The Genesis of The Calabar-Ogoja-Rivers State Movement BY OBONO OBLA

In Breaking News, Columnists, National News, Opinion, Politics

by crossriverwatch admin

Barrister Obono Obla
Barrister Obono Obla

The United Nigeria Independence Party was formed by Dr. Okoi Arikpo (SAN); Chief I.I Murpy; Professor Eni Njoku; Wenike Briggs ; Justice Udo Udoma , Prince Takon of Ikom etc after the crisis that erupted in the Eastern Region House of Assembly following the forced resignation of the Leader of Government in the Eastern Region House of Assembly, Professor Eyo Ita.

After the forced resignation of Professor Eyo Ita, his position was taken over by Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe. This incensed the minorities of the East in the Eastern Region House of Assembly. Professor Eni Njoku was from Arochukwu.

The Aros are part of the Cross River Igbo. Others are Ohafia and Abriba. These Cross River Igbo group are culturally, historically and anthropologically related to the Ejagham (Ekoi) and Efik people of the Cross River Region.

Indeed the founder of Arochukwu was an Ejagham Prince known as OSIM from Ejagham Kingdom of Akamkpa . One of the cultural traits the Cross River Igbo share with the Ejagham (Ekoi) and the Efik is the revered Mgbe society.

Note the Efik calls it Ekpe. The Cross River Igbo traced their ancestry to the Ejagham (Ekoi) ancient Kingdom known as Akpa. So in the fight in the Eastern House of Assembly in 1963 between the Igbo and the Minorities, Professor Eni Njoku expectedly supported his kith and kin from Calabar and Ogoja to the consternation of the Igbo.

The name ” Eni” is a typical name of the Ejagham/Efik people. My maternal grandmother was called ” Eni”. She graciously named one of my younger sisters ” Eni”.

The Ibibio/Anang people version of ” Eni” is “Ini”. These minorities legislators came together to form the United Nigeria Independence Party to champion the cause of the Eastern Minorities. This was the genesis of the agitation of the Eastern Minorities for the creation of the Calabar Ogoja Rivers State.

The President of the Calabar Ogoja Rivers State Movement was Justice Udo Udoma and the Secretary General was Dr. Okoi Arikpo. The United Nigeria Independence Party quickly allied with the Action Group to continue to clamour for the creation of the Calabar Ogoja Rivers State.

The COR State was greatly assisted by Chief Awolowo. The delegates that attended the London Constitutional Conference from the Eastern Minorities were mostly from the United Independence Party.

They were also delegates from the minorities that attended the London Constitutional Conference who were sponsored
by the NCNC. For example, Chief Neil Ubi Ofem, Mbe of Ugep, Chief Ofem was a prominent NCNC leader from the old Obubra Division. He was a First Class in the Eastern Region House of Chiefs representing Abakaliki province.

Administratively the old Obubra Division has variously been part of Ogoja and Abakiliki provinces respectively in the old Eastern Region. The Civil War broke out on the 29th July 1967 when Colonel Ojukwu announced the break away of the old Eastern Region from Nigeria to form the Republic of Biafra in protest against the killing of people from the Eastern Region in the North.

However some of the leaders from Calabar, Ogoja and Rivers (Bayelsa; Akwa Ibom, Cross River and Rivers States) such as Justice Udo Udoma; Dr. Okoi Arikpo; Wenike Briggs; Chief I.I Murphy etc were not comfortable with their people being part of Biafra.

They quickly formed a lobby known as the “Federalist” and declared that Nigeria must remain one and throw their weight behind the then Federal Military Government under the young General Yakubu Gowon.

In a remarkable gesture of reciprocity and a mastermind stroke to break Eastern solidarity, General Gowon on the 27th May 1967 answered the age long prayers of the Calabar Ogoja Rivers people for their autonomy and State by creating the defunct South Eastern State (now Akwa Ibom and Cross River States) and Rivers State (now Bayelsa and Rivers State).

Dr. Okoi Arikpo was appointed Federal Commissioner (Minister) for Trade while Chief Wenike Briggs was appointed Federal Commissioner for Social Welfare in the Federal Executive Council constituted by General Gowon. Brigadier General Jacob Udoaka Esuene, Military Governor of the South Eastern State.

Navy Commander Spiff was appointed Military Governor of Rivers State. So the minority people have come a long way.
I then wonder why President Jonathan is keeping a studied silence over the bid by Cameroon to take part of Obudu (Obudu Mountain Resort); Boki and other Local Government Areas of Cross River State.

Since the latest incursion by Cameroon under the guise of a boundary demarcation carried out by a team from Cameroon and United Nations, the Federal Government under President Jonathan has not said a word. Why is President Jonathan not just interested in the plight of Cross River State?

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