To all intents and purposes, the position of the Igbo socio-cultural group, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, that at least one more state be created in the South East geo-political zone is most appropriate. In a recent statement, the group renewed its call for a balanced federation for the sake of equity.
Pressing the demand further, the group enthused: “Nobody can say we are asking for too much because we are demanding for the creation of one or two more states in the South East. North East, North Central, South-West and South-South all have six states each. North-West has seven. Why should South East have only five?” In fact, this position is sacrosanct. If the Nigerian state were founded on justice and fairness, the South-East deserves more than five states. The statement credited to the Deputy Senate President and Chairman of the Senate Committee on the review of the Constitution, Ike Ekweremadu that the path to the creation of new states was tedious is unacceptable. The restructuring of this lopsided federation must begin with a new state for the South East geo-political zone.
Indeed, it is glaring that for so long, the ugly phenomenon of injustice has been institutionalized in the country. But for how long must the people continue to endure the unnerving weight of this hydra-headed monster? The quake of apprehension and insecurity enveloping the country is the outcome of several decades of injustice inflicted on certain groups in the country by others. It is now as though the nation is still under colonial bondage whereby almost all the ethnic nationalities are agitating for political autonomy and liberation. The truth is that the North used the military to internally recolonise the country. With what we have been witnessing, it is evident that the communal bond that once held the various component parts together has been rendered taut and things are beginning to fall apart. The obvious is that in today’s Nigeria, there is enormous bad blood amongst the various brother nationals making up the concocted union. Yet, it is most annoying that this embarrassing situation is a deliberate creation by those who think that the entire country is their bona fide property.
Or else, how does one rationalize the process whereby Lagos Statewhich hitherto had nine million population was given only twenty local government areas while Kano State that had a population of six million was given forty-four local governments after Jigawa was carved out of it? Now, with more than twenty million population, Lagos is still officially recognized as having a paltry twenty local councils while Kano has forty-four plus the number of local councils in Jigawa state. It will therefore be sheer pretence and active game of the ostrich to behave as though nothing is wrong with the soul of the nation. Isn’t it imperative that after several years of trying to paper over serious cracks on the nation’s body politic the present administration should recognize the need to heal old national wounds as a prerequisite for the much-needed national reconciliation? Yet, unfortunately, the Buhari administration has even aggravated the situation with his one-sided ethno-religious-induced appointments.
Against the backdrop of former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s lamentation on Tuesday that the country has not been as fractured as it has been since the past four months, it is pertinent that we sue for a national reconciliation by going back to the content of the 2014 national political conference. As a community of nationalities with differing interests, religious and cultural backgrounds, world views, and idiosyncrasies, it is natural that Nigerians should see national issues from varied and at times contradicting perspectives. There is nothing strange in the seeming endless disagreements by nationals on many themes. These are the necessary fallouts of a gregarious reality.
What is really important is the ability to realize the mutual indispensability of one another and then the courage to promptly proceed to reconcile or mend fences for healthier future relationship. In any federation, the paramount task of those at the helms of affairs is the preservation of a healthy and cooperative political entity. This is because all units within the federation, respectively, have certain local interests and values which they hold dear to themselves and for which they will not tolerate any infraction. Equally, national resources are allocated in such a way that no segment is made to feel alienated or discriminated against.
These are tendencies that are basic to all political unions. What has made Nigeria’s case different is the seeming stubbornness by those who continue to run the affairs of the nation to make concessions to others in terms of opportunities, appointments and privileges. It is the failure of those who are entrusted with the national responsibility of husbanding a truly cooperative federalism that has led to the prevailing perception that some are using the federal arrangement to lord it over others. Several feeble attempts have been made ostensibly to eliminate the problem of domination of one group over the others. Phenomena like state and local government creations were thought of being capable of assuaging these negative anxieties. Rather than abate, these feelings became aggravated due to attempts by the military to use these to further deepen the crises.
The reason why some federations such as those of the United States of America and Germany are doing well is the willingness of these nations to recognize the paramount need to maintain a healthy cooperative federalism. Also, the reason why other federations such as the now defunct Soviet Federation andYugoslavia went separate ways is their unwillingness to recognize the need to maintain a balanced cooperative federalism based on justice, equity and fairness.
Nigeria is in dire need of a genuine national dialogue as the leeway to a comprehensive national reconciliation. The Igbo have made tremendous sacrifices to ensure the continued existence of the nation as an entity. Whether you talk in terms of land mass, population or natural resource endowment the South-East needs two more states. The best definition of crisis is the absence of justice. Which is why justice is the first condition of humanity.
*Dan Amor is an Abuja-based public affairs analyst