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POLITICS OF LOCAL GOVERNMEPOLITICS OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT AND STATE CREATIONNT AND STATE CREATION
Agitations for state creation are almost as old as the Nigerian nation. 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. The federal character principle which is intended to moderate competitions among states over national ‘cake’ has exacerbated ethnic – rivalries and the indigene-settler syndrome in most of the states. The principle should be replicated in the states to accommodate Nigerians there rather than being discriminated against on the basis of their states of origin. What a contradiction! The thrust of this study is to investigate how far the state creation in Nigeria has helped in knitting the citizens to achieve a common nationhood.
Nigeria is an amalgam of diverse ethnic nationalities at varying degrees of political development before colonialism. Some of these nationalities were encapsulated in the major empires and kingdoms that dotted the political landscape of the present Nigeria. Others continued to resist annexation by these empires and kingdoms until the advent of colonial rule which amalgamated all into one entity. Trailing the 1914 amalgamation were cries of domination and marginalization by virtually all ethnic groups thereby calling for ‘self-determination’. These seemingly ethnic-motivated cries and requests for self-determination were underestimated by the Henry Willink Commission of 1957. A decade later, the Yakubu Gowon regime, owing to the foggy political atmosphere in the country, created twelve states out of the four existing regions. This example was followed by virtually all the military regimes after him probably with intention to curry acceptability by the citizens. The exercises which were considered a panacea for the national integration project have had boomerang effects because they have reinforced the problems they were ab initio set out to solve. In a historical discourse of this nature, it is important to attempt to clear possible obstacles to a firm grasp of the unfolding analysis by defining the topical terms to be found herein. The operational concepts in this paper are essentially Politics and National Integration. Admittedly, scholars, politicians and commentators have traded minds on a generally acceptable definition of the term ‘politics’. Politics as defined by Harold Lasswell is an empirical science that studies the shaping and sharing of power about “who gets what, when and how. This appears to suggest that power is pivotal in determining the allocation of resources to the citizenry. M.I. Okwueze does seem to associate himself with the view of the direction of power being determined by the science of politics. As he puts it, “politics is the science of arranging, determining and influencing allocation of power and resources in the life of a people, an organization, a community, nation and the world at large. He further contends that “politics, in its broad and dynamic perspectives, can be seen as a process of adjustment and inter-play of power and interest within the public sphere and the affairs of a society be it on a local, national or international levels. It is perhaps in the context of this that the prompting of states creation in Nigeria can be appreciated. In the context of this paper, politics is the struggle of a people for uninhibited access to political power, opportunities to contribute to the issues of governance and equitable distribution of national wealth. One of the absurdities of Nigerian federalism well noted in the extant literature as one of the factors responsible for her convoluting character is structural imbalance, created by the British colonial administration that handed over at independence a federation with a preponderant Northern Region, which was about a third of the entire federation both in land mass and population size. This lopsidedness undoubtedly is a negation of J.S. Mill’s law of federal stability, which posits that for a federation to be stable the component parts must be fairly equal in size. Coupled with minorities’ fear of marginalization, the quest by Nigerians, most especially the minorities, for the creation of their dream states has reached a crescendo. Thus, continuing fragmentation of the polity at intervals have equally animated sub-nationalities. to keep on demanding and insisting on creation of local government areas; all in an attempt to achieve geo-political balancing. Ever since 1954, when the minorities in the country first bombarded the then colonial government with an avalanche of requests for the creation of their autonomous divisions, in order to ensure equity and justice in an unfolding Nigerian federal structure; the demands for the creation of additional states and localities to the already existing ones by Nigerians have become a common place. From a federal structure of four units in 1960 (federal and three regions), now we have a staggering number of 37 units along with the federal capital territory and 774 local governments (Gboyega, 2003). It needs be reiterated that the experience of ethnic minorities worldwide has shown that several approaches can be adopted to manage the problem. These include: assimilation, ethnocide, genocide, constitutional safeguards, reversal of status and territorial solution, which otherwise is known as, state and locality creation. When this is to be done, to enhance national integration, a number of factors are equally taken into consideration. They are:
(a) their land (territorial) areas (sizes);
(b) their natural resources (in terms of economic viability;
(c) their population size; and
(d) the equality for living standard of their population (Obateru, 1999). In a perceptive work, Aaron Gana (2008), observed critically from Willink Commission of 1957 to the Politburo of 1986, that principal reasons advanced for creation of states can be classified into four viz:
(a) to promote stability;
(b) to promote unity and harmony;
(c) to facilitate cultural authenticity and
(d) to promote rapid development(Gana, 2008) An elder statesman – Chief Obafemi Awolowo – also opined that “ethnicity is the major factor to be considered as a criterion in creating any state in a federation so that minority groups in the midst of majority groups who differ in language, culture and historical The Politics of States and Local Govt. Creation & Nigeria’s Search for … Balancing 336 background will not feel inferior”. In another work credited to the amendment of creation of Western Region, Awolowo came up with another set of criteria for creation of states in a federation like Nigeria thus: The Action Group (AG) had adopted two distinct but coordinated approaches to the issue of more states in Nigeria. The first approach is the idealistic one, while the second is the materialistic approach. The AG as a matter of fundamental principle believes that if the unity of this country is to be enduring and if our populace is to have a binding peace and happiness, each ethnic group or linguistic group in Nigeria must be assured of political self-determination within the federation
Viewed from the angle of economic development, dominant views in the literature aver that the major driving motive which has sustained the quest for state creation is the general impression that development will necessarily follow the exercise. Succinctly put, this school of thought is of the opinion that, with state creation, rural communities would experience automatic growth and development. Development in the notion of pundits of this school refers to the expansion of opportunities for communal and individual advancement, particularly in the provision of more schools, roads, electricity, hospitals, water and industries. This notion is also predicated on the belief that states are instruments of resource allocation and development. This is evidenced in the practice whereby the bulk of funds available to all states and local governments in the country are sourced from and come from oil revenues controlled by federal government and it’s through the state structure in the federation that these funds are share, hence the interminable demands for creation of states by prospective beneficiaries. Paradoxically, the mushrooming of the states had diminished their operational capacity and capabilities, hence only a very few out of the 36 states so far created are self-sufficient as allocations to them from federal revenue are grossly inadequate and as such rapid development remains a mirage.
OBJECTIVE OF THE STUDY
The main objective of the study is to ascertain the efficacy of the politics of local government and state creation, but the researcher intends to attain the following specific objective;
To examine the efficacy of the politics of local government and state creation To examine the relationship between state creation and political stability in Nigeria To examine the importance of local government politics and state creation to the economic development of Nigeria
SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
Nigeria operates a federal system of government comprising three levels of government viz: the federal, the state and the local governments. The idea of a federal system presupposes that the different tiers of government are coordinate and independent in their sphere of functional jurisdiction. In Nigeria, there are thirty-six states and seven-hundred and seventy-four local governments. Local governments are perhaps the most relevant government to the local people given the fact that it is the closet to the grassroots: a most effective conduct for the public’s problem. However, the dependence of Nigerian local governments on external grant jeopardizes the imperative for capacity building initiatives It is believed that at the completion of the study, the findings will be of importance to state and local government administrators as the study will help them in ensuring adequate delivery of dividend of democracy as the study seek to explore the nemesis and merit of local government politics and state creation in Nigeria.