Single Party Structure Won’t Work

Single Party Structure Won’t Work

guest columnist

Eric Teniola

I don’t think the founding fathers of this country wanted a single party structure. Not at all. They were aware of our adversity as a people. I don’t think a single political party or tribe or group can pocket this country for long.  Any attempt to try it, will end in futility no matter the desperation. Yes the founding fathers went to London to seek independence, but they went divided. They had their own prejudices even while requesting for independence. They played cat and mouse game.  They went to London under different slogans, proposals and prayers but none of them wanted a single party structure.

The Constitutional conference held between May 23 to June 26, 1957 in Lancaster House in London, and presided over by the Colonial Secretary, Mr. Lennox-Boyd was anything but “cordial”.

Even before the conference, division was apparent. Till today the division still exists.

Chief Anthony Eromosele Enahoro (22 July 1923 – 15 December 2010) from Uromi in Edo state of the then Action Group had moved a motion on March 31st, 1953 during budget sessions in the federal house, Lagos on behalf of his party and was seconded by Chief Festus Olawoyin Awosika(1911-1965), the Bajulaiye of Ondo Kingdom on self government, at the Parliament before the London Conference.

In moving the motion, Chief Enahoro declared “Mr. President, sir, I rise to move the motion standing in my name, “that this House accepts as a primary political objective the attainment of self-government for Nigeria in 1956”.

Sir, this motion is an invitation to the Honourable Members of this House to associate the highest legislature of our land with the expressed desire of the peoples of this country, whose views we all represent, for political autonomy in 1956. It seeks to provide representatives from all parts of the country with an opportunity to exchange views on the most burning question of our time. It is an invitation to this House to make a declaration of objective with regard to Nigerian freedom.

I do not propose, sir, to go into the arguments for self-government because I am satisfied that it is generally accepted on all sides of the House that self-government for this country at some future date is a desirability. Therefore I propose to deal with this motion in two main parts and very briefly –namely, of what significance is such a declaration of objective and secondly, why should the objective be 1956? Sir, I believe that a declaration of objective by this House has become a matter of supreme importance in our march towards self-government. For the time being, this Legislature is the supreme voice of the people of this country, although not all majority decisions which have been taken in this House in the past could hope to survive the test of a referendum. It is essential, in my view, to assess why a formal motion of this nature the honest feelings of various sections of the House and to discover to what extent these feelings may truly reflect the aspirations of the politically conscious citizens of this country”.

Self-government is after all, sir, a subject on which it is of the first importance that people should believe rightly, and I cannot overstress the great inspiration and succour which various political parties in this country would derive there from if the demand for self-government in 1956 were to enjoy the full force of the backing of the highest legislature of the country”. 1956 is a convenient date, especially when the other two reasons are added, 1956 marked the end of the Macpherson Constitution. I therefore beg to move”.

The motion led to riots in Kano thereafter which broke out in the ancient city in May 1953. The nature of the riot was clashes between Northerners who were opposed to Nigeria’s Independence and Southerners, made up of mainly the Yorubas and the Igbos who supported immediate independence for Nigeria. The riot that lasted for four days claimed many lives of the Southerners and Northerners and many others were wounded.

Chief Awosika was elected into the Western House of Assembly in 1951. He was later elected into the House of Representatives on January 10, 1952 along with Prince Adeleke Adedoyin alias SERIKI TULASI, Dr. I. Nimbe, K. Momoh, J.G. Ako, S.O. Ighodaro, E.A. Babalola, Tony Enahoro, Moyo Aboderin, C.A. Tewe, F. Agidee and A.O. Ogedengbe.

Others elected were T.A. Odutola, T. Akinbiyi, O. Akeredolu-Ale, J. Oroge and Alhaji Dauda Adegbenro.

In 1954, he was appointed the central Minister of Works. On October 18, 1955, he became the Minister of Finance in the Western Region, succeeding Chief Obafemi Awolowo GCFR, who later became Premier of the Western Region.

However on May 27, 1956, Chief Awosika was among the four Ministers that were defeated in the general elections to the House of Assembly. Others who lost in the election were S.O. Ighodaro, Minister of Health, Mr. Augustus Meredith Adisa Akinloye, Minister of Agriculture and Natural Resources and J.F. Odunjo, Minister of Lands. A parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Education, Mr. Kessington Momoh was also defeated.

