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Published On: Tue, Apr 28th, 2015

Delta, A State with Two Capitals

Warri, commercial capital of Delta State

Warri, commercial capital of Delta State


By Mathias Iroro Orhero
LAGOS APRIL 28TH (URHOBOTODAY)-This discourse is meant to state certain facts and correct certain notions concerning Warri and Asaba, the two major cities in Delta State. Most people in South-Western and Northern Nigeria may likely argue with someone who says Asaba is the capital of Delta state. This error, however, is with good reason. The media and the majority of Deltans are quick to identify with Warri for one reason or another and thereby exude the image that Warri is the “happening place” in Delta state. Consequential to this, people believe that any “happening city” that receives a whole lot of attention is most likely the capital city. This is true of Port-Harcourt, Benin City, Ilorin, Ado-Ekiti, Ibadan, Owerri, Calabar, Maiduguri, Jos, etc. These cities are the most developed in their various states and can be seen to be the “happening places” there. Therefore, it wouldn’t be wrong to assume that they are the capital cities.
However, in Delta State, the story is different. The old Delta province of the then Bendel state started their clamour for their own independent state in the then Babangida military junta. This clamour coincided with the Anioma agitation for their state as well. The Anioma region comprises Aniocha(Issele-Uku and Ogwashi-Uku), Ndokwa(Ukwuani), Ika(Agbor) and Oshimili(Asaba) from which the acronym ANIOMA is derived from. The term means Good Land in Ibo. The Delta region comprises the Urhobo land, Itsekiri land, Isoko land and Izon land. These ethnic groups have been neighbours since time immemorial. The Delta region sees Warri as their melting pot. They are all amply represented in Warri and the place is centre to their various locations. Hence it is no doubt that it was adopted as a proposed capital city. The Anioma region proposed Asaba as their capital city for reasons best known to them.
Babangida, in response to their various requests, created an anomaly of sorts in trying to pacify both regions. He created the proposed Delta state of the old Delta province and merged it with the proposed Anioma state and took the capital to Asaba. In an act that Babangida thought would pacify the people, bad blood was eventually spilt. The people of the old Delta province began to develop reservations to the location of the capital city at Asaba because for one, it is too far from Warri and in fact, it is closer to Onitsha in Anambra state than it is to any Deltan location. However, what is done is done. The people lived with it and hoped for the best even though some others spoke out against it in the strongest of terms. Attention began to shift from Warri to Asaba slowly even though development never ended in Warri. Warri, being an oil city and the location of almost all the oil companies in the state, received development at the highest levels. It matched with Asaba in everything. For the fact that the governors of Delta state had since been people from the old Delta province, Warri had always been a centre of development. Nothing is done in Asaba that isn’t replicated in Warri. In fact, the Aniomas started to suspect foul play that Warri is being developed at the expense of Asaba. The governors did little or nothing to quell their agitations. That was when it became obvious that they really had to breakout and sail with the Anioma state ship before their political domination becomes a tragedy of sorts.
Today, many people are of the opinion that Asaba is merely a paper capital and that Warri is the real capital of Delta State. They may not be far from right. The truth is that Warri will always be at the mind of people from the old Delta province and they will always push the frontiers of development in this oil city as long as they are in power and as long as peace is to be sustained in Delta state. This is why Warri rings out even louder than Asaba. Some of the recent developments in Warri that translates into political domination over Asaba include the Federal University of Petroleum Resources which is sited in Effurun, the Petroleum Training Institute also in Effurun, Delta State College of Education in Warri, the newly completed Shoprite complex in Effurun, the state headquarters of Chevron, NNPC, etc all in Warri, Delta Rainbow Television in Warri, Golden Tulip Cinema Effurun, Osubi Airport, the completion of a fly over bride in Effurun and several other things too numerous to mention. In Asaba, we have the state secretariat, Delta Broadcasting Corporation, A campus of Delta State University, Federal College of Education, a flyover bridge, Asaba international airport and government ministries amongst others. It is glaringly obvious that Warri competes and, I daresay, beats Asaba in terms infrastructural development and social life. This would have been a good thing if not that there are aggrieved parties in this. It is perfectly normal to have even ten cities that are well developed but in all cases, the capital must stand out. However, that is untrue in Delta state.
Some people have cast their judgements thus; Asaba is the political capital of Delta State whereas Warri is the socio-economic capital of the state. It is a balance of equation for all parties, aggrieved or not. While the Deltans within the Warri province are unhappy with the location of the capital at Asaba, the Aniomas are irked with the attention at Warri at the expense of Asaba. Can we call this a win-win situation?
In the just concluded elections, an Anioma son has emerged as the governor of this multi-ethnic political entity called Delta State. It is a celebration of sorts to the Anioma people who hope that Asaba will now receive its true place as capital. Many who are of this opinion do not realise that the governor-elect is from Agbor, another budding city close to Asaba and which is in need of development. Furthermore, they still do not realise that the governor-elect must replicate whatever he does in Asaba in Warri for the sake of PEACE! This is the dilemma of a state called Delta. A state where there are two capitals. A state where the governor must give double contracts for the exact same thing in other to ease tension, a state where the people are lurking, waiting and watching for a mistake of intent.
Mathias Iroro Orhero, a literary critic and lecturer at the Kwara State College of Education, writes from Warri, Delta State.

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  1. Good work but I stand to disagree with some of your points. First the victory of an anioma son in the just concluded gubernatorial election elicited celebration for not the anioma’s but for all Deltans and secondly I think the insinuation is wrong from the onset because there’s nothing like a state with two capitals if not onitsha should have been the capital of an Anambra, Aba the capital of Abia, Ikoyi the capital of Lagos and Lagos the capital of Nigeria. It’s just something common everywhere so I don’t see reasons why the governor elect will get entangled with such argument that same level of development going to asaba should also go to warri because development should be on necessity, we have cities like ughelli, agbor, sapele etc that needs huge development.

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