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FIVE NIGERIAN ELECTORAL CASE STUDIES
-1923-1983-
©ED EMEKA KEAZOR 2014
1. DR CURTIS CRISPIN ADENIYI-JONES. LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL ELECTIONS- 1923.
Background
The first British Government possession in what came to be Nigeria, was the Colony of Lagos
established in 1861...
On 22nd November 1922 however, the new Governor of Nigeria- Hugh Clifford, revised the old Lugard
Constitution of 1914 and...
National Democratic Party (NNDP). The party was launched on June 24 1923 and Egerton Shyngle
was elected President of the ...
admittedly less so by Dr Randle and other candidates. At the end of the poll count, the NNDP swept
the polls decisively, w...
To ask for
a. A statement of the number of cases over which the present Chief Registrar, Supreme Court, has
acted as refer...
c. It is also significant that the election was free and fair and the popular will of the people held the
day, with genuin...
2- ALHAJI UMARU ALTINE- ENUGU MAYORAL ELECTIONS- 1957
Background:
Umaru Altine was born in Sifawa (in present day Sokoto State) c.1918, to the Fulani Royal lineage of
Sokoto, b...
In the interim, Altine integrated himself into his new home, even more significantly, by his marriage
to a young Igbo woma...
election at ward 25, with his address expressed in the return form as 3 Hassan Lane, Uwani, Enugu.
On the same date, Umaru...
registration of voters by the other faction, which had given the other faction, now formally known as
Indigenous Elements ...
Umaru Altine was to serve one more term as Mayor of Enugu. Whilst his election as the first Mayor
of Enugu was spectacular...
3- ALHAJI AMINU KANO- PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS- 1959
Background:
Aminu Kano was born to the family of an Islamic scholar, Mallam Yusuf of the scholarly Gyanawa
Fulani clan, wh...
which the Emir of Kano headed- the same authority organising the election!?! It was to be Aminu
Kano’s baptism of fire. Th...
NEPU prepared for these elections feverishly, it had once again continued its dogged activism in
Northern Nigeria, undeter...
underpriviledged Northerners (The Talakawa’s) and won election to represent them at the Federal
level.
This was a huge ach...
4. CHIEF MARGARET EKPO EASTERN REGION HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY ELECTIONS 1961
Janet Mokelu and Margaret Ekpo- 1961
BACKGROUND
Margaret Ekpo was born in Calabar, in 1914 to an Igbo father and an Efik mother. She completed her
primary scho...
She was now an indispensable force in her party. To underline this, she won her first election in
1958- unopposed into the...
ability, confounding the critics that had contended against her (and Janet Mokelu’s)
nomination.
5: CHIEF FRANCA AFEGBUA: 1983 SENATORIAL ELECTIONS:
BACKGROUND:
Franca Afegbua was born in Okpella, in the Etsako speaking area of present Edo State in 1943. She
trained as a...
being as the Aidotse of Onwoyeni Town and the Memisesewe of Okpella (her hometown)
respectively, these two towns being as ...
Cartoon by Adegboye Adegbenro and first published in the Concord Newspaper
THE END
©ED EMEKA KEAZOR 2014
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Five Nigerian electoral case studies 1923-1983

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Five Nigerian electoral case studies 1923-1983

  1. 1. FIVE NIGERIAN ELECTORAL CASE STUDIES -1923-1983- ©ED EMEKA KEAZOR 2014
  2. 2. 1. DR CURTIS CRISPIN ADENIYI-JONES. LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL ELECTIONS- 1923.
  3. 3. Background The first British Government possession in what came to be Nigeria, was the Colony of Lagos established in 1861, after the Treaty of Cession, said to have been signed by Oba Docemo. In other parts of Nigeria, British presence consisted of Consulates, in short diplomatic missions, since the other territories retained their Independence, but worked with the British, ostensibly as trading partners. Lagos was the first to come under direct British control, as per the treaty referred to. The British through the Governor of Lagos, Henry Stanhope Freeman (Deputy John Glover), established a Government in Lagos, consisting of: a. An Executive Council- to run the administration of the Colony, which included the Governor, his Deputy, Chief Justice, Treasury Officials and later the Head of the Constabulary Force (The Police) and other Government officials; b. A Judiciary (Court Service), headed by the Chief Justice; and c. A Legislative Council – to make laws for the Colony, which was once more headed by the Governor, and consisted of his Deputy, the Chief Justice, Government Officials and by 1872, European businessmen and a couple of nominated Africans, the first being Captain James Pinsent Labulo Davies. Over the years several Africans were nominated to the Legislative Council of the Colony of Lagos, some of these being rich businessmen like Davies and Clergymen like Rev James Johnson. The key being that they were always nominated by the Governor, never elected. Yet they made laws for the Colony of Lagos, which were mostly rubber-stamped anyway, although stubborn members like Rev James “Holy” Johnson were real fighters for the rights of Africans. When Nigeria was amalgamated in 1914, one of the instruments created by Lord Lugard (the Governor-General), was a Nigerian Council, a Legislative Council which was meant to serve as a law- making body for the whole of Nigeria. However, it was clear Lugard was merely going through the motions, as it only sat once a year and consisted once again of nominees of the Governor, including a few Africans, notably Sir Kitoyi Ajasa (Lugard’s friend). Nigerian nationalists such as Herbert Macaulay, John Egerton-Shyngle etc. were unhappy with the fact that Africans as a whole, did not have a right to vote in those who were making laws for them and campaigned forcefully for the right to elect Members of the Legislative Council, in the press, in speeches etc. They weren’t alone, African nationalists – at least in English-speaking West Africa (from Ghana to Gambia) campaigned for this right. A historic event occurred in March 1920, when some of these nationalists led by Ghanaian Lawyer Thomas Hutton-Mills, organised a conference called the West African Conference, attended by prominent African’s to discuss Constitutional Reform for West Africa. At the end, two of their demands were: a. The right to vote and; b. The establishment of a West African University. A number of Nigerians attended this event- Prince Bassey Ephraim Duke, a Prince of Calabar, educated in Public School in England and President of the Customary Court, businessmen Adeniji Olugile, E.E.Offiong and Deoye Deniga. The Conference presented its demands to the British Government, which flatly refused them, stating that it was not feasible to allow Africans the right to vote.
