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A MUST READ
Setting records straight, a little bit of our collective history.

WILLINK REPORT 1958:
THE FOLLOWING ARE EXCERPTS FROM THE REPORT OF THE COMMISSION APPOINTED TO “ENQUIRE INTO THE FEARS OF MINORITIES AND THE MEANS OF ALLAYING THEM”, OTHERWISE KNOWN AS “THE WILLINK COMMISSION REPORT OF JUNE 1958”

THE HISTORICAL AND POLITICAL BACKGROUND.

  1. “More than 98% of people who inhabit this area (the ‘Ibo Plateau’ of the Eastern region) are Ibo and speak one language, though of course with certain differences of dialect. There are nearly five million of them and they are too many for the soil to support: they are vigorous and intelligent and have pushed outward in every direction, seeking a livelihood by trade or in service in the surrounding areas of the Eastern Region, in the Western Region, in the North and outside Nigeria. They are no more popular with their neighbours than is usual in the case of an energetic and expanding people whose neighbours have a more leisurely outlook on life.”
  2. “Though there has been no great kingdom or indigenous culture in the Eastern Region, the coastal chiefs grew on their trade with the (European merchant) ships and they adopted customs, clothing and housing more advanced than those of the peoples of the interior on whom they had at first preyed for slaves. They came during the 19th Century to regard the people of the interior as backward and ignorant, and it was therefore a blow to their pride, as well as to their pockets, when the Ibos began to push outwards into the surrounding fringe of the country and particularly into the Calabar area, to take up land, to grow rich, to own houses and lorries and occupy posts in public services and in the services of large trading firms.”

“It was among the Ibos, formerly despised by the people of Calabar as source of slaves and as a backward people of the interior, now feared and disliked as energetic and educated, that the first political party formed.”

  1. “It is important to remember that of this (Ogoja) Province’s 1,082,000 inhabitants, 723,000 are Ibos, almost entirely in Abakaliki and Afikpo (Divisions), while the census classifies 350,000 as “Other Nigerian Tribes.”
  2. The Rivers Province …includes the two divisions of Brass and Degema, both overwhelmingly Ijaw, and the Ogoni Division. The former Rivers Division also includes over 300,000 Ibos of whom 250,000 are in Ahoada Division and 45,000 in Port Harcourt. Port Harcourt is a town of recent growth and of rapidly increasing importance; it is built on land that belonged originally to an outlying branch of the Ibo tribe, the Diobus, but is largely inhabited by the Ibos from the interior who have come to trade or seek employment….Of the total 747,000 in the Rivers province, 305,000 are Ibos, 240,000 are Ijaws and 156,000 are Ogonis.”
  3. “The strip to the south of the Ibo block, is physically, divided by a block of Ibo territory, tipped by the important Ibo town of Port Harcourt and tribally divided between the Ijaws and the Ogonis.”
  4. “In the whole of this non-Ibo area there is present in varying degree some fear of being over-run, commercially and politically, by the Ibos….. if Ahoada and Port Harcourt, which are really Ibo, are considered with the solid centre of Ibo population, there are 54 seats for the Ibo area and 30 for COR (Calabar, Ogoja and Rivers) in (Eastern Regional House of Assembly).”

