By Okoi Obono-Obla
I was inspired to write this essay when I found to my consternation and chagrin that a lot of Nigerians (even of my generation) know next to nothing about the historical, constitutional and political structure of this country about 50 years ago.
This reality came strikingly to my realization when one of my friends (a lawyer) in his reaction to my essay titled ‘’Ohanaeze Ndigbo Cannot Speak for the South/South’’ untruthfully suggested that the present South/South Region or Geo-Political Zone was part of the defunct Eastern Region.
On the 1st January 1914, the Protectorate of Northern Nigeria and the Colony (Lagos) and the Protectorate of Southern Nigeria were amalgamated to form the Federation of Nigeria.
In 1939 the Governor General of Nigeria Sir Hugh Clifford divided the Northern and Sothern Protectorates into provinces.
But why the Southern Protectorate was divided into three provinces namely Eastern and Western Provinces, the Northern Province was left intact.
However, provincialism came to an end in 1945 and was replaced with the regional structure.
The regional structure was effectively introduced at the inception of the Richard Constitution in 1945.
It was named after Richard who was the Governor General of the Federation of Nigeria at the time it was drawn up.
The objectives of the Richard Constitution were thus:
To promote the unity of Nigeria;
To provide within that desire for the diverse elements which make up the country;
To secure greater participation by Africans in the discussion of their own affairs.
The hall mark of the Richard Constitution is the introduction of regionalism.
The country under the Richard Constitution was divided into three regions namely Northern Region, Eastern Region and Western Region.
The regional structure which the country was divided into since 1945 ended on the 27 May 1967 when the then Federal Military Government under the leadership of General Yakubu Gowon abolished the four (4) and replaced them with States.
However, it is instructive that after the military takeover of 15 January 1966 of political governance, the then national military government under General Aguiyi Ironsi promulgated the Constitution (Suspension and Modification) Decree No. 1 of 1966 abolishing the regional structure of the country.
The Decree also abolished the country federal structure and replaced it with unitary system. The Federation was therefore renamed ‘Republic of Nigeria’.
The four regions were renamed Group of Provinces namely Northern Group of Provinces; Eastern Group of Provinces, Western Group pf Provinces and Mid-Western Group of Provinces.
It is well settled that not all parts of the present South/South geo-political zone was part of the defunct Eastern Region!
The present Edo and Delta States were never part of the defunct Eastern Region! Edo and Delta States were formerly Mid-Western Region craved out of the defunct Western Region in 1963.
With the creation of 12 States in 1967, the defunct Mid-Western Region was renamed Mid-Western State!
The defunct Mid-Western Region was created by an Act of Parliament passed in 1963.
In 1976, the name of the defunct Mid-Western State was changed to Bendel State!
In 1991, Bendel was divided into two States namely Edo and Delta States respectively!
The States in the defunct Eastern Region in the South/South geo-political zones of the country are the present Bayelsa, Akwa Ibom, Cross River and Rivers States!
When 12 States were created on May 27, 1967, by the then Federal military government three (3) States were carved out of the defunct Eastern Region.
These States were East Central States (now Anambra, Abia, Ebonyi, Enugu, Imo); South Eastern State (now Cross River and Akwa Ibom States).
The defunct Western Region became Western State, while Lagos State was carved out of the defunct Federal Territory of Lagos.
The defunct Western State is now the present Ogun, Oyo, Ondo, Ekiti, and Osun States.
The defunct Northern Region in 1967 was divided into North Central State (present Kaduna and Katsina States); Central West State (later changed to Kwara State); Benue/Plateau State (now Benue, Nassarawa and Plateau States) ; North Western State (now Niger, Zamfara , Kebbi, Sokoto States) ; Kano State (now Kano and Jigawa States); North Eastern State (now Bauchi, Gombe, Adamawa, Yobe, Taraba and Bornu States).
Lagos State was created out of the defunct Federal Territory and Colony of Lagos.
