History Of States Creation In Nigeria PDF: Political Reasons Why Several States Were Created
Long before the creation of the entity called Nigeria, the territory consisted of numerous
politically autonomous societies – chiefdoms, kingdoms, feudal aristocracies, and acephalous
states-that existed independently and had established their own indigenous systems of
administration. Examples include the Benin Empire, Kanem Bornu Empire, Sokoto Caliphate,
and Oyo Empire. These Empires and Kingdoms had established contact with one another and
with other peoples, through trading activities.
British trade expansion and consequent colonial rule brought with it the capturing of Lagos in
1851 and its annexation in1861 via the Lagos Treaty of Cession, and establishment of the Oil
River Protectorate in 1884. British influence, in terms of trade, mission and politics, increased
gradually in the Niger area over the 19th century, but Britain did not effectively occupy the area
until 1885. Other European powers acknowledged Britain’s power over the area in the
1885 Berlin Conference. Late 19th century and early 20th century Lagos was also a centre for
educated West African elites who were to play prominent roles in the development of PanAfricanism
as well as Nigerian nationalism.
By the end of the 19th century, Britain began an aggressive military expansion in the region. A
protectorate was declared over northern Nigeria in 1900 and Nigeria became a British
protectorate in 1901.
Despite the loss of sovereignty, the strong political and cultural traditions of these societies
initially enabled many to accommodate nominal British rule with little change in their way of
life. Before 1900, Northern Nigeria was administered by the Royal Niger Company. The colony
and the Protectorate of Lagos including its Yoruba hinterland were under the British Colonial
office. The whole of the Bights of Benin and Biafra including their hinterlands were under the
Niger Coast Protectorate. By 1900 the three separate Protectorates were placed under the
colonial office. They remained three separate Protectorates until 1906 when the Colony and
Protectorate of Lagos and the Niger Coast Protectorate were amalgamated as the Protectorate of
Southern Nigeria. What was to become Nigeria was now administered as two separate
Protectorates. In 1912, Sir, Fredrick Lugard was appointed the local head of the two units, an
appointment by which “the process of informal Federation was speeded up.” According to
Professor Afigbo, (Cited in Nwodo, 2010), “throughout this period, the British saw Nigeria as a
loose Federation of two different cultural and administrative worlds. On the cultural side, the
south was, throughout the period, seen and characterized as pagan and barbarous. As a result it
was subjected to the sustained propaganda of the agents of Western Christianity and Western
Civilization. Within two decades or so, it was dotted all over with schools and churches.
Politically and administratively, the South had notoriety for indiscipline and unmanageability.” It
was subjected to the harsh realities of direct colonial rule. On the other hand, in the North, the
colonizers ruled the people indirectly through their traditional rulers. In this way, the North was
sheltered from the harsh realities of colonial rule and subjugation. The policy of indirect rule
which was invented by Lord Lugard “made the masses respectful and subservient to their Chiefs
and the Chief respectful and subservient to the colonial overlord. It spared the North the
contentiousness, rowdiness and litigiousness of the South. It also made the North inward-looking
and suspicious of the outsider especially if he came from the South (Nwodo, 2010).
The British dependencies of Northern and Southern Nigeria were merged into a single territory
in 1914, and a legislative council, initially with limited African representation was created in
1922. Traditional native rulers, however, administered various territories under the supervision
of the colonial authorities.
In 1947, a federal system of government was established under a new Nigerian constitution
introduced by the United Kingdom. This system was based on three regions: Eastern, Western
and Northern. The idea was to reconcile the regional and religious tensions as well as to
accommodate the interest of diverse ethnic groups: mainly the Ibo (in the east), the Yoruba (in
the west) and the Hausa and Fulani (in the north).
The Richard‟s Constitution in 1946 and the subsequent Macpherson Constitution in 1951
consolidated the tripartite basis of national power and Nigerian Federalism. One effect of these
developments was the “superimposition on the old duality, a new and no less dangerous trinity –
the Hausa-Fulani, the Igbo and the Yoruba as the only ethnic nationalities worthy of
consideration in the emerging Nigerian political scene. To the colonial administrators, a mention
of the problem posed by the Hausa- Fulani, the Yoruba and the Igbo was usually believed to
exhaust the problem of Nigerian Colonial administration. The other minor ethnic nationalities
might as well not exist. As far as the British were concerned, it was largely the inter-relationship
of these three major ethnic nationalities that constituted Nigerian politics.
