As states celebrate their anniversaries…

In recent times a number of states have been celebrating or better said, commemorating their anniversaries, that is anniversary of their creation. This affords one an opportunity to reflect on states creation. The fundamental argument for establishment of states is that it makes for faster development of the new state and that it attracts more funding (from the federation account) to the zone generally. Consequently, there is clamour for establishment of more states. If the National Assembly were to call for memoranda on states creation, it would receive a plethora of them. Tellingly, no civilian administration has been able to create any new state. Apparently because of the schisms and mistrust among Nigerians, notwithstanding that the National Assembly as representatives of the people has the power to create states. For now, only the 36 states listed in the constitution and the federal capital territory are recognised as constituent parts of Nigeria.

Thus, all the states that have been created so far have been by military regimes, by fiat, influenced in some cases by the whims and caprices of the military Head of State at the time. For example, the naming of Asaba in 1991 as capital of a new Delta state rather than a town of the majority Urhobo tribe was alleged to have been influenced by late Babangida’s wife, then First Lady, Maryam Babangida nee Okongwu, an indigene of Asaba. Also, the choice of Lafia rather than Akwanga as the Nasarawa state’s capital by Sani Abacha in 1996 was alleged to be because of Abacha’s primordial affiliation to the Beri-beri people. Not everyone welcomed creation of more states in the beginning. For instance, the splitting of East central state was viewed as a way to weaken it. However, the people of the old East central state now seemingly know better as they consider themselves marginalised because the south east zone has the least number of states (five) while the others have six each except for the North west zone that has seven. And so, the zone had been agitating for establishment of at least one more state to bring it at par with others.

At independence Nigeria had only three regions, namely, northern region, eastern region and western region with Midwest region added later. On may 5, 1967, then Head of state General Yakubu Gowon scrapped this regional arrangement and established in their stead, 12 states. That marked beginning of states creation in Nigeria. The 12 were, North western state, North Eastern state, East central state, Benue-Plateau state, Bendel state, Cross river state and Kaduna state. Others were, Kano state, Kwara state, Rivers state and Lagos state. Then on February 1976, the country’s leader then, General Murtala Mohammed created additional seven states, to bring the total number of states as at that date to 19. He also renamed some others. His new states were, Bauchi, Ondo, Ogun, Niger, Benue, Borno and Imo states. When General Babangida assumed leadership of the country, he established two states on September 23, 1987, that is, Akwa Ibom and Katsina states, bringing the total number to 21. General Babangida increased this number again to 30 when he created nine more states on August 27, 1991. The additional states were, Jigawa, Yobe, Osun, Kebbi, Delta, Edo, Enugu, Taraba and Adamawa.

And General Sani Abacha who took over from General Babangida when he (Babangida ‘stepped aside’ established six. That happened to be the last states creation exercise as General Abdusalam Abubakar who succeeded him did not create any. He concentrated instead on his transition to civil rule programme during his rather short tenure of six months. As stated ealier, none of these civilian administrations has ventured into creation of new states. The latest states to be created by General Abacha on October 1, 1996 were Nasarawa, Ekiti, Gombe, Zamfara, Ebonyi, Bayelsa. Thus, the oldest of the states is now 55 years while the youngest are 26 years old. Some have been celebrating their anniversaries this year. Notable among these is Akwa Ibom with Governor Udom Emmanuel commissioning a number of projects to commemorate the 35th anniversary of the state’s creation while reeling out the state’s other achievements. When Akwa Ibom was carved out of Cross River state, virtually all those who used to call ‘Calabar people’ suddenly made it known to us that they were actually Akwa Ibom people. A true Calabar person became hard to come by. Till today, nationwide, it is easier to come across an Akwa Ibomite than a Cross Riverian. It appears Akwa Ibom people were the backbone of old Cross River state.

Akwa Ibom state has done well in the area of especially, infrastructure and human capital development. All the ‘Ekaettes’, ‘Akpans’ and ‘Udohs’ of this world that used to work mainly as houseboys and house girls in the days of yore, before the state came into existence are now meaningfully engaged in other areas of human endeavour as a new vista opened up for them with coming of Akwa Ibom state. Ditto the people of Ebonyi state. On the occasion of its 26th anniversary which coincides with Nigeria’s Independence Day, the state had been showcasing Governor Dave Umahi’s projects, some of which are regarded as architectural masterpieces. Indeed, Governor Umahi ranks as the best performing chief executive in the East today. And among its peers (those that were created same day), Ebonyi state has witnessed the most development, at least infrastructure wise. Abakiliki the state capital has really been transformed. And where in former times Abakiliki people were seen as the flotsam and jetsam of society who were majorly illiterate and engaged mostly in menial jobs, the story is changing today. The youths are now being absorbed into the many post-secondary and tertiary institutions that now abound in Ebonyi state.

In a sort of comedy error, both Anambra and Enugu states claim to be 31 years old and each mark August 27 as their anniversary. Recall that old Anambra state was split into 2 with one retaining the name Anambra and the other getting a new name ‘Enugu’ While Enugu retained the old capital, Enugu which had been so from the regional government and is still today headquarters of the south east zone, the new Anambra state had to build a new capital in Awka from scratch. As Nasarawa state’s anniversary also coincides with Nigeria’s October 1, Independence Day, the two are usually marked together in this state. Apart from the colourful march pasts by the military, para military and youth organisations, the state at its 26th anniversary launched its own emblem and anthem. It is the first of such in northern Nigeria.Of course the governor in his address to the citizenry, detailed its many achievements with peace and security highly rated. Although development has been relatively slow in Nasarawa state, the state has been making steady progress since its creation. Governor Abdullahi Sule whom I call the transformational governor is apparently intent on entrenching Nasarawa state into the digital age as a technology hub.

Ikeano, a journalist, writes from Lafia via [email protected] 08033077519

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