On the Motion on Creation of More States

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ON THE MOTION ON CREATION OF MORE STATES

By

Chief Obafemi Awolowo
April 4, 1961

At the Federal Parliament (House of Representatives), Lagos

I beg to move the following amendment:

To delete the words of the Motion after `territorially’ and
substitute `of Benin and Delta Provinces in the Western
Region excluding Akoko Oke District in Afenmai Division
and Ward and Western Ijaw Divisions in Delta Province’,
provided

1. That the remaining part of the Western Nigeria shall
continue to be a region under the Constitution.

2. That a prior agreement shall be reached between the
major political parties in the area of the new region on
the following matters and that such agreement shall be
embodied in the Act of Parliament establishing the new
region, namely

a) constitution of the new region;
b) constituency delimitation;
c) fiscal arrangement;
d) interim administration;
e) date of first election to the new regional
legislature.

3. That the rest of the Federation shall simultaneously be
divided into the following regions:

i) NORTH EAST, that is, Bornu and Sardauna
Provinces
ii) CENTRAL, that is, Ilorin, Niger and Kabba
Provinces
iii) MIDDLE BELT, that is, Adamawa, Bauchi,
Plateau and Benue Provinces, and southern part
of Zaria Province
iv) NORTH-KANO Province, Northern Zaria and
Kaduna Capital territory
v) NORTH-WEST – Sokoto and Katsina Pro-
vinces
vi) EAST, that is, Old Owerri and Old Onitsha
Provinces
vii) CALABAR, that is, Old Calabar Province
viii) RIVERS, that is, Old Rivers Provinces and
Western Ijaw Division
ix) OGOJA, that is, Old Ogoja Province’

Mr. Speaker, Sir, the text of the Amendment speaks for
itself. Hitherto, the Action Group had adopted two distinct
but coordinated approaches to the issue of more states m
Nigeria. The first approach is idealistic. The Action Group
believe, as a matter of fundamental principle, that if the
unity of this country is to be lasting and if our people are
to have abiding peace and happiness, each ethnic or
linguistic group in Nigeria must be assured of political
sell determination within the Federation. In other words,
each ethnic or linguistic group should either have a region
of their own now or should have a definite and invincible
assurance that, granting financial and administrative
viability, they will have a region of their own in the
future.

Furthermore, the Federation of Nigeria is monstrously
abnormal in structure in the sense that one of the three
Regions is not only bigger in territory and population than
the other two put together, but has also in actual practice
succeeded in placing itself in a position where, at its
arbitrary and capricious pleasure, it can bend the will of
the entire Federation to its own. This abnormality must be
terminated if every section of our country is to enjoy the
full fruits of freedom in an independent Nigeria. And the
termination of this abnormality does mean the breaking of the
Northern Region into more Regions than the two hitherto
advocated.

The second approach of the Action Group to this problem
is pragmatic. As a matter of expediency, we believe that the
creation of one of the Regions advocated by us is a step to-
wards the eventual realisation of our dream. It is for this
reason that we have always supported the demand for the
creation of the Mid West Region. But the parties now in
control of the Federal Government have been unashamedly
illogical, spiteful, unprincipled and opportunist, in their
approach to the creation of more States in Nigeria. There can
be no rational ground for their insistence on creating the
Mid West Region when demands for the creation of other
Regions in the East and in the North are ruthlessly silenced,
or, at the very best, contemptuously ignored.

Since the motion for the creation of the Mid West Region
first came to this House last year, we have had a chance of
knowing more of the evil designs of the NPC and the NCNC
against the Action Group which is the champion of the
minority group, and against the majority ethnic group of the
Western Region. It is an open secret that the Federal
Government plans to use every artifice to install the NCNC in
power in the new Mid West Region and, if it could, to
incapacitate the Action Group in the rest of the Western
Region. NCNC spokesmen have been very loud in their
boast that during six months of control by the Federal
Government of the administration of the Mid West Region and
of the Yoruba West, the fortunes of the NCNC would have
been sufficiently advanced to enable them to win the
succeeding elections in the two Regions.

