Akwa Ibom state occupies a total land mass of 8,412 sq. kms of Nigeria’s wealth basin, the South-South Zone or the Delta Region. Lying between latitudes 4’33’ and 5’33’ North and longitudes 7’35’ and 8’25’ East, Akwa Ibom falls within the tropical zone with a dominant vegetation of green foliage of trees, shrubs and oil-palm tree belt which holds the highest density of the crash crop in the world including rubber, cocoa and rice. Other dominant crops are coconut, citrus, cassava, yam, maize, cowpeas, plantain, banana, pineapple and kolanut.
The state is also endowed with rich deposits of limestone, gravel, salt, silver nitrate, silica sand and kaolin that can be commercially exploited.
Akwa Ibom state of Nigeria was created on September 23, 1987 with the promulgation of Decree 24 of that year by the then military President, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida.
The creation of the state marked the climax of a long and sustained struggle for a separate State by the people from this part of the former Cross River State described then as ‘Mainland’.
The struggle for State creation which resulted in the birth of Akwa Ibom state dates back to 1928 with the formation and formal inauguration of Ibibio Union.
In 1948, the Union transformed from a mere progressive cultural association to a meaningful national institution which engaged itself in the propagation and promotion of the noble cause of the creation of states in Nigeria based on the concept of Nigeria as a federation of States.
The agitation for the creation of a separate state for minority groups in the former Eastern Region was heightened in 1953 with the passing of a vote of no confidence on the Eyo Ita government and the subsequent formation of the United National Independence Party (UNIP) made up mainly of the non –Igbo speaking people of the Region.
It was this party, as official opposition Party in the reconstituted Eastern House of Assembly that first demanded for the creation of the Calabar-Ogoja-Rivers (COR) state for the minority groups of the region.
The agitation of the state creation later spread to other minority ethnic groups in the country. The increased agitation by various ethnic groups was subsequently discussed at the London Constitutional Conference of 1957 and a case for the creation of states for minority groups in the country was established.
In 1967, the struggle yielded fruit in the creation of states in Nigeria by the General Yakubu Gowon administration. The South Eastern State of which the present day Akwa Ibom formed a part was one of those states.
During the General Murtala Muhammmed administration seven additional states were created in 1976. The South Eastern state was then re-named Cross River State. The change in name, however, did not assuage the agitation of the people. The struggle continued.
After the collapse of the 2nd Republic in 1983, a memorandum demanding the creation of Akwa Ibom State was submitted to the General Muhammadu Buhari Military administration by Paramount Rulers from six local government areas of the ‘Mainland’ part of the former Cross River State. Still, nothing happened. When the Political Bureau set up in 1986 by the Federal Military Government called for memorandum from the public on how Nigeria could be governed, the people once again, seized the opportunity to resubmit their memorandum for the creation of Akwa Ibom state.
People of Akwa Ibom
The people of Akwa Ibom numbering about 3.92 million (based on 2006 National Population Census) are culturally homogenous with common identity and linguistic heritage. These are considered a set of potentially unifying factors. The three major intra-ethnic groups are Ibibio, Annang and Oron, and the main language –Ibibio is widely understood throughout the state, despite some slight dialectical variations.
The cultural commonality is also epitomized in the similarities in folklore, songs, dances, food, beliefs and mythology.
Akwa Ibom people are industrious, resourceful and are hospitable. A majority of the rural populace engage in farming. Other traditional occupations of the people are fishing, trading, hunting, wood-carving, raffia works, blacksmithing, pottery, iron works, tailoring and craft creations.
There are large deposits of oil and gas both on and off-shore. Plus other mineral resources such as limestone, clay, gold, salt, coal, silver nitrate and glass sand.
Visit www.akwaibomstate.gov.ng for more information about Akwa Ibom state.