  4. 4. On 22nd November 1922 however, the new Governor of Nigeria- Hugh Clifford, revised the old Lugard Constitution of 1914 and quite surprisingly gave Nigerians the right to vote for Legislative Council members. This was the first time this would be introduced in English-speaking Africa. The Conference had finally achieved its aim and Nigeria was the benefactor. It was no surprise to a few who knew Hugh Clifford, who was described as having Fabian Socialist views, as opposed to the ultra- conservative views of Lugard before him. He had a more pragmatic sense of fairness and believed Africans had a right to vote and duly pushed this through in the Constitution he enacted. The man- Doctor Adeniyi-Jones Curtis Adeniyi-Jones, was born in Waterloo, Sierra Leone in 1876 of parents of Yoruba origin. He lived his early life in Sierra Leone, attending the Sierra Leone Grammar School and then proceeded to Durham University to study Medicine in 1906. He qualified in 1911, specialising in Tropical Medicine and returned not to Sierra Leone, but to Nigeria where he settled. He established his Hospital in 1914, which was described as “an excellent Hospital with an operating Theatre and Wards for male and female patients. He was also a highly conscious, articulate, principled man, whose education had given him a confidence and awareness of his worth. He naturally gravitated towards Nationalists like Herbert Macaulay and was one of those who had agitated for the right of Africans to vote. Whilst he had not attended the West African Conference, he had supported its aims and decisions. When Governor Clifford announced his new Constitution of 1922, Dr Adeniyi-Jones, Herbert Macaulay and others, naturally felt a sense of triumph that their agitation of several years had finally borne fruit- Africans had finally won the right to vote in their Legislator’s. This was not however to be the first time Africans would vote in an election. In Lagos on March 29 1920, elections to the Lagos Town Council had taken place, based on which three Lagosians Mr A.Folarin, George Debayo Agbebi and Dr Akinwande Savage, had been elected by a very limited number of voters, into the Town Council, with very limited powers, based on the Township Ordinance of May 29, 1919. The 1922 elections were different in that Africans would be elected to make Laws for the country (aside from Northern Nigeria) The Nigerian National Democratic Party and the first elections in Nigeria. The Clifford Constitution provided that the elections would hold on the 20th of September 1923. The composition of the new Legislative Council was to be comprise the following: The Governor, as President; twenty-six Official Members; three elected Unofficial Members representing Lagos and one for Calabar; and not more than fifteen nominated Unofficial Members. These fifteen were to be selected to include nominees of the Chambers of Commerce of Lagos, Port Harcourt and Kano, of the Local Chamber of Mines, and of the Banking and Shipping interests. Also members representing African interests in parts of the Colony and the Southern Provinces of the Protectorate which do not return elected representatives to the Legislative Council i.e. every major town, apart from Lagos and Calabar were to have representation by nominate members. Its powers were not to cover Northern Nigeria though, the Governor would continue to be the sole Law-maker for the North. Herbert Macaulay, Egerton Shyngle, Eric Moore (both Lawyers) and Dr Curtis Adeniyi Jones, now given the opportunity, prepared for the election. The first step being to put together a structure for the battle ahead, hence they decided to form a political party, which they named the Nigerian
  5. 5. National Democratic Party (NNDP). The party was launched on June 24 1923 and Egerton Shyngle was elected President of the party and Dr Adeniyi Jones as Second President. Its basic manifesto was: . Local self-government for Lagos (i.e the right of Lagosians to govern themselves) . Non-discriminatory private enterprise (i.e a level-playing field in business for Africans) . Introduction of free primary education . The Africanisation of the civil service The party immediately put its campaign strategy together. The first step was to understand the electorate it was to appeal to. The electoral rules were clear, to qualify to vote, the person had to be: a. Male; b. Over 21; c. Have resided in Calabar of Lagos, for at least 12 months before registration; d. Have an income over £100 per annum. In addition, the following were barred: Bankrupts, Mentally disabled persons, persons financially dependent on others, ex-Felons etc This criteria clearly showed the NNDP that its target would be middle-class, wealthy, aware male voters. This appealed to this demographic of voters, who identified with the radical, independent campaign of the NNDP. They felt they had a right to govern themselves and manage their own affairs, in the manner that the NNDP promoted. The NNDP also had another trump card, it had the support of the Docemo Chieftaincy House of Lagos and other Lagos Chieftaincy families. This was not surprising, on account of Herbert Macaulay having supported Chief Amodu Tijani, the Oluwa of Lagos, who had sued the Colonial Government in a case at the Privy Council in London, to reclaim ownership of the Apapa land, which was part of land seized by the British from indigenous people in 1861. Macaulay without the help of a Lawyer had argued this case on behalf of Oluwa and won. This had endeared Macaulay to the Chiefs of Lagos, who saw in it a champion of the peoples’ rights. This guaranteed the votes of the wealthy Chiefs and local Merchants of Lagos, most of whom were eligible to vote. Also, the party had the support of the Market-women of Lagos, who identified in the party, a true champion of the people at the grassroots of society. Whilst the Market-women could not vote- being women, they were a highly influential force, campaigning vigorously for the NNDP . The party fielded three candidates for the election in Lagos- these were its President- Joseph Egerton Shyngle, Eric Olawolu Moore and Dr Curtis Adeniyi-Jones, its 2nd President. Its opposition was a more conservative arm of the Lagos politics, led by Dr Joseph K Randle, who had in 1908 founded a political association (not a party) called the People’s Union. They did not share the NNDP’s radical political perspective. Their campaign platform was for the continuation of British rule and the peace and prosperity it had introduced- as far as they were concerned. The NNDP on the other hand, pushed a strong agenda of nationalism, demanding racial equality in business and Government appointments, in short treatment of Africans as equals and better education for the populace. The NNDP did not contest the election in Calabar, focusing solely on Lagos. At Calabar, the dominant political force was the Calabar Improvement League, which fielded one candidate for the single available slot. Strangely enough this was in the person of Prince Kwamina Ata-Amonu, a Barrister of Ghanaian origins, based in Calabar. On election date- Thursday 22 September 1923, a massive crowd gathered at the polling station set up in the city centre, excited at the opportunity to vote and for the first time choose law-makers at national level. They were also motivated by the powerful campaign display of the NNDP and
