….How Awolowo missed Igbo-Yoruba joint presidential ticket in 1983
By Clifford Ndujihe, Politics Editor
Last Friday, we ran the first part of an engaging interview with Elder statesman, lawyer and politician, Chief Guy Ikokwu, 83, who was the chairman of the defunct Nigerian Peoples Party, NPP, in the old Anambra State in the Second Republic and played crucial roles in the botched move to get the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo and former President of Nigeria, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, to present a joint presidential ticket in 1983. Today, we serve you the concluding part covering the state of the nation, why the Awolowo-Azikiwe alliance failed, and what must be done to save Nigeria.
Quest for Awolowo, Azikiwe united political front
We met Zik at Nsukka and Awo in Apapa, Lagos. Our team included statesmen like Chief Adeniran Ogunsanya. Dr Abubakar Rimi. Chief Solomon Lar. We agreed to have a common united political front to stop the domineering Fulani jihadist tactics in Nigeria.
Both Zik and Awo gave us their blessing and we organized the biggest party conference for the public in Enugu, which was attended by both leaders and their executives in the East and West. Awolowo led Action Group, AG leaders like Pa Ajasin. Cicero Esa-Oke Bola Ige, Alhaji Lateef Jakande etc to attend and address the teaming multitude in Enugu.
We all returned to Lagos and formed a Strategic Committee with Governor Jakande as chairman. Apart from our Northern eminent brothers the Yoruba members in the committee included Senator Abraham Adesanya and Chief Ayo Adebanjo.
We had our think-tank intellectuals in the committee whose aim was to have a formidable alliance for Zik or Awo to vie for the Presidential Election against Alhaji Shehu Shagari who was seeking a second tenure.
Sharing of positions
The committee shared all the distributable portfolios and board positions among the parties in the coalition. There were about 2000 of such positions which were satisfactorily shared. What was left was the Presidency and Party Chairman.
Awolowo’s group insisted they would have the first choice since they had five states and Ziks group had 3 states. The unresolved issue was the party platform and Chairmanship. We adjourned for a few days for consultations with our leaders.
Zik said he would abide by our consensual decision as a democrat. Chief RBK Okafor and Omenife Ikokwu were mandated by Chief Adeniran Ogunsanya to find an agreeable synthesis.
Awolowo to choose post before Azikiwe
We consulted and I proposed a solution of compromise to suite all. Awolowo was to make the first choice as they had insisted. In such a situation Awolowo would be the Presidential Candidate against Shehu Shagari.
We then proposed that if the coalition party was the Nigerian Peoples Party the party Chairman would be Zik and the party would be supreme on policy matters to move the country forward. So Zik as NPP party Chairman would take Awo round the nation during the elections as presidential candidate, and vice visa if the Unity Party of Nigeria emerged as coalition party.
Our chairman, Jakande, when we resumed requested a brief adjournment for their (Yoruba) response after consultations. All other members in the Strategy Committee agreed with our proposals except Awolowo s group which was split. The press and the world media awaited the final results at the lawns of the Governor’s Lodge at the Marina.
Members of the Unity Party of Nigeria Youth Wing under then youthful Ebenezer Babatope were chanting Awo! Awo ! that in their party constitution there is no cleavage between the Executive and the Party. They are one and no form of Coalition would work as being proposed.
We all met after in-house discussions and phone calls. The Chairman, Jakande then said there will be no press conferences on the matters and if there was no meeting in the next week all the parties would field their presidential candidates and cooperate where desirable in the other elective offices.
So that was how the parties contested against each other and the election was rigged for Shehu Shagari. And Zik made his famous speech that history will vindicate the just and the wicked shall not go unpunished.
Some Nigerians say that Zik did not lift that curse on Nigeria before he died. He lived to a very ripe age seeing people and exchanging pleasantries with his two new wise kid sons with whom he shared his wisdom of ages.
Chief Awolowo did not like the state of the polity thereafter and as a sage who had written ominously on our contemporary issues, he felt very disconsolate as he was betrayed by some of his followers and the military junta who had ruined the nation. Awolowo was dogged and astute but did learn much of human frailties and the way and manner he was used during the civil war. Very few Nigerians really know how and why he died. He was betrayed unexpectedly by his closest confidant who is still alive now.
So, do you now see how the wheels of fate have turned? Chief Ayo Adebanjo was at that strategic meetings and remembers it all till date. He had agreed to our proposal which may have made Awolowo the first truly elected leader which may have altered some of our Nigerian inanities one way or the other and possibly not degenerating into the infamy of the World Poverty Capital.
At 91years of age with blessed digital memory my good friend Ayo Adebanjo deserves our accolade as a front line leader of the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum, SMBLF, in which we have friends from the Afenifere Yoruba group like Prof Banji Akintoye, Chief Amos Akingba, Chief Olu Falae, Chief Supo Shonibare and Mr. Yinka Odumakin as a dedicated secretary.
