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Speech by Major-General Yakubu Gowon Declaring a Twelve State Structure for Nigeria – May 1967

COUNTRYMEN, as you are all aware Nigeria has been immersed in an extremely grave  crisis for almost eighteen months. We have now reached a most critical phase  where what is at stake is the very survival of Nigeria as one political and  economic unit.

We must rise to the challenge and what we do in the next few days  will be decisive. The whole world is witness to the continued defiance of  federal authority by the Government of the Eastern Region, the disruption of the  Railway, the Coal Corporation, the normal operations of the Nigerian Ports Authority,

the interference with the flight schedules of the Nigeria Airways and other illegal acts by the Eastern Region Government culminating in the edicts promulgated last month by that Government purporting to seize all Federal Statutory Corporations and Federal revenues collected in the East.

The  consequence of these illegal sets has been the increasing deterioration of the  Nigerian economy. It has also produce uncertainty and insecurity generally and pushed the country with increasing tempo towards total disintegration and possible civil war and bloodshed on massive scale.

In the face of all these, I have shown great restraint, hoping that through peaceful negotiations a solution acceptable to all sections of the country can be found.

Unfortunately, the hopes of myself and my other colleagues on the Supreme Military council have been disappointed by the ever increasing campaign of hate by the Governor of the Eastern Region. Lt. Col Ojukwu has continuously increased his demands as soon as some are met in order to perpetuate the crisis and lead the Eastern Region out of Nigeria. We know very well the tragic consequences of such a misguided step.

Not only will the regions themselves disintegrate further, but before then, pushed by foreign powers and mercenaries who will interfere, this dear country will be turned into a bloody stage for chaotic and wasteful civil war.

When the  tragic events of 15th January, 1966 occurred, the country acquiesced in the installation of a Military Regime only because it desired that order and discipline should be restored in he conduct of the affairs of this country, that swift reforms will be introduced to produce just and honest Government, to usher in stability and ensure fair treatment of all citizens in every part of the country.

The citizens of this country have not given the Military Regime any mandate to divide up the country into sovereign states and to plunge them into bloody disaster.

State of emergency

As I have warned before, my duty is clear-faced with this final choice between action to save Nigeria and acquiescence in secession and disintegration. I am therefore proclaiming a State of Emergency throughout Nigeria with immediate effect.

I have assumed full powers as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces and Head of the Federal Military Government for the short period necessary to carry through the measures which are now urgently required.

In this period of emergency, no political statements in the Press, on the Radio and Television and all publicity media or any other political activity, will be tolerated. The Military and Police are empowered to deal summarily with any offenders.

Newspaper editors are particularly urged to co-operate with the authorities to ensure the success of these measures. I have referred earlier to some illegal acts of the Eastern Region Government.

You all know that about one third of the entire falling stock of the Nigerian Railways, including 115 oil-tankers, have been detained and that the services on the Eastern District of the Nigerian railways have been completely disrupted for many months.

You are also aware of the fact that they have disrupted the direct movement of oil products from the refinery near Port Harcourt to the Northern Region. They have
hindered the transit of goods to neighbouring countries and have even seized goods belonging to foreign countries. These acts have flagrantly violated normal  international practice and disturbed friendly relations with our neighbours.

That refinery is owned jointly by the Federal Government and Regional  governments. Illegally, since last year, the Authorities at Enugu have interfered with the flight routes of the Nigeria Airways. Only recently they committed the barbaric crime of hijacking a plane bound for Lagos from Benin.

They have placed a ban on the residence of non-Easterners in the Eastern Region-an action which is against the Constitution and the fundamental provisions of our laws.

They have continuously on the Press and radio incited the people of eastern Region to hatred of other Nigerian peoples and they have indulged in the crudest abuse of members of the Supreme Military Council, especially myself. Despite all these, I have spared no effort to conciliate the East in recognition of their understandable grievances and fears since the tragic incidents of 1966.

To this end I agreed with my other colleagues on the Supreme Military Council to the promulgation of the Decree No. 8 which completely decentralized the government of this country and even went further than the Republican Constitution as it existed before 15th January, 1966. But what has been the response of the Eastern Region Government? Complete rejection of Decree No. 8 and insistence on its separate existence as a sovereign unit.

Only recently, a group of distinguished citizens formed themselves into the  National Conciliation Committee. They submitted recommendations aimed at  reducing tension.

These included the reciprocal abrogation of economic measures  taken by the Federal Military government and the seizure of Federal Statutory  Corporations and Federal revenue by the Eastern Government.

These reciprocal  actions were to be taken within one week that is by 25th May, 1967.It is on  record that I accepted the recommendations and issued instructions effective  from Tuesday, May 23. Indeed I now understand that certain vehicles of the Posts and Telegraphs Department which went to the East in resumption of services have been illegally detained in the Region.

The response of the east has been completely negative and they have continued their propaganda and stage-managed demonstrations for “independence.” Fellow citizens, I recognise however that the problem of Nigeria extends beyond the present misguided actions of the Eastern

Region Government. My duty is to all citizens. I propose to treat all sections of the country with equality. The main obstacle to future stability in this country is the present structural imbalance in the Nigerian Federation.

