NIGERIANS, PLEASE LET US CREATE MORE STATES AND GIVE MORE SUBSIDIES!

  I have always held the view that it is the economy that will force us to rational Behaviour. We can fool around as much as we can, argue as much as we can with all kinds of biased, ethnic, religious or primordial considerations but when the economic reality dawns on us, we either decide to take the right decisions or we are forced to sink.
 For many years I have stood against State creation. I have argued that State creation destabilizes the Federation, making the centre much more stronger and more domineering. I have argued that every new State comes with its admistrative paraphernalia that consumes the income that should be devoted to development. I have argued that most of the existing states are unviable and many are insolvent and there was no economic justification to create more. I had argued that States in Nigeria were not created for altruistic reasons. They were created primarily to weaken Eastern Nigeria and subsequently Biafra in 1967. They succeeded in that mission and have continued to weaken Nigeria ever since as we went from 12 to 19 to 21 to 30 and then to 36. I have further argued that we should restructure the Federation by either returning to the Regional structure ( now 6 Regions instead of the previous 4) or at least forge Regional cooperation within regions to share services, save costs and optimize resources.
  Most times I have faced opposition either from some ambitious politicians who are looking for turf to 'colonize' and rape or from some"ignorant" Nigerians who thought their lives would be better if they had their own states. At the National Political Conference in 2005, I was very vocal in my opposition to any issue of state creation, until I was "bribed" with promise of one additional State for the South East without prejudice as a gratuitous gift from  'considerate' Nigerians who agreed that it was a manifest injustice for the zone to have only five States, while the North west has Seven States. But this 'wonderful consideration or concession' was followed by agreement to create additional but equal number of States in the six geo-political zones. It is note worthy that the recent National conference called by the immediate Past President came up with similar recommendations: Create more States. Since then I have used every opportunity I have found to draw attention to the political and economic reasons why we should not create more States. I have written several articles on the subject and devoted much space on this in my books.
  But watching what has been happening in most of our States in the last one year or so since the price of crude petroleum took a precipitate drive southwards, I have decided to 'change 'my mind. I have decided that actually we should create more States. If possible, let us turn each of the local Governments into States, so we can have at least 774 States. In which case I will have  ' the Autonomous State of Arochukwu'  similar to Rauf Aregbesola's 'State of Osun',except that mine will carry the additional word- autonomous, akin to the autonomous communities we have in Igbo land which is indicative of our freedom to do what ever we like without reference to any other authority. If the 'confederate' State of Osun can owe workers salaries for seven months, it will be no news if my ' Autonomous State of Arochukwu' owes twelve months salaries or indeed runs the government without paying  salaries or even without employing workers at all! Can anybody measure the productivity of workers who have not been paid for seven months? It must be close to zero which is almost equivalent to having no employees. What is the difference between six and half a dozen? Please answer me!
  Another area I have cried my self hoarse, is the issue of Petroleum subsidies. I have used the platform of the Nigerian Economic Summit Group and other platforms including the Presidential Advisory Council and Presidential committees, to canvass the overriding need to fully deregulate the down stream Petroleum sector. I have written severally on this need. I had called it a double jeopardy for our Country. I had shown how 300billion Naira given to the SURE-P committee in 2012 and 2013 produced Roads, Bridges, Rail lines, built health and maternity centres and provided some adhoc employment for teeming Nigerian Youth and Women, as against the nearly 2 Trillion Naira we spent on Petroleum subsidy in 2011 alone, that produced nothing except sordid allegations, confusion and misery for more Nigerians. Well, some would say it produced more private jets!. I had argued that total removal of subsidies from Petroleum products, will save money for the Country, providing needed capital funding to develop infrastructure; minimize if not totally remove the alleged corruption in the subsidy scheme, provide economic ambience for new investment by the private sector in the sector and ensure that local refineries come alive. Indeed in my recent memo to President Muhammadu Buhari, I joined many other commentators and Patriots to request him to make the total deregulation of the down stream Petroleum sector an urgent priority.
  But having watched the recent economic hardship in the Country, where we pay Subsidy to oil importers and then turn around to pay the market price for the same "subsidized" products at the filling stations, I am about to 'change' my mind. Watching workers in the Federal and State government employment complain of no salaries because of decline in National income from oil, I now want to join the Nigerian Labour Congress(NLC ) and the Trade Union Congress( TUC), who actually should be worried that their members are working without pay, but prefer to insist that Government must not deregulate, to say that we should not deregulate any more. I even want to go further and suggest that we should reduce the pump price to like 50 Naira per liter, so that we can pay the petroleum importers more subsidy. And should our current National income not be be enough to meet the subsidy claims,then we can apply to the World Bank or the IMF to bail us out. Since the NLC & TUC, do not care or worry if salaries are paid, then we can devote all earnings and borrowings to meet subsidy claims by refined oil importers. And please nobody should talk of deregulation or removal of subsidies thereafter, until the refineries are fixed and working to full capacity. If any one tries, I will join the NLC & TUC to 'ground' the economy as they had repeatedly done during the more recent heroic efforts of Presidents Obasanjo and Jonathan. My only regret is that I did not join them then and may be too hungry to join them in future, if things continue this way and  my paltry pension is affected. God, please help us!
 Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa OFR

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