By Eric Teniola
The first part of this piece published last week traced the origin of zoning to the defunct National Party of Nigeria, NPN, saying the policy was designed to ensure that no part of the country was left out of the agenda of the party
THE protem Secretary of the NPN at that time was Dr. Nwakama Okoro from Amuri, Arochukwu in Imo State. He married Eme Ikpeme in 1959. Dr. Okoro represented Arochukwu/Ohafia in the Constituent Assembly between 1977 and 1978. He was the National President of the Nigerian Bar Association between 1977 and 1978. He contested and lost to Chief Samuel Mbakwe ((1929 – January 5, 2004) of the NPP in the Imo State gubernatorial election in 1979. Dr Okoro’s book, The Rise And Duties Of A Lawyer is a good read for any lawyer in Nigeria.
Also present at the meeting at LAPAL House that day were protem officers who represented their various states. They were named national vice chairmen. They are Chief Christian Chukwumah Onoh (Anambra), Prince Adeleke Adedoyin (Ogun), Major General (retd) Robert Adeyinka Adebayo (Ondo), Chief Victor Babaremilekun Adetokunbo Fani-Kayode (Oyo), Dr. Josiah Onyebuchi Johnson Okezie (Imo), Alhaji Sule Katagun (Bauchi), Dr. C.G. Okojie (Bendel), Chief (Dr) Joseph Sarwuan Tarka (Benue), Alhaji Kam Salem (Borno), Dr. Joseph Wayas (Cross River), Professor Iya Abubakar (Gongola), Alhaji Nuhu Bamali (Kaduna), Alhaji Inuwa Wada (Kano), Dr. Abubakar Olusola Saraki (Kwara), Alhaji Yahaya Sabo(Plateau), Alhaji Shehu Shagari (Sokoto) and Chief Melford Obiene Okilo (Rivers).
In the afternoon, I went to the office to write the news with the approval of my then news director, Mr. Tayo Kehinde and my editor, Mr. Sola Odunfa. The story was in the front page of The Punch. Our Editor-in-Chief then, Chief Sam Amuka Pemu, having read the proof, ordered that the story should be in the first and second editions.
The following day, The Punch printed over 500,000 copies on that day. As expected there were denials of the story by NPN members, but the management of The Punch at that time stood by me. I was not bothered by the denials of the story, but that my scheduled interview with the Chairman of PAN Automobile Nigeria Limited, Alhaji Shehu Usman Aliyu Shagari(February 25, 1925 – December 28, 2018) might be cancelled. I cultivated friendship with so many during the Constituent Assembly, including that of the Chairman of the Nigeria Railway Corporation Alhaji Ibrahim Dasuki (December 31, 1923-November 14, 2016) who was at the meeting that day. The interview was not cancelled afterall.
The zoning policy would have worked in all positions proposed then by NPN, except that of the Speaker of the House of Representatives. After the 1979 election, the NPN went into an accord with the NPP as a result of which Chief Edwin Ume Ezeoke (September 8, 1935 – August 1, 2011) of the NPP from Amichi in Nnewi became speaker of the House of Representatives. With the NPN accord, Chief Ume Ezeoke defeated Mr. Hamza M. Ngadiwa from Biu (North) Constituency in Borno State by 245 to 201 votes in a election held on October 1, 1979. On the same date, Alhaji Idris Ibrahim of the NPN from Niger State defeated Mr. Faji Fajobi of the UPN from Ikere Ekiti by 244 to 201 votes to become the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives.
After the convention, Alhaji Shehu Shagari picked Chief Alexander Ifeanyichukwu Ekwueme(October 21, 1932 – November 19, 2017) from Oko Town, in present day Anambra State as his running mate. Dr Joseph Wayas (May 21, 1941 – November 30, 2021) from Basang, Obudu, Cross River State became the Senate president with the support of NPP/NPN by defeating Senator F.O.M. Atake from Warri of UPN by 53 to 42 votes. With the support of NPN/NPP accord also on October 9, 1979, Senator John Wash Pam from Plateau State of the NPP defeated Senator Sabo Barkin Zuwo from Kano State of the PRP by 51 to 43 votes to become the Deputy Senate President.
Chief Egunjenmi Augustus Meredith Adisa Akinloye (August 19, 1916 – September 18, 2007) popularly known as A.M.A. from Itutaba and Seriki of Ibadanland became the Chairman of the Party. Alhaji Adamu Ciroma (November 20, 1934 – July 5, 2018) from Bole family in Potiskum, Yobe State, became the Secretary of the party. The NPN was formed on September 20, 1978 at the Conference Hall of Satellite Town in Lagos. I covered the event. The party held its Convention on December 8, 1978 at the Casino Cinema, Alagomeji, Yaba, Lagos -which has now turned to an apartments building. During the Civil war on July 6, 1967, the Casino Cinema was burnt.