Bolaji Adebiyi argues that politics rather than the need to facilitate
development, drove the creation of states in Nigeria
Five of the 36 states of the federation are in a celebratory mood, rolling out the drums to commemorate 50 years of their existence. Created on May 27, 1967 along with seven others, Cross Rivers, Kano, Kwara, Lagos and Rivers States, have retained their distinctive names since creation, even when all, but Lagos, have shed some weight over the years, losing some of their territories and people to an unending phenomenon of state creation.
Lagos and Rivers have been the loudest celebrants though. Most probably because of the deepness of their pockets. The former began the celebrations earlier last year with a committee headed by no less a personality than the Nobel Laurette, Prof. Wole Soyinka, steering the affairs of the huge party. The latter followed suit only last month but is nonetheless hosting a magnificent ball that comes to an end today.
The reasons for the celebrations vary. For Governor Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State, the party is a toast to the unity of Nigeria, which he said the state provided the platform for in the last 50 years. Besides, he said, every opportunity must be seized to market the immense economic opportunities that abound in the coastal state.
“The golden jubilee presents a unique opportunity for us not only to celebrate our achievements but also to showcase to the entire world the immense potential waiting to be tapped,” he said, adding: “We are determined and committed as a government, to fully explore all the possibilities presented by this moment to lay a solid foundation for another glorious and prosperous 50 years.”
The sentiment is different in Rivers State, where Governor Nyesom Wike says his people are making merry to mark their independence from oppression.
According to him: “Many of us, who are now enjoying the fruits of liberty may not truly appreciate what it meant to be dominated, dispossessed, deprived, exploited and oppressed in your own land by the dominant social and political tendencies of the time.
“Before Rivers State was created, our people could not find schools in their neighbourhood, hospitals to treat the sick, universities to educate their children, decent jobs to earn income and good roads to their communities.”
The creation of the state, he noted, had changed this, adding that Rivers had attained greater heights and surmounted development challenges.
“Although we are not where we should be within the matrix of where we want to be, we still have a lot to celebrate and thank God for the 50 years of our existence as a state and as a people with a common destiny,” Wike told a committee he set up in March 2017 to organise the celebrations and explained that the most significant outcome of its existence was that the people were now the masters of their destiny.
Wike struck at the core of the basis of the fragmentation of Nigeria in the name of state creation, arising from the agitations of the minorities against their domination by the majority nationalities. As he noted, however, it remains doubtful if state creation as a tool for dousing minority agitations has indeed fulfilled its objective of securing access to, and, facilitating economic growth and development for the hitherto marginalised nationalities.
The agitations began in the immediate pre-independence period when the minority groups expressed their fear that they might be strangulated by the majority ethic formations in a post- independence Nigeria and, therefore, sought guarantees from the receding colonial government that their interests would be protected.
The colonial government acceded to this demand, setting up in September, 1957 the Harry Willink Commission to ascertain the fears and suggest measures to allay them. The commission reported that the fears were real even if exaggerated in some instances, but fell short of recommending creation of states for the minorities within the three regions, Northern Region, Western Region and Eastern Region. Instead it recommended constitutional guarantees for their protection against domination through the creations of councils in the minority areas charged with fostering their well-being, cultural advancement and economic and social development.
Although the three regions survived the minority agitations and remained intact at independence in 1960, it was obvious that the resolution of their demand for more concrete arrangements that would insulate them from the dominance of the majority nationalities was merely postponed. With the three majority nationalities dominating the politics and the political parties in control of the regions, it was not long before the fears of the minorities became real as commanding government positions were not only occupied by the majority, provision of socio-economic infrastructures and opportunities were skewed against the minorities.
The Hausa-Fulani dominated the Northern Peoples Congress (NPC) in the Northern Region to the detriment of the Middle Belt, consisting largely of the Tiv, Idoma, Igala, Ebira and pockets of Yoruba in the Ilorin Province. The Yoruba controlled the Action Group (AG) in the Western Region with the Edo, Urhobo, and Ijaw feeling excluded. In the Eastern Region, the Ibo were in total charge of the National Council of Nigeria and Cameroun (NCNC), leaving the Calabar-Ogoja-Rivers people feeling left in the cold.
But politics rather the genuine need to respond to the yearnings of the minorities for their own identity and development would drive the creation of the Mid-Western Region from the Western Region in 1963. That was made to happen by the NPC, which was intent on reducing the sphere of influence of the opposition AG. Although the AG under Chief Obafemi Awolowo was sympathetic to the cause of the minorities, it was nonetheless disappointed at the politicisation of their genuine agitation for political autonomy as the other minority groups in the North and the East had their demands put on hold.
The military that took over in 1966 inherited the four regional structure and did not tinker with it until political exigency dictated the dissolution of the regions in the following year. The January 1966 Coup led by Major Chukwuma Nzeogwu, an officer of Ibo extraction, and dominated by his fellow Ibo officers, who killed the Premier of the Northern Region, Sir Ahmadu Bello, and the Prime Minister of Nigeria, Alhaji Tafawa Balewa; and the July 1996 counter coup led by Lt. Col. Yakubu Gowon whose officers killed the then Head of State, General Aguiyi-Ironsi, an Ibo officer, and several other Ibo officers, had tensed up the country. A pogrom in which many Ibos were killed in the North followed, forcing many of them to retreat to the Eastern Region. The governor of the region, Col. Emeka Ojukwu, felt pained enough by the turn of events to declare the region an independent state, proclaiming in May 1967, the Republic of Biafra.
Gowon sought to break the cohesion of the new republic by excising the minority areas of Calabar-Ogoja-Rivers from the Eastern Region. On May 27, 1967, he dissolved the four regions and created 12 states. The Eastern Region was broken into three states, South Eastern State, East Central State and Rivers State, effectively isolating the Ibo who were the dominant group in the region and promoters of Biafra. From the Western Region were created two states, Western State and Lagos State. The Mid-West Region was rechristened Mid-West State, while the Northern Region was divided into six states, North Western State, North Eastern State, Benue-Plateau State, Kwara State and Kano State.
If the new state structure brought succour to the minorities, giving them five states, two in the North, three in the South, it soon created its own contradictions as some larger minority groups became the majority in their respective states to the consternation of the new minority groups.
Besides, the military who took the country through a gruesome civil war between 1967 and 1970 might have used state creation to put the majority ethic groups in check, to prevent them from threatening the corporate existence of Nigeria. Otherwise the 12-state structure had fairly grouped the country along contiguous ethnic nationalities, although the minority groups had to cohabit in a cluster of states.
Agitations for more states, nonetheless, persisted as the new minorities hungered for their own enclave. Four more state creation exercises followed in 1976, 1987, 1991 and 1996.
Nine years after the first exercise, Gen. Murtala Muhammed who succeeded Gowon created seven new states, bringing them to 19. The beneficiaries on February 3, 1976 were Kaduna, Niger and Sokoto States from North Western State; Borno, Bauchi and Gongola States were carved out of North Eastern State; while Benue-Plateau was divided into Benue and Plateau States. The Western State got separated into Ogun, Ondo and Oyo States even as East Central State was divided into Anambra and Imo States. Rivers State was spared any mutilation while South Eastern State got a new name, Cross Rivers State.
