Akwa Ibom has not appreciated Babangida enough, former governor says

Ibrahim Babangida, Former Nigerian dictator
Ibrahim Babangida, Former Nigerian dictator

A former military governor of Akwa Ibom, Idongesit Nkanga, has said that the state was yet to show enough appreciation to Ibrahim Babangida, the former military president who created it, alongside Katsina State, in 1987.

Mr. Nkanga, a retired air commodore, said Mr. Babangida, apart from creating the oil-rich state, also supported it to grow at a faster pace when he (Babangida) was in power.

Mr. Nkanga governed Akwa Ibom between 1990 and 1992, during the Babangida era. He built and named a road – IBB Avenue – after Mr. Babangida; but says the former president deserves more than that from the state, and that it was left for subsequent governors to do something about it.

“A lot of times when I went (as governor) to talk about the problem of the state with him, he was always having sympathy. (And) I exploited that,” Mr. Nkanga told PREMIUM TIMES in an interview in Uyo.

“I can’t remember any problem I went to him, which he refused,” he said, adding that he had a personal relationship with the former military ruler.

Mr. Nkanga admitted that Akwa Ibom hardly gave invitation to Mr. Babangida during official state functions.

He mentioned a particular instance where he said the former president got embarrassed, when he wanted to honour an invitation from a traditional ruler in the state.

“Some years back he (Babangida) was invited by the Oku Ibom Ibibio during the anniversary of his coronation. The Oku Ibom had told Babangida that he was going to honour him with a traditional title, for what he did for the state. The man (Babangida) was very excited and enthusiastic.


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“He called me and said he was coming. But somewhere down the line, the man was told that they couldn’t guarantee his safety in Akwa Ibom, and he sent Col. Lawan Gwadabe to represent him.

“When they went to the venue (Ibom Hall) it was locked, they had to do that function in a school opposite it.”

Mr. Nkanga said Akwa Ibom still needed to invite the former president, no matter what.

The former governor, who is a leader of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state, also said that disunity, lack of respect and in-fighting among the leaders and ordinary people was hindering development and progress in the state.

“There are some people that fought for this state, some of them are dead today, and some of us are still showing animosity against people that are even dead.

“I do sit down inside my closet, and feel so emotional about this problem.

“Few days ago, I watched on the television the coronation of the Oba of Benin, it was like a god. (But) here (in Akwa Ibom), you don’t find that.

“I have gone to a function before at Ibom Hall. You know they label seats? There was a seat just behind where I was sitting. They labelled that seat ‘Ntisong Ibibio’. A lady came and saw it, and remove it (the label) and said ‘me too I am somebody’, and sat down on the seat. I saw it with my two eyes.

“These are things you see and you feel hurt inside.”

Mr. Nkanga said he couldn’t trace the origin of the disunity, which he said was the greatest problem affecting the state. The problem, he said, manifested “terribly” among the people even during the Nigerian civil war, when the area that is known today as Akwa Ibom was part of the then Biafra.

“There was a civil war in this country. A lot of it was fought around this area. We did not do well, in terms of the relationship with our brothers.

“Then whether it was the Nigerian troops or the Biafran troops, each person was ready to bring out his own brother to be killed. When it was the Biafrans, they were pointing to their brothers as saboteurs. When the Nigerian troops came, they did the same thing. It was pathetic sights how our people were killed here, because brothers brought out brothers.

“They were not decently buried, that was why the then governor Godswill Akpabio said let us see how we could bury them properly.

“It is easy for us to blame someone else, but the problem of Akwa Ibom starts from inside. We’ve not done well.

“I am praying to God to take this problem away, so that the next generation would not be saddled with it,” Mr. Nkanga said.


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