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Nigeriaworld Feature Article - The creation of a new State for the Ijebus



Bankole Okuwa Ph. D

okuw a1 Arkansas, USA


he burning desire of the Ijebu people to hav e a state created for their social, economic and political adv ancement, within the federal sy stem of Nigeria, is as old as the conclusion of Nigeria's civ il war of 1 967 to 1 97 0. A sy stemic national policy introduced by the federal gov ernment of Y akubu Gowon to weaken the military and regional support giv en the secessionist, Odumegwu Ojukwu, in his desperate effort to lead the old Eastern Nigeria out of the Nigerian federation, as a separate sov ereign state, had led to the sub-div ision of Nigeria into twelv e states, from the original three, to which the Mid-west was added in 1 964. The Murtala/Obasanjo military gov ernment increased the number of states from twelv e to nineteen in 1 97 6. By the inception of the Second Republic in 1 97 9, the mood for more states in Nigeria, in order to bring gov ernment nearer to the people, had grown by leaps and bounds, permeating through the entire Ijebu population within Ogun state and bey ond. When the Abacha dictatorship increased the number of Nigerian states from thirty to thirty -six , after taking office in late 1 993, the official position occupied by Lt-Gen. adv erti sem en t Oladipupo Diy a stimulated and encouraged the Ijebu people, from the Awujale of Ijebu-land to all other traditional monarchs to put more pressure on the Abacha gov ernment in order to hav e a new state created for them, as demanded by the Ijebu people. Unfortunately , General Diy a's high ranking position, influence and trusted efforts, in the Abacha gov ernment, on behalf of his people y ielded no result. A new state which had been believ ed would be created by the Abacha military regime for the Ijebu people in 1 994/1 995 did not materialize. The Ijebus were bitterly disappointed because General Diy a could not hav e been a bigger or a better representativ e of the interest of the Ijebus; his people, in the scheme of public obligations on the Abacha gov ernment in Abuja. The true story of the situation that led to this bitter disappointment for the Ijebu people, within the Abacha gov ernment, may nev er be known to the public ex cept by speculation. Shortly after, General Diy a was accused and charged with treason. The political scenario of the period suggested clearly , that the Nigerian military establishment, had lost its professional focus and obligation, to preserv e and defend the phy sical and spiritual integrity of Nigeria. Politicking for power and illegal acquisition of public money had gradually perv aded the Nigerian armed forces since the ex ecution of the first military coup of January of 1 966, after which absolute but sy stemic indiscipline in the barracks took ov er. T he Ijebu people of South-West, Nigeria Contemporary Ogun state consists mainly three big sub-ethnic Y oruba groups; namely

adv erti sem en t


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Nigeriaworld Feature Article - The creation of a new State for the Ijebus

