‘Nattering nabobs of negativism’
“Nattering nabobs of negativism,” this was one of the phrases used by the then administrator of East Central State, Anthony Ukpabi Asika (1936-2004) in 1972 to attack the former President, Dr. Nnamdi Benjamin Azikiwe (1904-1996).The phrase itself was first used by Spiro Theodore Agnew (1918-1996), former Vice President of the United States of American in a speech delivered on November 13, 1969 in Des Moines, Iowa.
The old East Central State is made up of the present Abia, Imo, Enugu, Anambra and Ebonyi states. The major offence of Dr. Azikiwe then, was to advocate for an increase of 12 states to 22 states and to complain about the neglect of the then East Central state especially the roads in the state.
Asika felt offended and launched a tirade of attacks on Azikiwe calling him “ex this”, “ex that”, who harbour “nattering nabobs of negativism.” Asika died on September 14, 2004 and I accompanied my then boss, Chief Ufot Ekaette, Secretary to the Government of the Federation then, to his befitting traditional burial in Onitsha. His wife, Chinyere Asika (1939-2015) died on May 3, 2015. The phrase no doubt, describes best the nature of things in the states right now.
It was gladdening that the Governor of Osun State, Ogbeni Rauf Adesoji Aregbesola on January 13 was able to pay pensioners and workers in Osun State with N9.5 billion up to December last year. I know of some states that have not paid salaries of workers and judges for the past nine months not to talk of paying pensioners.
On May 27 this year, it will be golden anniversary for states creation by General Yakubu Dan Yuma Gowon. In creating the states, he told the nation in a broadcast on November 30, 1966, that” I wish to make it clear to the nation that honestly I personal have no vested interest in the creation of any particular state. But there is no doubt that without a definite commitment on the states question, normalcy and freedom from fear of domination by one region or the other cannot be achieved.
The principles for the creation of new states will be: (i) no one state should be in a position to dominate or control the central government; (ii) each state should form one compact geographical area; (iii) administrative convenience, the facts of history, and the wishes of the people concerned must be taken into account; (iv) each state should be in a position to discharge effectively the functions allocated to regional governments; (v) it is also essential that the new states should be created simultaneously.”
He then named 12 governors for the 12 states he created at that time. They included Brigadier General Mobolaji Olufunso Johnson (now 81), first governor of Lagos State. His father Joshua Motola Johnson was of Egba Heritage. Mobolaji Johnson’s administration was responsible for the demolition and disinterment of people buried at Ajele Cemetary in Campus area in Lagos Island such as Samuel Ajayi Crowther, James Pinson Labulo Davies, Madam Tinubu, Thomas Babington Macaulay, and many others. The demolition met with a lot of criticisms.
Brigadier General David Femi Lasisi Bamigboye (76) was the pioneer governor of Kwara State. He is from Omu-Aran like Bishop David Olaniyi Oyedepo, founder of Winners’ Chapel in Nigeria, in the present day Kwara State. He was enlisted in the Army in 1960. His classmates then were General Julius Alani Ipoola Akinrinade (77), General Theophilus Yakubu Danjuma (78), Major General Samuel Ogbemudia, Colonel Ayo Ariyo, Chiabi (from the Cameroun), Philemon Shande, Ignatius Obeya, Brigadier General Pius Eromobor, Simon Uwakwe Ihedigbo, Ben Gbulie, S.P. Apolo, Major General Emmanuel Abisoye (76) and Brigadier General Godwin Alabi-Isama (76).
A zoologist, Police Commissioner Joseph Dechi Gomwalk (1935 -1976) was the first military governor of Benue-Plateau State. He was Ngas from Ampang in the present Kanke Local Government of Plateau State. He was executed by a firing squad for his alleged role in coup attempt that killed General Murtala Ramat Mohammed in 1976. There are disputes till today over the alleged role of Mr. Gomwalk in the coup.
Major General Robert Adeyinka Adebayo (88) was the pioneer governor of the Western State. He is from Iyin Ekiti in the present Ekiti State. He joined the army in 1953.
He was an aide-de-camp to the last British Governor General of Nigeria, Sir James Wilson Robertson (1899-1983). General Adebayo told the people of Western State on May 3, 1967, ‘‘I know also that in spite of appearance and occasional outbursts, we nevertheless are a united people dedicated to the noble course of doing honour to the Yoruba race, and our country, Nigeria. As agesture of my abiding faith I have today ordered that all persons in detention should be released in the hope that the people concerned will do everything possible to justify any confidence.” His son, Otunba Richard Adeniyi Adebayo (58) was elected the first civilian governor of Ekiti State in 1999.
Commander Alfred Papapreye Diete-Spiff (75) was the first military governor of Rivers State. He was 25 when he was appointed governor. In 1973, a correspondent for Nigerian Observer, Minere Amakiri (1949-2011) wrote an article which was published on Diete-Spiff’s birthday on July 30, 1973. Taking this as a deliberate insult, Diete-Spiff’s aide, Ralph Iwowari, had the reporter’s head publicly shaved and had him beaten with cane. At present, Diete-Spiff is the Amayanabo (King) of Twon-Brass, Bayelsa State.
General Abba Kyari (79) was the first military governor of North Central State. General Kyari is of no relation to the present Chief of Staff to the President, Alhaji Abba Kyari.
Alhaji Usman Farouk (82) was the first military governor of the North Western States. Brigadier Jacob Udoakaha Esuene (1936-1996) was the first military governor of South Eastern State which made up today’s Cross Rivers and Akwa Ibom states. A stadium is named after him in Calabar and under President Obasanjo his wife, Helen was appointed a minister of Environment in January 2006. She became a Senator in May 2015 succeeding Mrs. Ufot Ekaette, wife of the former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Chief Ufot Ekaette. Mrs Esuene built Villa Marina Hotel in Eket in 2000.
Brigadier Musa Usman was the first military governor of the North Eastern State. He died on 19th September 1991. North Eastern State now consists Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Taraba and Yobe states. General Samuel Osaigbovo Ogbemudia (82) was the first governor of Mid-Western State. It became Bendel State which now consists of Edo and Delta states.
Alhaji Audu Bako (1924-1980) was the first military governor of Kano State. After his death early in 1980 the Tiga irrigation dam, built during his governorship, was renamed the Audu Bako Dam. Following his retirement in 1975 he began farming and died at a farm he had in Sokoto State.
As we celebrate the golden anniversary of creation of states on Saturday, May 27 this year, the pertinent questions are: Have the objectives of states creation been met? Should we revert back to regionalism or confederation? We seem not to be getting it right these days as a nation. With inflation on the rise, kidnapping everywhere, religious intolerance on the increase, competition and rivalry among the tribes, no restructuring in sight, operating a costly presidential constitution, anxiety and discomfort in many homes, no light, no good roads, no pipe-borne water, no national objectives and with Boko Haram refusing to be tamed, suspicion and division among us, paucity of funds, recession worsening, no other phrase captures Nigeria today better than that famous one by Ukpabi Asika.
Teniola, a former director at the Presidency, stays in Lagos.