Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu
Even before the ongoing constitution amendment process gets to the crunch, some politicians are already canvassing regional and ethnic sentiments to blight the review. Chairman of the Senate Constitution Review Committee and Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu has said it all that Nigerians, mostly politicians, view constitution amendment with intense anxiety and deep suspicion. They view the process with an eye on how the impending amendment would affect their region, their ethnicity and what have you. Kano State Governor Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso has expressed such sentiments already. In an interview with The Nation last weekend, he spoke true to type, questioning the rationale for an additional state in the South-east. He wondered why the South-east deserves an additional state when its population is not up to that of the North-west. North-west has seven states. Armed with the results of the 2006 Population Census, Dr. Kwankwaso, sorry, Alhaji Kwankwaso, said the population of the North-west alone is 35,786,944 compared to the 37,396, 384 combined population of the South-east and South-south. Then he added a clincher: “They (the South-east) should not have five states in my opinion. What is the population of the South-east? Kwankwaso’s outburst would no doubt elicit sharp reactions from leaders of the South-east and former Abia State Governor Orji Kalu has already taken up issues with the Kano governor.
However, even before Kwankwaso’s eruption, I knew the move by the present National Assembly to create additional states would rake up those regional and ethnic emotions once again. As diligent as the Senate and House constitution committees seem to be in their approach to the constitution review process, I’m afraid the exercise would not enlarge the present 36 state structure. It’s not going to add any new state to the 36 that we have at present. I believe that for the purpose of the equality of the regions and for the Igbo, the third largest ethnic group in the country, to have a feeling that they also have equal stake in the Nigerian project, the South-east deserves an additional state to bring them at par with other zones apart from the North-west. But I know it would be easier to ram a camel through the eye of the needle than create an additional state under our present political situation with all the mutual suspicion and mistrust shown by the various ethnic groups and geopolitical zones. It won’t just happen. Already, perhaps to make mockery of the extant exercise, there is a plethora of requests from those agitating for new states, and some of the demands are laughable. Ekweremadu told THISDAY in an interview last week that the Senate has received 56 requests from people and groups demanding for new states at the last count.
I also shudder to think that perhaps the framers of the 1999 Constitution, which was successfully amended in 2011, did not mean that more states would be created as the process of state creation is so cumbersome. Needless to point out that creating a new state is like amending the constitution too because the 36 state structure is already set out in the constitution with their capitals and areas. But it’s also much more than that. The areas to be affected in the proposed state would engage in a referendum whether they actually want the new state or not. And then the 36 states including states not affected would have to vote for or against the plan as well. So apart from the two-third majority in each of the Senate and House of Representatives which has to back the proposed amendment, the proposed state, at least two-thirds of the 36 state Houses of Assembly in the country must back the amendment before it can be effective. If you ask me the South-east deserves an additional state. But tell me, if the North with its 19 states and in a country where the state assemblies are appendages of the governors and vote on issues the way the governors want them to, is opposed to the creation of additional state in the South-east as Kwankwaso has hinted, how would it happen? It won’t just happen I must say.