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State Creation Movements

Author: smith on 17-09-2013, 13:00, views: 9 781

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PHOTOGRAPHS: Dr. Udo Udoma William E. Ufot Harry Ekanem Dennis Udo-lnyangPHOTOGRAPHS: Dr. Udo Udoma William E. Ufot Harry Ekanem Dennis Udo-lnyangFrom the early 1950's to 1987, the fundamental public issue for the people of the Old Calabar Province - if not for Nigeria as a whole - was state-creation. Since this was realised by the Ibibio only as late as September 23, 1987, the issue is discussed in the close of this chapter as the culmination of the people's desire for self-determination and the beginning of a new vista of promise and fulfilment.

 

The roots of the movement for state creation in Nigeria, unquestionably, lie in the formation of the Ibibio Welfare Union in 1928. By September 1987, when Akwa Ibom State was created, the movement in the Old Calabar Province had gone through seven phases, the first one of which was the formation of the Union in 1928.

 

The second phase commenced in 1935, when, as part of its concern with welfare, the Union moved to influence - indeed re-shape - the colonial political and administrative system. In doing so, the Union pressed the colonial government to create a unified and uniform Native Administration Service scheme for the Ibibio to be known as Ibibio Native Administration with a Central Office at Uyo, in place of the existing clan-based Native Authorities (or Clan Councils), which tended to be divisive by fostering clan, rather than pan-Ibibio loyalties. By the unified service scheme, an NA employee could be transferred from one NA to another so far as the person is a native of Ibibio, no matter which district he comes from. Recruitment to the clerical cadre of staff was to be by a competitive examination, and not on the basis of origin from the NA area. The Unified Administration was to have a Central Treasury for the whole Ibibio Tribe, at the commencement controlled by the Resident and later by a Supreme Ibibio Council (Ikpe, 1942). This Council would plan, and allocate the NA funds, centrally and, therefore, efficiently for the entire Ibibioland in order to achieve balanced development. There were to be also an Ibibio Appeal Court (from the Clan Courts), an Ibibio Conference of Chiefs, and the like. Characteristically, the Draft Scheme embodying the Unified NA Service Scheme was signed on September 13, 1937 by representatives of the six Ibibio districts to reflect the pan-Ibibio approach (Resident, 1937).

 

Source: A Brief Case for COR State, 1956Source: A Brief Case for COR State, 1956Although the colonial government did not, in the end, create a central or single Unified Ibibio Council or Native Authority, the ISU proposals were more enlightened than the existing NA scheme. More importantly, the proposals did contain the basic trappings of a modern state whose territory and people would have corresponded with the present Akwa Ibom State.

 

The third phase consisted of a demand, in the end, for the creation of an Ibibio Province from the Old Calabar Province. The ISU was convinced that most of the Resident's work lay on the Ibibio side of the Cross River and Uyo was very central, and that Ibibioland was neglected in that most of the money has been spent in Calabar to the neglect of the Ibibios who provided most of the money (Hunt, 1937). Hence the Union urged the British, as from 1937, to transfer the Headquarters of Calabar Province from Calabar to Uyo, or to give the Ibibio their own provincial headquarters to ensure even development of the Ibibio Mainland, side by side with the development of Calabar. The British officials first temporised, pleading lack of funds. In March 1951, however, the outgoing Senior Resident for Calabar Province, C. J. Mayne, felt sufficiently convinced to recommend to the Eastern Nigeria Government the creation of an Ibibio Province and a Calabar Province out of the Old Calabar Province noting that:

 

Strong feelings exist amongst the Ibibios, expressed in numerous resolutions of official and unofficial bodies, that the mainland area of the present Calabar Province should be administered as a separate Ibibio Province from Uyo... I ask that His Honour give these proposals his earnest consideration, since I consider that reorganisation on these lines is inevitable and should be implemented at an early date before the demands of expediency become too pressing. All factors point to their acceptance by the people and I am convinced that this is a matter in which we should take the initiative (Mayne, 1951).

 

The British, having, in the final analysis, only a limited commitment to administrative structure that would maximise their subjects' well-being, took no initiative to effect the administrative re-organisation recommended by Mayne. And, in June 1951, when Nigeria's Governor General, John S. Macpherson, visited Uyo and the ISU requested, among other things, for an Ibibio Province with a Resident in Ibibioland, Macpherson merely replied that the proposal for an Ibibio province had been for a long time under consideration. The principle had been accepted, and the people would have to wait patiently, work harder, as time would be needed for the formal creation of Ibibio Province (Essessien, 1951). Thus, as it transpired, only a subsidiary request by the Union - the representation of the Ibibio in the Legislative Council at Lagos, made in 1936 - was granted, when Chief Nyong Essien of Uruan was nominated to the Council two years later to represent the Ibibio Division.

 

The fourth phase occurred, when, partly responding to increased Igbo domination, particularly exemplified in the overthrow of the Government of Professor Eyo Ita in Eastern Nigeria in 1953 by Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe and the Eastern Crisis that ensued, predominantly politicians from the Old Calabar Province, led by Professor Ita and Sir Udoma, organised the COR State Movement in 1953. The movement aimed to achieve self-determination for the minority Ibibio, Ekoi, Ijo, Ogoni and other peoples of the Old Calabar, Ogoja and Rivers Provinces through their co-operating to confront the Igbo domination.

