Sunday, 23 June 2019 14:05

[Opinion] Nigerian Politics: What Goes Around, Comes Around - Eric Teniola

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Dr. Alex Ifeanyichukwu Ekwueme (1932-2017), from Oko, Orumba North local Government Area of Anambra State, was the vice president of Nigeria between 1979 and 1983. Chief Edwin Ume Ezeoke (1935-2011), from Amichi, Nnewi South Local Government Area of Anambra State, was speaker of the House of Representatives from 1979 to 1983. Professor Oluyemi Oluleke Osinbajo has been vice president of Nigeria since 2015. He was born into the family of Opeoluwa Osinbajo, who was the late treasurer of Our Saviours Anglican Church, Ikenne, Ogun State. Professor Osinbajo was born in Creek Hospital, Lagos. The vice president’s mother, Madam Olubisi Osinbajo’s parents are both from Ejigbo in Osun State and Ilaro in Ogun State. The speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Adefemi Akeem Gbajabiamila was born in Surulere, Lagos. Dr. Ekwueme, Chief Ezeoke, Professor Osinbajo and Femi Gbajabiamila are lawyers. Incidentally, Professor Osinbajo and Gbajabiamila are old boys of Igbobi College, Lagos. As they say, what goes around, comes around. Personal interest, not regional or religious interest, is the first priority of every politician.

While the election of Mr. Gbajabiamila of the All Progressives Congress (APC) as speaker was planned, that of Chief Ezeoke happened by accident forty years ago. On October 5, 1978, a meeting was held on the sixth floor of LAPAL HOUSE, in Igbosere, Lagos, which was the headquarters of Hacogen Company Limited. The company was then owned by Dr. Joseph Wayas. It was at that meeting that the National Party of Nigeria zoned offices. The presidency was zoned to the North, while the vice presidency was zoned to Anambra and Imo States. The presidency of the Senate was zoned to Bendel, Cross River and Rivers States. The chairmanship of the party was zoned to Lagos, Oyo, Ondo and Ogun States, while the speaker of the Hose of Representatives was zoned to the Middle Belt. At that time there were nineteen states in the federation.

After the August 11, 1979 election, the then Federal Electoral Commission (FEDECO) declared Alhaji Shehu Usman Aliyu Shagari (February 25, 1925 – December 28, 2018) as president. All the four other parties in the electoral contest then – the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN), Nigerian People’s Party (NPP), Great Nigeria Peoples Party (GNPP) and the People’s Redemption Party (PRP) – condemned the declaration. They immediately formed an alliance to register their denunciation of the electoral outcome.

A press conference was immediately called at the Eko Holiday Inn, Victoria Island, Lagos and was addressed by the presidential candidate of the NPP, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe. All the other presidential candidates – Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Alhaji Waziri Ibrahim and Alhaji Aminu Kano – attended the press conference. That media parley was the last act the NPP took on the issue before developing cold feet thereafter. The NPP became “a beautiful bride”, and the NPN dangled a carrot in front of it. On August 19, 1979, the UPN filed an action at the presidential election tribunal to protest the declaration of the Federal Electoral Commission of Chief Michael Ani. The tribunal was headed by Justice Boonyami Oladiran Kazeem of the Federal Court of Appeal.

The Unity Party of Nigeria opted out of the arrangement by insisting that in a presidential system of government, there was no room for an all-inclusive government. Alhaji Shehu Shagari was part of the parliamentary system of government in the First Republic.

On September 11, the tribunal upheld the declaration of FEDECO that Alhaji Shehu Shagari was duly elected as president. Not satisfied with that judgment, the Unity Party of Nigeria, led by Chief Obafemi Awolowo, filed an appeal at the Supreme Court. The appeal was filed on behalf of the party by Chief Godwin Olusegun Kolawole Ajayi (1931-2014). On September 26, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of Alhaji Shehu Shagari, with five justices of the Court voting in support of the judgement, while two of them opposed it. Those in favour were the chief justice of the federation, Justice Atanda Fatai Williams (1918-2002), Justice Chukwuhweike Idigbe (1923-1983), Justice Ayo Gabriel Irekefe (1922-1996), Justice Mohammed Bello (1930-2004) and Justice Mohammed Lawal Uwais (83). The two opposed to the judgment were Justice Kayode Eso (1925-2012) and Justice Andrews Otutu Obaseki (1925-2017).

After the judgment of the Supreme Court, Alhaji Shehu Shagari took the oath of office on a rainy day at the Tafawa Balewa Square, Lagos on October 1, 1979. He gave an indication shortly after that he wanted to run an all-inclusive government. The Unity Party of Nigeria opted out of the arrangement by insisting that in a presidential system of government, there was no room for an all-inclusive government. Alhaji Shehu Shagari was part of the parliamentary system of government in the First Republic.

Following the decision by Alhaji Shehu Shagari to invite the other parties to join his government, a meeting was hurriedly summoned on October 3 at the Federal Palace Hotel by the NPN National Working Committee. It was agreed at there that the zoning policy of the party was to be reviewed. At the meeting, the NPN agreed to allocate the speakership of the House of Representatives to the NPP and the deputy Senate presidency as well. That was how the son of my late friend, Simeon Mbarorkaa Tarka (1953-2009), (Gboko West), a favorite at that time, lost his chance of becoming the youngest speaker of the House of Representatives.

