I Cannot Write the Story of Mid-Western Region, Edo State, or Bendel State Because I was Too Involved
Professor Omo Omoruyi
REVISITING THE STORY OF MIDWEST OR EDO STATE WOULD NOT BE HELPFUL NOW
Should we eulogize the Midwestern Region or Bendel State or Edo State? Should we
discuss the contributions of various groups to the creation of Midwest or Edo State? Should these exercises be part of the search for an Agenda for Edo Nation?
I am hesitating accepting the invitation of Dr. Philip Idaewor the Coordinator of Edokpamakhin UK to write the �Story of the Creation of Midwestern Region�, as the Fourth Region in Nigeria. I certainly would not like to discuss what I knew as a policy maker with respect to the creation of Edo State because there is the twin
State out of the former Bendel State, called Delta whether real or imagined Delta that would also be in search of who is to write its history. Please spare me for now.
Why am I hesitating? For such a story to be believable, one would expect me to state all sides in the debate. In the end there are likely going to be heroes and villains. I do not think this is my role at my age and my
present commitment to be a unifier and not a divider.
What we should note is that the various actors on both sides did not write. We are left to rely on the official records and the pronouncements during the period before and after the creation of the new Region.
I am hesitating because, I seem to know more than what is usually in the public domain. I therefore would be raising many dusts whose implication would not be helpful for the Edo Agenda.
I am hesitating because any attempt to write about the politics of state creation would affect the electoral fortunes of some people in politics. I would be accused of partisan motive. I had to deal with this aspect of my life in the past even at the risk of forsaking my academic
commitment to write and let my colleagues know what happened in the process of making the 1979 Constitution.
I had difficulty with writing about the Politics of the Constituent Assembly as soon as it was over because of the effect the book could have on the political actors then. I had to wait for the dusts to settle before even discussing the origin of the political parties from the Constituent Assembly. The opportunity came with the termination of the democratic order in December 1983. I was able to complete a manuscript in 1987.
As soon as this was completed, I was saddled with managing the politicians in 1989 and the manuscript at the galley stage had to be withdrawn as the actors in the past were also involved in one form or other in 1989. Some politicians in the north who dealt with me in the Constituent Assembly petitioned
the military that from my progressive background they would not have justice from the organization I was to run. They even went so far as to call me anti-Sharia. This was not all.
A Yoruba Admiral (name withheld) ran to President Babangida to plead with him to drop me from the position of Director General, Center for Democratic Studies because the �Yoruba� leaders thought that I was anti-Yoruba. Of course they had to mischaracterize what I did in the Constituent Assembly as directed
at the Yoruba leader, Chief Obafemi Awolowo.
With these incidents, of course the publication of that book at that time would have given these two groups more ammunition to use against me and the program of transition. They were wrong; but I had to spare the President the ordeal of having to explain to them the need for academic freedom to be maintained
even if that means making some politicians unhappy. Again the book had to be suspended for the second time and only released recently as Beyond the Tripod in Nigerian Politics.
PERTINENT QUESTIONS THAT ARE DIVISIVE
Should I write about those who worked for the creation of Midwest Region or of Edo State? What should be said about those who did not support it, but who are still critical to the development of an Edo Agenda? On the latter question, let us take three persons.
Take the case of Chief Enahoro; he is still alive. He should be in a position to explain in his memoir why he opposed the idea of �Midwest Region� from the old Western Region in his political career. There was a joke in my circle in the early 1960s when he
was reported to have said that he was too big a Fish to swim in small water. If the Midwestern Region in 1963 was small water, what would Edo State be today? He is on record as working for the creation of Edo State during the Second Republic. He is on record as opposing any plan to dismember the present Edo State. In fact he told me in a meeting that he opposed the plan of Afesan State when it was brought to him.
Take the case of Chief SO Ighodaro. Chief SO Ighodaro of blessed memory is late. It was he as the Attorney General and Minister of Justice who challenged the action taken by the Federal Government and the Eastern Regional Government in a court of law.
Yet this illustrious son of Edo land worked for the Edo land since 1966 in many capacities. He became the Iyase of Benin and the Head of Egha-evbo N�ore and the traditional Prime Minister of Benin Kingdom until he died.
