“Nattering Nabobs Of Negatism”

Ukpabi Asika
Dr Ukpabi Asika (1936 – 2004)

By Eric Teniola

“Nattering nabobs of negatism”, this was one of the phrases used by the then Administrator of East Central State, Dr. Anthony Ukpabi Asika (1936-2004) in 1972 to attack the former President, Dr. Nnamdi Benjamin Azikiwe (1904-1996).

The old East Central State is made up of the present Abia, Imo, Enugu, Anambra and Ebonyi States.

The major offence of Dr. Azikiwe then, was to advocate for an increase in the number of states from 12 to 22, and to complain about the neglect of the then East Central state especially the bad roads in the state.

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Dr. Asika felt offended and launched a tirade of attacks on Azikiwe calling him “ex this”, “ex that”, and someone who harbored “nattering nabobs of negatism”. Dr Asika eventually died on September 14, 2004.

I accompanied Chief Ufot Ekaette, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation at the time who was my boss, to his befitting traditional burial in Onitsha. His wife Chinyere Asika (1939-2015) also died on May 3 2015.

The phrase no doubt, describes best the nature of things in many states in the country right now.

It was gladdening that the Governor of Osun state, Ogbeni Rauf Adesoji Aregbesola on January 13 was able to pay pensioners and workers in Osun state with N9.5 billion  up to December last year. I know of some states that have not paid salaries of workers and judges for the past nine months not to talk of paying pensioners.

On May 27 this year, it will be golden anniversary for states creation by General Yakubu Dan Yuma Gowon (83). In creating the states, he told the nation in a broadcast on November 30 1966, that” I wish to make it clear to the nation that honestly I personal have no vested interest in the creation of any particular state. But there is no doubt that without a definite commitment on the states question, normalcy and freedom from fear of domination by one Region or the other cannot be achieved.

The principles for the creation of new States will be: (i) no one State should be in a position to dominate or control the Central Government; (ii) each State should form one compact geographical area; (iii) administrative convenience, the facts of history, and the wishes of the people concerned must be taken into account; (iv) each State should be in a position to discharge effectively the functions allocated to Regional Governments; (v) it is also essential that the new states should be created simultaneously.”

He then named 12 Governors for the 12 states he created at that time.

They include Brigadier General Mobolaji Olufunso Johnson (81), first Governor of Lagos State. His father Joshua Motola Johnson was of Egba Heritage. Mobolaji Johnson’s administration was responsible for the demolition and disinterment of people buried at Ajele Cemetary in Campus area in Lagos Island such as Samuel Ajayi Crowther, James Pinson Labulo Davies, Madam Tinubu, Thomas Babington Macaulay, and many others. The demolition met with a lot of criticisms.

Brigadier General David Femi Lasisi Bamigboye (76) was the pioneer Governor of Kwara State. He is from Omu-Aran like Pastor David Olaniyi Oyedepo (62), founder of Winners’ Chapel Church in Nigeria, in the present day Kwara State. He was enlisted in the Army in 1960. His classmates then were General Julius Alani Ipoola Akinrinade (77), General Theophilus Yakubu Danjuma (78), Major General Samuel Ogbemudia, Colonel Ayo Ariyo, Chiabi (from the Cameroon), Philemon Shande, Ignatious Obeya, Brigadier General Pius Eromobor, Simon Uwakwe Ihedigbo ,Ben Gbulie, S.P. Apolo, Major General Emmanuel Abisoye (76) and Brigadier General Godwin Alabi- Isama (76).

A zoologist, police commissioner Joseph Dechi Gomwalk (1935 -1976) was the first Military governor of Benue Plateau State. He was Ngas from Ampang in the present Kanke local government of Plateau state. He was executed by a firing squad for his alleged role in coup attempt that killed General Murtala Ramat Mohammed in 1976. There are disputes till today over the alleged role of Mr Gomwalk in the coup.

Major General Robert Adeyinka Adebayo (88) was the pioneer Governor of the Western State. He is from Eyin Ekiti in the present Ekiti State. He joined the army in 1953 and by 1957 he was already a regiment signal officer.

He was an aide-de-camp to the last British Governor General of Nigeria, Sir James Wilson Robertson (1899-1983).