After the 12 states were created in 1967, Lagos remained the Federal Capital of Nigeria while the Capital of Lagos State was Ikeja.
On February 3, 1976, the 12-state structure of the country was dismantled and replaced with 19 states.
The defunct Northern Eastern State was divided into Bornu (present Bornu and Yobe States) and Gongola State (now Adamawa and Taraba States) and Bauchi States (now Bauchi and Gombe States).
The defunct East Central State was divided into Anambra (Anambra, Enugu and Ebonyi States) and Imo State (now Abia and Imo States).
The defunct Western State was divided into Ondo (now Ekiti and Ondo States), Ogun and Oyo (now Oyo and Osun States) State.
The defunct Benue-Plateau State was divided into Benue (now Benue and Kogi) and Plateau State (now Nassarawa and Plateau States).
The defunct Central West State (kwara) was renamed Kwara State. It is instructive that the present Kogi State is partly formed from old Benue and old Kwara States.
The defunct Northern Eastern State was divided into Bornu State (now Bornu and Yobe States) and Gongola State (now Adamawa and Taraba State) respectively.
The defunct South Eastern State was renamed Cross River State (now Cross River and Akwa Ibom States).
The defunct North Western State was divided into Sokoto (now Sokoto, Zamfara and Kebbi States) and Niger State.
The name of the defunct North Central State was changed to Kaduna State (now Kaduna and Katsina States).
The name of the defunct Mid-Western State was changed to Bendel State.
On September 23, 1987, there was another State creation exercise in the country that was initiated by the then Military President, General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida.
It resulted in the craving out of Akwa Ibom State from the old Cross River State; while Katsina State was created out of the old Kaduna State.
On the 27 August 1991, then Military President, General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida as part of his political transition programme to return the country to democratic civil rule.
The following States were created thus: Abia State was created out of old Imo State; Anambra and Enugu States were created out of old Anambra State; Edo and Delta States were created out of the old Bendel State; Jigawa State was created out of the old Kano State; Osun State was carved out from the old Oyo State; Yobe State was created out of the old Bornu; and the old Gongola State was divided into Taraba State and Adamawa State respectively.
The Nigerian elite have a penchant for selfishness and self-glorification and seeking for political turfs.
In the reality, the politics of creation of States in Nigeria, to all intents and purposes, has always being a study intense struggle for power between the elites and different power blocs and factions.
So, the then Federal military government under late General Sani Abacha again on October 1, 1996 carried out another State creation exercise.
In the exercise, Bayelsa State was carved out of the old Rivers State; Ebonyi State was carved out of the old Abia and Enugu State.
Gombe State was created out of the old Bauchi State; Kebbi and Zamfara States was created out of the old Sokoto State.
The present Federal Capital Territory was created on the 3 February 1976 made up of parts created out of the old Benue-Plateau; North Central and North Western States.
It seems to me that a lot of Nigerians of this generation do not know or were never taught about the constitutional, political and historical development of the country.
Undoubtedly, this is responsible for the sometimes-unpardonable mistakes, blissful ignorance and misinformation about the country we see (especially in the social media) every day.
It is pertinent to note on the 27 May 2017, will mark the 50th anniversary of the first State creation exercise embarked by the then Federal Military Government under young General Yakubu Gowon on May 27, 1967.
Some observers are of the opinion that the State creation exercise that took place on the 27 May 1967 (especially the creation of the defunct Southern Eastern and Rivers States out of the defunct Eastern Group of Provinces) was a shrewd political manoeuvrings and masterstroke to pull the rug out of the feet of the then Military Governor of the defunct Eastern Group of Provinces, late Colonel Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu had declared the succession of the Eastern Provinces out of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The people of the defunct South Eastern and Rivers States had clamoured from the 1950s the creation of Calabar Ogoja Rivers State out of the defunct Eastern Region; while Benue-Plateau and other minorities’ areas of the defunct Northern Region had agitated for the creation of the Middle Belt Region.
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