new states, if they eventually emerge, will not be economically viable.

The interesting thing, however, is that the proponents also know this but their cold calculation is based on the oil money which states share every month and to which they could become the custodians if they have their fiefdoms by way of new states.
With 36 states and 774 Local Government Areas (and countless Development Centres created by the Governors) across the federation, there are pertinent questions to ask: How much development have these states brought except the creation of a multiplicity of agencies that are neither accountable to the people nor serve their interests? The tragedy of state creation based on the performance of existing ones is that it actually takes government further away from the very people it is supposed to serve. The real beneficiaries are not the people but politicians who don’t even stay in these new states as we can see from the experience of most governors. Indeed, from what has transpired in the last 13 years of democracy, the mechanism for accountability diminishes the farther away government is from the centre.

We therefore call on the Senate President to get real. What Nigerians demand at this point is better governance, not new states. He and other co-travellers who want to have fiefdoms for themselves should perish the thoughts.

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