In spite of the deafening demands for more states during the civilian interregnum of the President Shehu Shagari administration between 1979 and 1983 no new state could be created because of the stringent conditions prescribed for the exercise by the 1979 Constitution.
But the agitators had their way again on September 23, 1987 when Gen. Ibrahim Babangida created two more states, expanding the federating units to 21. From Kaduna State was created Katsina State, while Akwa Ibom State was shaved off Cross Rivers State. Four years later, the gap-toothed general increased the states to 30 on August 27, 1991, creating nine more units. Abia State came out of Imo State; Gongola State became Adamawa and Taraba States; Enugu State emerged from Anambra State; Bendel State became Edo and Delta States; Jigawa State was excised from Kano State; Yobe State was split from Borno State; Kebbi State was created from Sokoto State; Osun State was created from Oyo State; and Kogi State came out of Kwara State.
Six more states joined the fray to increase the state structure to 36 on October 1, 1996 when Gen. Sani Abacha created Ebonyi State from Abia and Enugu States; Bayelsa State from Rivers State; Nasarawa State from Benue and Plateau States; Zamfara State from Sokoto State; Gombe State from Bauchi State and Ekiti State from Ondo State.
Even with a 36 state structure plus Abuja, the federal capital territory, the agitations have not stopped with scores thronging the National Assembly in Abuja for the creation of their own state. At the 2014 National Conference put together in Abuja by President Goodluck Jonathan, the matter was topical and the conference recommended the creation of 19 more states to bring the federating units to 50.
In all these, it did not matter though that most of the states were unviable as they were unable to meet their basic obligations, including payment of workers’ salaries. Yet the multiplicity of states has not substantially achieved its advertised purpose of facilitating the development of the country. As many analysts have noted, this could not have been otherwise given the attendant size of the bureaucracy and its cost of maintenance, which has forced the country to spend a whopping 70 per cent of its annual income on recurrent expenditure. Meanwhile very few states and the federal government utilise up to 50 per cent of their 30 per cent capital expenditure.
No wonder, therefore, many of the states remain backward, lacking in most basic infrastructures needed for the economic development that would elevate the living conditions of the people on whose behalf the agitations for state creation were waged.
As the five states celebrate their 50 years of existence, it is extremely important, as Rivers State Governor Wike, pointed out in one his celebratory engagements, that Nigeria and Nigerians do a sober introspection on the state of their federation, which appears to be under performing in spite of the promises that the splitting of the old regions offered.
Lagos at 50: A State and its Success Story
By Samuel Ajayi
In the course of the ongoing war on terror, a debate has raged on the most critical factor negating the operations against the Boko Haram terrorists: lack of adequate armament, poor morale among the troops and sheer indiscipline on their part.
“There was tension in the country”, Pa Nofiu Ajagbe, an octogenarian and a resident of Mushin, a suburb of Lagos, said as he reminisced on the creation of the state he proudly calls his own, 50 years ago.
“There were threats of civil war in the East and when it was announced that the then Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon, was to address the nation, coupled with rumours that the four regions were to give way to states, we were expectantly excited because we believed Lagos would also be made a state. We were not disappointed. I am happy that I am still alive 50 years after the creation of the state.”
The billboards across the metropolis celebrating the milestone may not include the image of Pa. Ajagbe. But people like him share in the success of Lagos as a political entity in the last 50 years. While he clearly belongs to the galaxy of stars that are receding, he is also part of the generation that witnessed what can be described as a golden era.
Lagos State was created, alongside other 11 states, on 27 May 1967 via the State Creation and Transitional Provisions Decree No. 14 of 1967. It was a decree that effectively ended the regional structure of the Nigerian federation, transforming it into 12 states. Before the creation of these states, it must be noted that Lagos, as the country’s capital, had been administered directly by the Federal Government through the Federal Ministry of Lagos Affairs. But it was not the whole of Lagos State as presently known. Places like Ikeja, Agege, Mushin, Ikorodu, Epe and Badagry were administered by the then Western Regional Government. Lagos city along with these other towns were to form the new Lagos State with the state becoming fully recognised as a semi-autonomous administrative division on the 11th April, 1968.
The Challenges of Dual Roles…
Upon creation, Lagos had to play the dual role of a state, and the political as well as the administrative capital of the country. This brought upon the then young state, massive challenges that came to a head during the economic boom of the early ‘70s. With rising oil revenue occasioned by the Arab-Israeli war, Nigeria made huge money from oil proceeds and this brought about noticeable improvement in the standard of living of the average Nigerian.
Importation became Nigeria’s second name and this included vehicles. Traffic gridlock became the rule rather than the exception and Lagos was almost at a breaking point. Even the introduction of odd and even numbers did not help matters. Not until the federal capital was mercifully moved to Abuja.
A True Melting Pot, Land of ‘Success Stories’
Lagos opened its doors to other Nigerians. They grabbed the offer and flourished. A land of massive opportunities where dreams usually come true, the alluring pull by Lagos meant that Nigerians from other parts of the country have found Lagos a good land of opportunities in the last 50 years. Name that tribe and mention that ethnic group that is not adequately represented in Lagos and you will be searching for a pin in a hay sac. Businesses flourished in Lagos and wealth was created. Many came to Lagos and they turned their backs on their familiar places. They faced a new world that gave them hope and chance to live their dreams and realise their aspirations. From Igbo across the Niger to Kanuri across the Benue, Lagos took into its large belly an army of Nigerian dreamers who wanted to validate their economic cravings.
When the story of the last 50 years is told, a considerable section will surely be dedicated to the success stories of these Nigerians who came to Lagos, toiled and were rewarded before returning home fulfilled men and women. Perhaps, whoever coined the tagline: ‘Lagos My Success Story’, in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the state surely had these other Nigerians in mind.
Its Population, Its Blessing…
Approximately, Lagos’ population is put at over 20 million. That is massive and this makes it one of the most densely populated cities in the world. And one thing that has worked for Lagos over the years was this massive population. The number of people who live in the state has always ensured that exploiting the advantage of critical mass to sell goods and services will always be a veritable tool of commercial success. That is why businesses that struggle to break even in other parts of the country usually enjoy good patronage in Lagos.
Conversely, it is not only those who carry out commercial activities in Lagos that have benefitted from the advantage of its massive population, but also successive governments of the state. Every month alone, the state makes almost N40billion from internally generated revenue. And the bulk of this comes from taxes and rates being paid by business owners, registration of businesses, government approvals and other charges.
In the last 50 years, while all the states it was created along with have shrunk in size through further creation new of states, Lagos has remained untouched since 1967. As a matter of fact, rather than shrink, it has expanded into the ocean and surrounding lagoons through massive land reclamation process
By the time Lagos was created in 1967, places like Victoria Island, Lekki, parts of Apapa, Victoria Garden City and others like that were not in existence. Pressures for land to take care of development and the cravings of the rich and the affluent led to the creation and sand-filling of hitherto water-filled places to establish new towns and settlements.
