By Eric Teniola
ON September 20 1978, the National Party of Nigeria, NPN, was formed at a hall at the Satellite Town, Lagos. Protem officers were later appointed for the party. Alhaji Muhammed Aminu Kano (1920-1983) was made interim Publicity Secretary but he opted out and went to form The People’s Redemption Party, PRP, along with Mr. Samuel Gomsu Ikoku, Alhaji Abubakar Rimi, Kanmi Ishola Osobu(People’s Lawyer), Alhaji Sule Lamido, Alhaji Balarabe Musa, Dr. Junaid Muhammed, Alhaji Sabo Barkin Zuwo and others.
The objectives and aims of the party were to maintain and protect the unity and sovereignty of Nigeria as one indivisible entity, to promote unity, solidarity harmonious co-existence amongst all Nigerians irrespective of their religious, tribal and other differences, to uphold federalism as a form of government for Nigeria, to ensure the practice and maintenance of democracy, the rule of law and social justice in the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
At the Satellite Town, Alhaji Aliyu Makama Bida(1905-1980) first Minister of Education in Northern Nigeria, Officer of the Order of the British Empire and at various times Acting Premier of the Northern Nigeria, was made the Acting Chairman and Patron of NPN. The NPN was formed by some members of the Constituent Assembly of 1977-1978, members of the Old Northern People’s Congress, members of the Council of National Unity and members of the National Movement.
On September 30, the Federal Electoral Commission, FEDECO, headed by a veteran civil servant, Chief Michael Ani approved six political parties to contest the 1979 elections. Chief Michael Nsa Ani was a two time chairman of FEDECO who tried to serve National interest as perceived by him. In 1965 the then, Prime Minister, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa appointed Chief Ani as chairman of FEDECO after which the ARMY overthrew the government in 1966. In 1976, General Olusegun Obasanjo appointed him to the same position following the recommendation of one of those who worked under Chief Ani but who later became the Secretary to the Government of the federation during the tenure of General Murtala Muhammed and General Olusegun Obasanjo, that is, Chief Allison Akede Ayida.
The parties approved by Chief Ani’s FEDECO were the Unity Party of Nigeria, UPN, led Chief Obafemi Awolowo,GCFR (1909-1987) the Nigeria People’s Party, NPP, led by the first President in Nigeria, Dr. Benjamin Nnamdi Azikiwe, GCFR (1904-1996), the PRP, led by Mallam Aminu Kano(1920-1983), the Great Nigerian People’s Party, GNPP, led by Alhaji Waziri Kolo Ibrahim(1923-1992) , the Nigerian Advanced Party, NAP, led by Dr. Tunji Braithwaite (1933-2016) and the NPN. FEDECO also announced that the Presidential election will hold on August 16, 1979.
On October 5 1978, the NPN held an emergency meeting in Lagos and zoned the Presidency to the North, the Vice Presidency to the East Central zone—now made up of Imo, Anambra, Ebonyi, Abia and Enugu states. The party zoned the speakership of the House of the Representatives to the Middle Belt, which did not come to pass later following the NPP/NPN accord. The Senate Presidency was zoned to Bendel, Cross River and Rivers states which we now refer to as South- South zone and the Chairmanship of the party to Lagos,Oyo,Ogun and Ondo state which we now refer to as South West. It was a controversial decision at that time.
The following were approved as interim officers National Chairman- Alhaji Aliyu Makamam Bida, National Vice Chairman-Mr C.C. Onoh-(Anambra),Alhaji Sule Katagun(Bauchi), Dr. C.G. Okojie(Bendel), Chief (Dr.) J.S. Tarka(Benue), Alhaji Kam Selem(Borno), Dr. Joseph Wayas(Cross River), Prof. Iya Abubakar(Gongola), Alhaji Nuhu Bamali(Kaduna), Alhaji Inuwa Wada(Kano), Dr. Sola Saraki(Kwara), Dr. J.O.J. Okezie(Imo), Alhaji Yahaya Sabo(Plateau), Prine Adeleke Adedoyin(Ogun), Major-Gen Robert Adeyinka Adebayo(Ondo), Chief Remi Fani Kayode(Oyo), Alhaji Shehu Shagari(Sokoto), Chief M.O. Okilo(Rivers), National Secretary-Dr. Nwakama Okoro, Deputy National Secretary-Alhaji Umaru Dikko, Assistant Secretaries-Mr. Sydney Akintade, Mr. E. Isa Odoma, Alhaji Kaloma Ali, National Publicity Secretary-Alhaji Suleman Takuma, Assistant Publicity Secretaries-Dr. Chuba Okadigbo, Mr. Okumagha, Mr. Mvendaga Jido, National Financial Secretary—Alhaji Ibrahim Dasuki, Assistant Financial Secretary—Mr. Donald Etiebet, Alhaji Abdullahi Adamu, Mr. I. Sagari Usman, National Treasurer-Dr. Onibuje, Deputy Treasurer—Alhaji Bello Maitama Yusuf, National Legal Adviser—Chief Richard Akinjide, Assistant Legal Adviser—Mr. Tunji Arosanyi, Auditor—Mr. Kento Giadon, Assistant Auditor—Alhaji Magaji Mauzu.