The dichotomous division of Nigeria between the North and the South (culturally and
administratively) gradually began to affect the mental orientation of the people as it engendered
social contempt, prejudice and resentment between the north and the south. “The North looked
down on the South as uncivilized, pagan, undisciplined, rowdy and nakedly materialistic. The
South returned this contempt with compliments regarding the North as feudalistic, conservative,
uneducated (in the Western sense and, therefore, illiterate) and as the pliant tools of the imperial
The division and social contempt which was engendered by the developing resentment and
prejudice between the North and the South finally exploded into the open over Enahoro‟s motion
for self-government which was rejected by the North and supported by the South. The event
ended up in the Kano riots of 1954 which was a bloody North-South confrontation. The
North/South orientation once planted by the colonialists, has survived as a major factor in any
balancing of power in the Federal Republic of Nigeria. It has always been a factor in every
electoral contest for Prime minister or for President of Nigeria.
The sixty years of Britain’s colonial rule in Nigeria were characterized by frequent reclassifying
of different regions for administrative purposes. They were symptomatic of the problem of
uniting the country as a single state. The whole elaborate facade of constitution-making from
1946 to 1958 was an attempt to work out a stable Federal balance between the three regions or to
put it more starkly, between the Hausa-Fulani, Yoruba and the Igbo”. (Nwodo, 2010).
However, the sixty years of colonial administration gave way to self-rule when Nigeria gained
independence on October 1, 1960 as a federation of three regions (Northern, Western, and
Eastern) under a constitution that provided for a parliamentary form of government. Under the
constitution, each of the three regions retained a substantial measure of self-government. This
was further solidified in October 1963, when Nigeria altered its relationship with the United
Kingdom by proclaiming itself a Federal Republic. Nnamdi Azikiwe, the last Governor General,
became the country’s first President. A fourth region (the Midwestern Region) was established
that year. From the outset, Nigeria’s ethnic, regional, and religious tensions were magnified by
the significant disparities in economic and educational development between the south and the
On January 15, 1966, a group of army officers, consisting mostly of the Ibo peoples, and led by
General Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi, overthrew the central and regional governments, killed the
prime minister, took control of the government, and got rid of the federal system of government
to replace it with a central government with many Igbos(Easterners) as advisors. This
precipitated riots and many Ibos were killed in the process. In July of the same year, a group of
northern army officers revolted against the government, killed General Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi,
and appointed the army Chief of Staff, General Yakubu Gowon as the head of the new military
government. The subsequent massacre of thousands of Igbo in the north prompted hundreds of
thousands of them to return to the southeast, where increasingly strong Igbo secessionist
sentiment emerged. In a move that gave greater autonomy to minority ethnic groups, the military
divided the four regions into 12 states. However, the military governor of the Eastern Region
(Colonel Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu) refused to accept the division of the Eastern
Region, and declared the Eastern Region an independent republic called Biafra. This led to a
civil war between Biafra and the remainder of Nigeria. The bitter and bloody war started in June
1967, and continued until Biafra surrendered on January 15, 1970 after over 1 million people had
Following the civil war, reconciliation was rapid and effective, and the country turned to the task
of economic development. Foreign exchange earnings and government revenues increased
spectacularly with the oil price rises of 1973-74. On July 29, 1975, Gen. Murtala Mohammed
and a group of fellow officers staged a bloodless coup, accusing the military government of Gen.
Yakubu Gowon of delaying the promised return to civilian rule and becoming corrupt and
ineffective. General Muhammed replaced thousands of civil servants and announced a timetable
for the resumption of civilian rule by October 1, 1979. Mohammed also announced the
government’s intention to create more new states and to construct a new federal capital Abuja, in
the center of the country. “He quickly set up the Justice Ayo Irikefe Panel to look into the issue
of State creation in the country. The panel received about 32 demands for new States. It was
based on the memoranda submitted to the government by the Panel that the number of States was
raised to 19, on 3rd February, 1976. The nineteen States were Lagos, Ogun, Ondo, Oyo, Bendel,
Cross-River, Anambra, Imo, Rivers, Kwara, Benue, Plateau, Borno, Bauchi, Gongola, Sokoto,
Niger, Kano and Kaduna”.(Iginla,2014)
General Muhammed was assassinated on February 13, 1976, in an abortive coup. His chief of
staff, Lt. Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo, became head of state. Obasanjo adhered meticulously to the
schedule for return to civilian rule, moving to modernize and streamline the armed forces and
seeking to use oil revenues to diversify and develop the country’s economy. Seven new states
were created in 1976, bringing the total to 19.
Nigeria returned to civilian government rule in October, 1979, electing Sheu Shagari as the
President of the Second Republic. But the elections were marred by violence and allegations of
widespread vote rigging and electoral malfeasance led to legal battles over the results.
On December 31, 1983, the military overthrew the Second Republic. Maj. Gen. Muhammadu
Buhari emerged as the leader of the Supreme Military Council (SMC), the country’s new
ruling body. He charged the civilian government with economic mismanagement, widespread
corruption, election fraud, and a general lack of concern for the problems of Nigerians. He also
pledged to restore prosperity to Nigeria and to return the government to civilian rule but proved
unable to deal with Nigeria’s severe economic problems. The Buhari government was peacefully
overthrown by the SMC’s third-ranking member, Army Chief of Staff, Maj. Gen. Ibrahim
Babangida, in August 1985, who later promised new elections. President Babangida promised
to return the country to civilian rule by 1990; this date was later extended until January 1993.