Democracy, ‘Brushes’ and Challenges…
In 1979, with the return of democracy, Lagos State and the federal government fell under different political parties. While the then National Party of Nigeria, NPN, controlled the federal government, the now defunct Unity Party of Nigeria, UPN, was in control of Lagos. The performance of the then governor, Alhaji Lateef Kayode Jakande, began the trend of Lagos being blessed with visionary leaders.
Major milestones of that era were massive development of residential estates for rising population of the state and massive investment in education. Locations that were considered rural and inaccessible were opened up with roads, and estates built there.
In the area of education, dearth of infrastructure created a situation whereby some pupils could not attend schools. Governor Jakande changed this. He invested in the construction of classrooms which were criticised then as being more or less ‘poultries’ but actually served the purpose for which they were built. Since then, Lagos has never looked back.
In 1999, 20 years after the coming of Jakande, Lagos fell under different party from the one holding sway at the federal level. The new governor, Senator Bola Tinubu, was keen on ensuring the spirit of true federalism was kept alive in the running of the federation. One major issue that signposted this was when the state created additional 37 local governments which the National Assembly refused to recognise.
The federal government had its say but somehow, Lagos State had its way. The federal government withheld the statutory allocation of Lagos State local governments for over 20 months. Though the newly created local governments were redesignated as local council development areas, but the 57-council structure remains till today.
The Last Ten Years
Since 2007, Lagos State seemed to have recognised the need to improve on its infrastructure. Roads, schools, hospitals, water projects, markets and so on were the major areas where the governments have invested massively to change the face of the state.
While Governor Tinubu laid the foundation and Governor Babatunde Fashola built on it, one man who has taken the infrastructural development of Lagos to another level is the incumbent governor, Akinwunmi Ambode. His strides in the last two years have shown that he has what it takes to take the state to the next level. His investment in schools, bridges, roads and hospitals and above all, policy formulation have shown that he is the right man for the job. Ambode is changing the face of Lagos.
Could Lagos Have Done More?
While successive governors of Lagos State, both military and civilian, have always been commended for people-oriented programmes, there are those who feel, and rightly so, that going by the resources available to the state, they could have performed better. There are still many roads that have not been renovated in the state, let alone tarred. Many schools still need a face-lift and apart from these, many rural areas have not been opened up to improve the quality of lives of the people in those areas.
“Lagos can do better,” a resident of the state who craved anonymity told THISDAY. “Going by the billions of naira that go into the state’s coffers every month, the state can do more than it is currently doing. While we commend the efforts of the present and past governors, We can see some inclusive progress in the last two years. We want more.That is the bitter truth. Lagos is working, as they like saying. But it can still work better.”
While there might be some truism in this assertion, it won’t dampen the excitement in the state, which has been in a celebratory mood in the last one month. Every other thing can wait as the state rolls out the drums. Pa. Ajagbe won’t like to miss these celebrations.
Past Governors of Lagos State
Brig. Mobolaji Johnson* 1967 – 1975
Cdr. Adekunle Lawal * 1975 – 1977
Cdr. Ndubisi Kanu * 1977 – 1978
Cdr. Ebitu Ukiwe * 1978 – 1979
Alhaji Lateef Jakande 1979 – 1983
Air Cdr. Gbolahan Mudashiru* 1984 – 1986
Nvy Capt. Mike Akhigbe * 1986 – 1988
Brig. Gen. Raji Rasaki * 1988 – 1992
Sir Michael Otedola 1992 – 1993
Col. Olagunsoye Oyinlola * 1993 – 1996
Col. Buba Mohammed Marwa* 1996 – 1999
Bola Ahmed Tinubu 1999 – 2007
Raji Babatunde Fashola 2007 – 2015
Akinwunmi Ambode 2015 – Date
Rivers: From Uncertainty to Stability
By Ernest Chinwo
The first Military Governor of the Rivers State, King Alfred Diete-Spiff, on May 3, while speaking at the Traditional Rulers’ Day as part of the activities marking the Golden Jubilee celebrations of the state recounted the uncertainty that surrounded the takeoff of the state on May 27, 1967.
He recalled how, out of the six states created by military fiat on that May 27, 1967, Rivers was the only one totally enmeshed in the Nigerian Civil War. The other four states, namely Kano, Benue Plateau, Kwara and Lagos were relatively shielded from the effects of the civil war.
Not knowing the way the war would go, and struggling to put together the institution of governance in the new state, nothing was certain and the young military administrator had to employ extraordinary wisdom and cooperation of agitators of the state to get the government running.
“Believe me, it was a period of uncertainty. But we had to put the structure of government in place using the available manpower at our disposal,” he said.
However, what started as an uncertainty has become the Treasure Base of the Nation and now a trailblazer in the po0litical and economic development of the country.
Diete-Spiff and his team laid a solid foundation that has not been surpassed by any state in the federation.
Apart from setting up a bureaucracy that was the bedrock of governance and oiled the wheel of progress in the state, the Diete-Spiff put in place necessary infrastructure that have stood the test of time. Rivers State still boasts of the best secretariat built in the early 1970s. The Point Block, built in the 1970s, still remains the tallest building in the state.
The Alfred Diete-Spiff Civic Centre and the Sharks Stadium were some of the legacies of that administration. Above all, the Diete-Spiff administration produced the master plan for the development of the state.
To accelerate the development of manpower for the state, the administration introduced the award of both regular and special scholarship programmes for students in both secondary and tertiary institutions both within and outside the country. The result is that where the state suffered a shortfall in manpower in the 1970s, the state has surplus and indeed exports same today.
When the government of General Yakubu Gowon was toppled in July 1975, Diete-Spiff also left the stage for then Lt. Col. Zamani Lekwot to take over. Lekwot was also replaced by Navy Commander Suleiman Saidu who was in the saddle till the birth of the Second Republic in 1979 when Chief Melford Okilo was elected first civilian governor of the state on the platform of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN).
Lekwot and Saidu only built on the foundation laid by Diete-Spiff. The only significant change came during the civilian administration headed by Chief Melford Okilo who introduced the Decentralisation Policy and attempted the development of new towns to decongest Port Harcourt, the capital city.
Before Okilo’s programmes would pay the desired dividends, however, the military made another incursion into the governance of the country with the overthrow of the President Shehu Shagari-led civilian government and the advent of the military junta led by then Gen. Muhammadu Buhari.
Then came the administration of Police Commissioner Fidelis Oyakhilome in January, 1984 that lasted till August, 1986. He was followed by Brigadier General Anthony Ukpo August 26, 1986 when General Ibrahim Babangida dethroned Buhari. Then followed Ernest Adeleye (July 1988 – August, 1990) and Godwin Abe (August, 1990 – January, 1992).
Then followed the next civilian governor, Chief Rufus Ada George (January, 1992 – November, 1993) during Babangida’s unending transition programme.
The state was then governed by another set of military administrators: Dauda Komo (December 9, 1993 – August 22, 1996), Musa Shehu (August 22, 1996 to August 1998) and Sam Ewang (August, 1988 – May, 1999).
