How states creation liberated the minorities
The Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode recently constituted a 12-man 50th Anniversary Committee for the celebration of the creation of Lagos State on the May 27, 2017. This Committee has its Chairman, the Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, and Chief Rasheed Gbadamosi, former Minister for National Planning, as the Co-Chairman. Other members of the Committee are: Hon. Habeeb Fasinro, Chief Olawale Cole, Mrs. Sarah Boulos, Mrs. Abimbola Obafunwa, Prof. Mrs. Senapon Bakare, Mrs. Chika Balogun, Mr. Folarin Coker, Professor Ademola Abass, Bolanle Austen Peters and Mrs. Olufunmilayo Balogun, who is the Secretary of the Committee.
I am sure the Governors of Kano, Kwara and Rivers states will set up similar committees before next year. In creating the 12 states on May 27, 1967, General Yakubu Cinwa Dan Yuma Gowon (81) made the following announcement: “The 12 new states, subject to marginal boundary adjustments, will therefore be as follows: North-Western State comprising Sokoto and Niger Provinces. North-Central State comprising Katsina and Zaria. Kano State comprising the present Kano Province. North-Eastern State comprising Bornu, Adamawa, Sardauna and Bauchi Provinces. Benue/Plateau State comprising Benue and Plateau Provinces. Lagos State comprising the Colony Province and the Federal Territory of Lagos. Western State comprising the present Western Region but excluding the Colony Province. Mid-Western State comprising the present Mid-Western State. East-Cenral state comprising the present Eastern Region excluding Calabar, Ogoja and Rivers Provinces. South-Eastern State comprising Calabar and Ogoja Provinces. Rivers State comprising Ahoada, Brass, Degema, Ogoni and Port Harcourt Divisions”.
There was a major error in General Gowon’s announcement on that day.
West Central State made up of River Niger and Ilorin provinces, which came to be known as Kwara State, was omitted in the broadcast of General Yakubu Gowon. The state was eventually created when the decree on state creation was later promulgated by General Yakubu Gowon. He them named the following as the Governors of the new states: Benue-Plateau State, Chief Superintendent of Police, Joseph Decchi Gomwalk (1935-1976), East-Central, Anthony Ukpabi Asika (1936-2004), Kwara, Brigadier David Femi Lasisi Bamigboye (75), Lagos—Brigadier Mobolaji Olufunso Johnson (80), North Central, Brigadier Abba Kyari (78), North-East, Brigadier Musa Usman( Air Force), North-West, Police Superintendent Usman Faruk (81), Rivers, Lieutenant Alfred Papapreye Diete-Spiff (Navy), South-East, Brigadier Jacob Udoakaha Jacob Esuene (1936-2004) Air Force, Police Commissioner, Audu Bako (1924-1980, Kano and West, Brigadier Robert Adeyinka Adebayo(88).
As for Mid-Western State there was initial delay in the appointment of a Governor. Major Albert Okonkwo of the Biafran Army was administrator of that state by then. The state was later liberated by Lt. Col. Murtala Ramat Muhammed (1938-76) and he eventually named his friend, Lt. Col. Samuel Osaigbovo Ogbemudia (83) as Administrator. After 57 days, General Gowon under pressure and appeals, later confirmed the appointment of Lt. Col. Samuel Ogbemudia as Governor.
The very day General Gowon created the 12 states was the day he declared state of emergency throughout the country.
It was also the very day that he assumed full powers as Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces and Head of the Military Government.
To me the creation of states in Nigeria on that day was the first major coup by the minorities. For the man who created the states, General Gowon, an Angus, is from Pankshin, in the present day Plateau State. The man who wrote the memo on the creation of states was a Kanuri, Alhaji Ibrahim Maina Damcida (1933-2012), who was at that time a Federal Permanent Secretary. And the Chairman of the Committee of Federal Permanent Secretaries that submitted the list criteria to be used for the creation of states at that time, was Chief Allison Akene Ayida (85) from the present Delta State, who later became Secretary to the Government of the Federation.
It was the creation of states in May 1967 that liberated the minorities in this country and gave them a platform and a voice.
In his book title Rise and Fall of Nigeria, Chief Allison Ayida, wrote that, “the minorities form about 45% of the total population in the country. The political arithmetic is that in any democratic process, one of the major groups needs the support of the minorities to gain power. Besides, any group temporarily out of power feels like a minority. This reinforces the contention that we should not return to the system of winner-takes-all. No section should be made to feel perpetually enslaved like second class citizens”.
Senator Joseph Sarwuan Tarka (1932-1980) told me in London in 1978 that if Gowon had not created states, his United Middle Belt Congress which was inaugurated in 1955 and signed an alliance with the Action Group of Chief Obafemi Awolowo on May 6, 1957, will be still be fighting against oppression. According to him “the states creation saved Nigeria.”
I am sure if the states were not created many Adaka Boros would have emerged by now. That being so, the Igallas, the Nupes, Ijaws, Tivs, Idomas, Ibibios, Junkuns and all other minorities should celebrate the creation of states next year as a date for their own independence too.
Although we still have the issue of minority within the states but if an Annang man like Chief Godswill Akpabio could be Governor of Akwa Ibom and an Igbira man Yahaya Bello could be Governor of Kogi State, there is hope that someone from Oke-Ogun could be Governor of Oyo State someday and an Idoma could be Governor of Benue State and other minorities could be elected governors in all the states in future.
The relevant question now is will new states ever be created? My answer is why not. Economic buoyancy has never been the major criteria for the creation of states. Of the five military rulers that have created states in Nigeria (General Gowon – May 27, 1967; General Murtala Muhammed – February 3, 1976; General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida (74, September 23, 1981; General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida, August 27, 1991 and General Sani Abacha (1943-1996), October 1,1996; none of them has explained that they created the because of economic viability.
It is the constant agitation by the people that will determine whether Okun, Idoma, Ogoja, Ibadan, Ijebu and other areas will become states in the future.
• Eric Teniola, a former director at the presidency, stays in Lagos.