Nigeria as a federation has over decade’s undergone diverse series and stages of development and changes in her structure in terms of size and number of states created.
This largely arose from the efforts of past regimes and administrations to introduce new patterns that would foster unity and cohesiveness among the various levels of government, thereby meeting the needs of her populace and attempting to promote unity and stability in the country. However, the creation of new states in Nigeria is a practice that has had both negative and positive effects on the wheels of governance in Nigeria at different periods. I will examine in this work how state creation has grossly effected the process of governance in Nigeria and also how it has enhance or marred the effectiveness of the business of government. Firstly, I will consider the relational for the creation of these states and the outcome of its creation.
Before 1967, Nigeria was only divided into four regions which were the Northern Region, the Eastern Region, the Western Region and the Middle Belt. Each of these regions had the same number of Senators with exception of the Old Northern region which had a dominating majority of 167 out of the 312 seats in the House of Representatives. There was complains that most developments efforts in the 1962-1968 development plan were concentrated in the Northern Region (B. J. Dudley, “Federalism and the Balance of Political power in Nigeria”. Journal of Commonwealth Political Studies Vol. IV, 1966, pp. 16-29). This led to the creation of the twelve states structure between 1967 and 1975. By 1976, nineteen states were created basically to achieve the objectives of greater national unity and economic development. There was need to eliminate the feeling of marginalization and to bring government closer to the people.
One major aim for the creation of more states was the need to minimize or possibly eliminate conflict between different states or regions and also conflicts within each state or region. This is because the major characteristic of the old regions and states was the actual or potential reason of conflict. The main intra-state conflicts arose because some ethnic nationalities complained of being dominated within the states. The main inter-state conflicts were connected with demand for the transfer of sections of one region or state to another.
The most notable inter-state conflicts were those in the Tiv and Mid-West areas. One of these conflicts was the political unrest in the Tiv division between 1964 and 1965 which was as a result of loss of confidence in the regional government. In a bid to maintain order and establish its authority over the area, the government suspended the Local Government Area in the area, later, one of the supporters of the ruling party, NPC, appealed to the government to re-instate the Tiv Native Authority so that the Tiv people will have more confidence in the Northern Nigerian Government (West Africa. 2 October, 1965, p.1103; 26, February 1966, p.247 and 5, March 1966, P. 279). In the Midwest, there was opposition to the government because the Premier was not from the dominant Edo cultural group. These conflicts among others, militated against the development of internal cohesion in the regions. It was therefore, necessary to ensure that similar situations do not exist in new states.
The creation of new states in Nigeria has led to a perpetual demand by people of underdeveloped areas for their own states. This has also led to a reduction of their functions such as the overall effects of each in its area, has been reduced in the same proportion. Already, the Federal Government had taken over the power to establish new Universities and the running of television stations, yet these were some of the functions which those who demand new states expect that their government should be able to provide, for their specific areas.
Boundary adjustment crisis have occurred over the decades in the different stages of states creation which has led to inter-state disagreements and conflicts. As more states are created in Nigeria, more conflicts arise due to feelings of marginalization certain groups in the state.
Today, Nigeria has thirty-six states; still there is demand for more states and complaints on unequal revenue allocation by the Federal Government.
On the other hand, however, the creation of states in Nigeria has gone a long way in fostering unity, minimizing conflicts, bringing government closer to the people, avoiding domination of the country by one section of the state by another and ensuring a reasonable level of economic development of all parts. This does not mean that there haven’t been complaints about uneven development which has further led to demands for more states.
Another impact of state creation in the business of governance in Nigeria is the fact that the practice has enhanced greater political participation by local governments (who became states) in National affairs. As more states arise in Nigeria, the improvement of Federal – local and state-local economic growth is in view. Thus grass-root participation and development is increased. The people at the local level benefit directly from the creation of states on the grounds that they were being dominated within the existing structure. The creation of new states provides them with greater opportunities for cultural, political and economic development and also greater scheme of Federal government resources.
In conclusion, all states that have been created in Nigeria have over time served as means of fostering economic development within the country and at the same time hinders it. If the rationale behind the creation of new states is sincere and effectively applied, there would be healthier economic development and effective collaborations among the various theirs of government in Nigeria.
LONG LIVE THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA!
Adejuyigbe, Omolade (1968) “ The problems of Unity and the creation of states in Nigeria” Nigeria Geography Journal Vol. II pp. 39 – 60.
B. S. Dudley “ Federalism and the balance of political power in Nigeria” Journal of Common wealth political studies Vol. IV 1966, PP. 16-29.
Nse Victor is a freelance writter in Abuja, Nigeria.