In my letter to the Prime Minister dated 13th July, 1961,
I made some important points which can bear repetition on
this occasion, and, with your permission, Mr. Speaker, I
quote in extenso from the letter.

`In order to ensure co-operation on the part of all
shades of political opinion in the Mid West in all the sub-
sequent steps necessary for the creation of the new State,
I have the following concrete proposals to make. First, a
conference of political parties with followings in the Mid
West should be convened by you. The Action Group and
the NCNC who are the only parties with the following in
the area should have equal representation at the conference
The Governments of the Federation and of the
Western Region should be represented as such and in
equal number at the conference. The Western Region
Government is entitled to be represented because it alone
is bound to be affected by some of the decisions that will
be taken at the conference. The conference will be pre-
sided over by you, supported by official advisers.
Agreement at this conference will be reached by compromise
as was the case at the series of Nigerian Constitutional
Conference over which the Secretary of State for the
Colonies presided.

‘Second, the matters which should be discussed and
agreed upon both at the first and resumed meetings of the
conference should include the following: the Constitution
of the new Region; allocation of revenue to the new
Region; safeguard for minorities within the Region; new
report of constituency delimination, that is to say, after a
decision has been taken at the first meeting of the
conference as to the number of regional constituencies which
the new Region should have, it would then be your duty
to appoint a Committee to delimit such constituencies (the
Commission would, as in similar cases in the past, have
consultations with the Action Group and the NCNC
representatives before arriving at its recommendation);
arrangements for the interim administration of the Mid
West Region, that is, between the coming into existence
of the Region and the holding of general election. In this
connection I would like to point out that if the precedent
of the Southern Cameroons is to be followed with reason-
able modifications, then the present Members of the Western
Region Legislature representing the Mid West should
constitute the interim legislature of the area. This interim
legislature will appoint, from among its own Members,
persons who would constitute the Executive Council and
thus be responsible for the interim administration of the
new Region.

`Third, it is essential that the Federal Government
should make a categorical statement that the rest of the
Western Region will ipso facto remain a corporate
regional entity under the Constitution. This statement
should not have been necessary but for the statements
which some Federal Government spokesmen have made
and which are incompatible with the provisions of the
Constitution. it has been said that after the creation of
the Mid West Region, what will be left of the Western
Region will be regarded by the Federal Government as
not legally constituting a Region under the Constitution.
This view is clearly an erroneous one. In the interest of
the people, the Federal Government must not be allowed
to fall into the temptation of committing such a grave
error as this. A categorical statement by the Government
on the lines suggested above will make the constitutional
position abundantly clear and allay any misgivings on the
issue.

`Fourth, it is, in my humble opinion, imperative that
the agreement reached at the Conference proposed in
paragraph 6 above, and the Federal Government’s
categorical statement on the position of the rest of the
Western Region should be reduced into legal terms and
should be made to form the Schedule or Schedules of the
Bill for an Act of Parliament to create the Mid West
Region.’

The Prime Minister’s reply, Mr. Speaker, was
non-committal. He said, inter alia, as follows — and with
your permission, Sir, I quote two paragraphs from the Prime
Minister’s letter:

`Now specific points you raise in paragraphs 6 to
9 of your letter. The Conference suggested by you of
political parties with a following in the Mid West which you
asked me to convene is a good idea. But I consider it is a
little premature. Such a suggestion can be seriously
considered after the Federal Parliament’s Resolution has
received the blessing of the Western Region Legislature,
which is all that remains in order to perform the proper
exercise of putting the Constitutional provisions into
effect.

`The other point relates to a request for a categorical
statement to the effect that, in the event of the creation
of the Mid West State, the rest of the Western Region of
Nigeria will still remain a Region under the Constitution.
This is an undertaking that the Federal Government
cannot give. You will readily appreciate that the issue of
the creation of States is not a matter for the Federal
Government as a Government. It is a matter, firstly, for the
people affected; secondly, for the political parties with a
following in the area; and, thirdly) for the Federal
Parliament and Regional Legislatures.’

I have listened very carefully to the very short speech
made by the Prime Minister in moving the Motion on this
subject, and I can find no answer at all to my queries, nor
solace for the anxiety of the people of the Western Region in
particular and of the minority areas in general.

