In this interview with Mohammed Ismail, former CSO to General Sani Abacha, Hamza Al-Mustapha enumerated reasons why the former military head of state created six states on 1st October, 1996.
It is on record that late head of state, General Sani Abacha created six more states on 1st October, 1996. As a close associate of Abacha, what do you think informed his resolve to create these states?
At the time the late leader assumed the reins of power, many groups and people were clamouring for the creation of states, while others rooted for the creation of local governments in their states. The late head of state, looked at the various parts of the country before creating those states and local governments.
If you look at the states created by late Abacha critically, you will notice that they are different from other states created before because, a new concept was introduced in which the six geopolitical zones were taken into cognisance. He took such decision considering the history of each geopolitical region in terms of traditional institutions, culture, attitude, how the people coexist and so on.
We received many proposals from all the geopolitical zones of the country. There were a number of grey areas that propped up. For instance, there were a lot of issues that greeted the creation of Gombe State and even after its creation, there were issues with the nomenclature and as a result of that, the late head of state, after under studying the situations, considered all opinions before finally agreeing to remove Gombe from Bauchi State. And such consideration was responsible for locating Lafiya as the capital of Nasarawa and Gusau as the capital of Zamfara State.
You will be surprised at the sheer size of the proposals for states creation. But through wisdom, foresight and respect for procedures, the six states were arrived at.
Some Nigerians feel that political consideration was the major parameter adopted in the build up to the creation of states and local governments, what is your take?
One important thing that should be said here is that all the six states created by late Abacha were created based on merit, they were not created to appease any form of interest. In the build up to the creation of these states, we worked with different individuals like the late Emir of Gombe, Shehu Abubakar, Yahya Sule Hamma, Tom Ikimi, David Attah, Aminu Sale and many others.
Most of the underground work, was done in my office. There was an engulfing frenzy at that time as the agitators made last ditch efforts to get their states endorsed. It was due to the heightened anxiety that the late head of state ordered that in each of the geopolitical zones, one state should be created so as to maintain order of states and the needed balance in terms of history, population, mineral resources, culture, number of local governments and others.
Like I said, the late head of state made it a focal point to ensure that the states were created based on merit not any primordial consideration. I will not easily forget the role played by the foremost traditional rulers of Nasarawa State as well as their politicians. In the same vein, the traditional rulers of Bayelsa and Bayelsans have played very critical roles because the late general, having worked in Port Harcourt knew the travails and tribulations the people faced. So creating a state from defunct Rivers State for them was a big relief.
In order to ensure justice to all, the late head of state took his time to scrutinise all the proposals submitted to him. The same genuine consideration was responsible for carving out Ekiti State from old Ogun State. The consideration was a response to the sufferings of the people of Ekiti.
At a point, some people were questioning the rationale behind the creation of Ekiti State saying the people were very poor. But the major consideration was that the people of Ekiti are predominant farmers and have a long history in the annals of the Yoruba race.
And it is for the sake of fairness that Ebonyi, which was just like a local government was created. In order to get Ebonyi on the map, boundary adjustment had to be done to get the state. But despite that magnanimity, as at today, there are only five states in the south-east because the geopolitical region has a very small land mass, less population and resources. Although, because other regions had their fair share and in consideration of the fact that Igbo is one of the major languages, the south-east was considered more so that failure to create one, may have even led to revolt.
Zamfara, in north-west Nigeria, was created with headquarters in Gusau which was not in tandem with some of the peoples’ wishes. In considering Zamfara and its headquarters, the late head of state thought it wise to dig into the history of Usmanniyya caliphate so as to douse the enveloping tension because Kebbi and Gwandu were already carved out so the only way one could maintain peace was to create Zamfara with Gusau as its headquarters.
Also, in creating Nasarawa State, history of the people, mineral deposits, arable land and the heterogeneity of the people were some of the major considerations. Nasarawa State, is a place that you have a number of tribes like the people of Elkanemi that were dispersed by war and settled in the area and some Benue and Plateau tribes as well as the indigenous tribes. That was the consideration made in creating Nasarawa State out of Plateau State.
In a nutshell, anyone that critically examines the criteria adopted in creating the six states by late Sani Abacha, will understand that the process was balanced and fair and the spirit of justice was followed to the letter.
If one listens to the speech the late leader made in the wake of the states’ creation, you will not but marvel at the propensity of the general to ensure maintenance of peace as he deemed it fit to plead with those who did not get the state to persevere adding that the states’ creation was not skewed.
The procedure and methods adopted in creating the states, was replicated for the local governments as some of the new local governments carved from the old states were added to the new states. For instance, carving out Bakassi, which was given to Cameroon, was an injustice. If I was given an opportunity, I would revisit the Bakassi conundrum because if we fail to do anything about it, posterity will never forgive us.
Don’t you think that the issue of Bakassi should be over by now since the world court had passed judgement which ceded the area to Cameroon?
It is unfortunate that Nigeria seems to have inert leaders that do not seem to care a hoot about its concerns. It is worthy to note that when Abacha was alive, the issue was on the front burner of discourse with efforts being made to profile Bakassi in the right perspective because of its importance to Nigeria.
The importance of Bakassi can never be overemphasised and it is not because removing it will diminish our land mass but because of the massive mineral resources, oil and gas deposits even in the offshore. There is a unique fish species that is only found in the area but many people don’t know about these blessings. The place is also blessed with a unique breed of Pyton whose skin is invaluable. In order places, people use crocodile skin and other aquatic animals but the skin obtained from these snakes are just different and have no match all over the world. They are used in making designer shoes, bags, wristwatch bands. Before, international companies entered into synergy and were exploiting these reptiles which led to the generation of massive income but unfortunately, we have lost the area now. Nigeria is one of the countries that has the largest seaports in Africa. There is a place called Kata Obam East, Kata Obam West which made our coast line different. That place is in Bakassi but due to the selfishness of some of our leaders, that place was conceded to another country.
Late Sani Abacha conducted a thorough research on the area and we got substantial information from Cameroon’s colonial masters and all the reports indicated that the region belongs to Nigeria and even the rest of the world knows that the area belongs to Nigeria. But after the demise of the late general, some unpatriotic people connived with others and conceded the area at the world court to Cameroon. They told the world that Nigerian leaders have agreed that the area does not belong to their territory.
The saddest thing about the whole scenario was that the world court’s judgement is not binding on Nigeria because if we would get courageous leaders, we can still retrieve the area. Look at what happened between China and Japan, what happened between America and Canada, Israel and Palestine. The history of the world is replete with these kinds of cases, why did the world court refuse to do anything about them.
Personally, I have a lot of information about that area as a result of the deep investigation carried out by Abacha’s government but all these are going down the drain as a result of evil machinations conjured up to cheat Nigeria.