the Egba, Ijebu and the Egbado. Others include the Aworis and the Eguns who are located along the Nigerian International border with the Republic of Benin. We all belong to the Y oruba ethnic group of Nigeria's South-west stock regardless of dialect differentials. The Ijebus occupy a lager phy sical portion of Ogun state than any other sub-ethnic Y oruba group. From a common state border with Ondo, the Ijebus of Waterside region, occupy Abigi and Oni. Others from Itele, Ijebu-Ife, Ijebu-Imushin to Ijebu-Ode are Ijebu descendants of v ary ing patterns of historical migration from Wadai through Ile-Ife. The Ijebus of contemporary Ogun state share a common border with Lagos state at Omu; a town that lies at the southern end of Ijebu-Ode on the eastern border of Lagos state. The Ijebus form a sizeable portion of the population of Lagos city and Lagos State in general. Aside from those who migrated to Lagos Island, Ebute-Metta and Y aba for commercial and economic purposes, the nativ es of Ikorodu and Epe are all Ijebu people. A portion of Epe population migrated from Lagos Island, otherwise called Eko when the traditional King of Lagos, King Kosoko, was driv en into ex ile by the colonial authority in the nineteenth century , precisely in 1 850. The people of Lagos who considered themselv es as his loy alists followed him to Epe where they settled and became known as Epe nativ es who originated from Lagos. All their descendants hav e since that time become nativ es of Epe but continued to distinct themselv es as hav ing originated from Lagos in v erbal discussion or conv ersation when necessary . By May 1 892 when the Imagbon War broke out between the British foreign inv aders and Ijebu Kingdom, the Epe people of Lagos origin were suspected as 'internal enemies' who were capable of leaking security information to the colonial authorities in Lagos in ex change for some fav ours. At this period, the Ijebu people had dev eloped into an independent sov ereign state, side by side with other pre-colonial Y oruba states. The defeat of sov ereign Ijebu kingdom at Imagbon was the beginning of the decline of Ijebu people who became wholly and completely annex ed with the Southern protectorate of Nigeria before the terminal amalgamation of 1 91 4. Relativ ely proud, enlightened, smart, and confident of their ability and env ironment, the Ijebus had established themselv es as mainly traders and middlemen between those who approached Lagos Island from the seas into the hinterland and those other African peoples and national societies that were land locked but wanted to reach the coastal area of Lagos. The bold resistance of Ijebu warriors of the British colonial army , in their determined effort to enter and penetrate Ijebu kingdom in 1 892, led to the decimation and ex cision of the kingdom, after the war, in order to conquer it permanently . Ikorodu town near Lagos, Ejinrin and Epe which were all parts of Ijebu kingdom were added to Lagos colony to constitute Lagos state. Today , Lagos state is ov er-crowded and the demographic pattern of people liv ing on the Island of Lagos, Ebute-Metta, Y aba, Mushin, Surulere and in their recent phy sical ex tensions is different from those of others resident in Ikorodu, Epe and all townships which the Ijebus populate. Therefore, it would be reasonable to suggest that the ex cised portion of Ijebu-land which was added to Lagos after Imagbon war of 1 892 be returned to the old Ijebu kingdom for the purpose of creating a more v iable Ijebu state. A good number of Nigerians today are ignorant of the cultural identity of the people of Ikorodu. People from other parts of the country see them as sub-urban Lagosians or Lagos Y orubas. They are technically correct. But no, the nativ es of Ikorodu, Epe, Mojoda, Ibonwon, Igboy e and others along Epe route hav e naturally unalloy ed and unambiguous identity as Ijebus of Lagos state today . It would be in natural order if they could be returned to join the rest of their people and become part of the dream Ijebu state. All the traditional Agemo priests that arriv ed Ijebu when Obanta came centuries ago, still pay their traditional homage and ritual observ ance to the Awujale till today . The Ay angburen is traditionally one of the sons of the Awujale. The nativ es of Ikorodu are naturally attracted to Lagos city owing to its status as a cosmopolis of the Europeans who arriv ed West Africa with all the economic benefits and opportunities they had to offer. Lagos city was the first urban centre to which Nigerians of all 'hew and cry ' tried to settle down and liv e in pursuit of new economic opportunities and ex ploit its colonial empowerment for better life. The prox imity of Ikorodu town to Lagos Island by boat prov ided a natural access and adv antage to the ijebus who approached Lagos for economic benefits and other social adv ancement. The gun-powder business monopoly by the Ijebus was a unique ex ample. WHAT KIND OF ST AT E WILL IT BE?

