Nigeria Had Four Regions, Midwest as the Fourth:
Reaction to Hon. Godwin Kanu Agabi’s tirade on “States” etc
Professor Omo Omoruyi
When President Obasanjo eulogized the “good old days of when Nigeria had three regions” I thought that the President was carrying on the war of his forefathers against the people of the old Midwestern Region who dared the Yoruba overlords and secured their freedom in 1963.
Now on July 23, 2002 at a national conference on the “Ethnic Question” organized by the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies at Abuja, the Attorney General and Minister of Justice Mr. Godwin Kanu Agabi made many serious blunders. These blunders I read can be found in This Day of July 24, 2002 captioned “States,
Drain on Nigeria”.
IGNORED MIDWEST AS “FOURTH REGION”
Minister Agabi repeated what I thought was utter contempt on the people of the old Midwestern Region by President Obasanjo when he too recognized “three-region federation” and only ‘three major ethnic associations” in Nigeria. Should one say that what the President said was not an isolated case?
It would appear that what the President said and what the Minister parroted could be said to be the policy of this administration.
Those of us beyond the tripod would call on our representatives in government such as Chief SD Lar, Chief Tony Anenih, Mallam Adamu Ciroma, General TY Danjuma etc. to demand answers from Mr. President to these questions.
1. Is it the policy of this administration to distort Nigerian history?
2. Is it the policy of this administration to ignore the minorities in the north and south?
3. Is it the policy of this administration to focus on the tripod, Hausa/Fulani, Yoruba and Igbo?
The President and his Ministers from the tripod worry me by this mischaracterization of Nigerian past.
Mr. President, please note that such would be a recipe for political disaster.
I also wish to appeal to Dr. Samuel Ogbemudia, Chief John Oyegun Senator RS Owie that they should consider the tackling of this organized distortion of our history worthy of those who want to reclaim the past glory of Midwestern Region. They should not forget the saying that “if you do not write your history, somebody would write it for you”. We do not want President Obasanjo and his Ministers to write the history of the freedom of the old Midwestern Region.
NIGERIA IS MORE THAN THE TRIPOD
Nigeria is more than a “three-ethnic group affair”. The President and his Minister spoke from the same script recalling the “good old days of Nigeria” when Nigeria was a “three-region affair”. When was that? They never told their listeners the
dates in the past they were referring to. I consider this fraudulent.
One would have thought that the Hon. Minister would have read my reaction to the President’s mischaracterization of Nigeria’s past in the Guardian in Nigeria and in the World Wide Web. Let me restate what one would have thought are known facts about Nigeria.
1. Nigeria attained independence on October 1, 1960 with “three political regions”, east, north and west;
2. A “Fourth Region” emerged through the democratic process from the “Western Region” with the name “Midwestern Region” on August 17, 1963 after the result of the Referendum
of July 13, 1963.
3. Nigeria, as an independent country was a “three-region Federation” from October 1960 to August 1963. This was for a period of less than THREE YEARS. Could we call this harmonious years? A review of the newspapers of this period would tell us that Nigeria was from one crisis to another culminating in the declaration of a State of Emergency in the Western Region in 1962.
4. Nigeria as an independent country was a “four-region Federation” from 1963 to 1967. This was for a period of FOUR YEARS.
5. From 3 and 4 above it should have been clear that Nigeria spent longer period as a “Four-Region” Federation than as a “Three-Region” Federation. This is a simple arithmetic. We do not need a calculator for this.
6. When the President eulogized the good old days of the three regions and repeated by his Minister of Justice, it means that my peoples’ fight for their second liberation freedom from “an African nation” courtesy of Oba Akenzua
of blessed memory was in vain. Oba Akenzua, the philosopher called the first liberation, the general quest for freedom from the Whiteman and the Second liberation would have applied to minorities in the Middle-Belt and in the Niger-Delta in both west and east of Nigeria. The people on the western part of the Niger-Delta won their freedom in 1963 and the soldiers freed others
in 1967. That is the history of the liberation of the minorities in Nigeria.
7. Some of us were not only witnesses to the events leading to the emergence of the new Region but participated in the final exercise of Referendum on July 13, 1963. I was one of the
Counting Officers on that day. I recall that then Mr. (now Professor) Sunday Iyahen and I were recruited from the University of Ibadan as Counting Officers. We were assigned the BLACK BOX for the No vote at then Benin City Conference Hall now called Urhokpota on July 13, 1963. That was the first free, fair and credible
election in Nigerian history and the second one was the June 12, 1993 Presidential Election. Maybe because I was involved in the two exercises.