The current widened pedestal of the SMBLF is now a wider national group including the Middle Belt, the South- East, the South-West, the South-South, Mr Femi Fani-Kayode, and some members of the core North who are all dedicated to the task of moving Nigeria forward with justice, equity and good governance for a better development of our nation with reduced acrimony and insecurity and true federalism, resource control with devolution of powers which has the same ambience as the proposed coalition of Zik and Awo of ages past.
On the state of the nation now
It is very dismal. At no time has Nigeria been divided as it is today. Without security and good governance there cannot be development. Nigeria becoming the poverty capital of the world overtaking even the rural areas of India shows how bad things are.
There is hunger in the land. Hunger breeds anger; anger breeds criminality; and criminality exhibits itself in all forms of brigandage, banditry, execution, etc. Nigeria has never seen such a situation which is akin to a civil war situation. And even during the civil war, the Biafrans were disciplined, there was no criminality as an order. The people were not paid salaries but they bore the suffering because of the cause they were fighting for.
What cause are we fighting for in Nigeria in a situation where you have acute lootocracy and embezzlement is the order of the day? Corruption has risen to a level never ever seen in Nigeria. You hardly have any establishment where there is accountability. How can there be accountability when there is injustice, inequity and lack of fair play? Things are deteriorating.
If you look at it, the insecurity is even more in the North because there is more hunger in the North; and where there is more hunger there is more anger and hatred.
After independence, one of the things that caused the first military coup was that ministers were taking 10 per cent bribe. And because it was not checked it rose from10 per cent all the way to 100 per cent and now to a point where there is no per cent. The whole money is taken and stolen and nothing happens.
Is that not what has been happening to constituency projects and security votes, which people in high places spend without any responsibility to account and without executing anything?
The total sum is that the whole nation suffers. There is no healthcare, quality education, infrastructure and electricity, etc. When you aggregate everything you now see why there is total failure. The situation today is that Nigeria has totally failed. The issue is how do we rise up again? Are we capable of rising up again? Or is it the question of total disintegration, restructuring or confederal structure?
These are the questions being asked now by many leaders such as Olusegun Obasanjo, Cardinal Anthony Okorie, Bishop Matthew Hassan-Kukah, and others. But are our leaders listening? If our leaders are not listening the people are listening. It is a time bomb. We are now at the end of the road. We are almost at the precipice, which if we cross there will be a free fall without control.
What do we do? We have to wake up from our slumber as a people. Those who have capacity to change things have to realize that the time is almost too late.
2023 is coming, what is your take on issues trailing power shift to the South?
2023 is not coming. What is coming is 2021. We are in 2020 and in eight months, it will be 2021. Will Nigeria exist in the next five months? That is a question only a foolhardy person will give you an immediate answer.
Nigeria is down. We are heading for the precipice, we may soon cross it. When we cross it, it will be total disintegration. If we resist crossing it then we can start restructuring the way we live for the sake of our children and children’s children.
The South-West has adopted Amotekun as a regional security outfit. The Ohanaeze asked South-East people to defend themselves. With what?
In the South-East, one of the things we did with the Dr Goodluck Jonathan Administration was security. Jonathan did not give much to the South-East by way of infrastructure or economic benefit but we got security. We requested that each of our villages should have their vigilantes for internal security and that these vigilantes should be registered with the police, identified and bear some form of arms like double-barrel or single-barrel, and it was granted and effected.
The Muhammadu Buhari Administration, in the last four years, has tried to neutralize that with the IGP. Some meetings were held with Ohanaeze in Owerri during the time of Senator Rochas Okorocha and we refused. We said we will not disarm our people.
Even though they are not carrying AK-47, a vigilante with a hunting weapon can corner and disarm somebody carrying AK-47. We need that degree of vigilance to protect ourselves.
However, we find that our adversary is having something more superior and is being protected by the powers that be, the administration. So, we have to go a step further. This is why Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum, for three years now, has been agitating for a better governance system so that the various states and local governments will have better powers.
On this issue, the Yoruba had been divided but in the last two years, they came together having seen the deterioration in the security apparatchik of the nation and the way the traducers have developed their tactics that if they defeat the Yoruba, from there they can now launch a final onslaught on the rest of the country.
Initially, the Federal Government fought against the establishment of Amotekun. What the South-West has now is not 100 percent of what they wanted. What the Federal Government has done is to use Community Policing to dilute state and indigenous self-preservation entities like Amotekun.
However, it is not only in South-West, but you also have such outfits in the North. Even the government has been using Civilian JTF to fight Boko Haram. The important thing is to start something. It is better than nothing. Amotekun is not 100 per cent wholesome in the six South-West states but it is something. We (South-East) should look at them and emulate them. It does not give us 100 per cent self-policing but it is better than nothing.