It goes against the grain, in my view, and it appears to me
to be a subtle assault on the Constitution, that, the Federal
Government can unjustly and in an indecent haste try to
force the creation of the Mid West Region upon the
overwhelming majority of the people of the Western Region,
without giving the prerequisite guarantees, and without the
fullest possible consultations with the accredited
representatives of the people concerning procedure. The
whole of this business, if I may say so with respect, smacks
of ill-will and spite.

There are many here, and outside this Chamber, who may
be startled — and I have no doubt that the Prime Minister
himself was startled — by the number of States now proposed
for simultaneous creation. Some will charge us with
inconsistency for making this proposal. If we were
inconsistent, then I say that we are in very good company.
It is the most dramatic volte-face in our history for the
NPC and for the Prime Minister in particular – the one-time
uncompromising opponent of the creation of any new States at
all — to become the foremost advocate and champion or at
least the undisguised godfather of the proposed Mid West
Region.

In our case, we have never at any time changed place to
take an opposite point of view to the creation of more
States.

We have always advocated the creation of more States, and
it is merely a courageous and enlightened advance towards
the ideal if we now call for the creation of it States
instead of 6. The truth, however, is that whatever we demand,
whether we demand the creation of 6 States, or 11 States, or
even 40 States, we are still acting within the ambit of the
principles by which we have always been guided.

As I have said before, our manifest goal on this issue is
that more and more States, based on ethnic or linguistic
affinity, should be created in Nigeria until each of the
ethnic or linguistic groups in our diverse community enjoys
political self-determination within the Federation. Until
this ideal is realised, until this goal is reached,
consenting minorities can always be constituted into a
separate State, as Government now wants to do in the Mid
West Region. In determining whether a particular State
should be created or not, regard should of course, be had,
among other factors, to financial and administrative
viability. I am fully convinced that each of the ix States
proposed in this Amendment is viable.

 

NIGERIAN MUSE HISTORICAL NOTE: THIS MOTION WAS PASSED BY VOICE
VOTE ON THE SAME DATE (APRIL 4, 1961) . IT WAS GIVEN APPROVAL IN THE
EASTERN REGION IN JUNE 1961 AND IN THE NORTHERN REGION IN SEPTEMBER
1961. HOWEVER, IT WAS LATER ON RULED UNCONSTITUTIONAL AND HENCE
WAS NULL AND VOID BECAUSE ONLY VOICE VOTE (NO DIVISION) WAS TAKEN.
 

 

ON MARCH 23, 1962, ON THE SECOND READING OF THE BILL TO
CREATE MIDWEST STATE, CHIEF AWOLOWO MADE THE FOLLOWING
CONTRIBUTION IN PARLIAMENT

I rise to oppose the Second Reading of this Bill and, on
very good grounds. I am astonished that the Government
continues to tread the path of stubborn inequity in this
matter. I do not wish to repeat the argument which has been
constantly urged in this Hon. House against the creation of
the Mid West Region unless certain conditions are satisfied.
But may l say this, that the Prime Minister himself did say
here on a previous occasion, and he has reaffirmed that
statement this morning, that after the creation of this State
(the Mid West Region), no other State would be created in
the Federation; or to use his own words, he would not
tolerate a further break-up of any part of the Federation.

It is generally agreed by all of us — all sensible persons in
any case — that our Federation is an unusual one in the sense
that it is unbalanced. You have the Federation in which one
Region is more than equal to the other Regions put together.
It is, therefore, imperative if the Federation is to
continue in peace and harmony, that that monolithic giant
Region should be broken up.

The Prime Minister, as Prime Minister, has no’ region of
origin; but as Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, he comes from
Bauchi, and therefore, he belongs to that Region which
deserves to be broken up if the Federation is to continue in
harmony and peace.

I should have thought that after the Prime Minister had
listened to public opinion on this matter, he would desist
from treading this path which I described as `stubborn in-
equity’. It is inequity against the Western Region to insist
on creating this State. It is inequity against the Eastern
Region to continue to want to create this State; and it is
inequity against the whole of the Federation to allow the
Northern Region to remain as it is without breaking it up,
and more so, to make a declaration to the effect that there
can be no question of breaking it up.