In 1996, the Western Ijaw local government areas of Bayelsa, Yenegoa and Sagbama were carved out by the military government to create the present-day Bayelsa State.
With the return of democracy in 1999, Sir Peter Odili, a medical doctor, was elected governor on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to become the first elected governor of the new Rivers State. After serving two tenures, he was succeeded by Sir Celestine Omehia, also of the PDP, on May 29, 2007. But Omehia’s tenure was short-lived as the Supreme Court on October, 2007 ordered that he be replaced by Rt. Hon. Chibuike Amaechi (PDP). Amaechi was therefore sworn in and he governed the state for two tenures till May 29, 2015.
However, in 2014, Amaechi defected to the newly-formed All Progressives Congress (APC), changing the political face of the state.
The ensuing political crisis generated by Amaechi’s defection and face-off with the then President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, led to the closure of the state House of Assembly and the Judiciary which are basic institutions in a democracy, for more than one year because of his fear of impeachment.
However, Nyesom Wike, retrieved the governorship for the PDP in the general election of 2015, effectively retaining the state for the PDP despite the loss of the party at the federal level.
Although the APC contested Wike’s victory up to the Supreme Court, the apex court ultimately declared Wike the winner of the election.
But rather than douse the political tension in the state, the APC’s attempt to stop the swearing-in of Wike on May 29 and the subsequent battles at the Election Tribunal, Court of Appeal and Supreme Court, introduced a new divisiveness in the politics of the state.
For the first time in its history, the state has been thrown into a political battle, replete with hate speeches, rigid clinging to political families and the attendant tension unknown to the politics of the state.
Rescheduled state and national assembly elections in the state saw the unmitigated militarisation of the state, with security agents fully involved in manipulation of electoral process for their masters, with attendant support for candidates. Many lives were lost and the peoples’ psyche abused.
However, despite the APC’s spirited effort to wrest the state from the PDP using federal might and agencies, the PDP managed to retain control of the state with the governorship and the overwhelming majority in the state House of Assembly, the House of Representatives and the Senate.
On his inauguration as the governor on May 29, Wike immediately took steps and reopened both the House of Assembly and the Judiciary. He also normalised appointments in the State Judiciary and returned the judiciary to full functionality.
But while the state has witnessed major upheavals in its political development especially since 2014, the state has made tremendous strides in its economic development since creation.
From a modest economy in 1967, Rivers State is currently home to two refineries, a petrochemical industry and two fertiliser plants (Indorama Eleme Petrochemicals Limited and Notore Industries Limited), Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas Limited (NLNG), Bonny; the Oil and Gas Free Zone, Onne; two sea ports, one international airport and several international oil companies, making the state the hub of the nation’s oil and gas industry; and several other manufacturing and extractive companies.
According to Wikipedia, “Rivers State has maintained its importance as a leading supplier of wealth to the nation for centuries. In 2007, the state ranked 2nd nationwide with a gross domestic product (GDP) of $21.07 billion and a per capita income of $3,965.
In terms of natural resources, the state is famous for its vast reserves of crude oil and natural gas. “It was perhaps the richest and most important section of the African zone of the British Empire,” Wikipedia said, adding that “More than 60 per cent of the country’s output of crude oil is produced in the state”. Other natural resources found within its boundaries are silica sand, glass sand and clay.
In agriculture, Rivers State is one of the leading states in the production of yam, cassava, cocoyam, maize, rice and beans.
About 39 per cent of the state’s total land mass, particularly in the upland area, is suitable for cultivation. Major cash crops produced are oil palm products, rubber, coconut, raffia palm and jute. Other crops grown for food include vegetables, melon, pineapples, mango, pepper, banana and plantain. The fishing industry is an important sector in Rivers State.
“There are approximately 270 species of fish existing; with many artisanal fishermen in the riverine areas. The state provides valuable seafood such as crabs, oysters, shrimps and sea snails among others,” experts say.
In terms of education, the state, in addition to thousands of government-owned primary schools and hundreds of secondary schools, has several tertiary institutions. These include the University of Port Harcourt, Choba, established by the federal government in 1975; the Rivers State University, founded in 1980 by the state government; the School of Health Technology, Port Harcourt, established by the state government; the Federal College of Education (Technical), Omoku and the state-owned Ken Saro-Wiwa Polytechnic (Rivers State Polytechnic), Bori; Ignatius Ajuru University, Rumuolumeni; and the School of Nursing and Midwifery at Rumueme, Port Harcourt in addition to the Capt. Elechi Amadi Polytechnic, Port Harcourt.
Despite the economic status of the state, it has witnessed some challenges in addition to the politics-induced ones mentioned above.
These include cultism and militancy that ravaged the state in early 2000 to 2008 until the Federal Government Amnesty Programme helped to stem the tide and bring it under control.
But while the militancy has drastically reduced, a new wave of illegal refineries especially in the creeks surfaced with its attendant negative impact on the environment. This came with the devastation of the environment of Ogoniland and other parts of the state by the operations of the international oil companies.
It is however worthy of note that these challenges are being addressed. While the Federal Government has set up machinery for the implementation of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report on the Clean-up of Ogoniland, the state government, under the Wike administration, has also granted amnesty to repentant cultists, thereby reducing the rate of crime in the state.
Gradually peace has returned to the state and businesses that fled the state have returned and the economy of the state is on the rise again because of confidence in the policies and projects of the present administration.
This is not surprising. Since the coming of Wike as governor, the state has witnessed a new wave of development and projects execution that has earned Wike the recognition as Mr. Projects.
Hardly a week passes without the governor inaugurating or starting a new project even when most governors cannot pay salaries because of recession in the nation.
As the state set out to celebrate its Golden Jubilee, Governor Wike has called for reconciliation of all political interests to appreciate the sacrifices of the founding fathers of the state./
While inaugurating that Golden Jubilee Committee, Wike stated that the anniversary is a celebration of the liberation of Rivers people from the forces of deprivation, oppression and domination.
Wike said: “Many of us who are now enjoying the fruits of liberty may not truly appreciate what it meant to be dominated, dispossessed, deprived, exploited and oppressed in your own land by the dominant social and political tendencies of the time.
“Before Rivers State was created, our people could not find schools in their neighbourhood, hospitals to treat the sick, universities to educate their children, decent jobs to earn income and good roads to their communities.”
The governor noted that since the creation of Rivers State on May 27, 1967, the state has attained greater heights and surmounted development challenges.
He said: “For 50 years, we have lived and toiled together in pursuit of the vision of our founding fathers who put in and sacrificed everything, including their lives, to ensure the creation of this beautiful state we all love and proud of, indigenes and non-indigenes alike.”
The governor noted that the most important thing about the creation of Rivers State is that the people of the state are now masters of their own destiny.
He said: “Although we are not where we should be within the matrix of where we want to be, we still have a lot to celebrate, and thank God for the 50 years of our existence as a state and as a people with a common destiny.
“Besides, after 50 unbroken years on a journey, it is proper for us to take a little moment to retrospect on the progress already made, examine our prospects and set our eyes on the next era of the march to progress with optimism.”
