The proliferation of different versions of history emerging out of what appears to be a subtle attempt at revisionism is what spurred this intervention of mine. Having had the rare opportunity to have been briefed orally by one of the pioneering lights of the struggle for the emergence of our beloved Ekiti State and having examined rare historical documents that detail the events that transpired at the time, it is necessary to bring the facts of this all-important part of our collective history as a State to public consciousness once and for all.
The struggle for the creation of Ekiti State out of the old Ondo State started in 1980. Ekiti people, living in the old Ondo State which had been four years earlier in 1976, had become disillusioned about their fate in the State, what with the visible lopsidedness and disparities in the allocation of public amenities between the Ekiti and non-Ekiti divisions of the State. There was glaring evidence that the non-Ekiti division, particularly, Akure, Owo and Ondo were the privileged communities within the state and apart from this obvious lopsidedness, the anti-Ekiti disposition of the Governor, late Chief Michael Adekunle Ajasin was becoming palpable, visible and increasingly intolerable to top Ekiti functionaries in the Ajasin administration. The agitation for Ekiti State therefore commenced as a natural reaction to these factors.
Before I go further, it is instructive to clearly state from the outset that the creation of a new State and Boundary Adjustment under the 1979 Constitution was purely a legislative exercise. Section 8 (1) (a) (i), (ii) & (iii) of the 1979 Constitution clearly sets out the procedure & requirements for State creation. For the avoidance of doubt, Section 8 (1) (a) (i), (ii) & (iii) of the 1979 Constitution provides:
“An Act of the National Assembly for the purpose of creating a new state shall only be passed if:-
(a) A REQUEST supported by at least two-thirds majority of members (representing the area demanding the creation of the new State) in each of the following, namely—
(i) the Senate and House of Representatives,
(ii) the House of Assembly in respect of the area, and
(iii) the local government councils in respect of the area,
IS RECEIVED BY the National Assembly…” (emphasis intentional).
From the foregoing, it is clear that (1) members of the executive arm of governments had no constitutional role in the creation of a new state and (2) state creation was the exclusive and sole function of the legislature. Around this time in 1980, there was a socio-cultural group called Ekiti Union which paraded the membership of prominent Ekiti people like the late Chief J.E. Babatola (Olora); late Chief (Hon.) Bode Kumapayi and late Chief (Hon.) Ayodele Morakinyo. These personages were top UPN barons from Ekiti who had personally witnessed Ajasin’s anti-Ekiti disposition. The Ekiti Union was a group committed to the interest of Ekiti. Therefore, in view of the unambiguous Constitutional provision laid out above on State creation, this group was convinced on the need and feasibility of the idea of Ekiti Statehood. The arrowhead of this group was the late Hon later (Chief) Morakinyo of Ikere-Ekiti, a highly cerebral lawyer and prominent Member of the then State House of Assembly. Being a lawyer, he understood the purport of this Constitutional provision clearly. Consequently, the first step taken by this group was to set up what was called “Ekiti State Creation Movement” to champion this noble cause. Owing to age and his aristocratic clout, late Chief Babatola was declared the Patron of this Movement while late Chief (Hon) Bode Kumpayi was appointed as Chairman and late Hon. Morakinyo became the Secretary. The Ekiti State Creation Movement holds the sole distinction as the group responsible for pioneering and championing the Ekiti peoples’ struggle to have a State of their own, spearheading the agitation for the creation of Ekiti State from 1980-1983. It is also an irrefutable historical fact that this Movement rallied Ekiti people behind this noble cause and held mass meetings at different venues across Ekitiland like Eki Cinema, Ado-Ekiti, Cooperative Hall, Ifaki-Ekiti and other venues in Ekiti communities.
In compliance with Section 8 (1) (a) (i), (ii) & (iii) of the 1979 Constitution set out above on the need to forward a request by way of a Memorandum requesting for the proposed State, Hon. Morakinyo, a vibrant legislator in the then Ondo State during the Second Republic personally authored the first and original Memorandum addressed to the Second Republic National Assembly requesting the National Assembly to “set in motion all necessary machinery for the purposes of creating a new State known as Ekiti State.” This Memorandum was titled: “THE PROPOSED EKITI STATE” and was dated 9th May, 1980 with Reference Number: EX/1/1. This historic document detailed the history of Ekitiland, her people & her culture, her physical geography, her economic viability, her location & size, her population, her homogeneous nature, the constituent local governments of the proposed State, socio-economic advantages of the proposed State, representation in Nigeria’s legislatures & the unanimity of the Ekitis.
At this stage, a fundamental issue to be considered was how to get all the State & Federal legislators from Ekiti to sign this Memorandum in strict compliance with Section 8 of the 1979 Constitution. At great personal risk, Chief Morakinyo took the copies of this Memorandum round the legislative houses, both the Senate & House of Representatives, then in Lagos & the State House of Assembly in Akure and ensured that this Memorandum was signed by Ekiti legislators in compliance with the 1979 Constitution. Some of these legislators are still alive. Prof. Banji Akintoye, a Senator at the time, is still alive; Hon. Francis Aladejebi of Ikere is alive & some others. This fact of history can be verified from these sources. Reference can also be made to pages 209, 210, 211, 212 & 213 of Afe Babalola’s autobiography: “Imposibility Made Possible”) and pages 20, 21, 22, 23, 24 & 25 of the book “Royal Input into the Creation of Ekiti State” written on Ekiti State creation by His Highness, Alayeluwa, Oba G. O. Adeniyi Ojikutu II, the Oba-Nla of Ijesa-Isu Ekiti, for corroboration of these assertions.