  6. 6. admittedly less so by Dr Randle and other candidates. At the end of the poll count, the NNDP swept the polls decisively, with all three of its candidates winning the three available seats- these being Joseph Egerton-Shyngle, Eric Moore and of course Dr Curtis Adeniyi-Jones. In Calabar, predictably Prince Kwamina Ata-Amonu, on the platform of the Calabar Improvement League, won the single contested seat convincingly History had been made. The elections had been free and fair, quite simply because if the Colonial authorities had their way, the NNDP would not have contested the election and presented candidates, simply because of their vehement anti-colonial stance, both before the election and indeed, upon which their manifesto was based. However there was no question, they were the choice of at least the people of Lagos. The New Parliamentarian and Crusader for the rights of the oppressed. The new Legislative Council was inaugurated by the Governor, Hugh Clifford at 9am on Wednesday, the 31st of October 1923 and thus began an era in Nigerian History, whereby Nigerians were involved for the first time in making laws for their country. If the Colonial authorities had believed that Dr Adeniyi Jones was, at least, going to be a passive member of the Legislative Council and that it would be a mere rubber-stamping exercise, as the Nigerian Council had been, they were to find that to be wrong, fairly quickly. Dr Adeniyi-Jones, was a consistent and vocal critic of Colonial high-handedness and racism, he would consistently barrage the Government with questions on the conduct of Colonial Officials and on issues of policy, which he felt were detrimental to the interests of Nigerians. Almost from the very first sitting of the Legislative Council, it showed that he had prepared his briefs several years before and now given his opportunity, he did not hold back. His questions in Parliament were incisive, fearless and geared to cause the utmost discomfiture to high-handed, racist and corrupt Colonial Officers. Samples were: “The 1st Lagos Member: Dr C.C.Adeniyi Jones: a. To ask under what regulations, market dues are collected at Agege? b. Whether it is a fact that market women are made to pay 4s per month for use of half a shed, and hawkers and others, 1 Penny each on market days, even in cases where the hawkers are children of those who pay rent for market sheds? C. Is it not a fact that at Agege defaulters , of income Tax are sometimes tied and flogged in public, and under what law is that permissible?” “The First Lagos Member Dr C.C.Adeniyi-Jones: In view of the fact that for many years, the duties that appertain to the Chief Registrar’s branch of the Judicial Department were efficiently and creditabley performed by Africans, and considering that the duties do not include those of an Official Administrator, to ask whether the continuance or further employment of of a European as Chief Registrar, with the enormous increase in emoluments and allowances consequent therein, is necessary? If so; b. To ask how?” “The 1st Lagos Member: Dr C.C.Adeniyi Jones: To ask in view of the large bu8ildings being put up in town, the possibility of saving life by a timely notification of an outbreak of fire, and the large quantity of petrol and other inflammable fluids that is being storedin bulk at Apapa, to ask whether Government still considers the establishment of fire-alarms in the principle centres of the town, an unreasonable proposition simply because of its cost to the revenue?
  7. 7. To ask for a. A statement of the number of cases over which the present Chief Registrar, Supreme Court, has acted as referee since his assumption of office? b. Whether these cases were presided over during his official or during his private hours? c. What is the total amount paid by litigants for his services as referee? d. Whether that amount is personal to himself or is paid into the revenue? e. In how many of these cases is the furnishing of the report of his findings in arrears? and; f. How long has each case been sent to him as referee? The above questions were all from one sitting of the Legislative Council on 27th September 1930, of which he asked at least six more similar questions. This was to be his average output in the Legislative Council, which sat monthly. Of the debates in the Council, Adeniyi-Jones contributed at least 75% of debates in council, between 1923 and 1938. He developed such a fearsome reputation in the minds of the British Colonial Government that the then Governor of Nigeria, Donald Cameron, referred to him as subjecting Parliament to “a tornado of questions”. He was simply a relentless, principled defender of indigenous rights, articulate to the highest degree and with an outstanding knowledge of English History (more-so than most of the British officials he contended with) and beyond doubt his advocacy ensured a check on the excesses of Colonial power. In the opinion of many, one of his greatest contributions was his insistence, alongside another member of the Legislative Council- Samuel Obianwu, nominated member for Onitsha that there be a second Panel of Enquiry into the killing of protesters, during the Aba Women’s Riot of 1929. The first panel had been in the view pf many a whitewash. The pressure from Adeniyi-Jones and Obianwu, amongst many others, resulted in the institution of a new panel- which for the first time, had two Africans as members, investigating the conduct of British officials- Eric Moore and Kitoyi Ajasa, both Lawyers and members of the Legislative Council. He also succeeded after years of campaigning and debating on the floor Parliament, for improved educational standards and facilities all over Nigeria, which resulted in the building 100’s of new secondary schools around the country. His legacy in Parliament is summarised by the Political Scholar- Professor James Smoot Coleman, thus: “..he was the most militantly critical member of the council…The debates of the Legislative Council during his tenure in office, provide a good index to the growth of national and racial consciousness”. He retired from Parliament in 1938, after 15 solid years of tireless work, fighting for the rights of Nigerians Conclusion and Significance: a. The election of Dr Adeniyi-Jones and his other elected colleagues, was a watershed, it was the first time Nigerians were allowed to vote in people who would make Laws for them as a whole. b. His party, the NNDP was a party of highly principled, conscientious nationalists, passionate about the future of their country and who had been strident fighters against racism, discrimination and oppression. Their opponents, whilst decent gentlemen, were ultra-conservative and more accepting of the status quo. The victory of the NNDP, was to kick-start the nationalist movement and bring a new pride to Africans to have a voice speaking for them, that represented their own aspirations and persona pride. It is possible that without the NNDP and its philosophies, Nigeria’s Independence might have taken much longer.
  8. 8. c. It is also significant that the election was free and fair and the popular will of the people held the day, with genuinely popular candidates, like Adeniyi-Jones, winning the election and retaining their seats for several years on account of their work-rate and genuine commitment to the people. d. Dr Adeniyi-Jones as the most activist member of the Parliament, was responsible for some of the most powerful checks on Colonial excesses and also a catalyst for real change, driven by his tireless determination and work-rate. Dr Adeniyi-Jones represented the best that our Law-makers could be. e. Fundamentally, this was all possible because Nigerians, eligible to vote in Lagos and Calabar, exercised that right, in-spite of the difficulties and their vote counted. Those Nigerians by voting positively influenced the future of their country.