On January 25, the state started the celebrations with the unveiling of the anniversary logo.
Wike has also lined up several projects to be unveiled in the course of the celebrations. These include the inauguration of the Pleasure Park, The Ecumenical Centre, and several road projects, among others.
Already, the state is wearing a festive mood as several parts of the state have been decorated and programmes set to involve all segments of the society in the month-long celebrations. It is only hoped that, as the governor said, that the celebrations will reunite the people and prepare them for the journey of the state into the future.
Past Governors of RIVERS State
Alfred Diete-Spiff * 1967 – 1975 Maj. Gen. Zamani Lekwot* 1975 – 1978
Nvy Cdr. Suleiman Saidu* 1978 – 1979 Sen. Melford Okilo 1979 – 1983
CP Fidelis Oyakhilome 1984 – 1986 Brig. Gen Anthony Ukpo* 1986 – 1988 Ernest Adelaye* 1988 – 1990 Godwin Abbe* 1990 – 1992
Rufus Ada George 1992 – 1993
Dauda Komo* 1993 – 1996
Musa Shehu* 1996 – 1998
Sam Ewang* 1998 – 1999 Peter Odili 1999 – 2007
Celestine Omehia 29 May – Oct 2007
Chibuike Amaechi 2007 – 2015
Nyesom Ezenwo Wike 2015 – Date
KANO: THE Commercial of the Sahel
By Samuel Ajayi, Additional reports by Ibrahim Shuaibu
Kano State is 50. But that is not the news. Before being named a state, Kano had been the commercial nerve centre of the entire northern part of the country. But it is deeper than that. Kano is a city that has been a melting pot of different groups and nationalities. Though divided by their faiths and their cultural backgrounds, they were however not divided by the need to make their commercial vocations a huge success.
Kano was also one of the seven Hausa kingdoms founded by the descendent of Bayajidda which flourished for about 500 years before the 1st century jihad of Shehu Usman Bin Fodio. The seven Hausa Kingdoms were Daura, Kano, Katsina, Gobir, and Garin Gabas in Jigawa State.
And that is what marks Kano State out as it marks the 50th anniversary of its creation. Kano and the other eleven states created by the then Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon, were children of circumstances. They were created to stave off an impending national doom in the form of the looming civil war that ravaged the eastern part of the country between 1967 and 1970. The other states were Rivers, Kwara, Lagos, Western, Benue-Plateau, Mid-Western, East-Central, South-Eastern, North-Eastern, North-Central and North-Western.
Gowon had said in the speech announcing the creation of these states:
“The country has a long history of well-articulated demands for states. The fears of minorities were explained in great detail and set out in the report of the Willink Commission appointed by the British in 1958. More recently, there has been extensive discussion in Regional Consultative Committees and Leaders-of-Thought Conferences. Resolutions have been adopted demanding the creation of states in the North and in Lagos. Petitions from minority areas in the East which have been subjected to violent intimidation by the Eastern Military Government have been widely publicised. While the present circumstances regrettably do not allow for consultations through plebiscites, I am satisfied that the creation of new states as the only possible basis for stability and equality is the overwhelming desire of the vast majority of Nigerians. To ensure justice, these states are being created simultaneously.”
Home of the Talakawas…
If there is one legacy that Kano has bequeathed to Nigerian politics, it is the politics of progressivism and welfarism as expounded by the late Mallam Aminu Kano, founder of the People’s Redemption Party, PRP, on which platform he contested and lost the 1979 presidential election. His protégé and followers, the late Abubakar Rimi and Balarabe Musa won elections into the governorship seats of Kano and Kaduna States respectively in 1979.
The two governors were known for their people-oriented policies and projects; though Musa was impeached in 1981, Rimi did not complete his own term as he too was impeached and replaced by Alhaji Audu Dawakin Tofa before the late Alhaji Sabo Barkin Zuwo eventually won the governorship election of August 16, 1983.
And Kano Lost its Innocence…
Settled in Kano since 1945 and of Cameroonian descent, the late Mohammed Marwa (not General Buba Marwa) was the founder of the Yah Tatsine Islamic sect in the ancient city. Violently against some tenets of the religion, Marwa, who was later known as Maitatsine, was against owning cars, watches, bicycles and electronics. He preached against these things and naturally, he was always having brushes with the law.
This came to a head in 1980 when religious riots broke out in the ancient city of Kano orchestrated by the Maitatsine sect and by the time smoking guns and blazing fires came down, over 5000 lay dead, including Marwa (Maitatsine) himself.
It seemed it was the baptism of fire that Kano State needed to turn it into a theatre of religious crisis. Reason being that since then, the state has witnessed so many other religious riots.
An Evergreen Centre of Commerce and Agriculture…
Despite social and religious upheavals, Kano has refused to lose its sense of commercial appeal. A major commercial nerve centre south of the Sahara, the Malam Aminu Kano International Airport in Kano has remained a lucrative destination for airlines. This is apart from the fact that traders from different parts of the country still go to the state to buy goods which they sell down south. Kano is also known as an undisputable home of textiles. This is as old as the city itself and it is no surprise that it has been a major attraction for those who need them from different parts of the West African region.
Kano is also an agrarian state. Agriculture is another major economic mainstay; at least 85 per cent of the population is involved in it. Before the oil boom of the 1970s, Kano state was the largest producer of groundnut, producing more than 80 per cent of world tonnage, making the crop hitherto to be one of the nation’s principal revenue earners.
Kano is also popular in the exportation and production of cotton, guinea corn, maize, cowpea maize, rice, wheat and a wide range of vegetables. Livestock production particularly cattle, sheep and goats is an important aspect of the economy. These are in addition to poultry and fish farming which are gradually becoming important.
Small in Land Mass, Massive in Population…
While many, especially those from the southern part of the country, have always disputed this, Kano State has the highest number of local governments in the country: 44 in all. And going by the 2006 census, Kano has about 9.5million people living in it.
Royalty, Opulence and Tourism Meet in Kano…
The late Emir of Kano, Alhaji Ado Bayero, who died in 2014, brought class and dignity to the throne. But from anyone that occupies the exalted office of the Kano Emirate, nothing less was expected. And that is one major thing that stands the state out. His successor, Alhaji Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, has continued in that tradition. A former governor of the Central Bank, Sanusi came to the throne on the strength of having made his mark in the banking sector.
In the state are many historical monuments. They bear testimony to the rich cultural heritage of the state. From the top of Dala hill, one beholds the splendour of the city and its environs that gives the impression that Kano is really a place where the old and new stands side by side.
Among the relics of the past are the emir’s palace, city wall, Dala and Goron Dutse hills and the Kofar Mata dye pit. All these are more than 500 years old, also in the city is the Kurmi market which is over 100 years and was built by the Sarkin Kano, Muhammad Rumfa, during the hey day of the trans Sahara trade between the Magreb (North Africa) and rain forest areas of West Africa.