In strict compliance with Section 8 of the 1979 Constitution, this Memorandum which was addressed to the Chairman, Senate Committee on Creation of State through the Clerk of the National Assembly was presented to the National Assembly Committee on State Creation. Upon receipt of this Memorandum, the National Assembly Committee on State Creation despatched a 27-member Investigating Panel to Ondo State House of Assembly for fact-finding & investigation. This panel visited Ondo State on Tuesday, 18th May, 1982 to authenticate the signatures on the Memorandum, identify the signatories in person and interview aspirants on the justification for requesting for the creation of Ekiti State. This august event was held at Committee Room 1, Ondo State House of Assembly Complex, Alagbaka, Akure, Ondo State.
It is instructive to state here that after completing its assignment with the Members of the Ondo State House of Assembly, the National Assembly Committee on State Creation formally intimated the Ekiti State Creation Movement on the necessity for including the signatures of caretaker councilors in the Ekiti local governments. Hitherto, the Movement had thought, and rightly so, that Section 8 of the 1979 Constitution did not intend or apply to “caretaker” councillors. Most requests of that nature then did not include the councillors as most Nigerians for one reason or another assumed that the Section applied only to “elected” councillors. Consequently, the Ekiti State Creation Movement wrote a letter dated 21st May, 1982, to all caretaker councillors in the eight (8) local governments in Ekitiland on the necessity of appending their signatures & requesting them to append their signatures on an ADDENDA to the 9th May, 1980 Memorandum. This ADDENDA, dated 25th May, 1982 was consequently signed by all caretaker councillors in the eight (8) local governments in Ekitiland. On Thursday, 27th May, 1982, the caretaker councillors who have now all appended their respective signatures on the ADDENDA proceeded to the National Assembly in Lagos with the Ekiti State Creation Movement for further authentication of their signatures.
It is necessary to state at this juncture that in the original Memorandum dated 9th May, 1980 & forwarded to the National Assembly, there was no mention of the Capital of the proposed State. Therefore, this ADDENDA of 25th May, 1982 served two fundamental purposes, viz:
(i) To incorporate the signatures of all caretaker councillors across the eight (8) local governments in Ekitiland as contemplated by the 1979 Constitution; &
(ii) To incorporate/reflect the consensus of opinion in Ekitiland that the Capital of the proposed State should be in Ado-Ekiti. This ADDENDA was equally forwarded to the National Assembly Committee on Creation of States. All these historic documents were authored by late Chief Morakinyo.
The implication of this is that the ADDENDA thus became part & parcel of the original Memorandum for the creation of Ekiti State dated 9th May, 1980. The 27-member Panel of the National Assembly Committee on States’ Creation that visited Ondo State House of Assembly on Tuesday, 18th May, 1982 on a fact-finding mission found Ekiti’s request meritorious and sent its Report to the then Senate President, Dr. Joseph Wayas who later endorsed same to President Sheu Shagari. Going by the tempo of the agitation in 1980-1983, the creation of Ekiti State would have materialized but for the 1983 coup-de-tat that ushered in the Buhari/Idiagbon junta and put paid to this dream.
When the agitation was renewed in 1991-1996, the Movement of 1980 joined forces with other groups & illustrious sons of Ekiti to form the Council for the Creation of Ekiti State which had prominent Ekiti Obas & met regularly at the palace of His Majesty, the Ewi of Ado-Ekiti until Ekiti was eventually created on 1st October, 1996. The first Memorandum of 9th May, 1980 & the ADDENDA of 25th May, 1982 which incorporated the consensus of opinion in Ekiti that Ado-Ekiti should be the Capital of the proposed State were later submitted again along with the Memorandum dated 9th January, 1996 to the State Creation, Local Government & Boundary Adjustment Committee in 1996. For corroboration, please see the address delivered at the meeting with Members of State Creation, Local Government and Boundary Adjustment Committee on Wednesday, 6th day of March, 1996 by Chief Afe Babalola, SAN). See also pages 137-139, particularly, paragraph 2.2 of page 139 of “A Royal Input into the Creation of Ekiti State” by His Royal Majesty, Oba G.O. Adeniyi Ojikitu II, the Oba-Nla of Ijesa-Isu-Ekiti.
As earlier stated, the purpose of this piece is to preserve the accurate history of our beloved Ekiti for posterity by rightly and accurately situating the various roles of the eminent Ekiti personages involved in the saga. The ‘criminal’ removal of history lessons from the Nigerian school curriculum makes this intervention all the more necessary for as brilliantly stated by the foremost American novelist Robert Heinlein, “a generation which ignores history has no past and no future”.
Adedayo Ogunleye, an International Development consultant, scholar and history enthusiast, writes from Abuja.