The Prime Minister did say that if any Region makes the
request that it wants its area to be broken up, that request
would be acceded to. Our Constitution is very clear on the
point. It is not up to a Region under this Constitution to
make the request. The initiative should be taken under the
Constitution by this Federal Legislature. In this particular
case, the initiative has been taken by the Federal
Legislature.

The oft quoted Motion of 1955 has been thoroughly
misconceived and misconstrued. In 1955, the Motion that
was moved was very plain and clear; and to this effect, with
your permission, I quote from the official report of the
Western House of Assembly

`That this House prays Her Majesty’s Government in
the United Kingdom to make necessary constitutional
arrangements at the proposed Conference in 1956 to give
effect to the creation of a separate State for Benin and
Deltal Provinces.’

After that Motion had been moved, I then rose up as
Leader of Government Business, or as the Premier of the
Region, to say as follows:

`In view of the issues involved in this Motion, I want to
announce that the Government adopts no official attitude
whatsoever toward it. Secondly, Members of the Government
and of the Opposition who wish may support it
without any restriction whatsoever.’

Sir, in other words, it was not a Government Motion ;. and
secondly, the Government did not give it its blessings. It
is, therefore, incorrect for anyone to interpret that Motion
as suggesting that the Western Region Government made a
move for the creation of the Mid West Region at the present
time. What is more, as we have pointed out before, the
Willink Commission was appointed at the Conference that
was held in 1957 and the recommendation of the Willink
Commission was that no State would be created, and Her
Majesty’s Government insisted that indeed no State would
be created, before they handed power to the people of
Nigeria. So, the present move to create the Mid West
Region is that of the Federal Government, and the Federal
Government must own up its own responsibility in that
regard.

The other point I wish to make is that with the presentation
of this Bill for an Act to create the Mid West Region
in the form that it has been presented by the Hon. Prime
Minister, the people of the Mid West and of what is left of
the Western Region are being called upon to buy, so to say,
a pig in a poke. Here, we have a Region without any legal
identity whatsoever. What is the Constitution of this new
Region? How many Members will sit in its House of Assembly?
How many Members will sit in its House of Chiefs?
What revenue will this new Region be entitled to? And so
on and so forth.

It may be easy for the people of the North or the
legislators in the North and in the East to support the move
that is being made now because they have no stake in the
matter; but the Region that is to pay the price of this pig
in a poke is entitled to insist on an examination of the pig
so as to make sure that the price that is asked for it by
the Federal Government is an appropriate one.

Then the Hon. the Prime Minister has repeated his assurance
here that what is left of the Western Region would
constitute a State. It is not enough that a mere oral
assurance should be given in this House. It is important
that the assurance should be in a statutory form.

It is a matter of plain common sense that when you divide
an area of even a Local Government Council into two you
have to amend the instruments of the two new Local
Government Councils, in other words, you have got to make an
instrument for the new one and amend the instrument of the
remaining part of the Local Government Council area. In
other words what ought to be done on this occasion, before
we can give our support at all, is to present to this House a
Bill containing the Constitution, or a Bill containing in its
Schedule the Constitution of the Mid West Region and the
Constitution of what is left of the Western Region, because
legally what is left will not be regarded as a Region unless
there is a Constitution.

It has been suggested here that after the passage of this
Bill the Constitution of the Mid West Region will be worked
out. If you take the Mid West Region out of the Western
Region what is left is no longer the Western Regions because
the Western Region is defined under the Constitution as
having a given area, and that area is no longer there. What
name do you give to it then? It follows, therefore, that
after the passage of this Bill and when the Referendum has
been held — if the Referendum ever succeeds — a new
Constitution will have to be fashioned for what is left of
the Western Region, and I say that that is the situation
that the people of the Western Region as a whole cannot put
up with.

May I repeat very briefly that it is not just one condition
that has been attached to the creation of the Mid West
Region as a precedent? There are a number of other
conditions, but two of them are vital. I have already
mentioned one, that there should be a Constitution for the
Mid West Region and a Constitution for the rest of the
Western Region as Schedules to this Bill. That is one.
Secondly, there must be a statutory provision for an interim
Government for the new Region. That is absolutely important.

