PROBLEMS AND PROSPECTS OF STATE CREATION IN NIGERIA: A COMPARATIVE STUDY OF EBONYI STATE AND ABIA STATE
Nigeria is a plural society with different cleavages in terms of ethnic, religious, cultural, linguistic, as well as geo-political, social and economic development, but ethnic heterogeneity is inarguably, the most pervasive of them all (Vande, (2012). The development of Nigerian Federalism as a dynamic process can best be understood with reference to its ethnic configuration. Over the years, the process has involved the creation of more States to reduce political domination at the Federal level. It has also involved the attempt by minority ethnic groups to challenge the hegemony of the three largest ethnic groups: Hausa-Fulani, Yoruba, and Igbo in the political, social and economic life of the country, each of which like some of the other ethnic groups, is also made up of a number of sub-ethnic groups (Vande, (2012).
From 1922 to 1960, modern Nigeria passed through series of constitutional and political developments that eventually made her a federation. Within this period, the quest for separate status within the federation also started. In fact, the earliest beginning of the issue of state creation can be traced to 1943 when Nnamdi Azikiwe recommended the division of the country into eight units. Four years later, Obafemi Awolowo recommended ten. The years between 1947 and 1960 witnessed intense agitations of minorities for their own state. In 1951, a movement was established under the leadership of the Oba of Benin, Akenzua II for the creation of Midwest State comprising Benin and Delta provinces. As the agitation was going on, the people of the Middle Belt area also began a call for the creation of the middle-Belt region under the championship of a party called the Middle Belt People’s Party. The minorities in the East were not also left out in the struggle for state creation. The Calabar, Ogoja and Rivers provinces also called for the creation of Calabar, Ogoja, Rivers State (COR) out of the Eastern Region (Ojiako, 1981). This quest for states by the various minority groups resulted from the fear of domination and the need for accelerated economic development.
These fears of the minorities of being dominated by the majority ethnic groups in Nigeria emerged quite clearly during the 1950s in the period preceding independence (Raheem, 2014). The first attempt ever to address the minority fears in Nigeria was the Henry Willink Commission set up on September 25, 1957 by the Colonial Secretary (Mari, and Rindap, 2014). The Willink Commission completed its investigation in April 1958. In a recommendation that affirmed that the minority fears were not unfounded, the Commission proposed the balancing of power within the country so that there would be minimal temptation of the majority to use power solely for its own advantage (Mari, and Rindap, 2014). While state creation was seen as the panacea to the problem of the minorities, the Commission downplayed this for the reason that it would create further minorities. Instead of state creation, the Commission felt that the interests of the minorities could be best protected at the Federal level by working out some democratic machinery which would safeguard their interest. However, the Yakubu Gowon administration divided the country into 12 States in May 1967, which dramatically altered the configuration of the federal structure and the nature of majority-minority relations (Mari, and Rindap, 2014). By giving relative satisfaction to the long-standing ethnic minority demands for new States, Gowon’s 12 State structure to a large extent liberated many minority communities from the regional stranglehold of the majority groups.
In recent times, there have been disaffections with the idea of state creation in Nigeria. One of the major reasons for such disaffections with regards to state creation in Nigeria has to do with economic viability of the created states. According to Onimisi (2014), the economic viability of the existing states in Nigeria has always been questioned. These are further confirmed by the former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, when he stated that “most of the states and local governments in the country are not viable.” He questioned and reason behind creating more state, local government and ministries which are not economically viable (Okubenji, 2011). According to Odigwu (2012), only five states out of the 36 states in Nigeria are considered viable. He noted that the evaluation of the activities of the 36 states will be analyzed on the bases of Gross Domestic product (GPD), unemployment and poverty. According to Baffour (2015), the craving for creation of new states of various interest groups in the Nigerian polity through arguments of marginalization based on egotism, tribal sentiments and rivalry can no longer hold sway, as most of the existing 36 states had failed the litmus test of accountability and economic viability. Baffour (2015) further noted that on Tuesday 16th June, 2015, some state governors in Nigeria converged in Abuja to beg for federal bailout because they could not pay workers’ salaries and pension allowances for over six or seven months in arrears. According to him, these were the same states that met the criteria for creation either by the military fiat or the Nigerian 1999 constitution in which internally generated revenue from human capital development, natural and material resources were key prerequisites for successful take-off of new states. Supporting the view of Baffour, Ojo (2009) noted that looking at creation of states in Nigeria from the angle of economic viability, there appears to be no justification for the creation of more states in Nigeria in the foreseeable future as virtually all the existing 36 states in Nigeria are not economically viable. He noted that apart from Lagos State, which has tried to balance its budget since its creation, all other states have had to depend on the federal government for survival.
