THE IMPERATIVE OF CREATING ITAI STATE OF NIGERIA – By Tom FredFish

The review of the constitution by the 9th National Assembly may have reignited the burning quest for state creation in Nigeria with more ethnic groups submitting memos to the Senator Ovie Omo Agege constitutional review committee.

The Ibadan and Itai states are few among various ethnic groups seeking the creating of new states for their people.

The current agitation is not strange to the National Assembly. Before now, there have been several requests for the creation of more states in Nigeria.

Recall that President Shehu Shagari initiated a move for the creation of 30 additional states through the machinery of the National Assembly but the move was scuttled following the 1983 military intervention.

More request for the creation of new states have followed afterward. Request for the creation of Adada from Enugu State; Toru-Ebe from Delta, Edo and Ondo states; Okura out of Kogi; Aba from Abia; Njaba and Orashi out of Imo; Hadejia out of Jigawa and Katagum from Bauchi State.

Others are Tiga out of Kano State; Karadua and Kafur from Katsina State; Lagoon from Lagos State; Kwararafa from Taraba; Amana out of Borno; Adamawa, Taraba and Savannah states out of the current Adamawa State; Edu, Gurara, Kainji and Borgu from Niger; Apa from Benue, New Delta from Delta and Oduduwa out of Osun, among others.

In Akwa Ibom State, some political commentators have wondered why the Annang nation would want to opt out of Akwa Ibom state given that the PDP government in the state headed by Mr. Udom Emmanuel has covered grey areas that would warrant the call for self determination. While some stressed that almost all the existing States depend solely on federal allocations to survive thus, creating more states should not be the priority because it will mean extra burden on the Federation Account because they may not be self-sustaining. Others felt that the Annang people are fed up with their Ibibio brothers.

Observers however disagrees with both opinions that self determination is not necessarily caused by dissatisfaction but that the doctrine of decentralization teaches that the nearer any institution is to the
people the better they are served, hence the proponent of new states are only seeking the expansion of the scope and platform for more citizens to express themselves under a federal system of government.

Dr. Yakubu Ugwolawo, the Coordinator of the National Association of State Movements (NASM) was quoted to have said that states were universally accepted as the building blocks of development in a federal system because it’s creation will spread development across the land and help bring the much touted dividends of democracy to the door steps of the average Nigerian, as the creation of more states will also create new jobs.

“Is there anything so bad about seeking for a state so as to attract more development? The people who agitated for the creation of Akwa Ibom State are today celebrated because this area would not have seen the development being witnessed today owing to the creation of the State. There is no need to seek extra meaning to the agitation”, observed David Augustine, a lawyer and journalist with Insight Newspaper.

For Mr. Joseph Gumbari, a former member of the House of Representative who spoke to to Vanguard Newspaper, the requests for more states is coming from the people desirous of development. He said that looking at the history of the creation of states, it has been an exercise that has brought about development – and the government closer to the people. “From the three regions to the four regions after independence; from the 12-state structure to 19 states and to the present 36-state structure; it is very obvious that development has come to those areas.

The believe in some quarters that the action of the Annang leaders is politically motivated can be assuaged looking at the document for the request for Itai State.

A peep into the memorandum on the Review of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution submitted by Ati Annang Foundation in conjuction with other ethnic groups from the area such as Afe Annang, Afe Nkuku Annang show that the Annang leaders are united in their demand.

The memorandum was signed by eighty seven (87) Annang leaders including but not limited to all the Members of the State and National Assembly from Annang extraction, all the eight (8) paramount rulers, former deputy governor’s, ministers and Commissioners, political, business and community leaders, the Itai Afe Annang, the president of Ati Annang and other prominent Annang leaders.

The memorandum which had the signatories of the “who and who” in Annang informed the National Assembly committee that they had wanted their seperate existence as far back as when they were part of the then Eastern Nigeria, thus, proposed Ikot Ekpene as the capital of Itai State.

They explained that, like Bayelsa state which represents the pre independence Yenegoa Province, Annang was also a province headquartered at Ikot Ekpene and the first Local Government Area to be established in Africa by the British.

The justification for Itai state is further strengthened by the fact that of the 10 top ethnic groups listed by Chief Obafemi Awolowo in 1975, only the Efik/Ibibio/Annang ethnic group currently has less than two states in the country.

One of the lead proponents for the creation of Itai State and BOT chairman of Ati Annang Foundation, Sir Emem Akpabio confirmed that the motivation for requesting Itai state is to bring about even development and the need to redress some of the anomalies that existed in Nigeria federation which is now seen as injustice to the Annang people.

He explained that Annang was one of the earliest provinces created in the south of Nigeria from a former administrative division which were in use in Colonial Nigeria and shortly after independence; from 1900 to 1967. However, when these Provinces were altered several times to pave way for more states, Annang province was left untouched.

He clarified further that: “Many of the provinces created in the North just like the Annang provinces have been divided into two or more states but the Annang provinces still remains the same.”

Sir Akpabio cited Bayelsa state with only eight Local Government Areas just like Itai state as an example which was a former province created from Rivers state, adding that the Itai state has all what it takes to be a state of it own – such as population, human capacity, natural resources among others to cater for the new state.

Speaking for the Ibibios, the president of Mboho Mkparawa Ibibio, Obong Patrick Udofia said that the Ibibios would support the quest by Annang to get a new state because more states would bring more development and the people closer.

“It will be in our best interest because instead of getting one allocation we can now get two or three. Look at Igboland, from the former East Central state you now have all these five states and they are still themselves”, he said.

Political commentators are united in the opinion that the move by Annang ethnic groups is in order and driven by passion for development as the creation of Itai State will benefit not just Itai people but that of Akwa Ibom, as it’s balkanization will lead to a greater level of commitment and passion for development in both states by it’s new leadership.

Dr. Tom FredFish is a journalist and Lecturer at the International Institute of Journalism, Uyo.

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