One of them who lost the election Samuel Osarogie Ighodaro born on March 21, 1911 later served as Minister of Justice and Attorney- General, Western Region, 1959-63. He quit politics  and  served as Senior Lecturer, University of Lagos, 1966-67; appointed Judge, High Court of Midwestern Region (now Edo State), 1968-73; and later became the Iyase of Benin.

Four other Ministers were elected: Chief Anthony Enahoro, Minister of Home Affairs, Mr. Jonathan Olawale Odebiyi, Minister of Education, Mr. I.O.O. Oshuntokun, Minster of Works and Chief C.D. Akran.

In 1957, the Osemawe of Ondo, Oba Tewogboye II made Chief Awosika, the Bajulaiye of Ondo Kingdom.

The Northern leaders objected to the motion. The motion angered them. They fought back instantly.

In his book titled “MY LIFE”, the NPC leader then, Sir Ahmadu Bello (12 June 1910- 15 January 1966), who later became the Premier of Northern Nigeria recounted what happened on page 118 of the book, on March 31st, 1953.  He declared “his seconder, Awosika contributed nothing at all to the question. He seemed obsessed by the ‘slavery angle’ and addressed us on the desirability of self government in general, a matter on which we were all at least in warm agreement and which we required no exhortation.

The question was proposed by the President, and at that point, I am afraid, I rather put the cat among the pigeons by moving an amendment to substitute ‘as soon as practicable’ for the date ‘1956’. This is what I said: we from the Northern Region never intended, nor do we intend, to retard the progress of any Region. Nor do we say that those who demand self-government, if it is for their own Region alone, are wrong. Far from it.  For, after all, every community is the best judge of its own situation. In this regard, Mr. President, the people of the North are the best judges of their own situation and we feel that in our present situation we cannot commit ourselves to fixing a date for the attainment of self-government. We are fully aware of all the implications involved and we want to make it abundantly clear that the destiny of the North is in the hands of the people of the North.

We of the North wish our form of self-government, once granted, to be such that its attainment should give us no cause for eventual regret. It would be very unwise, Sir, if, before we fix a date for attainment of self-government for Nigeria, we do not think of the condition of things obtaining in this country today. It is true that we politicians always delight in talking loosely about the unity of Nigeria. Sixty years ago, there was no country called Nigeria. What is now Nigeria consisted of a number of large and small communities all of which were different in their outlooks and beliefs. The advents of the British and of the Western education has not materially altered the situation and these many and varies communities have not knit themselves into a composite unit. Sir, whatever Nigerians may say, the British people have done them a great service by bringing all the different communities of Nigeria together.

The great day came with the introduction of the Richards’s Constitution in 1947 when, for the first time in our history, indigenous citizens of the North sat side by side with the South to legislate for one Nigeria and share in the discussion of Nigeria affairs. That was in 1947. Meanwhile, Sir, our comrades in the South had been taking part in the discussion of their own affairs in the Legislature as far back as 1922.

Sir, the 1947 Constitution was to last nine years, very probably in order to give the North sufficient time to learn. That Constitution, Sir, was revised after the North had gained only two years’ experience and now we have a Constitution which has been barely a year in existence. I must say here, Mr. President, motions like the one which I am now trying to amend, are deliberately designed to destroy the happy inter-Regional relationship which the present Constitution is rapidly building up. Though I realize that motions of this nature are merely an expression of opinion, yet I feel that they can serve no purpose other than doing harm and causing ill-feeling.  I have my reasons for so saying. For many years the outside world has been led to regard Northern Nigeria as a back-ward country, where all the people are conservative to the extreme and unreceptive of modern ideas. One has only to read the local papers and to remember utterances made by some Southern Nigerians in the past for a confirmation of my statement.