Concerns have also been raised with the spate of boundary disputes, which has riddled different states that were previously one. Since independence, the only jurisdictional partitioning that was done in accordance with the provisions of the statute book was the creation of the then Midwest region from the then western region in 1963 (Fatile, 2011). Second and by extension, it can be said that thirty-two out of the existing thirty-six states were created without due process under the military dictatorship. According to Fatile (2011), the numerous resultant artificial boundaries have precipitated several conflicts. These boundaries in several instances had ended up dividing people of the same cultural affinity; some were merged with traditional hostile neighbours in strange wedlocks. Further, others were spread thinly as minority in several states. for instance, the Ijaw of the Niger Delta are spread thinly among nine states. It is instructive to point out that whilst the 1967 state-creation exercise was largely designed to give satisfaction to ethnic minority aspirations for autonomy, subsequent reorganizations have served more to satisfy the distributive in interests of the three ethnic majority formations than to assuage the fears of politically vulnerable ethnic minority communities (Suberu, 2001). Specifically while six of the twelve-state structures were minority ethnic groups, the current thirty-six-state has only fourteen minority group States, against twenty-two for the major three ethnic groups (The Guardian, 13 March, 1994: A14).
It is important to emphasize here that the creation of additional states in Nigeria at different times have resulted into readjustments of the boundaries of States and local governments in the country (Fatile, 2011). Related to this, Nse (2009) noted that boundary adjustment crisis have occurred over the decades in the different stages of states creation which has led to inter-state disagreements and conflicts. Thus, as more states are created in Nigeria, more conflicts arise due to feelings of marginalization of certain groups in the state. According to Fatile (2011), the resultant effect of States creation and the attendant boundary adjustments is the conflictual intergovernmental interaction among the component units of the Nigerian State, most especially inter and intrastate conflicts. Thus, with the increase in the number of states in Nigeria, there has also been an increase in the recorded cases of interstate and intrastate boundary disputes in different parts of the country. Today, Nigeria has thirty-six states; still there is demand for more states and complaints on unequal revenue allocation by the Federal Government (Nse, 2009).
Despite the disaffections that have trailed state creation in Nigeria, there those who support the idea of state creation for certain reasons. According to Adeleye (2014), one of the surest ways of drawing the government closer to the people, and promoting rapid infrastructural development, economic growth and broaden political participation in a political entity, is to create as many states as can be considered appropriate for a country in relations to its population and geographical mass. Gbemre (2014) noted that Nigeria which has about 250 tribes/ethnic groups, has been daunted with the issues of marginalization, tribalism, ethnicity, religion and what have you; so much so that the political leadership pioneering of the country has been adversely affected since independence. Gbemre (2014) further stressed that the importance of creating more new states cannot be overemphasized. Once a state is created, its capital has a way of coming together to become an urban centre of attraction over time. A newly created state has a way of giving the people concerned a sense of belonging and over time, it has a way of sorting out various avenues that would yield revenue and take care of the future. Take for example states like Bayelsa with its capital city Yenegoa. When it was created, Yenegoa was all swampy and bushy and they had only one filling station at that time; but today, it has become a hub of urban attraction for all kinds of businesses. In a nutshell, a newly created State once on its way of being developed will attract all sorts of business opportunities and corporate activities, including government’s presence that will be closer to the people. The number of local governments alone and their councils is enough to absorb a great number of jobless locals, thereby addressing the problem of unemployment.
