Thursday, June 19, 2008

Hurdles for new states

STATE creation is a political exercise. It is not amenable to logic, just as non-creation of states is also politics. The constitutional encumbrances to state creation show this.

The fact that only the military, through decrees, has been able to create states emphasises the depth of the politics it involves. Agitations for more states have begun, for many, it is the only item of interest in amending the Constitution.

Constitutional provisions for state creation are so tedious that the consensus is that new states are impossible. Enormous resources would be required, and the political backing to get a state is almost forlorn.

Section 8 lists the conditions for creation of a new state. The area that wants the state would produce a request that has the support of –– at least two-thirds majority of the senators and members of the House of Representatives; the House of Assembly; and the local government councils in the area. The two-thirds majority of people from where the request originated should support the request through a referendum.

The result of the referendum requires a simple majority approval of the existing 36 states supported by a simple majority of members of the Houses of Assembly. If the area is able to secure two-thirds majority of members of each House of the National Assembly, it has a state.
Some consider these conditions too stringent. Are they meant to ensure no new states are created?

There is also the stiff consideration of what to offer other states to get their approval to create a new state.

Ethnic issues, fears of domination, creation of new minorities who would be oppressed in the new states are some of the reasons that would quench the agitations, though they may be strong cases.
No argument for new states makes much sense, except that politics itself runs without reasons. People want political offices, appointments and opportunities are only available through platforms like states and local governments. They want states to fulfil these ambitions.

Constitutional provisions like federal character have increased the importance of states for those who use politics to corner national resources, mostly for themselves. New states will create vacancies for governors, deputy governors, legislators, judicial officers, top civil servants, commissioners, local government chairmen, ambassadorial, ministerial and board appointments.

Thugs, contractors, and thieves would have more places from which to operate. While they may not be at the forefront of these agitations, they too have interests in the matter.

Senate President, David Mark has added a new requirement: the new state must be viable. If he pursues that line, many states should be shut down. The bigger problem is that there is no constitutional way of measuring “viability.”

Agitations for states are reactions to the oppressiveness of governments of exclusion that have alienated the people, as well as some members of the political class. Most state agitators, if they tell the truth, would confirm they want to be oppressors, rather than the oppressed.