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Nigeriaworld Feature Article - The creation of a new State for the Ijebus
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Will the new Ijebu state, when created, follow the rot that had become the established order of how states are run in our shamelessly corrupt political env ironment? After a thoughtful rumination mix ed with some enthusiasm, generated by the hope for a new state for Ijebus of Nigeria, it occurs to my positiv e impulses that our new state will make history in terms of its political, economic and social agendas. It will be a new state with new and better ideas of gov ernance, breaking new grounds of achiev ement that will make all other states wonder with admiration and awe. A new state created for the Ijebus would be unique considering the qualities and attributes of Ijebu people in general. The Ijebu 'prov ince' of Ogun state is the home of one of Nigeria's founding fathers, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, who was a great democrat, a great planner, a v isionary and the first agitator for state creation. Nigeria's federal sy stem has prov ed his (Awo's) realist approach v ision to bringing gov ernment nearer to the people, who urgently deserv e its serv ices, as the appropriate policy to follow for national dev elopment. Secondly , Chief Awolowo v ehemently adv ocated federalism to allay the fears of minorities of the majorities in gov ernance, where smaller representation can be ov erwhelmed by the bigger v oice of the larger ethnic groups such as the Hausa-Fulani in the old North, the Y orubas in the old West and the Igbo in the old Eastern region. The Mid-west was the first state to be carv ed out of the old western Nigeria and Chief Awolowo worked assiduously for it. A new Ijebu state has the potential to become the flag-ship of Nigeria's economic and political adv ancement because Ijebus are hard workers, whose classic economic ability pre-date the adv ent of capitalism, at least, in West Africa. A state created for the economic progress of Ijebu people will not identify with the high lev el of public corrupt practices which has become endemic in Nigeria's political culture. Ijebu state, as a new unit within the federal sy stem will work tirelessly to prov ide jobs for its unemploy ed, especially its tertiary institution graduates, prov ide pipe-borne water, supply adequate electricity , build good and well maintained network of roads and dev elop a modernized and well ordered society where peace and prosperity will flourish. Education will be objectiv ely cultured to serv e the multi-purposes of the state and Nigeria at large. Pensioners who hav e serv ed the nation meritoriously will longer hav e to suffer psy chological and other phy sical discomforts to earn their legal dues, pensions and entitlements. Pensioners of all categories, especially teachers who deserv e absolute respect would longer encounter any difficulties whatsoev er when claiming their postemploy ment rights from the gov ernment. I foresee competence, efficiency , honesty and trustworthiness as some of the qualities and attributes of the gov ernment of Ijebu people when created. It will acquire and demonstrate a responsible tendency to produce a gov ernment of its own people, by its own people and for its own people and not a gov ernment of political godfathers and ex ploitativ e party -men. When the new Ijebu state is created, it will be among the first set of such state units to increase Nigeria's federal structure from thirty -six to forty -two in the twenty -first century . (This is a suggestion for those who would be constitutionally responsible for creating more states) From a hind-sight, Nigeria's social, political and economic antecedents in terms of progressiv e performance in gov ernance are v ery negativ e and discouraging. Gov ernment, which in dev eloping nations, remains the first and the last bastion for the generality of common men to seek economic assistance and sustenance, security of life and property , political enlightenment and guidance through education, and build people's hope for the future, fails to perform creditably in Nigeria. A handful of state gov ernments hav e barely succeeded in achiev ing their set goals since Nigeria became independent in 1 960. Hav ing succeeded in lay ing the essential infrastructure for social and economic dev elopment in the old Western Region of Nigeria before independence in 1 960, no gov ernment in the whole federal sy stem has come close in performance to the great achiev ements of Chief Obafemi Awolowo's gov ernment, much less, improv e on them. Today , the bitter struggle for electiv e office among our politicians, who often lack the ability or knowledge to represent and deliv er qualitativ e serv ice to their people is so tense that flaunting fraudulent money and engaging in a high measure of animalistic v iolence hav e alway s become the order of the day . Ev er since the military v iolently took ov er gov ernment in Nigeria in 1 966, all lev els of gov ernance from local to the federal, usually slip ov er from complacency into senseless arrogance, and from arrogance into indifference of the law and abandon their obligation to the people they are supposed to serv e, leav ing huge opportunities for corruption, inefficiency , incompetence and nonperformance. This scenario has been the pattern of gov ernance ev en among those who make much noise and flaunt calculated propaganda about their false promises and commitments to their electors from the day of their inauguration, which is usually

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Nigeriaworld Feature Article - The creation of a new State for the Ijebus