Even Decree No. 8 or Confederation or Loose Association will never survive if any one section of the country is in a position to hold the others to ransom. This is why the item in the political and administrative programme adopted by the Supreme Military Council last month is the creation of states as a basis for  stability. This must be done first so as to remove the fear of domination.

Representatives drawn from the new states will be more able to work out the future constitution for this country which can contain provisions to protect the powers of the states to the fullest extent desired by the Nigerian people.

As soon as these states are established, a new Revenue Allocation Commission consisting of international experts will be appointed to recommend an equitable formula for revenue allocation taking into account the desires of the states. I propose to act faithfully within the political and administrative programme adopted by the Supreme Military Council and published last month.

The world will recognise in these proposals our desire for justice and fair play for all sections of this country and to accommodate all genuine aspirations of the diverse people of this great country.

I have ordered the re-imposition of the economic measures designed to safeguard federal interests until such a time as the Eastern Military Government abrogates its illegal edicts on revenue collection and the administration of the Federal Statutory Corporations based in the East. The country has a long history of well articulated demands for states.

The fears of minorities were explained in great detail and set out in the report  of the Willink Commission appointed by the British in 1958. More recently there  has been extensive discussion in Regional Consultative Committees and  Leaders-of-Thought Conferences.

Resolutions have been adopted demanding the creation of states in the North and in Lagos. Petitions from minority areas in the East which have been subjected to violent intimidation by the Eastern Military Government have been widely publicized. While the present circumstances regrettably do not allow for consultations through plebiscites, I am satisfied that the creation of new states as the only possible basis for stability and equality is the overwhelming desire of vast majority of Nigerians.

To ensure justice, these states are being created simultaneously. To this end, therefore, I am promulgating a Decree which will divide the Federal Republic into twelve states. The twelve states will be six in the present Northern Region, three in  the present Eastern Region, the Mid-West will remain as it is, the Colony  Province of the Western Region and Lagos will form a new Lagos State and the Western Region will otherwise remain as it is.

I must emphasise at once that the  Decree will provide for a States Delimitation Commission which will ensure that any divisions or towns not satisfied with the states in which they are initially grouped will obtain redress. But in this moment of serious National Emergency the co-operation of all concerned is absolutely essential in order to avoid any unpleasant consequences.

The twelve new states, subject to marginal boundary adjustments, will therefore
be as follows: North-Western State comprising Sokoto and Niger Provinces. North-Central State comprising Katsina and Zaria. Kano State comprising the present Kano Province.

North-Eastern State comprising Borno, Adamawa, Sardauna and Bauchi Provinces. Benue/Plateau State comprising Benue and Plateau Provinces. Lagos State comprising the Colony Province and the Federal Territory of Lagos. Western State comprising the present Western Region but excluding the Colony Province. Mid-Western State comprising the present Mid-Western State.

East-Central State comprising the present Eastern Region excluding Calabar, Ogoja and Rivers Provinces. South-Eastern State comprising Calabar and Ogoja Provinces. Rivers State comprising Ahoada, Brass, Degema, Ogoni and Port Harcourt Divisions. The states will be free to adopt any particular names they choose in the future.

Administrative arrangements

The immediate administrative arrangements of the new states have been planned and the names of the Military Governors appointed to the new states will be gazetted shortly. The allocation of federally collected revenue to the new states on an interim basis for the first few months has also been planned.

The successor states in each former region will share the revenue until a more permanent formula is recommended by the new Revenue Allocation Commission. It is my fervent hope that the existing regional Authorities will co-operate fully to ensure the smoothest possible establishment of the new states.

It is also my hope that the nee to use force to support any new state will not arise. I am, however, ready to protect any citizens of this country who are subject to intimidation or violence in the course of establishment of these new states.

My dear countrymen, the struggle ahead is for the well-being of the present and future generations of Nigerians. If it were possible for us to avoid chaos and civil war merely by drifting apart as some people claim that easy choice may have been taken.

But we know that to take such a course will quickly lead to the disintegration of the existing regions in condition of chaos and to disastrous foreign interference. We now have to adopt the courageous course of facing the fundamental problem that has plagued this country since the early 50s.

There should be no recrimination. We must all resolve to work together. It is my hope that those who disagreed in the past with the Federal Military Government through genuine misunderstanding and mistrust will now be convinced of our  purpose and be willing to come back and let us plan and work together for the realisation of the political and administrative programme of the Supreme Military Council, and for the early restoration of full civilian rule in circumstances which would enhance just and honest and patriotic government.

I appeal to the general public to continue to give their co-operation to the Federal Military Government; to go about their normal business peacefully; to maintain harmony with all communities wherever they live; to respect all the directives of the Government including directives restricting the movements of people while the emergency remains.

Such directives are for their own protection and in their own interest. Let us therefore, march manfully together to alter the course of this nation once again for all and to place it on the path of progress, unity and equality. Let us so act that future generations of Nigerians will praise us for our resolution and courage in this critical stage of our  country’s history.
Long live the Federal Republic of Nigeria.


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