Take the case of the Momoh family of Auchi. The political Momoh, Kess Momoh did not support the creation of the Region until late in the game. Even one could recall how the Otaru of Auchi also of the Momoh family declined to host Oba Akenzua with his entourage during his
campaign for the creation of the Midwesern Region. It is wrong to extend the coldness of the Auchi leaders who did this on political grounds to the people of Auchi or people of Etsako as many Etsako leaders such as the former Principal Organizing Secretary of the Action Group, Alhaji Ja Usman of Agbede worked for the creation of the Midwestern Region. It should be noted that
Alhaji Usman had to defy the directive of the party chief Kess Momoh to work for the Campaign Committee. Even outside Auchi, the Uzairrue gladly received the Oba and his entourage and the message of state creation.
I WAS INVOLVED AS A PARTISAN POLITICIAN
I am hesitating to write about the story of the creation of Midwest or Edo State, for another reason. I was an active partisan politician at the University of Ibadan opposed to both the NCNC and the AG, the two popular political parties in the two provinces of Benin and Delta. I
was also a political science student at the University of Ibadan with a knack for the drama in the Western Region and its impact on the politics of 1964 Federal Elections.
It is simplistic to label the NCNC as pro-Midwestern Region from the abundance of the goodwill of the Igbo or their leader, Dr.Nnamdi Azikiwe. It is also simplistic to label the AG as against the new Region from the wickedness of the Yoruba and their leader, Chief Obafemi Awolowo. Maybe
we should ask few questions.
What was so special about Midwest that was absent in the Calabar-Ogoja-River State?
Why should the NCNC support the creation of a Region in the West and not in the East and in the North?
How many of us appreciate the strategic decision of the NPC to go southwards in 1962 during the intra-party crisis in Action Group in the Western Region?
How many of us appreciate the impact of the monumental crisis in Yoruba land in 1962 on the creation of the new Region?
How many of us appreciate the bond between Chief FS Okotie-Eboh and Alhaji Muhammadu Ribadu?
How many of us appreciate that this bond more critical than what the NCNC appreciated to the creation of the Region?
How many of us knew of the relationship between Apostle John Edokpolor and the Sardauna of Sokoto?
How many of us knew how that impacted on the creation of the Midwestern Region?
How many of us knew why Apostle John Edokpolor was made one of the Commissioners during the Interim Administration of the new Region?
NPC STRATEGIC DECISION IGNORED SO FAR IN THE EQUATION
Some of the issues in the NPC strategic decision were mentioned to the Members of the Constituent Assembly by Alhaji Ibrahim Gusau when he was soliciting for the support of the Bendel Delegation in the Assembly during the debate on Sharia. Of course, to many northern members of the Constituent Assembly, it was an irony that the person who moved the motion for the deletion of Sharia from the Draft Constitution was a Bendelite, Dr. Mudiaga Odje. I am sure that these issues were new to the Members of the Constituent Assembly. My colleagues in the Constituent Assembly were amazed
when Alhaji Ibrahim Gusau reminded us of the role of the NPC in the creation of the Midwestern Region. I happen to know because that was my party.
WHAT I WROTE FOR ACADEMIC AUDIENCE IN THE PAST STILL IN PRINT IS ENOUGH
Those who want me to write the �Story of the Creation of Midwestern Region�, let me say that there is already a published academic paper in my name titled, �The Criteria for the Creation of Midwest Region� in Professor Omolade Adejuyigbe, et.al Creation of States in Nigeria (Lagos 1982) This was from a National Conference organized at the Obafemi Awolowo University in 1980. The focus of this paper was that there was nothing called �criteria� as the ones used by the Colonial Government under the Minorities Commission was an attempt to deprive the right of the minorities to have their home. The paper focused on the impact of the political crisis in the Western Region on the creation of the Region. This in effect means that the political crisis could be a criterion.