  9. 9. 2- ALHAJI UMARU ALTINE- ENUGU MAYORAL ELECTIONS- 1957
  10. 10. Background: Umaru Altine was born in Sifawa (in present day Sokoto State) c.1918, to the Fulani Royal lineage of Sokoto, being a direct descendant of Uthman Dan Fodio and by his birth would have been considered for selection as Sultan of Sokoto. His early life as expected, conformed to the conservative and strict traditional regime prevalent in Northern Nigeria at the time. His early education consisted of strict Quranic training. He was said to have received some secondary education later on in his life, whilst still at Sifawa, under the tutelage of a CMS Priest, Reverend Okenwa (from Obosi, in present day, Anambra State). From his youth, his outlook on life was worldly and cosmopolitan. He was a handsome, charismatic young man, with an easy manner and a friendly disposition, which otherwise masked a steely determination and strong social conscience. His quest for adventure led him to seek a career in the Army and then the Nigerian Railway Corporation. His restless spirit did not see him stay too long in paid employment. He embarked on a career in business, becoming a successful Cattle dealer. Alongside this, he embarked on a career in politics and is said to have contested for a seat in the local authority elections in Tambuwal (in present day Sokoto State), on the platform of one ofthe affiliates of Aminu Kano’s- Northern Elements Progressive Union. It’s important to explain to the Political party dynamics in the North, to give insight into Altine’s own politics. The Northern Elements Progressive Union, was a metamorphosis of the Northern Elements Progressive Association, founded by Raji Abdalah. NEPU’s philosophy was simply to represent the interests of the poor and down-trodden (the Talakawa) against the oppression of the conservative elite- which often was the ruling Monarchies of Northern Nigeria. NEPU’s pillars of philosophy included social justice for the poor, encouragement of mass literacy and safe-guarding women’s rights. NEPU however faced a difficult task in most elections against the monolithic force of the more conservative Northern People’s Congress (NPC). However it was extremely popular at grassroots level amongst the socially disadvantaged, in-spite of its disadvantage in resources and indeed the pressures its members faced. An example being the numerous detentions of its iconic Women leader- Hajiya Gambo Sawaba. Migration to the East Altine was unsuccessful in his election bid and shortly after, his spirit of adventure led him to the young town of Enugu in Eastern Nigeria in 1952, where, he re-established his Cattle-trading business. He established strong filial links with the Hausa community at Enugu, whilst at the same time building strong bridges with the indigenous Igbo community. He settled in the working class- Coal Camp area of Enugu, largely populated by Miners and their families. His previous political affiliations and activities with NEPU, were to come to the attention of the National Congress of Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC) apparatus At Enugu. Enugu was the capital of the Eastern Region, at which the Premier of the East (Dr Eyo Ita) was based. In particular the Region was under the firm control of the NCNC and thus an important political outpost for the party.
  11. 11. In the interim, Altine integrated himself into his new home, even more significantly, by his marriage to a young Igbo woman, Esther Ozueh in 1953. She became his visible, inseparable companion, through the course of his sojourn at Enugu. Her fond recollections of the man reveal an urbane, man of the world: “Prince smoked, loved Nsala soup with fresh fish, he had a high sense of personal hygiene and had a good command of English”. He was to progress rapidly within the NCNC hierarchy, especially the NCNC Youth Association, of which he was elected Vice-President in 1952. He was involved in the drama that played itself, when Dr Azikiwe, after his loss in the Western Region elections, sought to return to the Eastern Region House of Assembly as Premier. Dr Eyo Ita, the incumbent was however unwilling to resign his appointment, to make way for Dr Azikiwe and a crisis ensued. The NCNC Youth Association, of which Altine was Vice- President, threw its support behind Dr Azikiwe, requesting that Dr Eyo Ita and four other Ministers, resign to make way for Dr Azikiwe to assume the Premiership, based on his seniority and leadership of the party. The ensuing disagreement resulted in Altine’s detention, alongside other members of the party- including former Aviation Minister- Mbazulike Amechi. Amechi is quoted as saying: “After what happened at Ibadan and the crisis it precipitated in the East, Altine was fully involved with us. He was arrested with me as I told you, and we were imprisoned together. That was in 1952. I shared the same prison cell with him and one Ernest Obianwu and one Akunne Nwanolue, and one Okeke, a blacksmith from Awka”. Upon his release, after a few months in detention, he resumed his political activism for the NCNC with renewed zeal and in 1953, and was elected President of the NCNC, Enugu Branch. A meteoric rise which was made more remarkable by the fact that all of this had happened within one year. This was not to be the end of his trajectory, in the following year 1954, he was nominated for and filed papers to contest on the platform of the NCNC, for a seat on parliament of the Enugu Urban District Council. By this time, his rapid progression and profile had begun to cause some disaffection in some quarters, especially amongst indigenes of the Enugu area and some other Igbo’s who felt threatened by the growing profile of a non-indigene. These groups formed themselves into an umbrella association the Udi-Nsukka-Awgu United Front- these being towns in the immediate vicinity of Enugu. This organisation pitted itself in contest against the NCNC’s selection in the elections, the NCNC candidates however prevailed and Umaru Altine was selected by his colleagues as Chairman of the Enugu Urban District Council, as leader of the NCNC in Enugu. This being a feature of the British Parliamentary system which Nigeria practiced by virtue of the Lyttleton Constitution of 1954. Effectively an election of the NCNC, was the election of its party leader, e.g the election of the Conservative Party in the UK, was effectively the election of David Cameron as Prime Minister. In the following year, 1956, Enugu was elevated into a Municipality (meaning a Sovereign administrative authority, one level up from a District Council). For this purpose, a Mayoralty was declared by Law and the annual elections were held in the same year for members of the new Municipal Authority. The contest was once again between the NCNC core candidates and the UNAUF. In the interim more opposition had built up under the aegis of the UNAUF, with further disaffection with the NCNC’s choice of Altine, this being inspite of attempts to reconcile the factions. The spirited campaign of the UNAUF nonetheless, the NCNC candidates prevailed at the election, producing the majority of successful candidates at the election, with a narrow majority of 15-10- the date being the 26th of March 1956. Altine was one of such successful candidates winning his