 

The agitation for state creation soon spread to minority ethnic groups in the Western and Northern Regions of Nigeria, forcing the colonial government to appoint the Willink Commission of 1957 to look into the fears of these minorities (Udoma, 1987: 307-309; Idang, 1987: 167). But the Commission, although acknowledging that minority fears of domination were genuine, failed to recommend the creation of a COR or any other state, on the purported ground that it might delay Nigeria's Independence. Not surprisingly, therefore, agitation by the minorities for state creation continued throughout Nigeria's First Republic (1960-1967).

 

National Executive Members of the Ibibio State Union Ibekwe District elected on 2'"' Sept. 1958 at Ikot Akan District Hall:
 
1.Obong Harry A Ekanem
2.Obong Etim Udo
3.Obong Sampson Ayara Akpabio
4.Obong Raymond Udom
5.Mr. M. F. Ukpong
6.Mr. Emmanuel G. Obong
7.Mr. William E. Ufot
8.Mr. U. A. Otop
9.Mr. Denis Udo Inyang 10. Mr. A. J. Ekpe
 
(Source: Udoma, 1987)

 

As it transpired, as a result of the imbroglio between General Yakubu Gowon and Col. Odumegwu Ojukwu, the South-eastern State was created by General Gowon in May 1967 along with 11 other states. This act, which constituted the fifth phase of the state creation movement, won the minorities in the Biafran enclave including the Ibibio population of Ikot Abasi to the Federal Government side during the Nigerian Civil War that ensued.

 

 Chief Emmanuel W. UdonkimObong Japhet A Udo, 1st Paramount Ruler, Ikot Abasi LGA  Obong Dick E. Usen, President Ibibio Union, Lagos Branch (1945) and later Obong Ikpaisong of Ikpa Ibom

In February 1976, the state's name was changed to Cross River State following another nation-wide agitation that constituted the sixth phase. This phase witnessed shifted demands for Calabar, new Cross River and Mainland (or Kwa Iboe) State, and the setting up of the Irikefe Panel on creation of states of 1975. But the Murtala/Obasanjo Government rejected the Panel's recommendation that the South-Eastern State be broken up into two new states -Cross River and Kwa Iboe, with capitals respectively at Ikom and Uyo, and merely changed the state's name to Cross River State (Idang, 1987: 112). At the same time, the Opobo and Western Obolo opted out of the new Ikot Abasi Local Government Area.

 

The seventh phase lasted from late 1970's to the 1980's and witnessed continued demands for Calabar, and Mainland (or Akwa Ibom) states and a New Cross River State. But it was not till September 23, 1987, that the military administration of General Ibrahim B. Babangida created Akwa Ibom State, along with Katsina State.

 

As already adumbrated, the creation of Akwa Ibom State was a fulfilment of a long-cherished dream of Ikot Abasi leaders. It has certainly laid the foundations for future growth and prosperity of this region in the context of a united, virile and progressive Nigerian nation.

 

Notes

 

1 The Ngo School was actually initiated in 1931, by the Andoni Oru or tribal council, which was most anxious for a school in Andoni. The Andoni NA took it over in 1932 with encouragement by Divisional Officer, W. J. W. Cheesman, who was impressed by Oru's efforts (Cheesman, 1932).

2 Indeed, the Uyo Teacher Training College trained many of the teachers for the government and NA schools, of whom Roland Oke, an Andoni graduate of the College, was appointed Headmaster of the Andoni NA School at its inception in January, 1936 (Smith, 1936).

3 The other exception similar to the Otoko heads, in not being elected, were the Heads of Houses, appointed to the Opobo Town (Island) Council.

4 This pioneering stalwart work was done by Rev. R Kingston, who wrote an Ogoni Primer and translated part of the Bible and Prayer Book (Cheesman, 1932 B).

5 The hoe symbolised agriculture; the oil palm, the source of wealth; the burning candle, true education and culture; one sword, the Sword of the spirit which is the Word of God; the other sword, truth, justice and equity; the horn, the... calling the Ibibio people... to action or mobilisation for development; the open Bible, true Christian religion; the shield, protection (Noah, 1980: 43-44, 59-62).

6 DO Kay's argument in the matter of divorce was that a bad husband who kicks out an old and faithful wife can hardly expect to receive much consideration, nor can a young and flighty wife who leaves her husband for another man.
7 Traditionally, women could not be sanctioned for a misdemeanour outside the authority of the customary women's organisations, e. g. Ibaan Isong, Ebre and various nka, etc. in Ibibioland, which attended to all matters, concerning their members. Point 3, in fact, seeks recognition of the autonomous status of the traditional women's organisations in women matters (Noah, 1985; Akpan & Ekpo, 1988; Abaraonye, 1995).
8 Udoma scored 15,688 votes; Cookey Jnr., 2,887 votes (Varvill, 1954).
9 According to Professor N. C. Ejituwu, however, Ekenekot won because of the determination of Ekenekot and the Obolo. Moreover, the formerly single Opobo Division constituency had been split into two - Opobo North and Opobo South, with Obolo placed in Opobo South constituency, comprising a segment of Ibibio, Obolo and Opobo, which probably gave Ekenekot numerical advantage.

 

Sir Udo Udoma welcoming the first Akwa Ibom State Military Governor, Col. Tunde Ogbeha, to Ikot Abasi on February 8, 1988. Source: LG Council photo archivesSir Udo Udoma welcoming the first Akwa Ibom State Military Governor, Col. Tunde Ogbeha, to Ikot Abasi on February 8, 1988. Source: LG Council photo archives

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Category: Ikot Abasi in the Socio-Political Development

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