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How Nigeria’s Mid-Western Region was Created in 1963

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How Nigeria's Mid-western Region was created

The agitation for the creation of the Mid-Western Region began in 1948 with the formation of the Benin community under the leadership of Oba Akenzua II of Benin. The organization demanded the creation of a Benin-Delta or Mid-Western Region.

On the 14th of June, 1955, an Action Group member of the then Western Region House of Assembly, Honorable M. S. Sowole, tabled a motion at the sitting of the house.

The motion, titled “Creation of a Separate State for Benin and Delta Provinces” was seconded by JG Ako, a minister of state. The motion reads:

“I beg to move that this house prays Her Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom to make necessary constitutional arrangements at the proposed conference for a separate state of Benin and Delta provinces.”

That motion which was in line with the demand of top leaders from Benin and Delta provinces gave a sort of legislative recognition to the issue. The motive behind the motion, coming from a Yoruba member of the House, offered itself to several interpretations.

The 1960 constitution specified that for a referendum to take place seeking to establish support for a new region, a two-thirds majority must approve it in the Federal House of Representatives and Senate, followed by majority approval in two-thirds of regions.

Recognizing the key role which the governing party in the federal government in Lagos would have in initiating any legislative move toward the creation of the Midwest, Festus Okotie-Eboh and his mentor, Humphrey Omo-Osagie, were busy lobbying northern leaders.

Eventually, Festus Okotie-Eboh almost single-handedly got Alhaji Muhammadu Ribadu and Alhaji Ahmadu Bello of the NPC to agree in principle to make an exception for the Mid-west based on its unique history, knowing they were generally opposed to States creation.

Festus Okotie Eboh
Festus Okotie Eboh

Without this crucial achievement on the part of Chief Okotie-Eboh, the creation of the Mid-western Region would have been dead in the water.  It was in recognition of this strategic feat that Festus Okotie-Eboh was given a chieftaincy title in Benin, the Elaba of Uselu.

However, on the 4th of April, 1961, the federal House of Representatives unanimously endorsed the demand of the people of Mid-West areas for a separate region of their own which was eventually created (through a referendum) on August 9, 1963 from Benin and Delta provinces of the Western Region. Benin City was chosen as its capital.

On August 12, 1963, Chief Dennis Osadebay, at that time the President of the Senate, was appointed Administrator for the Mid-Western Region. Along with his new administrative team he arrived in Benin from Lagos via Ibadan, on Saturday, August 17th to resume duty.

The people of the area were overjoyed, parties were held and traditional dances were staged to mark the victory.

The First Cabinet Members of the Mid-Western Region, 1964

Premier Dr. Hon. Chief Dennis Osadebay
Minister,  Local Government & Chieftaincy Chief H Omo-Osagie
Minister, Economic Development Chief O. Oweh
Minister, Finance Chief O.I. Dafe
Minister, Health Mr. John Igbrude
Minister, Works, and Transport Dr. Christopher Okojie
Minister, Justice Mr.  Webber G. Egbe
Minister, Education Chief FH Utomi
Minister, Establishments Mr. John Umolu
Minister, Information Reverend Imevbore Edeki
Minister, Lands & Housing Mr.  ES Ukonga
Minister, Internal Affairs Prince Shaka Momodu
Minister, Trade & Industry Mr. JA Orhorho
Minister, Agriculture and Natural resources Mr.  VI Amadasun
Minister, Labour and Social Welfare Mr.  EO Imafidon
Minister of State (Finance) Mr.  GI Oviasu
Minister of State (Agriculture & Natural Resources) Chief FU Osuhor
Minister of State (Local Government & Chieftaincy) Hon. LST Fufeyin
Minister of State (Premier’s Office) His Highness, Enosegbe II, Onogie of Ewohimi
Minister of State (Premier’s Office) His Highness, Gbenoba II, Obi of Agbor

Thanks for reading.

 

 

 

References:

  1. Jakobs, Joke. (2001). Nigeria Today – Student’s handbook on current affairs, general knowledge and moral values [ii]. Glow Communications.
  2. Omipidan, T. O. (2019, May 5). The First Republic In Nigeria And Its Collapse (1960-1966). OldNaija. https://oldnaija.com/2019/09/15/the-first-republic-in-nigeria-and-its-collapse-1960-1966/
  3. Omoigui, N. (n.d.). Benin and the Midwest Referendum of 1963. Urhobo Historical Society. http://www.waado.org/nigerdelta/ethnichistories/egharevbalectures/Fifth-Omoigui.htm



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Khalifa Ayo

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