THE FEARS AND GRIEVANCES OF MINORITIES

  1. “It was suggested (by non-Ibo petitioners) that it was the deliberate object of the Ibo majority in the Region to fill every post with Ibos (in public post and services).….when, however we came to consider specific complaints about the composition of public bodies, we found them in many cases exaggerated or unreasonable.”
  2. “The allegation was put forward by counsel (to petitioners) that the Judiciary (when not European) was predominantly Ibo, with the implication that this caused fear among those who are not Ibos. But it was clearly stated in evidence by Dr. Udoma, the leader of UNIP, that no occasion could be adduced of the judiciary acting with partiality. The fact is that the legal profession is largely Ibos and the reasons for this do not seem to be Government action. It is therefore inevitable that there should be an Ibo preponderance among Judges and Magistrates. Further, it is the declared policy of Government that the Judiciary should be federal and this does not indicate a desire to control it. Again, the operation and composition of Public Service Commission here, as in the West, appeared to us in no way open to reproach.”
  3. “In the Police, which in this region alone is wholly Federal, the number of Ibos in the higher appointments is not out of proportion to the Ibos in the region. The force is now federally controlled and although there are a large number of Ibos in the lower ranks, this is due to the fact that it has for long been a tradition among the Ibos to offer themselves for recruitment in this force in far greater numbers than any other tribe.”
  4. “we noted that in five years, 1952 – 1957, from a total of 412 secondary scholarships, 216 were awarded to persons living in the COR areas, while the figures for post-secondary scholarships were 211 out of 623. The latter is about the right proportion of one-third, the former considerably in excess. It was suggested that scholarships awarded to non-Ibos were of an inferior kind and that the best scholarships went to Ibos, but we were, unable to see that this claim held any validity. On the evidence before us, we conclude that the allegations of discriminations in the matter of scholarships are unjustified.”
  5. “It was further suggested that loans by the Eastern Regional Finance Corporation, the Eastern Region Development Board, and the Eastern Region Development Corporation were made with some degree of preference to Ibos. It did appear that most of the loans made by these bodies were to Ibos, but that is not to say that this was necessarily improper. Ibos constitute two thirds of the population of the region and have a bigger share of financial and commercial responsibility than their numbers warrant.”
  6. “That there should be modern streetlight in Onitsha, and not Calabar, was also quoted as example of discrimination; it proved however that Onitsha Urban District Council had financed this measure from their own resources.”
  7. “The question of land was repeatedly raised, it being resented by the Efiks and Ibibios that the Ibos should acquire land at all in their territory while the methods by which it was obtained were also questioned. There is no doubt that on the Ibo Plateau there is insufficient land for the people and the Ibos ate thrusting outwards where possible they acquire land and use it either for cultivation or building…..This is a matter which will require legislation sooner or later and it will be delicate to handle, but the economic process is in itself healthy and we had little sympathy with a witness who remarked that there is much undeveloped land in district and he was anxious that it should not fall into the hand of the Ibos….We believe that Governments in Nigeria should be careful not to try to protect minorities by introducing measures that would restrict development.”
  8. “A group of miscellaneous grievances and charges against the Ibos from Calabar may be treated together; we were told that the Ibos did not observe local customs in the markets….We formed the impression that jealousy of the Ibos successes in the markets was the main factor.”

THE PROPOSAL FOR NEW STATES

  1. “The Ogoja state proposed to us would include former Ogoja province, whose population of slightly more than One million include more than 700,000 Ibos…the main intention would be separation from the central body of Ibo population, but in which they will still be linked together with as a minority with their Ibo neighbours in Abakaliki and Afikpo…A majority of evidence we heard from Ogoja was direct that they preferred the present situation to any association with Calabar and that they were at least as much afraid of domination by Efiks and Ibibios as by Ibos.”
  2. “The (Calabar, Ogoja and Rivers or COR) state proposed would consist of Calabar, Rivers and Ogoja provinces excluding the two Ibo Divisions of Abakaliki and Afikpo. The population of this area is 2,649,000 and the following would be the five largest tribes:

Ibibio 717,000
Annang 435,000
Ibo 428,000
Ijaw 251,000
Ogoni 156,000

As already explained, the small but important Efik tribe of 71,000…The (COR) area is far from homogenous , and many of the other tribes expressed at least as much fear of the Efiks and Ibibios as of the Ibo. It would leave the Ibos of the Ibo Plateau surrounded by a state whose reason for existence was hostility to themselves: the Ibos are an expanding people…”

  1. “The area claimed for Rivers state consists of the whole of the Rivers province, that is: The Division of Brass, Degema, Ogoni, Port Harcourt and Ahoada, together with the Western Ijaw Division from the western region, and two small sections in the Eastern Region from outside the Rivers Province, Opodo and Andoni being one, Ndoki the other.”
  2. “Port Harcourt is an Ibo town and it is growing rapidly and the indigenous branch of the Ibos who are original inhabitants are already out-numbered by Ibos from the hinterland.”
  3. “The people of Ahoada, a Division of which a pan runs down to meet Port Harcourt, appear at one time to have favoured the idea of a Rivers state, but have changed their views and before us expressed themselves as strongly against it. Comparatively few of them live in the low-lying swampy country of the coastal strip and they have voted for the NCNC consistently, they said themselves that a main factor in their change of front had been the inclusion if the Western Ijaws in the proposed state. So long, they said, as the Rivers state was to consist of the River Province only, the Ibos would have been the most numerous tribe within it: but the inclusion of the Western Ijaw Division put them at a numerical disadvantage beside the Ijaws and they therefore preferred to stay out. Whether or not this was a line of reasoning that really had a wide appeal, the fact remain that before us they were opposed to the idea of the state. This is not surprising because their problems are different from those of the ijaws.”
  4. “To include within a River state Ahoada and Port Harcourt, would, we believe, create a problem as acute as that with which we were asked to deal at present and and would be sharply resented by the Ibos of the central plateau.”

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