When General Ibrahim Babangida took over power in 1985, the clamour for States creation was
loud. He therefore set up the Political Bureau, headed by Dr. S.J. Cookey to look into the
demands by the people for the creation of more States in. The Bureau recommended the creation
of six new States – Akwa-Ibom, Delta, Katsina, Kogi, Sarduana and Wawa. It was based on the
recommendations of the Bureau that the Federal Government in September 1987 created two
more States – Akwa-Ibom and Katsina – thus, increasing the number of States in the country to
In creating the two States, General Babangida announced that the demands for new States will no
longer be tolerated. However, in August 1991, the regime back-paddled and created nine new
States which brought the number of States to thirty (30). The nine States were Abia, Enugu,
Delta, Jigawa, Kebbi, Osun, Kogi, Taraba and Yob.
The agitations for States creation seemed to have doubled when General Sani Abacha came to
power in 1993. Thus, following the recommendations of the National Constitutional Conference
(NCC) on the need to create more States, General Abacha set up a Committee for States creation,
Local Government and boundary adjustment, headed by Arthur Mbanefo. The Committee
received a total of 85 requests for new States. Thus, on the occasion of the Country’s 36th
Independence Anniversary on 1st October, 1996, General Abacha announced the creation of six
new States. The new States retained the old principle of North and South divide and were spread
equally across the six geo- political zones into which the country was divided for the purpose of
rotational presidency. The States were Bayelsa, Ebonyi, Ekiti, Gombe, Nasarawa and Zamfara.
In the historic June 12, 1993 presidential elections, which most observers deemed to be Nigeria’s
fairest, early returns indicated that wealthy Yoruba businessman M.K.O. Abiola had won a
decisive victory. However, on June 23, Babangida, using several pending lawsuits as pretence,
annulled the election, throwing Nigeria into turmoil. More than 100 persons were killed in riots
before Babangida agreed to hand power to an “interim government” on August 27, 1993.
Babangida then attempted to renege on his decision. Without popular and military support, he was forced to hand over to Ernest Shonekan, a prominent nonpartisan businessman. Shonekan was to rule until new elections, scheduled for February 1994. Although he had led Babangida’s Transitional Council since early 1993, Shonekan was unable to reverse Nigeria’s ever-growing economic problems or to defuse lingering political tension.
FURTHER STATE CREATION? LESSONS FOR THE SOUTHWEST.
There are still agitations for the creation of new states in Nigeria. An example is seen in the
recommendations of the CONFAB in 2014, that 18 new states should be created in Nigeria to
bring it to a total of 54 states.
Many of the agitations for state creation have undertones of division, politics, ethnicity or
religion. The same ethnic factors which initially ignited the demands for states creation has
continued to torment the country. Thus, ethno-regional interests are usually mobilized to
campaign for States creation and development and these agitations have been persistent and
Although ‘pro-state-creation’ agitators argue that state creation would allow for more inclusive
government and bringing the government closer to the people. Instead, reality shows that
continuous States creation in Nigeria over the last 50 years is a failed strategy towards bringing
government closer to the people and achieving national development. Rather, Nigeria needs a
repositioned and strengthened local government system, an orientation to enlighten Nigerians on
the need for peaceful co-existence and constitutional amendments to ensure a true Federal
system where the other levels of government will control a substantial amount of their resources.
States creation has not only failed to solve the problem of ethnic minorities or even the ethnic
majorities, but it has also become a veritable tool with which a string of unitarist leaders have
dealt a fatal blow to the Nigerian Federalism. In other words, successive Nigerian leaders, driven
by the desire to privatize political power with the attendant primitive accumulative tendencies,
have systematically undetermined the structure of the Nigerian Federal system by creating States
in an exercise designed as it were to weaken the so- called federating units, vis-a-vis the central
government. (Iginla, 2014) The struggle to get access to the national cake, rather than for national/state development, has been the driving force for many of the agitators for state creation.
At this critical time when existing states are struggling to sustain, pay its bills and remain viable, the need to cut down on the cost of running government as the only way out to ensuring availability of more money to fund capital project and generation of employment cannot be overstressed .more states would mean more debts.
On the argument that creation of states would bring with it employment opportunities, there is the need to realize the funding for the new states would come from the same Federal Government Revenue Account. From that back drop that Nigeria is at a point where it needs to explore austerity measures, the money that would have been used to fund the new states can be used to revive our industries to create job opportunities to unemployed youths, more revenue for
the government and also reduce costs of governance.
So far, state creation has been unable to solve the fundamental issue of institutional inefficiencies.
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