Challenges and Chequered History…
Kano State has had to deal with challenges that face any state in a lopsided federalism as being practiced in Nigeria. While the state remains a centre of commerce, religious crisis and a lack of political stability have conspired to make it difficult for it to reach its potential, 50 years after its creation. It must be noted that the present Jigawa State was originally part of Kano State upon creation in 1967 and the two were together for 24 years before Jigawa was created in 1991.
The state has also had to deal with bitterly divisive politics being played by its frontline politicians. These are Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso, a former governor of the state, Alhaji Ibrahim Shekarau, another former governor who ruled between 2003 and 2011 as well the current governor, Umar Ganduje. It must be noted that these politicians hardly see eye to eye. From the state also is the former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Alhaji Ghali Na’Abba.
The state has had the fortune of producing two former military Heads of State. These were the late Generals Murtala Mohammed and Sani Abacha. Mohammed was killed in an abortive coup on Friday February 13, 1976 while Abacha died in office on June 8, 1998. In other words, while the state has produced two presidents, it does not boast of any living former Head of state.
Past Governors of KANO State
CP Alhaji Audu Bako 1967 – 1975
Col. Sani Bello 1975 – 1978
Grp Capt. Ishaya Aboi Shekari 1978 – 1979
Alhaji Abubakar Rimi 1979 – 1983
Alhaji Audu Dawakin Tofa 1983
Alhaji Sabo Bakin Zuwo Oct – Dec 1983
Air Cdr. Hamza Abdullahi 1984 – 1985
Col. Ahmed Daku 1985 – 1986
Grp Capt. Ndatsu Umaru 1986 – 1988
Col. Idris Garba 1988 – 1992
Arch. Kabiru Ibrahim Gaya 1992 – 1993
Col. Abdullahi Wase 1993 – 1996
Col. Dominic Oneya 1996 – 1998
Col. Aminu Isa Kontagora 1998 – 1999
Engr. Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso 1999 – 2003
Mal. Ibrahim Shekarau 2003 – 2011
Engr. Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso 2011 – 2015
Dr Abdullahi Umar Ganduje 2015 – Date
Name: Kano State
Population: 9.4million (2006 census)
Number of Local Governments: 44
Number of State Assembly: 40
Number of Senatorial Districts: 3
Names of Senators: Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, Kabiru Gaya and Barau Jibrin
Kwara: Despite All, a Reason to Roll out the Drums
By Samuel Ajayi, Additional reports by Hammed Shittu
Like eleven other states created on May 27, 1967, Kwara State is 50. The state has come a long way. At creation, the state was made up of the former Ilorin and Kabba Provinces of the then Northern Region and was initially named the West Central State. The name was later changed to ‘Kwara’, a local name for the River Niger. Less than nine years after its creation, precisely on 13 February 1976, the Idah/Dekina parts of the state were carved out and merged with a part of the then Benue-Plateau State to form the present-day Benue State. It did not end there.
Also on August 27, 1991 during former President Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida’s administration, five local government areas: Oyi, Yagba, Okene, Okehi and Kogi were also excised to form part of the now Kogi State while a sixth, Borgu, was merged with the present-day Niger State.
In other words, Kwara State, as it was originally 50 years ago, has given birth, in part, to the present Kogi State and also part of present Niger State. But where Kwara State has retained an enduring legacy is in living up to its acronym: ‘State of Harmony’.
Today, Kwara State is made up of 16 local government councils. These are Asa, Offa, Oyun, Ifelodun, Irepodun, Ekiti, Oke-Ero, Edu and Pategi. Others include Baruten, Ilorin West, Ilorin East, Ilorin South, Kaima, Moro and Isin. The state comprises Fulani, Nupe, Baruba and Yoruba tribes.
While the state boasts of a very large Yoruba-speaking population who are also Christians and Muslims, the state is actually dominated by Muslims. But one thing that has been going for the state is that it has maintained peaceful co-existence that is alien to most northern states. Kwara is, indeed, the state of harmony.
The first military governor of the state, Brigadier-General David Bamigboye, who was in the saddle between 1967 and 1975, laid a solid foundation for the proper take off of the new state. Bamigboye opened up roads across the 16 local government councils. He also put in place a standard civil service structure. His administration built Kwara Hotels, College of Education, Ilorin in 1974 as well as Kwara State Polytechnic in 1973.
In 1975, when General Yakubu Gowon was ousted in a palace coup, the new Head of State, General Murtala Muhammed, appointed the late Ogbomoso-born Colonel Ibrahim Taiwo as the new military governor of the state and he contributed his quota to its development. The late Taiwo, who was gruesomely murdered during the abortive coup of February 13, 1976, governed the state between 1975 and 1976. He built the Kwara Stadium complex, Adewole and Kulende Estates and reconstructed Unity and Taiwo roads, in Ilorin, the state capital.
A State and its ‘Little’ Economy…
Kwara State, even when it was not reduced in size as a result of the creation of other states, was not an economically buoyant state. The people of the state have always relied on agriculture as their economic mainstay. Crops grown in the state include cotton, cocoa, coffee, kolanut, tobacco, beniseed and palm produce. The state is equally blessed with some mineral resources. And these include gold, limestone, marble, feldspar, clay, kaolin, quartz and granite rocks.
However, there was a major improvement in the level of industrialisation in the last three decades. Industries that have sprung up in the state include Dangote Flour Mill, Lubcon Lubricant Company, Kam Industries Nigeria Limited, Tuyil Pharmaceutical Nigeria Limited, Padson Industries Limited, Kwara Breweries, Ijagbo Global Soap and Detergent Industry, United Match Company, Tate and Lyle Company, Resinoplast Plastic Industry, Phamatech Nigeria Limited, Kwara Textile and Kwara Furniture Company all in Ilorin.
Others are Paper Manufacturing Industry, Jebba, Okin Foam and Okin Biscuits, Offa, Kay Plastic, Ganmo and Kwara Paper Converters Limited, Erin-Ile. Others are Sugar Producing Company, Bacita, Kwara Animal Feed Mall, Ilorin and the Agricultural Products Company.
And Education Has not Lagged Behind…
In 1976, the then federal military government created six universities which were to be later known as the nation’s second generation universities. Ilorin, the Kwara State capital, was lucky to be one of the sites chosen for the new federal universities. This is the University of Ilorin. Apparently to cater for its indigenes who could not gain admission to the federal university in the state, the state government set up its own university which opened its gates to students during the 2009/2010 session. The state also has two polytechnics: the Kwara State Polytechnic, in Ilorin, as well as the Federal Polytechnic, Offa.
There are also three colleges of education, a school of Health Technology and School of Nursing. It also has a navy school and aviation college. It is also home to two private universities: the Landmark University, Omu-Aran, owned by the cleric, David Oyedepo, of the Living Faith Church, otherwise known as Winners’ Chapel, and Al-Hikmah University which is located in Ilorin.
Democracy and Politics of Fiefdom…
In 1979, when the nation returned to democracy after over 13 years of uninterrupted military rule, Kwara State elected the late Alhaji Adamu Attah as its first civilian governor. While on the surface, Attah was the governor, his emergence, unknown to many, threw up a power block that is still in control of the state till date. As Attah was elected as the governor, a certain Dr. Abubakar Olusola Saraki was also elected as a senator of the Federal Republic. Saraki was to become the Senate Leader, but also wanted to maintain a firm hold on the politics of the state which the governor, Attah, resisted – even though both of them were of the ruling National Party of Nigeria, NPN.
