By Godwin Ehigiamusoe
MID-WEEK HISTORICAL REFLECTION : REAL POLITIK
first posted on Feb 1, 2020.
When politics is in the air it is always exciting or so it should be. Fantastic speeches and packaging.
In recent years social media warriors have been at their best…
However , real politik has not always favoured the popular trends. In 1978 , excitement was building to the general elections in the following year.
The sounds and sights of politics were in the air and a subtle push against the ‘old brigade’ who by interpretation was a collection of politicians of the pre and post independence.
The agitation died on arrival when Abubakar Rimi a stormy petrel and obviously a ‘new breed’ unsuccessfully pushed for age limit for top political position at the Constituent Assembly. It was , as many believed, aimed at Chief Obafemi Awolowo an old but strong opposition to the ‘new breed’.
Then , real party began; Chief Awolowo was at the forefront. He was alleged by some to have beaten the gun. His party Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN)’s four cardinal programmes of free education; free health care , gainful employment and integrated rural development were sweet music to the ears of Nigerians, particularly the youth.
They generated huge excitement and expectations. Nigeria was on the move to lead Malaysia and Singapore on the path of development or so we believed . Across the land, was the buzz around the ‘return’ of Zik . For the Nigerian millennials, this the short form of Azikiwe.
A year or two earlier he had declared himself as the ‘father of the nation’ which meant he would not take to campaign train of any political party. His recant and return to the political ring , was Nigeria Peoples Party (NNP)’s antidote against Awo or so Zik’s disciples of who Jim Nwobodo, Sam Mbakwe and Adeniran Ogunsanya were the chiefest, claimed.
Some uncharitably termed the respected nationalist and first Governor-General and President of Nigeria, as ‘consistently inconsistent’ who was gradually being known more as ‘Owelle of Onitsha’ than the earlier appellation of Zik of Africa.
Whatever any of his opponents would say, Zik brought colour and intellectual sagacity to politics of the time.
The National Party of Nigeria(NPN) paraded Adamu Ciroma a journalist and ex Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria ( and perhaps the only significant voice from the North who told General Ibrahim Babangida in 1993 that MKO Abiola won June 12 elections ‘fair and square’ and should be sworn in) Others were the eloquent Maitama Sule, combative Umaru Dikko who was famous or otherwise for his ‘ presidency is not for sale’ barb at MKO Abiola in 1983; the colorful Uba Ahmed, the intellectually arrogant duo of Ibrahim Tahir Phd in Sociology and Chuba Okadigbo Phd in Political Science who indeed were the philosopher kings of NPN.
Note that I have not mentioned Shehu Shagari! The fourth leg of the four political parties was the Great Nigeria People Party ( GNPP) led by Ibrahim Waziri a man of immense means and who was known more for his reddish ethnic cap and philosophy of ‘ politics without bitterness’ This was before Fela’s MOP ( Movement of the People) and Tunji Braithwaite’s NAP (Nigerian Advanced Party) a party which sought to kill’ mosquitoes and cockroaches’ ; perhaps Tunji Braithwaite was speaking in parables!
After all the excitement at NPN’s about the emergence of Ciroma or Sule and their sterling qualities, ‘real politik’ prevailed and threw up Alhaji Shehu Aliyu Shagari emerged as its Presidential candidate. The campaigns were with colours except the colour of blood.
Expectedly, Awo ran a disciplined campaign with every of the four promises back with solid data and rigorous analysis. Zik’ traditional costume was unique and his campaign speeches were flowering . Sure , Chuba Okadigo, Umar Dikko, Uba Ahmed, Takuma and others were more visible than the NPN’s flag bearer Shehu Shagari.
Again, after all the excitements around Awo and Zik, real politik won and Alhaji Shehu Shagari emerged as the President in 1979!
Happy new month, it has become a tradition.
@views exclusive rights: Godwin Ehigiamuseo, Founder, Lift Above Poverty Organisation, LAPO, February 1, 2023.