Who has ceded the Midwest region? -Part 2
The creation of what became Benin and Delta provinces was based on various anthropological and ethnographical surveys, conducted to ascertain the wishes and relationship of the people. The resultant Benin and Delta provinces had fertile roots in the agitations for commonality in the then poorly structured and a historical Central province that rightly ceased to exist with the reorganisation of southern Nigeria following the 1914 amalgamation.
For purposes of historical clarification, the Central province, also known as the Niger province was an amalgam of disparate peoples spread over Aboh, Agbor, Asaba, Awka, Benin, Forcados, Idah, Ifon, Ishan, Kwale, Onitsha, Sapele, Udi and Warri districts. Consequent upon the creation of the Benin and Delta provinces, Awka, Idah, Ifon, Onitsha, Udi districts were relocated respectively, in the Eastern, Western and Northern provinces, as suitable.
The Ibie and Ukpilla districts, previously in Kabba province, were returned to their kith and kin in Benin province and the administration of the entire Midwest area relocated out of Enugu to Ibadan. It is in further search of the definitive resolution of the age long cri de coeur for self-determination that Midwest region was created out of the Western region in 1963. It is obvious that by the current south-south structuration the labours invested in the quest for the Midwest region and COR zone have been lost and neither the Midwest nor COR people are better for it.
It is worth emphasising that the struggle of the people of the Midwest for a region of their own was although, Manichean, unifying. As has been reported, of the 654,130 voters participating in the plebiscite for the creation of the Midwest, over 89 per cent voted in the affirmative. We can safely deduce that despite the crisis in the Action Group at the time, members of the Midwest Movement positively embraced almost all active political parties and actors of the time. The survivors of that era can only conveniently forget the events as it would soothe them!
But the point is that the current argument should be contextualised that since the 1966 military coup d’état, Nigeria has been run badly on Praetorian logic. Similarly, the civil rule between 1979 and 1983 did not return our country to democratic roots. The civilian experience since 1999 seems to be considered as faring worse in that the economic prospects of our country, rather than federalised opportunities, has maintained corrupt and venal foundations. The principles of self-determination can be clearly articulated against these foundations bearing in mind the need for cultural autonomy, development according to one’s pace and the path to enhance the dispersal of centres of economic activities.
For example, Section 141 of the 1963 Constitution conceded six ninety-fifth per cent of federally collected revenue to the Midwest region and forty ninety-fifths; thirty-one ninety-fifths; and eighteen ninety-fifths to the Northern, Eastern the Western regions, respectively. Yet from the independent resources, each of the governments of the regions carried out development projects and catered for the welfare of their people. Since the militarisation of economic thoughts in Nigeria, regional blocs or even individual states more or less now feast on the sole nipple of the Federation Account and arguably, dissipate the resources in non-physically measurable developmental milestones.
Of course, there are plausible arguments about size, consanguinity and component units of the future geopolitical zones. The simplest response to the reservations is that federating units are not of equal sizes in any federation whether in the American, Canadian or Indian models. It is even more economically beneficial to learn the lessons of the Australian model of federalism that was adopted in our country at independence.
Therefore, it should be heartening that the proposed or ensuing constitutional zonal structures do not envisage the collapse, abolition or merger of existing states and governments. Thus, while more states could be created in each zone, it is not necessarily logical that all zones must have an equal number of states; it may not be with the Midwest.
In our view, the important constitutional point of interest should be in the relationships within each zone and then, of the zones to the central institutions established to manage the common sovereign interests of all. Finally, the strident argument over revenue allocation, resource control and so on need not be as contentious as our country had copious experience as incorporated in the 1960 and 1963 constitutions.
Dr. Ebhohimhen lives in Benin City.
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