To show he was the man in charge of the politics of the state, Saraki withdrew his support for Attah in 1983 and elected instead, to support Chief Cornelius Adebayo of the rival Unity Party of Nigeria, UPN. Adebayo won the election and was sworn in on October 1, 1983 only to be toppled during the coup of December 31 of the same year.
Same was repeated about 20 years later when the late Saraki fell out with his political protégé, the late Rear Admiral Mohammed Lawal, who was elected governor on the return of democratic rule in 1999. By 2002, relationship between the duo had broken down irretrievably and Saraki decided to withdraw his support for Lawal. He supported another candidate who happened to be his own son and the present Senate President, Senator Bukola Saraki.
Despite All, there is Cause for Celebration…
While the state, like many others in the country, is facing its own peculiar challenges, these have not prevented the state from rolling out the drums to mark its 50 years of existence. And the celebrations have begun weeks back with different activities like cultural displays and lectures.
An indigene of the state and a community leader, Alhaji Hamid Addi, told THISDAY the state has made giant strides in the last 50 years. Addi, who is also the National President, Ilorin Emirate Descendants Progressive Union, IEDPU, the umbrella body of the sons and daughters of Ilorin emirate said, “So far so good. The state has made giant strides in the last 50 years of its creation especially in the areas of education and health among others.”
He added: “Before now, the state didn’t have polytechnic, but now we have a state-owned polytechnic, a state-owned university, state colleges of education while there is a federal university and a federal polytechnic located in Offa and this is due to the creation of Kwara State. It now behooves on the state government to ensure these institutions are well funded, so as to make them functional for the overall benefit of the common man in the state.”
Past Governors of KWARA State
Brig. David Lasisi Bamigboye* 1967 – 1975
Col. Ibrahim Taiwo* 1975 – 1976
Col. George Innih * 1976 – 1978
Col. Sunday Ifere* 1978 – 1979
Alhaji Adamu Attah 1979 – 1983
Chief Cornelius Adebayo 1983
Grp Captain Adebola Latinwo* 1984 – 1985
Col. Ndatsu Umar * 1985 – 1987
Col. Ahmed Abdullahi * 1987 – 1988
Cdr. Ibrahim Alkali * 1988 – 1990
Col. Alwali Kazir* 1990 – 1992
Alh. Mohammed S. Lafiaji 1992 – 1993
PC Mustapha Ismail * 1993 – 1994
Col. Baba Iyam * 1994 – 1996
Col. Peter Ogar * 1996 – 1998
Nvy Capt. Rasheed Shekoni * 1998 – 1999
Late Alh. Mohammed A. Lawal 1999 – 2003
Senator Bukola Saraki 2003 – 2011
Alhaji Abdulfatah Ahmed 2011 – Date
Cross River State @ 50: A Reason to Celebrate
By Bassey Inyang
Of Anniversary and Logo Controversy…
Cross River State is rolling out the drums to mark the 50th anniversary of its creation. The state was created as South Eastern State on May 27, 1967 by then Head-of-State, General Yakubu Gowon.
The state government set up a committee, headed by the state Commissioner for Information, Mrs. Rosemary Archibong, to mark the anniversary.
As part of the celebrations, the state’s official logo would change and the new slogan will be ‘Enterprising Bull’. Though not everyone is comfortable with this logo change. One of them is the state publicity secretary of the APC, Menns Ikpeme. He said:
“This has been the vision of our founding fathers for our dear beloved Cross River State which clearly is not subordinate to any other interest. The visual simplicity and conceptual clarity marks the hallmark of our state.”
Down Memory Lane…
At the time of its creation, the entire territory of present day Akwa Ikom State and Andoni/Opobo in present day Rivers State were part of the state. Territories that were hitherto part of the erstwhile Opobo Division, which ceased to be part of Cross River when on February 3rd, 1976, General Murtala Mohammed as Head-of-State excised the Andoni/Opobo areas to Rivers State. The state was then rechristened the remains areas Cross River State. The name was derived from the River Cross, whose source is traced to the Cameroon Mountain and flows through the central part of the state and joins the Kwa River.
Blessed with diverse vegetation belts ranging from the mangrove swamp forest and tropical rainforest in the South, and central part of the savanna and Sahel vegetation in the north, the state which currently occupies a land mass of 20,156 square kilometres, is peopled by diverse ethnic groups, with the Efik, Ejagam, and Bekwarra as the major language groups, even though there are other language groups such as the Mbembe, Yala, Bete, Efut and many others.
At the moment the state with an estimated population of over 3 million people has 18 Local Government Areas which are Abi, Akamkpa, Akpabuyo, Bakassi, Bekwarra, Biase, Boki, Calabar Municipal, Calabar South, Etung, Ikom, Obanliku, Obubra, Obudu, Odukpani, Ogoja, Yakuur, and Yala.
It has boundaries with Akwa Ibom State, Ebonyi State, Benue State and international boundary from the north to the south with the Republic of Cameroon.
The U.J Esuene Glorious Years…
The period between May 27,1967 and February 3,1976 when Brigadier Udokaha Jabob Esuene held sway as governor, has been widely acclaimed to be the golden era of Cross River State. Esuene assumed duty in the midst of the Nigeria civil war following the declaration of the former Eastern Region, as Republic of Biafra on May 30, 1967, just days after the state was created.
With the war over on January 12, 1970 and the commencement of the implementation of the Reconciliation, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction (3Rs), the administration embarked on massive
Infrastructural development of the state. Projects by Esuene administration included the UJ. Esuene Stadium, the old secretariat in Calabar, still under use; the cultural centre in Calabar, the Metropolitan Hotel in Calabar, Ikom, and Ogoja.
The era also witnessed the construction of water treatment plants in various parts of the state and the establishment of cottage hospitals across the state. Esuene’s regime also constructed the new Government House, Calabar, and the various government lodges as well.
The period also witnessed the revival of industries, especially agricultural plantations such as the defunct Ibiaye Oil Palm Estate, Rubber Estates, Cocoa Estates, Calabar Cement Company and many others; all of which before the creation of states contributed immensely to the economy of the former Eastern Region. Esuene is also credited with establishment of the Cross River State Newspaper Corporation, publishers of the Nigerian Chronicle. The regime also established the Calabar Polytechnic, which today is the main campus of the Cross River University of Technology.
Up until the mid 70s, there were no access roads from Calabar to other parts of the state and the country. Water transportation remained the only viable means of travelling in and out of Cross River State. The Esuene administration worked assiduously with the federal government to construct the Calabar-Itu-Ikot-Ekpene federal highway. Under his administration, the first massive housing project, the Calabar Housing Estate, was constructed, a major step in expanding the Calabar metropolis that was then limited to what was known as Old Calabar. His regime also established the state owned Mercantile Bank and Equity Investments, all now defunct.