As for the Senate presidency, the NPN decided to hold on to that because of the need for the confirmation of ministers and ambassadors and other responsibilities allocated to the Senate by the Constitution. At the meeting, two senators-elect signified their interests in the Senate Presidency, and these were Chief David Omueya Dafinone (1927-2018), a chartered accountant from Bendel South, who is an Urhobo, and Dr. Joseph Wayas (78) from Ogoja Senatorial District of Cross River State. In the shadow election supervised by Chief Anthony Eromosele Enahoro (1923-2010) from Uromi in the present Edo State, Dr. Wayas emerged as winner. In attendance at the meeting were the national chairman of the NPN, Chief Augustus Meredith Adisa Akinloye (1916-2007); the secretary of the party, Alhaji Adamu Ciroma (1934-2018); his deputy, Dr. Chuba Wilberforce Okadigbo (1941-2003); and the publicity secretary of the party, Alhaji Suleiman Takuma (1934-2001). President Shagari’s close aide, Alhaji Umaru Abdurahman Dikko (1936-2014), later conveyed the decisions taken at the Federal Palace Hotel to the president. The following day, the general secretary of the NPP, Chief Paul Wanttareph Iyorpuu Unongo (82) announced that his party has taken a decision to work in accord with the NPN of President Shehu Shagari.

It was the NPP-NPN accord that enabled the following NPP members to become ministers in 1979: Chief Paul Unongo from Benue State, Chief (Mrs) Janet Adefenwa Akinrianade (1930-1994) from Iseyin in Oyo State, Professor Ishaya Shaibu Audu (1927-2005) from Zamaru, Zaria in the present Kaduna State and Chief Ademola Geoffrey Thomas (1925-2017) from Lagos State.

Earlier, the NPP’s National Working Committee had met at the house of Mr. Ademola Thomas in Victoria Island, Lagos. Present at the meeting were chairman of the party, Chief Olu Akinfosile; Mr. Solomon Lar; Chief Adeniran Ogunsanya; Chief Matthew Mbu; Chief J. Edewor; Alhaji Yusufu Dan Tsoho; Dr. Obi Wali; Mr. Joe Asogwa; Alhaji Ado Ibrahim; Dr. Ben Nzeribe; Alhaji Megida Lawal; Chief Jim Ifeanyichukwu Nwobodo and Chief Basil Okwu. Also in attendance were Chief Paul Unongo, Dr. Omo Omoruyi, Chief Kolawole Balogun, Mr. Sam Mbakwe, Chief Moo Obikwe, Chief Raphael Ben Keshi Okafor (alias RBK), Chief Samuel Onitiri, Alhaji Jafaru Manga and others.

On Tuesday October 9, 1979, there was an election in the National Assembly for the post of Senate president and deputy Senate president. There was also an election for the speaker of the House of Representatives and the deputy speaker of the House, which were all conducted by the then clerk of the National Assembly, Alhaji Gidado Idris. For the post of the speaker, candidates fielded included Mr. Hamza M. Ngadiwa of the GNPP from Biu constituency of Borno state, while the NPN and NPP put forward Mr. Edwin Ume Ezeoke of the NPP. Mr. Ume Ezeoke was nominated by Mr. Yinusa Kaltungo of the NPN from Tangale-Waja South and was seconded by Lt-Colonel (rtd) P.C. Amadi of the NPP (Owerri North). Dr. Gordon J. Idang of the UPN from Etinan II, in the present Akwa Ibom State, moved the motion for Mr. Ngadiwa and this was seconded by Mr. M.A. Olukoya (Ijebu-Ode). In the election, Mr. Ume Ezeoke scored 245 votes, while Mr. Ngadiwa had 201 votes. As for the post of the deputy speaker, Mr. Olaiya Fagbamigbe (Akure) of the UPN moved a motion for the election of Mr. Faji Fajobi from Ikere-Ekiti, which was seconded by Alhaji Sidi Ali (PRP) from Danbata Constituency in Kano. Colonel (rtd.) P.C. Amadi nominated Alhaji Kuta Idris Ibrahim (1942-2008) for the post of deputy speaker and this was seconded by Alhaji Yinusa Kaltungo. In the election that followed, Alhaji Idris Ibrahim of NPN (Minna North) had 244 votes, while Mr Fajobi scored 201 votes.

In the election also conducted in the Senate on that day, Dr. Abubakar Olusola Saraki (Ilorin/Asa) of the NPN nominated Joseph Wayas for the Senate presidency and this was seconded by Alhaji Ibrahim Jalo Waziri (Bauchi East) of the NPN. Chief Emmanuel Idahosa Akpata (Bendel Central) of the UPN nominated Justice Franklin Orishe Muiyewa Atake of the UPN, with this getting seconded by Dr. David Olatunbosun Oke (Ondo West). Dr. Joseph Wayas won with 53 votes, while Justice Atake had 42 votes. As for the deputy Senate presidency, Dr. Jaja Anucha Nwachukwu (Aba) of NPP nominated Mr. John Wash-Pam and this was seconded by Alhaji Mohammed Uba Ahmed (Bauchi South East). Alhaji Usman Alto Danbatta (Kano North-Central) nominated Alhaji Sabo Barkin Zuwo of the PRP for the deputy Senate presidency and was supported in this by Senator David Oke. Mr. John Wash-Pam of NPP had 51 votes, while Alhaji Sabo Bankin Zuwo scored 43 votes.

It was the NPP-NPN accord that enabled the following NPP members to become ministers in 1979: Chief Paul Unongo from Benue State, Chief (Mrs) Janet Adefenwa Akinrianade (1930-1994) from Iseyin in Oyo State, Professor Ishaya Shaibu Audu (1927-2005) from Zamaru, Zaria in the present Kaduna State and Chief Ademola Geoffrey Thomas (1925-2017) from Lagos State.

Eric Teniola, a former director in the Presidency, writes from Lagos

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