  12. 12. election at ward 25, with his address expressed in the return form as 3 Hassan Lane, Uwani, Enugu. On the same date, Umaru Altine was nominated by his Municipal authority member colleagues as the first Mayor of Enugu. History had indeed been made not just by the election of the first Mayor of the young city, but by the election of a Fulani man from Sifawa in the then Sokoto Province, almost 700 miles away, who had lived in Enugu for less than 5 years. Altine’s popularity was not simply based on his affiliation to the ruling party and the might of the party machinery, but for the following reasons: • His incredible personal charisma and charm, which endeared him across all ethnic, religious barriers and social cadre, put simply, he had the support of Christian’s, Muslims, Igbo’s, Hausa, Yoruba’s and all other ethnic groups; • His genuine concern for the grass-roots, his approachability and ability to convey his message to the electorate in a simple, substantial manner, and most importantly; • His almost total support from the Market women of Enugu, whose cause he championed by fighting their corner in ensuring a fair and equitable formula for the allocation o market stalls and his efficient management of the administration of the Markets; His style as Mayor remained the same as he had pursued throughout his career. He was approachable, charming and built solid genuine bridges across all sectors of the community. He was attentive, pro-active and a compassionate leader, who had a genuine interest in the advancement of the grassroots. He is described as generally dressed in a Babanriga and Turban or Fez, which he would replace with a suit, when his duties required it. He would equally attend Church services in the course of his duties. The simple point being that Umaru Altine was very well loved and respected by the people of Enugu on account of his personality and his genuine contributions to the city. 1956 elections The political crisis in the NCNC continued in November 1956, when Altine came up for re-election as the President of the Enugu NCNC. He was re-elected as President, however by this time, a teacher and politician called C.O.C.Chiedozie, known to be one of the pillars of the indigenous political interests, represented by the UNAUF whilst still a member of the NCNC, emerged as a political force. Chiedozie, contested for re-election for the post of Secretary of the Enugu NCNC and was successful. Altine and his Vice-President Dr G.C.Mbanugo, however stormed out of the meeting in protest at alleged rigging of the vote, specifically that most of Chiedozie’s votes were void, being by non-party members. The NCNC Executive stepped in and voided the said election, suspending Chiedozie and others. However the fall-out of the crisis resulted in further factionalisation within the party, with the divide being between the indigenes, represented by L.B.C Ezechi and Chiedozie and the non-indigenes represented by Altine. The party hierarchy then ordered another election of all officers, this time requiring a members list, so as to determine the correct number of voters. The voter registration was however fraught with irregularities, with the Altine group, resentful at what it felt was the illegal
  13. 13. registration of voters by the other faction, which had given the other faction, now formally known as Indigenous Elements Union, a huge majority. In protest, Altine’s group boycotted the re-scheduled party election, at which LBC Ezechi, an indigenous Udi Trader emerged President and Chiedozie emerged Secretary. Altine and his colleagues decided to set up an opposition political group to the new official NCNC group and did so, registering the Stranger’s Element’s Association, as an independent association to contest the next elections for the Municipal authority and in consequence the Mayoralty. It is important to mention, that prior to this, as a result of all the crises covered above, there was serious dissent within the Municipal authority membership, to the extent that Altine lost his position as Mayor, even though he remained an elected member of the authority, having been popularly elected by the people. This popularity was to be tested severely at the elections, in which Altine’s Stranger’s Element’s Association, pitted its popularity against the behemoth that was the NCNC party membership, fully in the hands of the Indigenous Element’s Union- the so-called sons of the soil. The battle-line was drawn, none more so than by an announcement by Dr Azikiwe calling on voters to supported the NCNC candidates and ignore the opposing faction (Altine’s group). If there was going to be any test of Altine’s personal popularity as a leader, this was it. The election was fixed for 3rd March 1958 and in a display of incredible political savvy -and some would say guts- the Strangers Elements Association, registered itself as political party, known as the Association for One Nigeria, with Umaru Altine as its President. This was a direct challenge to Dr Azikiwe and the NCNC machine. However on election day, all strategies and sleight of hand, would only depend on one thing- the will of the electorate. The electorate however spoke and spoke loud and clear. Out of the 22 wards contested and 7018 votes cast- the Association for One Nigeria won 13 wards (3329 votes) to the Indigenous Elements Union’s 12 (3316 votes). This was one of the biggest upsets ever suffered by the NCNC- in what some had described as its fortress- Enugu. Altine had done the impossible, but it was less a victory for him, and more a victory for true democracy. Altine’s genuine popularity and track-record had spoken for him beyond mere ethno-religious jingoism and tribal sentiments. He had absorbed everything the usual politics of sectionalism could throw at him and had prevailed. Altine ‘s support base basically consisted of the ordinary people of Enugu, who voted for his party in numbers. There was also a strong base of conviction politicians of Igbo extraction, who genuinely believed in him as a truly unifying leader- such as Chief D.A.Nwandu, Ikechukwu Areh, but none more significant than the great Chief Christian Onoh- himself remarkably an indigene of Ngwo – Enugu, who would have been expected to side with the Indigenous Elements Union, but who stood on principle and supported a man who he believed to be the better candidate. Onoh was to suffer for his choice, losing his own bid for the House of Representatives 2 years later. Senator Uche Chukwumerije’s memorial tribute to Onoh says it all: “A high point in his patriotic activities was his stand in the re-election of Umaru Altine as Mayor of Enugu in 1957. Leading an intra-party lobby group ANOF (Association of One Nigeria) he supported Mallam Umaru Altine (a Northerner resident in Enugu) against Mr Ezechi, an indigene sponsored by a counter lobby UDAF (Udi-Nsukka-Awgu United Front). CC's stand was an unequivocal statement in favour of a detribalized Nigeria.”
