By Emmanuel Aziken
It was almost understandable that Governor Rabiu Kwankwanso of Kano State would accuse Senator Ike Ekweremadu, the deputy president of the Senate, of a hidden agenda in the on-going process of amending the constitution.
Speaking to journalists in Abuja, last weekend, Kwankwanso alleged that Ekweremadu, who is chairman of the Senate Committee on Constitution Review, was aiming to foist amendments, mainly the creation of a new state for the Southeast and the recognition of geopolitical zones, in the constitution on the nation.
With tongue in cheek, Kwankwanso who has been speculated to be in the race for the presidency in 2015, said: “I am not playing any regional or ethnic politics. But you see, I am representing a state now. I will not allow anybody to go and make nonsense of what we have. If you want to create your state, go and create, do not call Kano anyhow,” the governor said in sharp rebuttal to the claim made by Ekweremadu at the presidential retreat on Constitution Review held early September about distortions in the nation’s federalism.
The deputy president of the Senate had in his presentation to the gathering chaired by erstwhile Chief Justice of the Federation, Justice Alfa Belgore, and with President Goodluck Jonathan in attendance, cited the discrepancy in the number of local governments between Kano and Lagos States as one more need to refine the shape and structure of the nation’s federalism.
As if in anticipation of the offensive from Kwankwanso, Ekweremadu added in his speech at that occasion that the legislators in the National Assembly had no position on any of the issues at stake.
“Let me therefore reassure you that we have no position on any issues except those taken by the Nigerian people through their inputs, whether through their memoranda, contributions at public hearings and their elected representatives at both the National and State Assemblies. We bear no allegiance to any, except that which we owe to the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” Ekweremadu said at that presidential retreat.
Gov Kwankwanso and Senator Ike Ekweremadu
Kwankwanso, in his assertions, was apparently miffed by what he said was the application of political considerations instead of criteria such as landmass and population in the creation of states.
He said: “Let us have criteria, there have to be criteria for creation of states. I am telling you the population of some states, local governments and some zones should be on the table. You don’t just say because you want to contest an election or make a name to create state. We have been yearning for more states in Kano; we want to have three states. “If you divide Kano State into three states, each state is more than Enugu State in terms of landmass, population and any criteria you can think of.”
The governor’s deposition, however, clearly deviated from the political consideration that has historically been the primary motive in the delineation of groups into states.
Such political consideration was clearly evident in the only state creation exercise embarked upon during a civilian dispensation in the 1963 creation of Midwest out of the Western Region.
State and local government creation between then and now were undertaken by the military with criteria that obviously did not put population and land mass as basic criteria, a development that has continued to fuel discord in the polity.
Belgore, who chaired that presidential retreat, had indeed pointed at the contentions over the direction of Nigeria, saying that it was the bad management of the country’s resources that has put the country among the poorest in the comity of nations.
“What this country had suffered from is not economic mismanagement but political instability. Our poverty level is caused by instability. We must have a Constitution to allow for stability. If there is stability, there is enough on the ground for the happiness and unity of Nigerians wherever they are and we shall be more stable, united and be able to make the country great. The Constitution is the mother of all the laws and there is enough for everybody on the ground. There will be no excuse for any Nigerian to be poor.”
Ekweremadu’s apparent effort to dig out what he has sometimes referred to as a people’s constitution has, apparently, not gone down well with some politicians. Kwankwanso, in particular, is peeved by suggestions for the adoption of geo-political zones as the basis for the country’s federal arrangement.
That suggestion is apparently loaded with grave implications one of which Kwankwanso noted in his interaction with journalists would mean that ministers would be selected based on geo-political zones and not the present situation where every state is constitutionally bound to be represented on an unwieldy federal cabinet.
Kwankwanso said: “Another issue that is very important is zoning. In the review, we are aware that some people want zones to be recognized and they want appointment of ministers to be based on zone not on states. We say no to that. We cannot accept that.
“The issue is that when it comes to selection of ministers, it will be based on zone. It means the President may avoid certain states if he or she so wishes. This side of the country will not accept that.”
The governor, however, had apparently been following the deputy Senate president’s speeches, particularly recent injunctions for the application of true federalism in the country.
It is an issue that recently brought Kwankwaso to the front row of national discourse with his assertions against the implementation of the onshore/offshore dichotomy abrogation law in the sharing of federal revenue.
Ekweremadu, at the presidential retreat sharply rebuffed insinuations among some people that fiscal federalism would make some sections of the country poorer and used graphic illustrations to point at the potential wealth buried in many states of the country. It is a “wrong and an unfortunate imputation of motive,” he said.
Though the deputy Senate president is yet to give a public response to the allegations against him raised by Kwankwanso, it is easy for his defenders to claim that he is only one of 469 members of the National Assembly involved in the process of constitution amendment at the federal level. How he would be able to subvert his colleagues to fashion his own ideas would indeed be a wonder in the politically sensitive National Assembly.
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