organized as a jamboree of festiv ities to drink and merry . The open consequences of all the political grandstanding in Nigeria's history of gov ernance, civ ilian or military , has been ex ploitativ e opportunism, display of mediocrity in leadership, lack of knowledge about what is needed for societal and collectiv e adv ancement, corruption in public office, i. e. stealing tax pay ers' money by apply ing incredible and uncommon manipulations perfected with the notorious 41 9 concept, promotion of falsities and lies to fool and confuse our people, the majority of whom are less informed, rural and less literate. It is most unfortunate that most people or indiv iduals who hav e been entrusted with political power to effect positiv e and meaningful changes in the liv es of our innocent and trustful populace and also in our dirty and unkempt phy sical env ironments in townships and cities, hav e discreetly abused the rare priv ileges offered them to rule. Ev ery where one goes in our country , ev ery newspaper one reads, one smells an unimaginable high measure of corruption and criminal dealings in public offices. Enormous cans of worms are cov ered and when they are incidentally or accidentally opened, the stench of corruption of those who rule us keep our imagination wondering whether we hav e reached the end of the world, when all hope is lost, fading away before our own ey es. The anticipated Ijebu state, hopefully when created, will once again raise our common sensual obligations to one another and re-build our confidence in a positiv e and progressiv e future. Our new state cannot afford to join the league of corrupt entities known as states of the Nigeria federal sy stem. Ijebu state of the twenty -first century would be a state of optimum performance in terms of social dev elopment, creation and preserv ation of economic opportunities for its citizens and others, dev elopment of its political institutions by comply ing with our constitution, commitment to a high degree of transparency in gov ernance, observ ance of the'rule of law', promotion of justice, security of life and properties, adequate respect and honour for its traditional institutions and those who occupy such offices, promote education and seek to create matching employ ment opportunities for those in need, and prov ide adequate medical personnel and facilities for the pov erty of health that ev idently ex ists in Ijebu part of Ogun state. Many among the old and current political hands of Ijebu in Ogun state may hav e started nursing their usually inordinate and criminal ambition to seek some of the attendant political offices that would come with the creation of a new state for the Ijebu people. Under normal circumstances, people can be ambitious. It is a natural right to do so but political ev ents in Nigeria for some time past has indicated that most people who seek to rule us are fraudulent in intent, they are demagogues and charlatans who lack leadership qualities and cannot perform creditably in public office. Most of them are in gov ernment to enrich themselv es and build a fortune from the public treasury . Ijebu state needs to do far better than that. Ijebu state has the opportunity to display leadership for quality performance among the poorly run states of Nigeria and demonstrate some ex plicit ex ample for good, responsible and progressiv e gov ernance dev oid of corrupt practices. We do hav e men and women who can emulate our political father and mentor, late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, within the Ijebu population and perform wonderfully well in gov ernment to our common admiration. Our traditional monarchs and Chiefs should be prepared to giv e critical attention to the curriculum v itae of those who wish to serv e our newly anticipated state with honesty of purpose as Gov ernor, Senators, Members of the House of Representativ es, Members of the State House of Assembly and the Local gov ernment lev els as Chairmen and councilors. They all need to be well educated and be highly qualified with univ ersity or college degrees. We are all aware that West African School Certificate is the minimum constitutional academic qualification, y et we also know that Ijebu sons and daughters belong to the highest cadre of educated class of people in contemporary Nigeria. Mention the degree or profession, the Ijebus hav e it. Our env isaged state should be a shining ex ample of hard-work, honesty and trustworthy gov ernance, socially , politically and economically driv en with passion for progress, all the time. All other states of the federation including the clumsy , lazy , reluctant and v isionless federal gov ernment would need to watch, wonder and emulate the unprecedented high performance of Ijebu state. Late Alhaji Tafawa Balewa's federal gov ernment used to borrow money from the efficient gov ernment of late Chief Obafemi Awolowo of the old Western Region. It was a case of purposeful, efficient and competent gov ernance. A twenty -first century state created for the Ijebus; the home of our late sage and political hero can dream to perform likewise, if not better. The Ijebu state of our dream can emerge as a great state where fraud,
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Nigeriaworld Feature Article - The creation of a new State for the Ijebus

insolence, political hooliganism, money laundering, electoral malpractices and all ev il machinations that diminish positiv e and progressiv e gov ernment performance and legitimacy hav e no place. The good people of Ijebu do not deserv e any thing less. In conclusion, the creation of Ijebu state should illustrate a political and economic combination of unique and hard working human frontiers which, with all intents and purposes, is capable of uplifting the uncommon relev ance of dy namism in the Nigerian federal sy stem. The abiding concern and responsibility of those directly planning and ex ecuting the statutory petition for the new state is to follow meticulously the details of constitutional requirement as specified in our basic law in order to succeed. All Ijebu members of Ogun State House of Assembly should endeav our to play their constitutional roles in the interest of the collectiv e demand and agitation of Ijebu people for a new state. Much appreciation should attend the collectiv e of Ijebu monarchs for the imperativ e and compulsiv e leadership role demonstrated in their unanimous and popular demand for a new state for the Ijebu people, whose demography had been decimated ov er time in the geo-political colonial effort and structure of 1 91 4 Nigeria of Lord Lugard. The Awujale of Ijebu-land, Oba S. K. Adetona, the Akarigbo of Ijebu-Remo, Oba Sonariwo and all other traditional monarchs of Ijebu-land hav e come together amicably to demand this dream state for their people. As proponents of this appreciable demand, all sons and daughters of Ijebu-land within Nigeria and in diaspora and all future generations owe them much gratitude. The entire people of Ijebu cannot thank y ou enough. Kabiy esi, ki Ade pe l'ori, ki bata pe l'ese, ki irukere di abere. Ase.

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Bankole Okuwa is a Professor of Political Science

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