8. You know what, some of the surviving nationalists are regretting their blunders today! I am glad that Chief Anthony Enahoro is appreciating what fighting for freedom means today
when he recalled recently the implication in the saying of Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe that Nigeria won “independence on a platter of gold”. He lamented the implication of that today that since his generation did not fight for independence they hardly know the meaning of it. This is not so with us Midwesterners. We fought for our
9. The people of the non-Yoruba Provinces of the old Western Region fought for their freedom from the alien rule of the Yorubas and won it through the democratic process after a REFERENDUM on July 13, 1963. We were not given on a “platter of gold”. Chief SL Akintola threw out our people after the Yes Vote with out a kobo. Up till today the assets of the old Western Region were never shared.
10. For the information of the President and his Minister, the Yes Vote was 88.55% and No vote was less than 12%.
11. It is the only Region that emerged through the democratic process or through what I like to call the “interplay of political forces” and that remained so until the soldiers started decreeing” States in 1967 in response to the
threat of secession from Enugu.
12. The decreeing of States continued in 1976 when Ogun State and others were created. It is a matter of record that Ogun State was not canvassed for by the people of the present Ogun State
and it was not recommended by the Justice Ayo Irikefe Commission on State Creation. Who said that Oga General should not have something to take home at the end of hs stewardship? But this should not have been at the expense of the properly canvassed states in Kaduna and Cross River. IBB rectified this later.
13. The decreeing of States continued in 1988. 1991 and 1995.
14. While all these Military decreed States might not have emotional meaning for the peoples of these states, MIDWESTERN REGION had and I am sure still has for many people of my generation who knew and can still recall what life was like in
the old Western Region and what life was like after we became free in 1963.
MINISTER’S JAUNDICED THEORY OF FEDERALISM
The Minister of Justice has a jaundiced theory of federalism. I do not want to spend time reacting to what he considers to be the proper intergovernmental relations in a Federation. There is nothing so called.
Mr. Minister, Intergovernmental Relation (IGR) in a Federation is “dynamic” and “specific” to each federal system. Between the US and Canada, there is a world of difference. Is the Minister saying that one is an ideal Federation and the other is not?
Every Federal system must grow on its own. The militarized federal system in Nigeria since 1966 that is more unitary than federal is what the Minister of Justice wants. That is sad. That is what many people want changed.
WHO IS MORALLY SUPERIOR: FEDERAL OR STATE?
On the irresponsibility of the State and local government, I am surprised that the Minister is one of those Ministers who believe that those who serve at the local government or State Government are corrupt and those who serve at the Federal level are saints. This is not borne out by facts that we read about that people encounter
Some of the Ministers would not qualify to be councillors in their local government not to talk of becoming Governors.
Who is the Minister of Justice to use the harsh words credited to him against the Governors and Local Government officials in Nigeria?
Does he consider himself superior to even the Chairman of a local government in matters outside the Federal Government? The Constitution is clear on this that the Federal Government is not the “Supervisor” of the State and the Local Government.
That is what the Minister of Justice wants the State governor and Local Government to accept. This is not an issue for the Minister to complain about.
Mr. President, please call the Minister of Justice to order; he is doing you more harm than you think.
On ethnicity, the Minister ought to advise the President that instead of laying claim to be the Nigerian Sovereign he should have since 1999 allowed Nigerians through their representatives meet and dialogue on two questions: how to live together and how to govern ourselves.
These are the two questions since 1960; they were aggravated by the series of military misrule of Nigeria since 1966. With the greatest respect to Governor Adamu, the solution to ethnic crisis is not in a Presidential panel of Governors and Ministers who themselves are part of the problem.
What Nigeria needs since 1999 is a National Conference. The President has been avoiding it and using all sorts of gimmicks maybe feeling that the problems would go away. Are they not manifesting themselves in all these ethnic Presidential candidates all over the place that are championing their political agenda outside the six political parties?
One has to be a good Igbo man before being a good Nigeria to paraphrase the saying of the sage of Nigerian Federal System, Chief Obafemi Awolowo. But for family and ethnic settings, the Federal Government has failed many people in Nigeria.
NEED FOR POLITICAL EDUCATION
Whenever I read of how the current political class bastardizes the Nigerian political history, I begin to wonder what kind of education they had.
I once wept for Nigeria the day I read what a Commissioner in Katsina State said about the origin of Port Harcourt. He did not know that Port Harcourt meant a Port named after Lord Lewis Harcourt, the Colonial Secretary who sent Lord Lugard to perform the amalgamation project.
The Katsina State Commissioner thought that Harcourt was a British Explorer, hence he recommended to the Abacha administration that the “explorer’s name” should be dropped in favor of Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe after his death. He thought he was making a valid patriotic gesture. He did
not know that he was making a historical blunder. He did not know the feeling of the people of Rivers State after the War about Dr. Azikiwe.
Maybe a POLITICAL SCIENCE 101 should be introduced and made mandatory for all political office holders from President to Councillors.
There is still a room for a “programmed political education” that I introduced in 1989. It was blunder to have disbanded the Center for Democratic Studies. I agree that it would not have fit into the “self-succession project” of Abacha.
For a democracy, there is a room for it. Mr. President should think about it. Even mature democracies like the US, Britain and Germany, there is still room for political education.