Why Gowon created states 50 years ago
Tomorrow, May 27, the drums will roll out in Lagos, Kano, Ilorin, Port-Harcourt and in some other states capitals, to mark the 50 years anniversary of the creation of states by General Dan Yuma Yakubu Gowon (82).
It is interesting that Governor Ezenwo Nyeson Wike of Rivers State was not yet born when Rivers State was created in 1967, while Governors Akinwumi Ambode of Lagos State and Abdudulfatah Ahmed of Kwara State were both four when the states were created. Governor Abdulahi Umar Ganduje of Kano State was 18 at that time. It is sad that Egbon Rasheed Abiodun Gbadamosi (1943-2016) co-chairman of Lagos State at 50 is not around to celebrate on Saturday. He joined the saints on November 17 last year. My condolences always to his wife Tinu. Luckily, General Gowon, who ruled Nigeria for nine years (1966-1975) is still alive, to witness the celebrations.
Coincidentally, Lagos, Kano and Rivers states are the richest states in the country today with Lagos State becoming the fifth largest economy in Africa and aiming to be the third largest economy in Africa in 2025 —— which is possible with the way the state is booming at a fast rate now.
But 50 years ago, the idea of creating states, just like the National Youth Service Scheme which was created by the same General Yakubu Gowon on May 22, 1973, was not a popular decision. In fact, the 12 states were created by General Gowon just as we were about to start a civil war—in the midst of major national crisis. The 12 states have now become 36 states with the Federal Capital, Abuja added.
The good thing is that the states have survived and they will continue to survive no matter our position about regionalism and restructuring.
Let’s go back to the broadcast made by General Gowon on May 27 1967. It was in the same broadcast that he ordered State of Emergency in the country.
“The main obstacle to future stability in this country is the present structural imbalance in this country in the Nigerian Federation. Even Decree No.8 or Confederation or ‘loose association’ will never survive if any one section of the country is in a position to hold the others to ransom.
This is why the first item in the political and administrative programme adopted by the Supreme Military Council last month is the creation of stability. This must be done first so as to remove the fear of domination. Representatives drawn from the new states will be more able to work out the future constitution for this country which can contain provisions to protect the powers of the states to the fullest extent desired by the Nigerian people.
As soon as these are established, a new revenue allocation commission consisting of international experts will be appointed to recommend an equitable formula for revenue allocation taking into account the desired of the states.
I propose to act faithfully within the political and administrative programme adopted by the Supreme Military Council and published last month. The world will recognize in these proposals our desire for justice and fair play for all sections of this country and to accommodate all genuine aspirations of the diverse people of this great country.
I have ordered the re-imposition of the economic measures designed to safeguard federal interests until such time as the Eastern military governor abrogates his illegal edicts on revenue collection and the administration of the Federal Statutory corporations based in the East.
The country has a long history of well-articulated demands for states. The fears of minorities were explained in great detail and set out in the report of the Willink Commission appointed by the British in 1958. More recently, there have been extensive discussions in Regional Consultative Committees and leaders-of-thought conferences. Resolutions have been adopted demanding the creation of states in the North and in Lagos.
Petitions from minority areas in the East which have been subjected to violent intimidation by the Eastern Military Government have been publicised.
While the present circumstances regrettably do not allow for consultations through plebiscites, I am satisfied that the creation of new states as the only possible basis for stability and equality is the overwhelming desire of the vast majority of Nigerians.
To ensure justice, these states are being created simultaneously. To this end, therefore, I am promulgating a decree which will divide the Federal Republic into 12 states. The 12 states will be six in the present Northern Region, three in the present Eastern Region, the Mid-Western will remain as it is, the Colony Province of the Western Region and Lagos will form a new Lagos State and the Western Region will otherwise remain as it is.
I must emphasise as once that the decree will provide for a state Delimitation Commission which will ensure that any divisions or towns not satisfied with the states in which they are initially grouped will obtained redress. But in this moment of serious national emergency, the co-operation of all concerned is absolutely essential in order to avoid any unpleasant consequences. I wish also to emphasise that an Administrative Council will be established at the capitals of the existing regions which will be available to the new states to ensure the smoothest possible administrative transition in the establishment of the new states. The states will be free to adopt any particular names they choose in the future. The immediate administrative arrangements for the new states have been planned and the names of the military governors already announced.
The allocation of federally collected revenue to the new states on an interim basis for the first few months has also been planned. The successor states in each former region will share the revenue of that region in the equitable basis of their population until a more permanent formula is recommended by the new Revenue Allocation Commission. Suitable arrangements have been made to minimize any disruption in the normal functioning of services in the area of the new states.
It is my fervent hope that the existing regional authorities will co-operate fully to ensure the smoothest possible establishment of the new states. It is also my hope that the need to use force to support any states will not arise. I am, however, ready to protect any citizen of this country who are subject to intimidation or violence in the course of establishment of these new states.
My dear countrymen, the struggle ahead is for the well-being of the present and future generations of Nigerians. If it were possible for us to avoid chaos and civil war merely by drifting apart as some people claim that easy choice may have been taken. But we know that to take such a course will quickly lead to the disintegration of the existing regions in condition of chaos and to disastrous foreign interference.
We now have to adopt the courageous course of facing the fundamental problem that has plagued this country since the early fifties. There should be no recrimination. We must all resolve to work together. It is my hope that those who disagreed in the past with the Federal Government through genuine misunderstanding and mistrust will now be convinced of our purpose and be willing to come back and let us plan and work together for the realisation of the political and administrative programme of the Supreme Military Council and for the early restoration of full civilian rule in circumstances which would enhance just and honest and patriotic government.
I appeal to the general public to continue to give their co-operation to the Federal Military Government; to go about their normal business peacefully; to maintain harmony with all communities wherever they live; to respect all the directives of the government, including directives restricting the movements of people while the emergency remains. Such directives are for their own protection and in their own interest.
Let us, therefore, march manfully together to alter the course of this nation once and for all and to place it on the path of progress. Let us so act that future generation of Nigerians will praise us for our resolution and courage in this critical stage of our country’s history.
Long live the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Teniola was a director in the Presidency.