It is provided for in the Constitution that the Federal
Government can administer the affairs of the new Region for
some six months.

It is an optional sort of provision not in any way mandatory.
But the Federal Government is intending to administer the
affairs of the Mid West Region for six months. May I say
that that plan outrages the political instinct of the people
of the Mid West Region and of the people of the Western
Region as a whole on the ground that the NPC, which
dominates the Federal Government, has no following In the Mid
West Region. In other words by allowing the Federal
Government to administer the affairs of the Mid West Region,
you are in effect imposing upon the people of the Mid West
Region, a Party which is not of their own choice.

I repeat that unless suitable arrangements are made for an
interim Government for the new Mid West Region, we on
this side of the House cannot support the Bill as it stands.
I have said it before, and I may repeat it that we have a
precedent for the request which we make. When the Southern
Cameroons in these days was separated from the Eastern
Region, the two Parties which existed at the time formed an
interim Government. The Action Group and the NCNC
exist in the Mid West Region more or less in equal number,
and I think that the two of them should in equal number
form an interim Government of that area.

It is my view that if the Leaders of the NCNC in the Mid
West Region have the interest and welfare of the people of
the Mid West Region at heart all they should accede to a
proposal for the constitution of an interim Government
consisting of the Action Group and the NCNC in equal number.
But if they oppose that they cannot have a Mid West
Region.

I do not wish to take more of the time of the House on
this matter, but may I say, in conclusion, that in principle
we support the creation of more States in Nigeria, and, in
particular, the creation of the Mid West State. But in view
of the fact that the procedure adopted by the Federal
Government in their attempt to create the Mid West Region is
unsatisfactory and in view of the fact that the very easy
conditions which we have proposed have not been given effect
to by the Federal Government, I consider it my duty to oppose
this Bill. And, as I said before, it will also be my duty
after the Bill shall have been passed and a day is named for
a Referendum, to call upon all my supporters in the Mid West
Region to say `No’ to the Creation of the Mid West Region.

HISTORICAL NOTE: THIS SECOND MOTION WAS PASSED IN FEDERAL
PARLIAMENT MARCH 24, 1962 BY 214-49 VOTES. ON MARCH 30,
THE MIDWEST REFERENDUM BILL WAS PASSED. ARPIL 18, THE MIDWEST
PARLIAMENTARY BILL WAS PASSED.

ON MAY 29, 1962, A STATE OF EMERGENCY WAS DECLARED IN WESTERN
REGION, BY THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT, AND CHIEF AWOLOWO’S MOVEMENT WAS RESTRICTED. THE CONTENDING WESTERN REGION PREMIERS (ADEGBENRO AND AKINTOLA) WERE PUSHED OUTSIDE. DR. MAJEKODUNMI’S EMERGENCY
ADMINISTRATON GAVE THE WESTERN REGION GO-AHEAD FOR THE MIDWEST
REFERENDUM TO PROCEED.

SEPTEMBER 22, 1962 HE WAS PLACED UNDER HOUSE ARREST AND NOVEMBER 1962 HE WAS CHARGED WITH TREASON.

JANUARY 1, 1963, CHIEF SL AKINTOLA RETURNED AS PREMIER OF THE WESTERN
REGION, NO LONGER AG BUT NNDP PARTY LEADER. AKINTOLA WAS OPPOSED TO
THE MIDWEST REFERENDUM AS LATE AS MAY 1963.

ON 24th JUNE, 1963 THE MIDWEST REFERENDUM DATE WAS GAZETTED (SET) FOR JULY 13, 1963, AND THE CREATION OF THE MIDWEST WAS OVERWHELMINGLY APPROVED ON THAT DATE.

ON SEPTEMBER 11, 1963, CHIEF OBAFEMI AWOLOWO WAS SENTENCED TO 10
YEARS IMPRISONMENT FOR TREASON, ALONG WITH CHIEF ENAHORO (SEPTEMBER 9) AND OTHERS.

 

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