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Uzodimma’s quaint equity
By on June 19th, 2021. News
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Imo State Governor, Hope Uzodimma, recently called for the amendment of the constitution to create a new and sixth state in the Southeast of the country.

This, he believed, would level the federal playing field for marginalised tribes. He made this call during an address he delivered at the Southeast Zonal public hearing of the House of Representatives on the review of the Nigerian Constitution. He set forth: “Ndigbo will begin to see equity in action when an amended constitution births a sixth state in the Southeast.

 

The Igbo people seek a constitutional guarantee of their inalienable rights as citizens. A sixth state will go a long way in assuaging the acclaimed marginalisation. The Igbo people believe in one Nigeria. I call on all Nigerians to take advantage of the opportunity presented by the public hearing to present what they think is necessary for our constitution to be called the people’s constitution.”

It is not clear by what authority the governor spoke for the Igbo people. For the most part they have been the front row agitators for secession, restructuring and self-determination of resources.

 

A succession of underwhelming governors, who have not succeeded in tapping into the lucrative industry and technological potential of the people, have disillusioned them with the leadership offered by those governors. They were probably the first to lose faith in the colonial project that birthed Nigeria, and it is not uncommon to find that they are continually flung into spiritual and philosophical raptures by the incendiary speeches of the exiled Nnamdi Kanu.

 

So annoyed are Northern groups with Mr Kanu’s ability to oratorically rouse the Igbo people that 75 of them (the Northern groups) accorded and placed a bounty of N100m on his head. No bounty hunter, if there are any these days, will take up the task.

It is of interest, however, to examine the philosophy behind the governor’s call for the creation of a sixth state in the South East – equity. Will the Igbo find equity if they get equal numerical states with the other regions? That is highly unlikely. Restructuring has become imperative, as Abia State Governor Dr Okezie Ikpeazu noted at the same meeting, but that is in part due to the flamboyant cost of governance.

 

With the creation of every new state is the attendant cost of governance accruing to a country that cannot even afford to service the expenses of its bi-cameral legislature anymore. At creation in 1960, Nigeria’s federal republic comprised three regions which, though flawed, were easier and cheaper to govern. The structure was not perfect, but there was more equity then than after Maj. Gen. Yakubu Gowon fiddled with the regionalism system to create 12 states in 1967 just before the commencement of the civil war. At the time, he claimed the reason behind his action was to foster equity and stability.

It did not. In fact, it worsened the situation, for the marginalisation did not go away, but the cost of governance increased. The number of states has increased to thrice the original. Instead of creating new states in the country, an unaffordable venture at any rate, the governor should seek to reduce the number of states in the country.

 

For too long the country’s leaders have conceptualised equity as numerical equality of representation at the federal level. The sheer number of Nigeria’s tribes will mean that the cost of governance will be high. It will also mean that there will be too many voices representing too many diverse interests. The very heterogeneity that should have been the country’s strength will become its weakness. Equity is in the fairness of justice.

Undeniably, Nigeria currently experiences what those learned minds call ‘unjust enrichment’ where resources from one region are exploited to the benefit of another. The answer, however, is not in the creation of more states but in the reformation of laws – some call it restructuring.

 

The Southeast is not the only marginalised tribe in modern Nigeria. Nigeria’s heterogeneity must be subsumed beneath a new national identity. The creation of a new state may not serve that end.

 

 

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Justbaze

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