I did a theoretical paper on the �Creation of States in Nigeria� for an international conference in 1985. It can be found in the book jointly edited by Dov Ronen of Harvard University and Dennis Thompson of Brigham Young University. See Omo Omoruyi, �State Creation and
Ethnicity in a Federal (Plural System): Nigeria�s Search for Parity� in Dennis Thompson and Dov Ronen eds. Ethnicity, Politics, and Development (Rienner, Boulder 1985) pp119-136. The focus of this paper was that we should not be talking about criteria for the creation of states. I also argued that we should not be talking about optimum
physical size or optimum population size or viability of any state. Instead, I argued that in the politics of plural society practicing federal system, we should focus on parity. It is parity that politicians in a federal (plural) system articulate without disclosing the basis of their
advocacy. I grouped the various arguments of politicians after 1979 in a democracy into six parity arguments without saying so.
I identified the six parities which were:
Yoruba Igbo Parity;
Majority-Minority Parity; and
Has this search for parity changed since 1980s? The answer is no.
WHAT I KNEW WILL BE DISCUSSED LATER IN THE PUBLIC INTEREST
On the juicy part of the story, I will leave that as part of my reflection on the �Politics of State Creation� in Bendel in particular and in Nigeria in general and the �Siting of State Capitals� in the new States in 1991.
Confession is in order here; I handled all the two state creation exercises including the location of State capitals for and with General Babangida in 1988 and in 1991. I have no regret in the actions. I had opportunity to review my notes recently and I am happy that
President Babangida did to ensure two kinds of parities. One was the Igbo-Yoruba parity and the other was the majority-minority parity. It is unfair to accuse the military that it did not have justification for some of the actions taken. Those who blamed the military for what it did during the State creation exercises should call on
their people in the corridor of power to account for their stewardship. I can justify the two actions taken by General Babangida on how to restore parities between the Igbo and Yoruba and the Majority and Minority.
PRESIDENT BABANGIDA WAS A �PARITY� CONSCIOUS RULER
President Babangida gave the Igbo more states thanks to late Dr. Pius Okigbo who worked with me on this project. On the second issue that is giving the minorities more homes in the north and in the south, this happened to be very tricky. My view on this latter issue is that the
minorities are still the atomized States that Professor Emmanuel Ayandele characterized as perpetually at war with one another. I am glad that General Sani Abacha completed the exercise with respect to meeting the needs of the advocates of �Port Harcourt State� that is now called �Rivers State�.
I would not like to be dragged into dealing with specific cases or respond to mischaracterization of one issue or the other that one reads in the press. This will be part of the discussion of my political life, because I was too involved in the two exercises
under President Babangida..
Our effort in Edokpamakhin should be to talk about those things that unite us and leave those things that would resurrect old wounds. Consider my position thus, the �Politics of State Creation� in 1976, 1991
and 1998 would be divisive for now.
The current leaders of Delta and some areas in the current Edo State did not handle the matter well. The focus was too much on how to avoid having more dealings with the Bini-Edo They were determined to turn the present Edo South
into a residue, the left over. Of course you know what is a left over?
A�TWO TRADITIONAL COUNCIL PLAN IS A REHASH OF OLD ADVOCACY
The politics of State creation within the current Edo State in 1991 and in 1998 is taken a new turn today. I am referring to the agitation by some politicians in the Edo north and Edo central to have a �State� of their own to be called �Afesan�. When that failed, the
agitation today is for two Traditional Councils in the Edo State. This is not provided for in the 1999 Constitution. This means that any plan to have two Traditional Councils is acting outside the Constitution. In my view it is avoiding the real issues. How can we talk of an Edo
Agenda when every little problem we go for the splitting of Edo State?
I have argued elsewhere that an Edo Agenda is predicated upon the unity of Edo State and its people. Those who have been agitating for Afesan State out of the present Edo State are the same people who should write and make the unity of present Edo an Article of Faith.
The London Roundtable on Edo Agenda discussed this and the way to tackle it. My view is that writing about the creation of Midwestern Region or the creation of Edo State would further rehash the old issues. How do we handle many actors who are involved in politics? That would not be helpful.
My plea is that I hope this Roundtable and the UK Edokpamakhin would address this issue. I hope the Edokpamakhin US and Austria would also address the issue. This was the first test of Chief Enahoro when he returned from exile. He
did not succeed. We should ask him why he failed. We would not fail if we are committed to an Agenda for the Edo nation.