Before we commit ourselves and the people we represent in such matters, we must, I repeat, we must seek the mandate of the country. As representatives of the people, we from the North feel that in all major issues such as this one, we are in duty bound to consult those we represent, so that when we speak we know we are voicing the views of the nation. If the Honourable Members from the West and East speak to this motion unamended, for their people, I must say here and now, Sir, that we from the North have been given no such mandate by our people. No Honourable Member can therefore criticize the Northern Legislators for refusing to associate themselves with such an arbitrary motion fixing, as it does, a definite date for the attainment of national self-government. We in the North are working very hard towards self-government although we ar late in assimilating Western education.

It is our resolute intention to build our development on sound and lasting foundations so that thy will be lasting.

With things in their in their present state in Nigeria, the Northern Region does not intend to accept the invitation to commit suicide. Unless we Nigerians can prove to ourselves and to the world outside what we want, I cannot see how people can be expected to regard our demand seriously. It is not uncommon for people in this country, for a group of people to sit together and demand self government. Some are even demanding it now, immediately.

Any country which accepts self-government must do so with its eyes wide open and the problem, therefore, of one section of the country imposing its will on the others does not arise. I move this amendment, which, in my humble opinion, is much more appropriate if the question of self government for Nigeria is at all to be discussed at this stage. I do so, Sir, without any fear or misgivings that if the original motion were to be carried, it would automatically be binding on all Regions. Far from it! As I said earlier in my remarks, a private member’s motion is intended primarily to give that member and others an opportunity of expressing their views on a given subject.

Numberless motions of this nature will not achieve self-government for the un-unified Nigeria. Self-government for Nigeria can be demanded and obtained only when its meaning is fully understood by all the mass of this country. Let all the implications be thrashed out and agreement reached by the leading citizens of all three Regions. This is the primary objective to which we have addressed ourselves and, in doing so, to show to the country our fitness to discharge the heavy responsibility we have begun to assume. Then, once this objective has been attained, we will be on the safe side in demanding self-government”.

Thereafter the London Conference was held to decide Nigeria’s independence.

Those who went for the London Conference later were, from the Action Group- Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Chief Samuel Ladoke Akintola, Mr. I.J. Dosunmu, Mr. E.O. Eyo, Mr. S.O. Ighodaro, Mr. S.G. Ikoku, Mr. A.O. Lawson, Mr. A. Rosiji and Chief F.R.A. Williams. Dr. E.M.I. Endeley, Galega,Fon, of Bali and Mr.J.T. Ndze from the Cameroun National Congress, Mr. J.N. Foncha from the Cameroun  National Congress, Mr. P.M. Kale from the Cameroun People’s Party  all attended.

From the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons were Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe GCFR, Alhaji Adegoke Adelabu, Mr. T.O.S. Benson, Dr. S.E. Imoke, Dr.K.O. Mbadiwe, Mr. R.A. Njoku, Dr. Michael I. Okpara, Mr. D.C. Osadebey, Mr. Babatunde  Olowofoyeku and Dr. Sanya Onabamiro. From the Northern Elements Progressive Union were Mallam Aminu Kano and Mallam Ibrahim  Imam. From the Northern People’s Congress, they were Alhaji Ahmadu Bello, Sardauna of Sokoto, Alhaji Tafawa Balewa GCFR, Alhaji Aliyu Makama of Bida, Alhaji Isa Kaita, Alhaji Muhammadu Ribadu and Alhaji Inuwa Wada.

Others were Mr. H. Biriye from Rivers state, Mr. J.S. Tarka from the United Middle Belt Congress and Dr. Udo Udoma of the United National Independence Party. The Northern region had the Emir of Kano, Sir Muhammadu Sanusi  and  the Emir of Katsina, Sir Usman Nagogo, the Western region had the Ooni of Ife, Sir Adesoji Aderemi, Olowo of Owo, Sir Olateru Olagbegi, Alake of Egbaland, Oba Sir Ladapo Samuel Ademola (1872–1962), the Ewi of Ado-Ekiti, Oba Daniel Anirare Aladesanmi II and the Eastern region had Chief Nyong Essien of Uyo at the meeting.

The governments in Nigeria were represented by Sir James Robertson, Sir Bryan Sharwood-Smith, Sir John Rankine, Sir Robert Stapledon and Sir J.O. Field, commissioner of the Cameroons.