One of the founders of the party, Dr. Kingsley Ozumba Mbadiwe (1915-1990), a former Minister under the then Prime Minster, Alhaji Tafawa Balewa, donated his house at Jibowu street,Yaba to serve as Party Headquarters. Dr. Mbadiwe alias MAN OF TIMBER AND CALIBRE was from Arondizuogu under Orlu division in the present Imo state. While at Baptist Academy Lagos and Igbobi College, Lagos, his colleagues were Chief Samuel Ladoke Akintola, Chief E.E. Esau, Justice Taslim Elias, Horatio Thomas and Justice F.O. Coker.
On December 12 1978, the party held its convention at the now dilapidated Casino Cinema, Yaba, Lagos to select its Presidential Candidate. The Chairman of the Convention was Chief Anthony Eromosele Enahoro(1923-2010). 2,235 candidates attended the convention from all over the country. At the convention over 500 journalists covered the event. The American ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. Donald B. Eaasum as well as his British counterpart Sir Sam Falle sent representatives to the convention which was interpreted at that time, that the NPN was indeed government in waiting.
On that same day, at the amusement park in Apapa, the NPP adopted Dr. Azikiwe as the Presidential candidate and also adopted Chief Christopher Oluwafunmi Akinfosile(1917-1996) as the National Chairman of the party. Professor Ishaya Shuiabu Audu (1927-2005) was selected as the running mate to Dr. Azikiwe. Party faithfuls who attended the convention included Chief Adenran Ogunsanya, Mr. Ademola Thomas, Chief Solomon Lar, Chief Guy Ikokwu, Chief Paul Unongo(Secretary), Chief Sam Mbakwe, Chief Jim Nwobodo, Chief Raphael Ben Kech Okafor alias RBK, Chief Mo Obiekwe and others.
At the convention of the NPN which was attended by foreign observers, Alhaji Shehu Usman Aliyu Shagari(93) scored 978 votes while Alhaji Maitama Sule (1929-2017) scored 564 votes.
Alhaji Adamu Ciroma (83) scored 293 votes, Dr. Abubakar Olusola Saraki(1933-2012) had 214 votes, Chief Joseph SarwuanTarka(1932-1980)—104 votes and Professor Muhammed Iyi Abubakar (83) had 93 votes,. Chief Hilary Njoku announced the results of the votes.
At the Convention, Chief Meredith Adisa August Akinloye(August 19, 1916- September 18, 2007) was selected as the National Chairman of the Party. He came in company of Alhaji Lamidi Ariyibi Akanji Adedibu(1927-2008) who was then one of his aides. Chief Akinoye alias Egunjemi was the Seriki of Ibadanland. He was instrumental to the formation of the first ever political party in Ibadan called Ibadan Peoples Party, IPP, which he served as its president, with Adegoke Adelabu as his deputy. His IPP party later merged with the Action Group, led Obafemi Awolowo to form the first government in the Western Region of Nigeria, in which Akinloye was appointed the Minister of Agriculture and Natural Resources. During the second half of the 1950s, he was elected Chairman of Ibadan City Council. During the Western Region Crisis in the early 1960s, he left the Action Group for Chief Samuel Ladoke Akintola’s newly formed Nigerian National Democratic Party and served in the cabinet led by the then Prime Minister, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa (1912-1966).(The government was overthrown in a military coup on 15 January 1966.
ERIC TENIOLA, A FORMER DIRECTOR AT THE PRESIDENCY STAYS IN LAGOS.