  14. 14. Umaru Altine was to serve one more term as Mayor of Enugu. Whilst his election as the first Mayor of Enugu was spectacular and historic, even more sensational was his re-election against seemingly insurmountable odds, emerging victorious, armed with his conviction, genuine commitment and indeed his record of service. This was a victory over the base politics of tribal sentiment and an enduring symbol of the finest example of Nigerian democracy. SIGNIFICANCE AND CONCLUSION 1. Altine’s victory was the first in which a non-indigene would succeed in winning the premier political seat in a major election in Nigerian history, this signified the fallacy of ethnicity in politics and the triumph of merit over ethnic considerations 2. The slim margin of victory demonstrated the crucial significance of voter turn-out, for the very reason that if a handful of Altine’s supporters had stayed away, he would have lost the election; 3. Altine’s strongest support base had been amongst women voters – especially the Market- women, who revered him, for the simple reason of his having been an effective, honest representative and custodian of their trust in his first term. Their dogged support was the basis of his victory. The moral, if you deliver, you merit support, not merely on account of financial incentives or ethnic considerations.
  15. 15. 3- ALHAJI AMINU KANO- PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS- 1959
  16. 16. Background: Aminu Kano was born to the family of an Islamic scholar, Mallam Yusuf of the scholarly Gyanawa Fulani clan, who was a mufti at the Alkali court in Kano, while his mother who was educated in Islamic tradition, taught him Arabic, as well as starting his Quranic education. He learnt English at the Kano Middle School and in 1939, transferred to Katsina College, the first secondary school in the North of Nigeria. From Kaduna College, he went on to teach at the Bauchi Middle School in 1949, with future Prime Minister Abubakar Tafawa Balewa as his Headmaster. At Bauchi, he was part of a group known as the Bauchi Discussion Circle, which included Balewa, Abubakar Imam – later Editor of the first Hausa language Newspaper, Gaskiya Tafi Kwabo. Also he made friends with a highly intelligent and articulate Poet and former student of Yaba Higher College- Saadu Zungur, later on these men were to make Nigerian Political History as shall be seen. Their first step was to start a political association called the Bauchi General Improvement Union in 1943. Zungur and Aminu Kano, were kindred spirits in the sense that they were both devout Northern Muslims, but possessed a strong progressive attitude. They were certainly anti-establishment, in that they challenged the autocratic tendencies of the Northern Emirs, under the Native Authority system which in their view, gave the Emirs excessive powers, as well as challenging the high-handedness and racist practices of the Colonial authorities. Whilst Zungur veiled his protests in Poetry, which were written in Hausa and published in Gaskiya Tafi Kwabo, Aminu Kano wrote powerful critical articles which were also published in Gaskiya and in Dr Azikiwe’s West African Pilot. Their common view was that power should be wielded for the benefit of the poor masses and in particular they felt the aristocracy had no interest in uplifting the poor, so as to maintain power. In particular, they believed strongly in the education of the masses, especially women, to give them the tools to escape poverty. In 1946, Aminu Kano was sent on scholarship to study for a two-year course at the University of London, Institute of Education in 1946. While in London, he Balewa and others founded the Northern Teachers Welfare Association, which was set up to protect the rights of Northern Teachers. He came back to Nigeria and was offered a senior Administrative post in Government, which he refused, saying that he preferred to stay a teacher and educate his people. He was a founding member of a new Association called the Jamiyar Mutanen Arewa (the Northern People’s Congress) in 1949, which he was founding Joint Auditor. He was otherwise transferred to Sokoto to head the Middle School and gained popularity with his students for his innovative teaching methods and clear passion for his job. However the Sultan was less than pleased with his growing popularity and radical liberal views. Needless to say, he of course had attracted attention to himself by his fearless and outspoken nature. On one occasion he had engaged in a debate with a Colonial Administrator, in which he described the Indirect Rule system operating in Northern Nigeria (where the British ruled through Emirs), as “the most exploiting Colonial system, the world has ever known”. In November 1950, he resigned his appointment due to growing friction between him, the Emirs and the British, and went back to Kano. At Kano, he joined the Northern Elements Progressive Union, founded by his friend Saadu Zungur and others. In April 1951, he was elected its Vice-President, but by now he had come to be recognised as the leader of radical progressive Youth in Northern Nigeria. He and three other NEPU members contested for elections into the National Parliament, the House of representatives in November 195 and won the first stage, but lost at the second stage, due to a combination of factors which included the fact that their opponents – members of the Northern People’s Congress, which he had been a member of, but left after he felt it becoming too elitist) were selected by the Emir of Kano and had the support of the Native Administration apparatus,
  17. 17. which the Emir of Kano headed- the same authority organising the election!?! It was to be Aminu Kano’s baptism of fire. Thereafter, he devoted his time to rebuilding the party and advocating for the rights of the poor, which for him and his followers was now a singular obsession. The 1954 elections- second attempt. Aminu Kano spent the years 1951-1954, building the support-base of his party- as a secondary objective. His primary objective was the upliftment of the teeming poor in Northern Nigeria and challenging the excesses as said of the Northern Emirs and the Colonial authorities. He challenged the draconian taxation policies, the lack of progress in education and provision of infrastructure in general and he also fought vehemently for the advancement of women’s rights. For NEPU members however, it drew a backlash of crack-downs by the Emirs and British authorities His message of equality and progressiveness won many followers, especially amongst the long-term oppressed. One of such was a young, feisty woman Gambo, daughter of a Ghanaian immigrant trader and Gold prospector. She had joined the party and made her name when on one occasion when NEPU members had been scared to express themselves at a rally, she mounted the rostrum and spoke eloquently, delivering a scathing criticism of the oppressive Colonials and Traditional Rulers. She became an overnight star and was given the nickname Sawaba (the redeemer). Hajiya Gambo Sawaba became the defacto leader of the women’s wing of the party and actively overcame the barriers on campaign to women in purdah for men, by going in to campaign herself. For all her activism, she was rewarded with arrest, trial and imprisonment. Upon her release, rather than be cowed she came out and publicly protested the conditions in the prison, was re-arrested and banished from Kano. This was to become common-place for the supporters of NEPU in the lead-up to the 1954 elections. By this time, the party’s popularity was growing with the clear and proven sincerity of its leaders, who the masses could see, clearly spoke for them and their plight. The party prepared for the 1954 elections with renewed vigour, but knowing fully well that the whole might of the establishment would be pitted against their ambitions. They were not to wait long, the first sign of the crack-down came when children and young persons were arrested for the offence of signing NEPU songs or painting the NEPU sign on their doors. Some of those arrested were as young as seven. 15O NEPU members were arrested for campaigning. Aminu Kano himself, now the leader of the party was to get a taste of this medicine, when he was arrested twice whilst campaigning. The first being for flying a NEPU flag on his car, which was seen as “comparing” himself with Emir, since he equally flew a flag on his car. He was also arrested for publishing articles with a seditious intent. This he denied vehemently, stating those were mere campaign literature. He was charged, found guilty and fined £50. The Native Administration then took the step of banning the use of NEPU badges or stickers throughout Kano. Needless to say NEPU’s chances were minimal and it duly lost the Parliamentary elections once more to the NPC. Aminu Kano was to lose to the NPC’s candidate- the urbane Maitama Sule. Once again it was back to the drawing board. The 1959 elections: The power of perseverance The 1959 Parliamentary elections were at that time to be the most important elections in the history of Nigeria, as they were the elections that would herald Nigeria into Independence. There had been two Constitutional Conferences in London in 1953 and 1956, in which it had been determined that Nigeria would gain its Independence in 1960, so elections were held in 1959, to vote in a Government to rule the new country.
