Controversy reignites over renewed demand for additional states

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House of Representatives member for Obokun/Oriade Federal Constituency of Osun State, Mr. Oluwole Oke, has recently called for the creation of three more states in the South West. This has reignited the debates for and against the creation of new states in Nigeria.
A number of people have voiced their disagreement with the idea that adding more states will lead to increased development, citing insufficient evidence from existing empirical records.

A small number of people feel that establishing a new state in the Southeast is completely justified.

Those who hold this view think that adding a state to the South East would make Nigeria more equitable and just as it is the only zone without six states, while the North West has seven.

On the other hand, there are many who think that going back to the 2014 confab report—which, in their view, addresses the worries and concerns of every zone in Nigeria—is the best way to put an end to calls for further states.

It seems like the South East has been the one taking a beating ever since Nigeria implemented its zonal structure, which divides the country into three northern and three southern zones.

The South East now contains just five states, in stark contrast to the other five zones—South West, South-South, North Central, North East, and North West—each of which boasts at least six states. The North West, on the other hand, boasts seven.

As a result, the Southeasterners believe that the zone has suffered in federal allocation and representation in the national parliament, given that it also has the fewest local governments.

Among the many proposals put forth at the 2014 National Conference under Goodluck Jonathan’s presidency was the establishment of 18 new states—three for each zone—after the South East had already been deemed to be at least one state behind the rest of the zones (with the exception of the North West).

However, in terms of actual execution, the report was never even considered.

The report sat untouched in the presidential palace when former president Jonathan left office, and no succeeding administration saw fit to do anything with it either.

A bill to establish three new states in the southwestern United States was widely reported in the media just last week, suggesting that it could be considered by the House of Representatives.

Legislator Oluwole Oke of Osun State’s Obokun/Oriade Federal Constituency reportedly sponsored the measure, which is slated to be read for the first time in the Green Chambers.

The bill to establish the states of Oke-Ogun, Ijebu, and Ife-Ijesa was proposed by Oke, who also chairs the House Committee on Judiciary.

As part of its proposed amendment to the First Schedule, Part I of the Constitution, the bill titled “A Bill for an Act to amend the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended)” states: “The First Schedule, Part I of the Constitution is amended by introducing new states and reducing the number of local government areas.”

The proposed legislation states that the following LGAs would be merged into a new state: Ijebu East, Ijebu North East, Ijebu Ode, Ikenne, Odogbolu, Ogun Waterside, Remo North, and Sagamu. The city of Ijebu Ode has been recommended as the capital of Ijebu State.

Alternatively, Oke-Ogun State is anticipated to include 12 LGAs, namely Olorunsogo, Irepo, Oorerelope, Ogbomosho North, Ogbomosho South, Saki-East, Saki-West, Atisbo, Itesiwaju, Iwajowa, Kajola, and Iseyin, with Iseyin serving as the projected capital.

Additionally, Boluwaduro, Ife Central, Ife East, Ife North, and Ife South are the eleven local government areas that will make up Ife Ijesa State. Along with them are Oboku and Oriade, as well as Ilesa East and West.

The legislator stated that the bill was referenced as “The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (Amendment Bill, 2024.).”

The South-West zone now includes seven states, more than any of the other zones—North-Central, North-East, South-West, South-South-South, and South-East—but if the South-West area were to pass, it would overtake the North-West.

Experts agree that creating a state in Nigeria would be no picnic due to the many legislative obstacles that would need to be overcome.

Think back to 1999: the national assembly is revising the constitution at this very moment.

Assuring Nigerians in January, Benjamin Kalu, who is also the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, said that the revision to the 1999 constitution will be finished by December 2025.

Innocent Anayo, a lawyer and public affairs expert, told DAILY POST that the most challenging components in a constitutional amendment process are the requirements for state establishment and border revisions.

He cites the following provision in the constitution: Section 8 (1), which states that in order to establish a new state, the idea must have the approval of a two-thirds majority of the senators and representatives from the area that wants the new state to be formed, as well as the relevant assembly members.

The fact that no new states have been formed since the country’s return to democratic rule in 1999 is illuminating.

Rather, since 1999, there have been sporadic agitations by various organizations around the nation calling for the establishment of more states.

No one in other zones would remain silent in the face of the recent proposal to add three more states to the South West, which, if passed, would increase the zone’s total number of states to nine, leaving the South East with five states and the North West with seven.

Dr. Alex Ogbonnia, national publicity secretary of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, spoke on the matter, reiterating the stance of the highest Igbo social and cultural organization.

He bemoaned the fact that the zone has been underserved for a long time and that Ohanaeze feels the same way.

From the amount of states and LGAs to the number of representatives in the National Assembly (NASS) and the number of ministerial and patronage appointments, we have wasted billions of naira.

Most importantly, when it comes to national conventions, the South East consistently sends the fewest delegates out of all the zones. He informed 460PLAY that Ohanaeze believes the South East region requires an additional state.

