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Politics and Nigeria's Independence

Author: smith on 17-09-2013, 14:00, views: 2 961

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The period from the 1940's onward witnessed the rise of Nigerian nationalism, constitutional development, the formation of political parties, enfranchisement and mass political participation, in all of which Ikot Abasi and its citizens were actively involved.

 

The Richard's Constitution of 1946, although vehemently criticised by Nigerian nationalists as a colonial imposition and a far cry from democracy, did provide for persons nominated from the Native Authorities to meet as a Provincial Council to select some of the members of the newly created Regional Houses of Assembly. The Houses, in turn, selected several of their members to the Legislative Council in Lagos. Members of the Calabar Provincial Council from Opobo Division, who, participated in the rudimentary elections of 1947 and thus became the Division's pioneer modern politicians, were based on their NA's:

 

Andoni: Rev. John B. Ikuru (Niger Delta Pastorate pastor and petty trader);

Ibibio: W. A. Meyen (Methodist teacher);

Opobo Town: Solomon S. A. Pepple (Produce trader);

Anaang: Thomas Udofia (Qua Iboe teacher, and member, Ibesit Nnung Ikot Council) OPOBODIST, 1/1/63.

 

They were, in a sense, bridgers of gap between colonial autocracy and national democracy.

 

The Macpherson Constitution of 1951, which replaced the Richard's Constitution, provided greater people's participation, by voting, in elections to District and County Councils; and, by a system of electoral colleges, to the Eastern, and, ultimately, the Federal House of Representatives.

 

Particularly, at the elections of 1951 to the Eastern House of Assembly, the two seats for Opobo Division were won by Dr. (now Sir) Udo Udoma, then a leading lawyer and ISU President, and Akpan J. Ekpe, a Native Authority member, contesting as independent candidates. Dr. Udoma was subsequently elected by the House to the Federal Parliament (Padgett, 1951; Udoma, 1987: 265), and about this time declared for the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC) Party.

 

Both men were re-elected to the House in December 1953 - this time, as members of the National Independence Party (NIP) and leading advocates of the newly organised Calabar-Ogoja-Rivers (COR) State Movement, in opposition to the Igbo-dominated NCNC Party led by Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe (Udoma, 1987: 348).

 

Significantly, the ISU played important roles in enlightening the people about these elections, and partly contributed to the election successes of Dr. Udoma and Ekpe (Udoma, 1987: 348-349).

 

The Lyttleton Constitution of October 1954 moved the democratic process further by introducing universal adult suffrage, enabling women to vote for the first time. At the Federal Election in November 1954, Dr. Udoma of the United National Independence Party (UNIP) - a party identified with the cause of the Efik-Ibibio and the Old Calabar Province -in alliance with the Action Group (AG) Party, won overwhelmingly over his NCNC opponent, Joseph George Cookey Jnr. (Varvill, 1954)8. A similar victory would have occurred at the subsequent Federal Election of 1959, by Dr. Udoma over O. U. Ekenekot (Obolo) of the NCNC, had this party, now clearly identified with the cause of the Igbo, not rigged the election in favour of Ekenekot (Udoma, 1987: 527-528)9.

 

The UNIP Slogan
 
To put reason in place of hate, co-operation in place of stupid rivalry, and construction in place of insane destruction.
 
 
(West Africa, No. 1999, June 18. 1955: 557)
 

 

Throughout their tenure in parliament, mostly as members of the opposition UNIP against the ruling NCNC Party, Sir Udoma and Ekpe made important contributions in collaboration with UNIP leaders like Professor Eyo Ita (Ibeno), and Dr. Okoi Arikpo (Ekoi), whom the Igbo - dominated NCNC Party had displaced from power in the Eastern Crisis of early 1953 (Udoma, 1987: 434). It was at the height of the Crisis, on February 9, 1953, that Dr. Udoma and five other Assemblymen from Old Calabar Province resigned from the NCNC Party in protest against the Igbo domination (EHAD, 1952-1955). Causes championed by Dr. Udoma included the Nigerianisation policy in the civil service, an enhanced minimum wage for workers; education, particularly the establishment of reputable government secondary schools in neglected Divisions like Enyong and Opobo; and payment of equitable prices to primary producers by the Eastern Nigeria Marketing Board. Dr. Udoma, moreover, participated at the crucial Lagos and London Constitutional Conferences which led to Nigeria's Independence in 1960; and he propagated the cause of Old Calabar Province and the COR State Movement in his newspaper, the Eastern States Express (EHAD, 1952-1955). Above all, Sir Udoma has remained the strongest advocate of State creation in Nigeria, and the Father of Nigeria's Federalism. In Parliament and at the Constitutional Conferences, Sir Udoma was the spirit behind UNIP's Manifesto:

 

... that Nigeria should be divided into a number of small states, in accordance with federal principles, but constituted in such a way as to preserve a balance of power. No one state will be so powerful as to be a threat to the unity of Nigeria (West Africa, 1955: 557).

 

Ekpe, on his part, advocated rural development, the establishment of government secondary schools in neglected areas like Opobo Division, the creation of COR State; and he opposed, most vehemently, the bill proposed in May 1955 to abolish the payment of the age-old comey subsidies to the Chiefs (EHAD, 1952-1955).

 

In the post Independence period, Ikot Abasi indigenes continued to play important roles in politics and government at the state, national and international levels. Sir Udo Udoma has remained as a most distinguished and accomplished Nigerian politician and statesman, who went on to serve as Judge of the Federal Supreme Court of Nigeria, Chief Justice and, for a brief period, Acting Governor-General of Uganda; Chairman and Director of Seminar for Newly Appointed Judges in Nigeria, and Chairman of the Nigerian Constituent Assembly (1977-1979), to name a few of his posts.

 

Those who also served in the Eastern House were, Chief Rowland Oke (Obolo); Chief William Ufot (Ibibio), and V. U. Ekpo (Ibibio); in the Federal House: Dennis S. Udo-Inyang; in the State and Federal cabinets: E.W. Udonkim, Dennis S. Udo-Inyang, Akpan A. Udoete, Obong O. D. Etukafia and G. Uzono; and as Chief Executives of Ikot Abasi Local Government Area: Chief S. Ikpim Obong Amaete A. Ntuk, Barrister Mfon Inam and Prince E. Ufot. Other distinguished Ikot Abasi indigenes have included public servants like Chief E. A. Udoh, a Permanent Secretary; Mr. A Etukudo Ukpe, Public Service Commission, Akpan Dan Etukudo; Etebom Owen Ukafia, the Clan Head of Eastern Obolo; professionals like Barrister (Dr.) Akwaowo Essien; and scholars like Professor Eno J. Udo (current President of Mboho Ikot Abasi). The list lengthens as the years roll by. In the religious sphere, John E. Eteffia of Ikot Akpaden and Smith Udia Umo of Mkpat Enin were spiritual leaders, who founded nation-wide churches, viz., the Mount Zion Lighthouse Full Gospel Church and the True Church of God respectively; while Ete indigenes significantly contributed to the growth of the Lord Samuel's Spiritual Church.

 

Where a community has been compelled for centuries to regard mutual support as essential to its survival, failure to give such support is akin to treason. Using one's position to benefit one's own people is expected and, indeed, demanded.
 
(Esen, 1982)

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Category: Ikot Abasi in the Socio-Political Development

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