The minority problem in Nigeria is multi-dimensional. It includes the desire for self-determination and escape from domination by major ethnic groups; the quest for political relevance in the Nigerian political equation; and the desire to benefit directly from the national wealth (Adetoye, 2016). Thus, there is the idea of liberating ethnic minorities through state creation in Nigeria. Viewed from the perspective of ethnic minority in the literature, it has been argued that state creation is capable of soothing the frayed nerves of minority ethnic groups. Naturally, the polyethnic nature of the Nigerian society has always constituted a political problem for the country (Adetoye, 2016). He noted it is so especially in the specific area of the insecurity of the minorities in the country. Thus, state creation agitators have rationalized their demand as a way of escaping domination by larger ethnic groups. This fear of domination becomes real and palpable when viewed against the backdrop of the ethnic and geo-political structure of immediate post-independent Nigeria where each of the three regions was dominated by a particular ethnic group and political party (Adetoye, 2016). .
The problems of governance in Nigeria started long before the country gained independence from the British colonizers in 1960. The colonists utilized “divide and rule” tactics in order to exploit and subjugate the natives from who were extracted cheap labor and huge resources. Problems of governance deepened after independence as the British instituted three major ethnic groups (Ibo, Yoruba and Hausa) to control a nation with over 370 ethnic minorities. Disagreements over proper governance and treatment of ethnic groups have led to various solutions, including coups, counter-coups, attempted secession, administrations by military officers, and civilian governments.
The minorities’ fear of domination by the three major groups and exclusion from much needed scarce resources was a legitimate concern that has led to demonstrations and agitations for the creation of more states. From the perception of agitators for creation of states in Nigeria, the exercise is perceived as a conveyor belt of development to the hitherto underdeveloped areas of the country. It is also expected that the exercise was capable of promoting even development and could facilitate the spread of socioeconomic amenities and opportunities to the new states particularly the capital cities, urban towns and rural areas in that order (Adetoye, 2016).
However, state creation has never resolved ethnic conflicts instead; it led to fractionalization of ethnic groups. The more states that are created, the more the problem they are intended to solve persists. Just as the exercises enfeeble the constituent units vis-à-vis the federal government so do they detach the units one from the other. The state creation exercises have heightened the indigene-non-indigene phenomenon (statism) which is antithetical to a sense of common nationhood (Eze, Elimian. and Chinwuba, 2015).
As the number of newly-created states increased from 3 to 4, to 12, and then to the present 36, former majorities become disillusioned with loss of power, while former minorities soon become major groups who dominate other smaller minorities.
Generally this study attempts to examine problems and prospects of state creation: a comparative study of Ebonyi and Abia States. Specifically, the study seeks:
- To assess the fiscal viability of Ebonyi and Abia States.
- To assess cases of boundary disputes in Ebonyi and Abia States since they were created.
- To assess the impact of development in Ebonyi and Abia States since they were created.
- To assess if ethnic minorities in Ebonyi and Abia States have been liberated since their creation.
The following research questions were formulated to guide the study.
- Are Ebonyi and Abia States fiscally viable since their creation?
- Have there been cases of boundary disputes in Ebonyi and Abia States since they were created?
- Has there been positive development in Ebonyi and Abia States since they were created?
- Have ethnic minorities in Ebonyi and Abia States been liberated since their creation?
The study intends to examine the following null hypotheses:
H01: Ebonyi and Abia States are not fiscally viable
H02: there have been cases of boundary disputes since the creation of Ebonyi and Abia States
H03: There has been positive development in Ebonyi and Abia States since they were created.
The study will help policy makers and those in power to see the negative effect of minority question and ethnic marginalization and in a way make the leaders see reasons or how effective the government at all levels can practice true federalism by involving all the minority groups in the structure of governance to ensure equity.
This study will cover both Ebonyi and Abia States. It will involve both the major and minor ethnic groups in the two states. the study will cover the period of the two states were crated till date.
PROBLEMS AND PROSPECTS OF STATE CREATION IN NIGERIA: A COMPARATIVE STUDY OF EBONYI STATE AND ABIA STATE