But he maintained that reorganizing the country was more important than anything else, and that the calls for new states should end immediately.

What we’re talking about here is genuine federalism, which goes beyond the question of new states; under this system, each state would be allowed to control its own budget and use its own natural resources.

The difficulty is that having a cash cow is really a means to an end—eating the cake rather than making it.

“People nowadays aren’t very inventive, but under genuine federalism, every federating unit will put forth its best effort and compete with each other.”

He went on to say that the South East region of Nigeria is the most in need of additional states right now, and that anyone who thinks differently is being unkind.

To discuss three states in the southwestern region in light of the current condition of affairs is, therefore, impossible.

The reason for this is that the South East is the only region in Nigeria that has been underserved in recent discussions.

It is disrespectful to suggest the establishment of new states in any region other than the South East zone.

His main point was that the South East should be given another state so it could be considered equal to other zones, except for the North West. He maintained that this was their valid viewpoint.

Dr. Pogu Bitrus, head of the Middle Belt Forum (MBF), sees the report from the 2014 confab as a miracle cure.

He made it clear that the suggestions included in the 2014 confab report apply to all of Nigeria’s zones, including the Southeast. This South West lawmaker is attempting to get the government to reconsider the widely-accepted conference report from 2014.

Here in the Middle Belt, we got our demands heard. Our position is that this administration ought to reorganize the nation. And now that the nation is reorganized, each of the federating units—the states—will want to be successful and make a contribution to the federal government.

In contrast to the current situation, where some individuals are abusing the federal government’s power to control others, our nation will be more functional. It follows that our position is that we should revisit the 2014 confab in order to allay the people’s fears and concerns.

“Revisiting the 2014 confab report will address the issues of all parts of the country, because it is a more representative report,” he continued, “and all those requests, including those of the South East are contained in it.”

The 2014 confab report is more comprehensive, but even the All Progressives Congress (APC) report by Nasir El Rufai, which was done after President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, still called for restructuring. He went on to tell 460PLAY that the South Central, North East, North West, South-South, and South West would all have their concerns addressed in the 2014 confab report.

It is the opinion of Malachy Ugwummadu, a former national president of the Committee for the Defense of Human Rights (CDHR), that the current push for additional states in Nigeria is a sad commentary on the country.

He said it was like a bad wind that didn’t help anyone.

He claims this is due to the fact that empirical records reveal that fewer than 30% of Nigeria’s states are currently viable.

It is not a frivolous thing to create a state; the requirements for doing so include viability, independence, economic sustainability, cultural affinity, and identity, he stated.

If it is true that many states in Nigeria rely on federal allocations for their survival, then the South West protagonist—who is advocating for the creation of a state for the South West—should explain to Nigerians why he thinks thus.

Furthermore, the South East has griped vehemently about the unfair distribution of federal resources, which is based on regional factors such as the number of states and the availability of local administrations.

For the sake of balance, it would be prudent for the political economy of state creation in Nigeria to now favor the South East if equity is to be maintained.

However, I am not involved in the call for new states; rather, our objective is to examine the pros and cons of creating new states.

When you can’t even teach 12 kids, having 500 isn’t a concern. We clearly do not care about or feel any patriotism for our nation because this is having far-reaching consequences.

Going on with the idea that the desire to establish a state is more driven by selfishness than patriotism, he referenced a politician from the South East who had called for the creation of a South East Development Commission, reasoning that there already was one in the North East and another in the South-South.

“Just the other day, I noticed Victor Umeh advocating for the establishment of the South East Development Commission,” he informed 460PLAY. Although it is regretful, it is understandable. The civil war that raged from 1967 to 1970, he said, caused a great deal of damage and collapse to the South East’s infrastructure.

“You can observe our journey. Northerners have long claimed that Boko Haram is to blame for the region’s destruction and that the North East Development Commission (NDDC) is necessary due to a legitimate intervention program.

People aren’t considering this country based on the way we travel. People only care about themselves and what they can get from situations. It is somewhat troubling to me.

We are all sobbing because we have neglected the important task of nation building, even though it may seem good to the people who are directly impacted.

How much longer must we put off dealing with these issues on a national level if we are to risk the nation’s collapse? There is now a food crisis in this nation. Now, as far as I can tell, a bag of cement costs around N13,000. The conversion rate from naira to dollars is almost N2000.

The way out, he added, is to put aside all petty and self-serving concerns and put this country’s survival ahead of all else, since this country is on the verge of collapse.

There is no longer a nation. In his work, Chinua Achebe mentioned a nation; yet, in the present day, no such entity exists. Thus, we must prioritize the recovery of the nation. The exact opposite of what we are doing is adding more harmful substances to someone’s system when they are on oxygen. First, we must save the nation.

The demand for the establishment of a state is both unpatriotic and poorly timed. Second, the numbers don’t even hint that it can be sustained, thus it will go on forever.

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