The United Kingdom was represented by Mr. Alan Lennox-Boyd, the Earl of Pearth, Sir John Macpherson, Sir Hilton Poyynton, Sir John Martin, Mr. C.G. Eastwood, Mr. A.R. Thomas, Mr. H.T. Bourdilon, Mr. A.N. Galworthy and Mr. T.B. Williamson.

Advisers at London talks included Chief S.J. Amachree, Chief R. Edukugho, Mr A.J.U. Ekong, Mr. R.A. Fani-Kayode and Mr. J. Olawoyin from the Action Group, Mr. V.E. Mukete all from the Cameroon National Congress, Mr. A.N.  Jua(Cameroun National Democratic Party), Mr. N.N. Mbile(Cameroun People’s Party), Mr. P.A. Afolabi, Chief Kolawole Balogun, Mrs. M.Ekpo, Dr. C. Obi, Chief Festus Okotie-Eboh and Mr. J.T. Otobo—all from the National Council of Nigeria and the Camerouns.

Zana Bukar Dipcharima, Abba Habib, Shettima Kashim and Mr. G.U. Ohikere represented the National People’s Congress, Mr. P.Dokotri (United Middle Belt Congress), Mr. Okoi Arikpo(United National Independence Party), Chiefs –Northern region—Aliyu Obaja, Attah of Igala, Sir Ralph Grey, Mr. E.I.G. Unsworth,Mr. F.D.C. Williams, Mr. C.S.K. Bovell, Mr. P.H.G. Scott, Mr. H.H. Marshall, Lt-Colonel E.C. Aderton, Mr. J.O. Udoji, Mr. D.O. Ibekwe, Mr. E.G. Stumpenhuson, Mr. Simeon O. Adebo, Mr. M.G. de Winton, Mr. F.A. Williams and Mr. J. Murray.

Others were Mr. J.E. Marhham, Mr. J.W. Vernon, Mr. R.J. Vile, Mr. P.A.P. Robertson, Mr. M.G. Smith and Mr. R.W. Francis represented the United Kingdom. Legal advisers were Sir Kenneth Roberts-Wray, Mr. J.C. Mcpetrie and Mr. A.R. Rushford. Mr. I.P. Bancroft, Miss M.Z. Terry, Mr. P.H.G. Stallard, Mr. D.S. Timms and Mr. K.O.H. Osborne were from the secretariat while Miss J.M. Cock was the Librarian.

Another Constitutional Conference was held in London between September 29 and October 27 1958.

After the second London Conference, October 1, 1960, was later selected for Nigeria’s independence. Shortly after independence, political crisis engulfed the country.

The first attempt to make Nigeria a one party structure began on April 9, 1965 in Benin. On that day the Mid-West Nigeria Legislature became virtually a one-party system following a dramatic crossing to the government side to eight of the nine Mid-West Democratic Front Opposition members in the House of Assembly. In a speech before crossing, Mid West Democratic Front leader, Chief James Okpre Otobo from Uzere said his party now saw eye to eye with the NCNC government on all essential approaches to development and progress of Mid-West. He also announced to formal dissolution of the Mid West Democratic Front.

The Mid West Regional Premier Dennis Chukude Osadebey (29 June 1911 — 26 December 1994) welcomed the former opposition members and said: “This is our finest hour and we have reason to rejoice.” He said the MDF members chose unity not disorder. He also said he was a believer in the one-party system of government. “It is natural, it is African it is efficient.” He said the fusing of the parties would ensure stability, progress and development of the Region.

Chief Otobo who died on September 11, 2011 at St Mary’s Hospital in London was a colourful Politician. He played a key role in the creation of Mid Western region in June 1963.  His hometown Uzere is formerly known as “Uzei” is located in the Isoko South Local Government Area (LGA) of Delta State of Nigeria.   It has become one of the largest petroleum oil producing communities in Nigeria. Oil exploration started in Uzere in 1957. Uzere has two oil fields (Uzere West and Uzere East) with a total of 43 oil wells producing about 53,000 barrels per day (8,400 m3/d). Uzere has nine communities: Uhei, Ezede, Uweye, Afikioko (London Base), Uhroko (Paris), Ekregbesi, Abale, Iwre-Ezede, and Iboro.

Chief Otobo later rose to become deputy Premier of the Mid Western region.