If anything, Esuene’s regime added to the legacies left behind by the British colonial administration such as the Old Residency Museum, and the Brickfield Prison. Constructed in 1884 before it was converted to the Old Residency Museum in 1959, it once served as Government House for the Southern Nigeria Protectorate from 1900-1914 when it was amalgamated with the Northern Protectorate to form Nigeria. Lord Fredrick Lugard had his office there when he was appointed the Governor-General of Nigeria, while Esuene operated temporarily from there when Calabar was liberated from Biafra in 1968. It also had a detention facility where the famous Oba Ovonramwen Nogbaisi of Benin was incarcerated temporarily after he was exiled to Calabar in 1897 after the British conquest of the Old Benin Empire.
The Brickfield Prison is where the late sage, Obafemi Awolowo, served his prison term in the prison having been convicted of treason in 1962. Today the Calabar Library is built on the land where the prison was once located.
Esuene was succeeded by Major General Paul Ufuoma Omu as military governor from July 1975 to July 1978. It was during his reign that the name of the state was formally changed to Cross River State. Navy Commander Babatunde Elegbede who governor until the return to democratic rule in the country in October 1979.
Return of Democracy: The Isong Years…
The civilian regime under Dr. Clement Isong has been credited for the massive investment in the education sector as his regime embarked on massive construction of secondary schools across the entire state and equipping them. Isong’s era saw to the construction of the Margaret Ekpo International Airport, the Bebi Airstrip and the construction of the Ikom-Obudu Ranch Highway. His regime also ensured the expansion of health facilities across the state.
Ernest Attah Years…
Among the military administrators who served from 1984 to 1992, the era of Colonel Ernest Attah stands out. In his short spell in government from December 1989 to January 1992, his administration commenced the actual beautification of Calabar with the construction of the massive Channel 1 to check the menace of perennial flooding as well as erosion control. Attah’s era also started the dualisation of roads in the city, two of which are the famous Eta Agbor Road, and Akim Road, known today as the IBB Way and Mary Slessor Avenue.
Duke the ‘Redeemer’…
Mr. Donald Duke assumed office on May 29, 1999 as a civilian governor. It is on record that Duke hit the ground running as he made tourism and agriculture the focal points of his administration. Duke also knew that not much could be achieved if the orientation of the work force and the people was not changed to focus on production. He started with the expansion of roads, both within and outside the state capital. He also focused on Ogoja, Ikom, Ugep and Okuni in what his administration tagged the urban renewal programme. Under Duke, the Murtala Muhammed Highway was dualised up to the entrance gate of Calabar while he embarked on the dualisation of Marian Road in the heart of the state capital.
In line with his desire to build the economy of the state on tourism, he successfully reconstructed the Obudu Ranch Resort, with a view to making it Nigeria’s equivalent of Camp David. He also instituted the Obudu International Mountain Race which attracted mountain runners from all over the world. The multi-million Tinapa Business Resort, the Marina Resort in Calabar, the annual Christmas Festival and Calabar Carnival, which he instituted within the eight years, are some of the legacies that have outlived Duke’s administration.
Duke’s administration, also ensure that the culture of the cleanliness of the people was explored to make the state the cleanest in the country.
Duke also embarked on the revival of industries in the state through the privatisation of some of the state owned enterprises that had become moribund. The Metropolitan Hotel, which is now functioning as Transcorp Metropolitan Hotel and the Calabar Cement Company, bought over by the United Nigeria Cement Company,
UNICEM, are some of the successes of his privatisation drive. In fact, the UNICEM now operates from a new multi-billion production plant at Mfamosing in Akamkpa Local Government area. Duke’s period represented the zenith of the economic development of the state as his tourism drive was backed up by serious investment in agriculture, especially in the establishment of oil palm plantations; and pine apple plantations in the state. The establishment of an oil palm estate with over 400 kilometres of earth road by former President Olusegun Obasanjo at Ekong Anaku in Akamkpa during his reign.
As Imoke Stepped In…
The Liyel Imoke administration, which succeeded Duke’s, sustained some of the legacies it inherited from his successor, but also failed in many respects. For instance, while his administration sustained the Calabar Festival, the Calabar Carnival and the Obudu International Mountain Race, and even made them bigger in term of packaging and delivery, the same cannot be said of Tinapa Business Resort which has not lived up to its projection as Africa’s premier resort replicated after Dubai as planned. Though Imoke’s regime succeeded in securing an operational gazette for Tinapa, the business outfit remained largely un-patronised throughout his eight years in office. The Obudu Ranch Resort had also started witnessing steady decline in the state of infrastructure and patronage during his tenure.
However, Imoke is credited for the completion of the urban renewal projects in Ugep, Calabar South, Ikom, and Obudu as well as the construction of the Calabar International Conference Centre (CICC), and the monorail project from which links the ICC with Tinapa.
Ayade, Professor the Governor…
The current administration under the watch of Professor Ben Ayade as governor of the state is just two years old. It is thus saddled with the task of recovering the lost glory of the state economically, and on many fronts. Thus Ayade has embarked on an ambitious drive on industrialisation and job creation for the teeming population. The Calabar Garment factory, the Calabar Rice City, Calabar Pharmaceutical Company are some of the projects embarked on by Ayade to revive the state’s economy.
And the Fault Lines…
The creation of Akwa Ibom State on September 23, 1987 owed much to the agitation of the elites of present day Cross River than agitation of the peoples who were later excised to form Akwa Ibom.
Then, the contest was between the Ibibio, the dominant ethnic group, versus those referred to collectively as Atam and the Anang and Oron.
In the current Cross River, the rivalry has been between the Efik in the south and the Atam that straddles the state from the Calabar to the North.
This suspicious political relationship appeared to have been overtly resolved with the emergence of Duke, an Efik man, from the southern part of the state as governor, and the Ayade from the northern senatorial district, with five local government areas, the smallest when compared with seven local governments from the south and six from the central.
However, this political rivalry among the various ethnic groups, put in the region of over 250 by some scholars has continued to play out in form of communal clashes, especially during farming seasons, thus suggesting serious economic undertone laced with politics waiting to be addressed.
Past Governors of Cross River State
Brigadier Udokaha Jacob Esuene* 1967 -975
Major General Paul Omu* 1976- 1978
Navy Commander Babatunde Elegbede* 1978-1979
Dr. Clement Isong* 1979-1983
Chief Donald Dick Etiebet* 1983 -1983
Navy Captain, Edet Akpan* 1984 -1984
Colonel Patrick Daniel Archibong* 1984 –1986
Navy Captain Ibim Princewill* 1986- 1989
Colonel Ernest Attah* 1989- 1992
Mr.Clement Ebri* 1992-1993
Lt-Colonel Ibrahim Kefas* 1993-1994
Gregory Agboneni* 1994 – 1996
Lt-Colonel Umar Farouk Ahmed* 1996-1998
Navy Captain, Christopher Osondu* 1998-1999
Donald Duke* 1999- 2007
Mr. Liyel Imoke* 2007-2015
Professor Benedict Ayade* 2015 – Date