By Eric Teniola
The second part of this piece published last week highlighted the events leading to the formation of the NPN on September 20, 1978 and influenced the Convention of the party on December 8 of same year.
AT the NPN Convention at Casino Cinema, the following officers were elected. They are National Publicity Secretary – Alhaji Suleman Tukuma, Assistant Publicity Secretaries – Dr. Chuba Okadigbo, Mr. Okumagba, Mr. Mvendaga Jido; National Financial Secretary – Alhaji Ibrahim Dasuki; Assistant Financial Secretary – Mr. Donald Etiebet; Alhaji Abdullahi Adamu (75); the Sarki Yakin Keffi, now National Chairman of APC, Mr. I. Sagari Usman; National Treasurer- Dr. Onibuje; Deputy Treasurer – Alhaji Bello Maitama Yusuf; National Legal Adviser – Chief Richard Osuolale Akinjide; Assistant Legal Adviser – Mr.Tunji Arosanyi; Auditor – Mr Kenton Giadon and Assistant Auditor – Alhaji Magaji Mauzu.
Even before then, the military practised what might be termed as zoning too. After the overthrow of General Gowon on July 29, 1975, Brigadier Ramat Murtala Muhammed (November 8,1938 – February 13, 1976) became Head of State, while Brigadier-General Olusegun Obasanjo from Abeokuta, Ogun State became Chief of Staff, Supreme Headquarters.
After the assassination of General Murtala Muhammed, a Fulani from Kano, General Obasanjo was made the Head of State and a Fulani officer, Lt-Colonel Shehu Musa Yar’Adua ((March 5, 1943 – December 8, 1997) was over- promoted from the rank of Lt-Colonel to a Brigadier and made Chief of Staff Supreme Headquarters, to pacify the Fulanis and the North.
Even after the overthrow of President Shehu Shagari on December 31, 1983 by Major-General Muhammadu Buhari, he refused to adopt the NPN zoning policy. He instead appointed Brigadier Babatunde Abdulbaki Idiagbon(September 14, 1943 – March 24, 1999) from Ilorin, which is part of North-Central zone at the moment as Chief of Staff Supreme Headquarters which is the equivalent of Vice President.
When General Ibrahim Babangida (80) from Minna, Niger State overthrew General Buhari in 1985, he appointed Commodore Okoh Ebitu Ukiwe (81) from Abiriba in Abia State as Chief of General Staff. His father was a traditional ruler in Abiriba and Head of the Old Bende Division Appeal Court. He served from August 1985 to October 1986. He was replaced by Admiral Augustus Akhabue Aikhomu (October 20, 1939 – August 17, 2011), from Idumebo-Irrua, Edo State.
Chief Ernest Adegunle Oladeinde Shonekan(May 9,1936 – January 11, 2022) did not have a deputy as such, but with the decree setting up the Interim National Government, General Sani Abacha, who was then the Chief of Defence Staff, was presumed to be the most senior. He eventually took over power from Chief Shonekan on November 17, 1993 and named General Donaldson Oladipo Diya (78) from Odogbolu in Ogun State as the Chief of General Staff, who was the de facto Vice President of Nigeria at that time.
Had he not been involved in the phantom military coup in 1997, Major-General (retd) Tajudeen Olanrewaju, from Lagos Island, the favourite of General Sani Abacha, would have succeeded General Diya as the Chief of General Staff. General Olanrewaju, recently pardoned by President Muhammadu Buhari, is one of the descendants of Alhaji Muritala Ajadi Animashaun(1870-1959) from Olowogbowo in Lagos Island. A junior grammar school in Surulere, Lagos founded on January 1, 1970, was named after Alhaji Ajadi Animashaun whose family is very famous in the Island.
General Sani Abacha got frustrated that he did not name anyone as the Chief of General Staff till he died on the June 8, 1998. General Abdusalami Abubakar (79) from Minna, Niger State, picked Admiral Okhai Mike Akhigbe from Fugar,Aviawu clan in Etsako Central Local Government Area of Edo State, to be his Chief of General Staff. All these were military appointments. But when we embarked on the democratic system in 1999, zoning became an integral and unofficial policy in Nigeria.
Till today it has been so. Now the zoning policy has become like a curse. It is a burden we are all carrying. How come a policy that was designed to unite the country has now divided us. Never have we been so divided as a Nation.
To me zoning as a policy is a protest against abuse of power. If things had been fair in this country, there should not have been any demand for zoning. If other areas had been carried along in appointments and distribution of amenities, the constant call for zoning would have been less.
Those in authority in this country past and present are guilty of abuse of power. Abuse of power or abuse of authority, in the form of “malfeasance in office” or “official abuse of power”, is the commission of an unlawful act, done in an official capacity, which affects the performance of official duties.