General Adebayo told the people of Western State on May 3, 1967, “I know also that in spite of appearance and occasional outbursts, we nevertheless are a united people dedicated to the noble course of doing honour to the Yoruba race, and our country, Nigeria. As a gesture of my abiding faith I have today ordered that all persons in detention should be released in the hope that the people concerned will do everything possible to justify my confidence”.

His son, Otunba Richard Adeniyi Adebayo (58) was elected the first civilian governor of Ekiti state in 1999.

Commander Alfred Papapreye Diete-Spiff (75) was the first Military governor of Rivers State. He was 25 when he was appointed Governor. In 1973 a correspondent for Nigerian Observer Minere Amakiri (1949-2011) wrote an article which was published on Diette-Spiff’s birthday on July 30, 1973. Taking this as a deliberate insult, Diette-Spiff’s aide, Ralph Iwowari, had the reporter’s head publicly shaved and had him beaten with 24 lashes of cane. At present Diette- Spiff is the Amayanabo (King) of Twon-Brass, Bayelsa State.

General Abba Kyari (79) was the first Military Governor of North Central state. In 1994, he was appointed the Chairman of the National Defence Committee in the 1994 National Constitutional Conference. After retiring, he was appointed to the Board of Director of the First Bank of Nigeria, Standard Alliance Insurance and Merchant Bank of Commerce. He became Chairman of Gamah Flour Mills and of Alif Engineering and Construction Company. General Kyari is of no relation to the present Chief of Staff to the President, Alhaji Abba Kyari.

Alhaji Usman Farouk (82) was the first Military governor of the North Western States. In a 2006 press interview he said that the poor pay and equipment of the police could not be justified and was the cause of the state of insecurity in the country. Usman Farouk was awarded Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON) by the Olusegun Obasanjo administration in September 2006. In July 2009, his sixth son, Police Superitendent Abdulaziz Faruk, was killed during violence in Maiduguri triggered by the Boko Haram extreme Islamist sect.

Brigadier Jacob Udoakaha Esuene (1936-1996) was the first Military governor of South Eastern State which is made up of Cross Rivers and Akwa Ibom states today. A stadium is named after him in Calabar and under President Obasanjo, his wife, Hellen was appointed a Minister of Environment in January 2006. She became a Senator in May 2015 succeeding Mrs. Ufot Ekaette, wife of the former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Chief Ufot Ekaette. Mrs Esuene built Villa Marina Hotel in Eket in 2000.

Brigadier Musa Usman was the first Military governor of the North East State. After retirement, he became a Director in First Bank of Nigeria. He died on 19th September 1991 at the age of 50. North Eastern States now consist of Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Taraba and Yobe states.

General Samuel Osaigbovo Ogbemudia (82) was the first Governor of Bendel State. Bendel State now consists of Edo and Delta states. According to Mr. Nowa Omoigu- an authority in Military history, during the counter-coup/mutiny, an attempt on Major Ogbemudia’s life was made by then Lt-Colonel Buka Suka Dimka but Major Ogbemudia escaped because of a tip from Colonel Hassan Katsina (1933-1995) then Military governor of Northern Nigeria and Major Abba Kyari (79). He was later elected Governor of Bendel state in 1983.

Alhaji Audu Bako (1924-1980) was the first Military governor of Kano state. After his death early in 1980 the Tiga irrigation dam, built during his governorship, was renamed the Audu Bako Dam. Following his retirement in 1975 he began farming and died at a farm he had in Sokoto state, leaving a widow and eleven children including Dr. Lawal Bako, a doctor, and Hajiya Fatima Yusuf Imam Wara.

As we celebrate the golden anniversary of the states’ creation on Saturday May 27th this year, the pertinent questions are:  have the objectives of states creation being met? Should we revert back to regionalism or confederation?

We seem not to be getting it right these days as a nation. With inflation on the rise, daily kidnappings everywhere, religious intolerance on the increase, competition and rivalry among the tribes, no restructure in sight, operating a costly  Presidential Constitution, anxiety and discomfort in many homes, no light, insecurity everywhere, no good roads, no pipe borne water, no national objectives and with Boko haram refusing to be tamed, suspicion and division among us, paucity of funds, recession worsening, no other phrase could be applied on Nigeria today than the phrase coined by late  Dr. Ukpabi Asika- NATTERING NABOBS OF NEGATISM.

Eric Teniola, a former director at the presidency, stays in Lagos.

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