  18. 18. NEPU prepared for these elections feverishly, it had once again continued its dogged activism in Northern Nigeria, undeterred by the harassment it had faced from Colonial and Native Authority agents. It had before this, once more contested the 1956 elections into the Northern Region House of Assembly and lost once again. It had however become smarter and had taken its plight to the International Community. In September 1954, he had supplied details of arrests and oppressive conduct to Marjorie Nicholson, a member of the United Nigeria Committee and six British members of Parliament. At the Constitutional Conference in 1958, which Aminu Kano had attended, he had brought the plight of his party to public notice, showing the conference the photograph of a party member- Alhaji Sheriff, who had been tied to a tree and flogged on the order of the Alkali Court. 375 members of NEPU had between 1955 and 1957, been arrested and detained on various doubtful charges. Several were tied and flogged on the same doubtful charges. His outcry finally gained results when the Colonial authorities were compelled to make a pronouncement that no-one was to be punished, unless the offence was one known to the formal Criminal law of Northern Nigeria (The Penal Code). Also NEPU had evolved over the years, it had in 1954, entered an alliance with the National Congress for Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC) headed by Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, one year after Aminu Kano was elected its President in 1953. The, craftsmen/artisan’s, petty-traders, shopkeepers and poor disadvantaged people. It did not have the financial power of the NPC, which on one occasion in 1950, raised £16,000 in one day. NEPU depended on membership subscriptions and after its alliance with the NCNC, received a small annual subvention of £4000. What it lacked in cash however, it made up for in mass appeal and the passionate commitment of its workers and supporters. The more they were subjected to oppression, the more committed they were. Aminu Kano represented this ethos. A dogged fighter, many men would have been discouraged by the arrests, harassment, intimidation and failure faced over the years, but Kano simply struggled on, stronger in his beliefs with every phase of defeat. This spirit was infectious within the party, inspired by the following: a. Aminu Kano’s sheer integrity and sincerity. He was a scrupulously honest man, completely incorruptible; b. Aminu Kano’s courage in the face of adversity’ c. Aminu Kano’s incredible Intelligence and gravitas d. His authenticity. Even though he was educated, he was a deeply religious man and a liberal at the same time. He was a man who had enough Quranic knowledge to be a Muslim Scholar, yet who fought for the rights of women to education and financial well-being. Which he in any event attributed to the true teachings of the Quran. It was with this growing profile that Aminu Kano led his party to the 1959 elections, as a result of the restraint on the harassment of the previous years, the party was able for the first time to campaign freely, albeit with minimal instances of intimidation. In this scenario, the true strength of NEPU’s popularity shone through. As the elections drew closer, it was clear that this was the party of the people. The elections were fixed for 12 December 1959 and held all over Nigeria. By the time the votes were counted, NEPU polled a total of 509, 050 votes, which amounted to 6.7% of the total votes cast in Nigeria and based upon which it won 6 Seats in the Federal House of Parliament. One of its candidates was Mallam Aminu Kano, who had finally achieved not just his dream but the dreams of 1000’s of poor,
  19. 19. underpriviledged Northerners (The Talakawa’s) and won election to represent them at the Federal level. This was a huge achievement because NEPU had only campaigned in Northern Nigeria- it simply couldn’t afford to campaign elsewhere. Furthermore, with extremely limited resources, it had turned the tide and won half a million votes- an incredible tally on limited means. Aminu Kano proceeded to Parliament and whilst he was offered a Ministerial appointment, he declined, preferring to focus his attention and energy on representing the interests of his poor under- privileged constituents. NEPU members of Parliament at large, were to work assiduously to promote policies that promoted the rights of the poor SIGNIFICANCE AND CONCLUSION 1. This was the first time a left-leaning, socially progressive party would win an election in Northern Nigeria; 2. The Northern Elements Progressive Union, succeeded in winning seats in the 1959 election, In-spite of eight years of harassment and intimidation, overcoming all manner of obstacles – based entirely on the commitment and determination of its supporters. Simply put, if its supporters had been cowed by years of oppression and shown apathy, NEPU would not have made history by winning seats in this election and been put in position to effect the change, albeit how small, it managed to achieve in Parliament; 3. The personal integrity, sacrifice and commitment of Aminu Kano, provides an inspiring marker for the efficacy of conviction politics and the triumph of persistence and character in the pursuit of Social change. His example showed that the ballot box will always be the strength the poor and voiceless have, to effect social change in-spite of any obstacles that the “system” may present.
