July 19, 2024

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Ogoja State Project Is Dead On Arrival-Obono-Obla

5 min read

In this interview, a former presidential adviser and lawyer, Okoi Obono-Obla, bared his mind on the on-going clamour for the creation of an Ogoja State from the present Cross River. The APC chieftain from Cross River State also lamented the rot in the nation and how leaders should manage the economy.

Excerpts:

There are moves to create an Ogoja State. Some LGAs in the central senatorial district are being coopted to form part of the new state. Where do you stand on this?

I am from the Central Senatorial district of the Cross River State precisely from Yakurr local government Area. It is one of the local government areas included in the proposed Ogoja State.

However, the people of Abi and Yakurr local government areas have unanimously resolved not to be included in the proposed Ogoja State but we rather be in the present  Cross River State which they shared anthropologically , cultural ,Economic ,historical ties and interconnectedness with over the centuries.

The people of Abi and Yakurr local government areas have therefore submitted a petition to the House of Representatives Committee on Constitutional Review on the 2nd day of July 2024, signed by distinguished paramount rulers , former governors of Cross River State, present and serving members of the state and National Assemblies, former chairmen of Abi and Yakurr local government councils, community leaders, traditional Rulers etc, protesting against their purported inclusion by the promoters of Ogoja State in the proposed Ogoja State without their consent.

We have the right to self-determination and association and therefore it is against the grains of municipal and international law to include them in a proposed Ogoja State without their consent. The right to self-determination and association is enunciated in the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,1999(as amended), the African Charter on Humans and Peoples Rights 1979, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international conventions to which Nigeria is a signatory. It is an unremitting and brutal assault on the right to self-determination and association of the people of Abi and Yakurr local government areas to be included in the proposed Ogoja State without extracting their consent. It is illegal and contemptuous of the people. You remember that several years ago, the same promoters of Ogoja State made a proposal to the National Assembly to create Ogoja State without including Abi, Obubra and Yakurr local government areas. So what has happened for them to sit down and decide that Abi and Yakurr local government areas should be included? We are suspicious of their motive.

The only reason for inclusion of Abi and Yakurr local government areas is rooted in history because they were part of the old Ogoja province . But this is fallacious somewhat because the Old Ogoja Province created in 1945 has over the years between 1967 balkanized and smithereens into Abia ,Ebonyi and Cross River State.

You Abi/Yakurr suspect the motive behind your inclusion in the Ogoja State project. What could that be?

Only these promoters can tell us why they did that. But from the rumor mill we gathered that are not comfortable with us because they see us being very forceful.

They also think we are Eburutu people who historically and culturally are more inclined to the culture and people of the present Southern Senatorial district. Abakaliki and Afikpo divisions were part of the old Ogoja province but they are now Ebonyi State.

Calabar province was made up of Calabar,Eniong Aro,Ikot Ekpene,Uyo,Abak,Eket divisions ,which is now Akwa Ibom and Abia State, Part Eniong Aro is now in both Abia and Cross River States.  Calabar is in Cross River State. Therefore demanding for the creation of Ogoja State based on the old Ogoja province would lead to a whole lot of problems of boundary adjustments. However, I am not against the creation of Ogoja State if the promoters of the request fulfil for the very difficult conditions prescribed by the framers of section 8(1)(a)(b) and (c) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,1999(as amended). What the people of Abi and Yakurr are saying is that it was wrong for the promoters of the creation of Ogoja State to include them in their request without their consent. If the fact that old Ogoja province is the  only old province in the country which is not a state as the promoters of the creation of the old Ogoja State, why would they exclude Abi, Obubra and Yakurr local government areas from their proposal some years ago? Therefore including Abi and Yakurr local government areas in their proposal look suspicious and not acceptable to us.

Knowing that no civilian government has created states in Nigeria before, do you see this as a tall dream, a project that is dead on arrival?

Yes. From a historical and constitutional law perspective, the only time a civilian government in Nigeria was able to create a State was in 1964 during the administration of Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa when the then Federal Parliament created the Mid-Western Region out of the Western Region of Nigeria. All the present States were created during the period of military dictatorship in Nigeria between 1967 and 1995.

Also the procedure for creation of State as laid down in section 8 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,1999 (as amended) is cumbersome, tedious and difficult and hence I don’t envisage the National Assembly succeeding in its present quest to create more states.

To agitators of new states, what therefore, would your counsel be, for them not to waste their time on a project that will not see the light of day?

Nigerians are always very sentimental and emotional towards matters like this so much so that their sense of reasoning is always beclouded. You know emotion has a way of making otherwise rational people to be blinded.

We should be fighting for economic rejuvenation not states creation. Experience has shown that creating mushroom states all over the country has not helped us. It has merely aided the creation of centers for looting of resources and political fiefdoms for political potentates to have a field day in cornering the resources of the country.

How do we end the regime of looting of resources in states? Any hope in sight?

We can if Nigerians become politically aware and conscientious.

When political parties become democratized and open their spaces for recruiting of good people to be given tickets to fly their flags in election. When people who truly want to serve the people rather buccaneers that crave to use their positions to accumulate wealth and use power bestowed on them by their positions to oppress, the regime of lootocracy in the state level would be curtailed.

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