As flamboyant as he was, Chief Otobo’s attempt failed.

The only Action Group member was absent from the House, one MDF member, Chief Okotako Enahoro, remained in opposition bench.

A few months later on January 15, 1966, the army took over power and it was not until September 1978 that political parties were formed.

The Unity party of Nigeria was launched on September 22, 1978 under the leadership of Chief Obafemi Awolowo GCFR while the Nigeria’s People Party with Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe GCFR was launched on the same day. The NPP was made up of three groups namely, the National Union Council, Club 19 and the Council for National Unity and Progress. The following were the officers of the Party at that time. They included Mr. Solomon Lar, Mr. Matthew Mbu, Chief J. Edewor, Alhaji Yusufu Dan Tsoho, Chief Adeniran Ogunsanya, Dr. Obi Wali and Mr. Joe Asogwa.

Others included Alhaji Ado Ibrahim, Dr. Ben Nzeribe, Alhaji Megida Lawal, Chief Theophilus Benson, Chief Basil Okwu, Mr. Paul Unongo, Dr. Omo Omoruyi, Chief Kolawole Balogun, Mr. Sam Mbakwe, Chief Olu Akinfosile, Chief Samuel Onitiri and Alhaji Jafaru Mango. 

The Nigeria Advance Party was launched by Mr. Tunji Braithwaite on September 28, 1978. At the launching ceremony at Okesuna, Lagos Island, the following were present—Chief F.O. Moore, Alhaji Abdullahi Joseph, former secretary of Ilorin Talaka Parapo, Mr. Isaac Kpum,Mr. F. Mordi, Alhaji Sheru Danladi, Pastor B.K. Audu, Alhaji Umaru Dembo, Mr. F.O. Etim and Prince Bashari Aminu.

The People’s Redemption Party headed by Alhaji Aminu Kano and the National Party of Nigeria, NPN, with Alhaji Shehu Shagari as the Presidential Candidate were later launched.

There was also the Great Nigeria’s People Party (GNPP) headed by Alhaji Waziri Ibrahim (26 February 1926 – 1992).

In October 1979, the ruling party NPN had the president, Alhaji Shehu Shagari and seven governors while the UPN had five governors, the NPP had three, the GNPP had two and the PRP had two.

After the October elections in 1983, the NPN retained the President with five more governors

There were no political parties from December 31st 1983 when General Muhammadu Buhari took over power till he was overthrown by General Ibrahim Babangida on August 27 1985. 

On October 7, 1989, the then Head of State, General Ibrahim Babangida GCFR, addressed the nation during which he decreed the existence of two parties in Nigeria, the Social Democratic Party(SDP) and the National Republican Convention (NRC).

According to him, “by this decision, the AFRC has declared its acceptance of the principles of a grassroots democratic two-party system. It is our belief that the system shall: provide a grassroots basis for the emergence of political parties, establish a grassroots or mass platform for the emergence of new leadership, give equal rights and opportunities to all Nigerians to participate in the political process irrespective of their wealth, religion, geo-political backgrounds and professional endeavours, de-emphasise the role of money in politics, reduce, to a minimum level, the element of violence in our electoral process, preclude the emergence of political  alliances along the same lines as in the First Republics and, therefore, give Nigerians a new political structure within which to operate.

It shall also ensure the emergence of a new, more dedicated and more genuine leadership cadre, which will not be a more proxy for old political warlords, chart a new pattern of political recruitment and participation which will enhance Nigeria’s stability, establish strong instructional structures which not only sustain future governments, but also be strong enough to stand the test of time and finally establish a political system that will be operated according to the spirit and letter of the Constitution of the Federal Republic”.

By annulling the June 12, 1993 Presidential election, General Babangida himself annulled his two party structure in Nigeria. On June 26 1993, in a broadcast to the nation, he regretted the annulment, he said “I feel, as I believe you yourself feel, a profound sense of disappointment at the outcome of our last efforts at laying the foundation of a viable democratic system of government in Nigeria”.

From 1999, the PDP was in power at the centre till 2015. The party’s officials boasted that the party would be in power forever. I remember Alhaji Kawu Baraje of the PDP boasted on Wednesday, September 11, 2011 “We will continue to make it and PDP will continue forever as the dominant political party in Nigeria”.

