When the Regions Were Autonomous and Free (1)


On January 28, 2020. By Eric Teniola

I FIND the press release by the Attorney-General of the Federation, Mr. Abubakar Malami, SAN, of January 14 on the Security outfit of South Western states very interesting.

The minister could not find it dignifying to personally sign the press release on a weighty issue like that. He merely asked his media aide, Dr. Umar Gwandu to sign the press release on his behalf. That has become the pattern of some top government officials particularly those in the central government these days.

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We have just marked the 50 years anniversary of the end of the civil war in Nigeria. A tragic war indeed. The anniversary should remind all of us, especially top government officials, on the need for caution in treating national issues. Less arrogance must be applied. At the time we finished the civil war 50 years ago, Malami was two years old, so in effect he did not witness what led to the civil war.

He is not alone. I learnt he is very comfortable now and that his next ambition is to be the governor of Kebbi State, when the term of the incumbent, Senator Abubakar Atiku Bagudu expires. The desired national unity in Nigeria, which has been fragile all these years, cannot be achieved through legal interpretation. The unity cannot be strengthened when there is master to slave relationship.

If the idea of national unity in this country is still a dream, top officials of the central government past and present should share a greater part of the blame. By their actions and pronouncements, they are polarising the entire country. What I find strange is how an appointed official could talk down to elected governors doing the wishes of their people. The situation leaves no one in doubt that something is wrong with this type of democracy forced on us by the military since May 1999. Those calling on the restructuring of the democratic process have valid points. It is the operation of an imbalanced system of government that could create chaos.

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Every Nigerian is a stakeholder in the Nigeria project. There is insecurity everywhere – a failure on the part of the central government – elected state governors want to ameliorate the situation in their states, the attorney-general of the federation and minister of justice says the action is illegal. I find it very difficult to understand.

Malami needs to be reminded like all others like him that there was a time in this country, in 1966 to be precise, when there were four regions in Nigeria and the four regions had their separate constitutions. The regions were Northern region, Western region, Eastern region and Mid-Western region.


In the wisdom of the military and thanks to General Yakubu Gowon, General Murtala Muhammed, General Ibrahim Babangida and General Sani Abacha, the old Northern region now constitutes 19 states including Abuja.

The 19 states are Adamawa (land of beauty, sunshine and hospitality), Bauchi (pearl of tourism), Benue (Nigeria’s food basket), Borno (home of peace), Gombe (jewel in the savannah), Jigawa (the new world), Kaduna (centre of education), Kano (centre of commerce), Katsina (home of hospitality), Kebbi (land of equity), Kogi (the confluence state, Kwara(state of harmony), Nasarawa (home of solid minerals), Niger (the power state), Plateau (home of peace &tourism),Sokoto (the seat of the Caliphate), Taraba (nature’s gift to the nation), Yobe (pride of the Sahel and Zamfara (farming is our pride). The old Western region now is made up of six states – Lagos (centre of excellence), Ogun (the gateway state), Oyo (pace setter state), Osun (land of virtue), Ondo (the sunshine state) and Ekiti (land of honour and integrity).

In the wisdom of the military also, the old Mid-Western region now constitutes Edo (the heart beat of the nation) and Delta (the big heart) states while the old Eastern region now constitutes nine states namely Anambra (the light of the nation), Ebonyi (the salt of the nation), Abia (God’s own state), Imo (the Eastern heartland), Enugu (The coal city state), Akwa-Ibom (promised land), Rivers (rivers of possibilities), Bayelsa (the glory of all lands) and Cross River (the people’s paradise) states.

The regions were separate and autonomous on their own and they had agents general in the United Kingdom who were like ambassadors.

Section 64 of the Constitution of Mid-Western region affirms that Power to appoint persons to hold or act in the office of the agent-general of the Region in the United Kingdom (including power to make appointments on promotion and transfer) and to remove persons so appointed from that office shall be vested in the governor, acting in accordance with the advice of the Premier.

Before tendering any advice for the purposes of this section in relation to any person who holds any office in the public service of the Region other than an office to which this section applies, the Premier shall consult the Public Service Commission of the Region.


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