December 6, 2022

…Obi, Atiku, Tinubu reenact old culture
By Ori Martins
Obviously, one of the many  maladies ravaging Nigeria and distorting her  way towards growth and development is the slogan that the country, at independence, was established on a tripod of Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba nationalities. 
In a most dramatic repeat of history, the emergence of Mr. Peter Obi as the Labour Party, LP, presidential candidate., Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, People’s Democratic Party, PDP, candidate as well as Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu for the All Progressives Congress, APC, for the 2023 presidential election, has once more triggered fears of tribal national and ethnic based politics in Nigeria.
The fact that Obi is Igbo, Atiku is Hausa/Fulani while Tinubu hails from the Yoruba nation gives credence to this percieved return of ethnic based-politics in the country. This was how it all started in the run up to independence, in the First Republic as well as the Second Republic.
For in stance, in the struggle for independence, these three nations – each of them duly qualified to have stood on her own as an independent state –   waged fierce battles against one another for recognition in the national space.
Things were made worse as in each of the three  big regions represented as East (Igbo), Hausa (North) and West (Yoruba), there were other well established tribes with distinct culture and social ways of life besides the dominant three.
This brand of politics did not do us any good. It encouraged disunity, division and lack of progress. As we enter into the 2023 general elections, we should do away with all forms ethnic politics and promote presidential candidates that have national outlook as well as ideas on how to move the country forward”, Immaculate Precious, a human rights activist, enthused.
Yet, ethnic politics is here again. Looking at the top presidential candidates going for the 2023 general elections, the tribal inclination of leading political parties have resurfaced.
The metamorphosis of NPC and NPN to PDP is clear. That is, Bello led NPC, Shagari supervised NPN (all Fulani, Muslim Northerners), and today, another Muslim Fulani northerner, Atiku, is in charge of PDP.
On the other hand, APC is  deconstructed as a lineage of Awo’s AG and UPN hence it has Tinubu, a Yoruba and an Awo acolyte, as its presidential candidate.
The same allegation of ethnic politics is leveled against the LP presidential candidate, Obi. His LP is said to be  an offshoot of NCNC and NPP of Zik’s First Republic and Second Republic periods accordingly.
“The meaning is that, as it was in 1960/66 and 1979/83 general elections, it will still be the Igbo voting for a fellow Igbo, in this case, Obi and LP., the Hausa/Fulani casting their ballots where their brother, Atiku and PDP, have interest, and, of course, the Yoruba looking towards the direction of their clansman Tinubu and APC are.
“No matter how you look at it, this kind of template is not healthy for Nigeria. If you still remember, it was tribally dominated political parties of the First Republic that caused the two coups in quick succession and a brutal civil war that killed about three million people.
“Again, in the Second Republic, as if we didn’t learn anything from our initial ugly experience, the national electoral body, FEDECO, registered parties that were tribally based. The result was the coup on the last day of December, 1983 that ushered in another round of long military reign in the country.
“As we are poised for another transition, I would have loved us to practice true democracy anchored in nationalism, merit and vision. The question should be, which among the three top presidential candidates can make Nigeria better by fighting insecurity, blocking oil thefts, improving the economy as well as providing adequate infrastructure and national unity”, Obi Jackson explained.
Therefore, the election of December 12, 1959, organized and conducted to usher in an independent state of Nigeria, was contested by three major parties, each represented by a national party that had an ethnic leader as its prime ministerial candidate.
Expectedly, the election produced regional champions as national leaders – the result confirmed it all. The NCNC overwhelmingly dominated Eastern Nigeria just as NPC and AG got majority in the Northern and Western regions respectively.
Thus, all the three leading political parties that contested election to produce members of the parliament as well elect Nigeria’s prime minister had ethnic colouration. They were,  the National Council of Nigerian  Citizens (NCNC) led by Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, the Northern People’s Congress (NPC), led by Sir Ahmed Bello,  and the Action Group (AG), led by Chief Obafemi Awolowo. Only Zik’s NCNC had what was considered a national appeal.
As independence was achieved, rather than sustaining the desired goals of building a united country based on national ideals and aspirations, what was more visible and highly pronounced, was ethnic squabbles, tribal sentiments and fear of regional domination.
“It was true that the  political parties of the First Republic were tribally based, but Zik’s NCNC was an exception. NCNC was the only party of that era that had national outlook, mode and operation.
“Others were regionally based and it showed in their motto and methodology. That was why NPC had its name as Northern People’s Congress, while Action Group concentrated mostly in the Western Region and was satisfied to play opposition politics. And both NPC and AG won elections in their respective regions.
“But the NCNC led by Zik was a true Nigerian party. It was the only one that had national and Nigeria inscribed in its name. Its membership cut across all regions of the country just as it won elections in the East, West and North”, Chief Mbazulike Amechi, First Republic minister of aviation stated in his book, THE FIRST REPUBLIC.
It therefore did not take long before cries of ethnic domination were heard in the national space. There were accusations and counter accusations among the ethnic groups.
The politicians could not manage it well. It was worst in the Western Region where the AG members who were Awo’s followers and supporters of the then newly created Nigerian National Democratic Party, NNDP, led by Awo’s  estranged soulmate, S.L. Akintola, fought one another to the finish.
It can be pointed out that it was the failures and inadequacies of the tribally polarized political parties of the First Republic that largely contributed to the collapse of that democratic dispensation.
“The truth is that the Western Region’s crisis where Awo and Akintola’s differences could not be resolved provided the military the needed opportunities and leverages to stage the first military coup on January 15, 1966 and it was regrettable.
It was still the same sing song when the Second Republic came on board between 1979 and 1983. Informed political commentators noted that the tragic experience of the First Republic – tribal politics and political leaders – was not played down, neither was it discouraged.
In that instance, virtually all the parties of the Second Republic were tribally dominated and based. The ruling party then, the National Party of Nigeria, NPN, had all the trappings of the defunct NPC even as it was led by a northern Fulani, Alhaji Shehu Shagari who was also the presidential candidate.
NPN was perceived as a northern party. In 1979, it won all northern states except Kano and Gongola (Adamawa and Yobe) where PRP’s  Malam Aminu Kano and GNPP’s  Alhaji Wazirri Ibrahim had thier strongholds.
Also, the Nigerian People’s Party, NPP, had Zik as national leader as well as presidential candidate. In outlook, the NPP borrowed copiously from the rested NCNC which was equally supervised by Zik. NPP had electoral victories in the two Igbo states of Anambra and Imo plus Plateau State. That was “Zik of Africa became Zik of Igbo nation and ended up as Owelle of Onitsha”, former President Olusegun Obasanjo, wrote in his book, NOT MY WILL.
Practically, Awo, who certainly had come to understand the importance of “national cohesion”, had to import the name ” Nigeria” to his Second Republic political movement, the Unity Party of Nigeria, UPN.
Despite his efforts at national spread, UPN was, by and large, a Yoruba dominated party. In 1979, Awo’s UPN won all the elections in the West.



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