The PDP Chairman at that time, Chief Vincent Eze Ogbulafor (24 May 1949 – 6 October 2022) said on November 22, 2009 that the PDP will rule the country for the next sixty years.

However, the Patron of the PDP then, former President Olusegun Obasanjo GCFR on February 16, 2015 tore his PDP membership card in Abeokuta. The tearing of the party’s membership card by President Obasanjo was like a curse. Some felt it was a spiritual curse. It was like an imprecation- an invocation or evil or calamity on the PDP. Till today, the anathema has remained with the PDP. Since then the PDP has not won the Presidential election.

On April 1, 2015, President Goodluck Jonathan GCFR GCON lost the presidential election to President Muhammadu Buhari GCFR of the APC. The defeat of former President Jonathan ended the invincibility of the PRESIDENCY in Nigeria.

At present, the APC is the ruling party in the country but it is an amalgamation of many political parties. It was founded on 6 February 2013).

Those who founded the APC were from ANPP- Ogbonnaya Onu, Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau, Ibrahim Gaidam, Kashim Shettima, Abdulazeez Yari, Ali Modu Sheriff, Rufai Sani,  Kabiru Gaya, Maina Ma’aji Lawan, Buka Abba Ibrahim, Lanre Amusu, Abdulrahman Adamu, Saliu Momoh, Ramatu Tijjani, Geoffrey Yilleng, Solomon Iyobosa Edebiri,  Nelson Alapa, S. A. Kawu Sumaila, Peter Edeh, Gambo Magaji, Emma Eneukwu, George N. Moghalu and Attahiru Bafarawa.

Others are from ACN Tom Ikimi , Ibrahim Yakubu Lame, Rauf Aregbesola, Babatunde Raji Fasola, Olusegun Osoba, Richard Adeniyi Adebayo, Lai Mohammed, John Akpan-Udoedehe , Osagie Ize-Iyamu, George Akume, Lawan Shuaibu, Audu Ogbeh, Achike Udenwa, John Odigie-Oyegun, Chris Ngige, Rabia H. A. Eshak, Yusuf G. Ali, Usman Bugaje, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, Boni Haruna, Chief Henry Dele Ajomale, Garba Abari, Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Abubakar Audu

From CPC–Muhammadu Buhari,  Umaru Tanko Al-Makura,  Garba M. Gadi, Okoi Obono-Obla, Tam David-West, Sabo Nanono, Hadi Sirika,Osita Okechukwu ,Bernard Banfa, B. D. Lawal, Haruna Yerima, Shittu Adebayo, Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba, Adaugo Obi,Oscar Udorji, Lucy Ajayi, Osagie Ehanire, Buba Bajoga, Ife Oyedele, Jimi Lawal, Rotimi Fashakin, Solomon Ewuga, Abubakar Malami,  Barr. James Ocholi and Yahaya Ibrahim Shinko.

From APGA, we had Rochas Okorocha, Annie Okonkwo, Osita Izunaso, Emeka Okpara, Ezenwa Onyewuchi,  Ezennia Denton Ogbuehi, Esq, Chuka Ama-Nwauwa, Marshal Uche Okaforanyanwu ,  Chuks Chinwuba, Barr. Obiora Samuel Igwedibia, Ayim Chinenye Nyerere, Stanley Ugochukwu Ohajuluk,  Peter Chigozie Okonkwo, Jacob Sunday Chukwu, Prof. Fabian C. Osuji, P. C. Onuoha, Olisaemeka Akamukali, Romanus Egbuladike, Maigari Duigiyadia, Pius Ewherido, Great Ovedje Ogboru and John Bala Takaya.

After the Merger, were Chibuike Amaechi, Aliyu Wamakko , Rabiu Kwankwaso , Abdulfatah Ahmed, Murtala Nyako, Atiku Abubakar, Bukola Saraki, Aminu Tambuwal, Abubakar Baraje, Adamu Aliero and Danjuma Goje.

The APC which is in power today in the centre could be in the present shoes of the PDP in future, who knows. The certainty of the Nigeria’s politics is the uncertainty.

Politics in Nigeria is always interesting. What a country. What a people.

Related Articles