  20. 20. 4. CHIEF MARGARET EKPO EASTERN REGION HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY ELECTIONS 1961 Janet Mokelu and Margaret Ekpo- 1961
  21. 21. BACKGROUND Margaret Ekpo was born in Calabar, in 1914 to an Igbo father and an Efik mother. She completed her primary school in 1934 and hoped to progress her education to secondary school or Teacher training College, however her father died in the same year, scuttling those plans. She however worked for a time as a Teaching Assistant in Primary Schools. She got married in 1938 to a young Dr- John Ekpo in 1938 and settled into married life at Aba in Eastern Nigeria. Her chance to further her education came, when she was admitted into the Women’s Institute Dublin in 1944 to study Domestic Science, as was the case then with Middle class Africans who would send their wives to what was effectively a Finishing School. Her nationalist consciousness was aroused in her time in Ireland, when she noticed how Irish women did their own housework, unlike European women in Nigeria, who had African servants do everything for them, she also noted that women had far more social rights than in Colonial Africa. Upon her return in 1946, she put her training to real use by setting up a Domestic Science and Sewing Institute, she got involved in the Women’s movement almost immediately upon her return, at the behest of her husband who was outraged at the Racism, he and his colleagues faced in the Colonial Service and whilst he would have eagerly participated in protest meetings, he was barred by his position as a Government official from doing this. Thus he nominated his wife to go in his place and she began to attend meetings – chiefly of the leading party in the region the NCNC. There she witnessed the energy and oratory of Dr Azikiwe, Ojike, Mbadiwe and others. She became a regular attendee at these meetings, though she was constrained from joining the party, as women did not yet have the right to vote in 1948. She however started organising a small group of women into a political association. Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, had by now founded the Nigerian Womens Union, as a powerful pressure group, whilst also a member of the NCNC. The two women’s paths were to cross when in 1949, the Colonial authorities shot dead 21 Miners, protesting conditions at the Iva Valley Mine, Enugu. Mrs Ransome-Kuti, in characteristic fashion, mobilised and travelled to Enugu, linking up with Margaret Ekpo. At Mrs Ransome-Kuti’s encouragement, Margaret Ekpo on 17 December 1949, addressed a rally, where she condemned the brutality of the Colonial authorities in a powerful, empassioned speech. The die was cast, she had discovered her radical activist wellspring. Funmilayo-Ransome-Kuti’s influence was pervasive and instant, Eastern women had before this, been apathetic to politics. Margaret Ekpo often found herself the only woman at rallies. This was to change- she owed this to Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti and expressed it in a letter to her in which she said “I cannot explain to you what new spirit you have poured into me, I feel a 100 times stronger.” She became the Secretary of the Nigerian Womens Union, with Ransome-Kuti, as President. She also became the defacto Women leader of the NCNC in the Eastern Region. Her influence was so strong, she was appointed alongside Janet Mokelu, as members of the Eastern Nigeria House of Chiefs in 1953, Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti became a member of the Western Region House of Chiefs at the same time. She also went on to form the Aba Township Women’s Association. Her efforts in mobilising women were so effective that in the 1955 Council elections at Aba, majority of voters were women.
  22. 22. She was now an indispensable force in her party. To underline this, she won her first election in 1958- unopposed into the Aba Urban District Council. The 1959 elections The 1959 elections were meant to herald Nigeria into an era of Independence, and elections were duly fixed for December 1959. Margaret Ekpo, had expected that on account of her strong position within the NCNC, she would have a chance at contesting for a seat on the Federal Parliament. She was to be disappointed, as her party’s Executive Committee did not support her bid. This was a huge blow for a woman who had been one of the party’s strongest assets in the Region and who had in fact been nominated by the party top attend the Constitutional Conference held in London in the same year. She had also been a tireless campaigner for Nigeria’s independence within the party. She however persevered in-spite of what was clearly a sexist barrier. This had not been the first time, she had faced sexism in politics or indeed in her party. In an interview, she revealed that she had been the subject of constant advances from her male colleagues, but that she had stood firm in the face of all the distractions thrown at her. The 1961 Eastern Region House of Assembly elections After the disappointment of her non-endorsement for the Federal Parliament, her time was to come with the party finally acceding to nominate her to stand for election as a representative of Aba Township, in the Regional Parliament, in the 1961 elections. Her campaign was passionate and tireless. She rallied all her known allies and broke new barriers, building new associations- all this for one simple reason- never in the history of Nigeria had a woman ever been elected for Parliament, whether Federal or Regional. Whilst the first female Senator had taken her place in the Senate in 1960- Chief Wuraola Esan, she had not been elected, she had been nominated by Chief Obafemi Awolowo, and indeed made history in her own right. Margaret Ekpo and her colleague Janet Mokelu would have to prove themselves in the electoral field, on merit. As the election date approached, the expectation was that she would win, however she did not take Chances, campaigning up till the very last legal limit. At the close of ballots, the votes were counted and she had won by a landslide. As usual the majority of the votes were by women voters. Whilst her party the NCNC had massive support, what was clear was that this support in Aba Town had been largely as a result of the input of the women, which Ekpo had worked for years to mobilise- this was her victory. She was to hold her seat, till the next elections, in 1963, where she was once again re-elected. SIGNIFICANCE AND CONCLUSION: 1. This was the first Parliamentary election contested for and won by a woman contestant, in the history of Nigeria; 2. Her victory had been as a result of 13 years of painstaking campaigning and activism to mobilise her fellow women to become politically aware. 3. This election cemented Margaret Ekpo’s legacy in history, by showing her mobilisational
  23. 23. ability, confounding the critics that had contended against her (and Janet Mokelu’s) nomination.
  24. 24. 5: CHIEF FRANCA AFEGBUA: 1983 SENATORIAL ELECTIONS:
  25. 25. BACKGROUND: Franca Afegbua was born in Okpella, in the Etsako speaking area of present Edo State in 1943. She trained as a Hair-dresser and built a small reputation for herself in her trade. She became a celebrity Hairdresser, catering for high profile clients in the Lagos area. She was to attract a measure of unwanted publicity, when she was cited in the press, as having been involved in a romance with frontline Nigerian Politician- Joseph Sarwuan Tarka, who was at the time Federal Commissioner for Communications. A matter which fuelled society gossip circuits at the time. She however pressed on with her profession, winning glory for Nigeria by coming first at the International Hairdressing Competition in London in 1977. Her place in History was not going to be bench-marked merely on her Hairdressing skills (which were undoubtedly significant) or the scandal as aforesaid. In 1979, Nigeria had returned to civilian rule, after 13 years of Military rule and the Presidential elections had been won by then President Shehu Shagari of the National Party of Nigeria, which also dominated both the Senate and House of Representatives. The NPN Government dominated Nigerian politics, with opposition being mainly from Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s Unity Party of Nigeria, Dr Azikiwe’s Nigeria Peoples Party, Aminu Kano’s Peoples Redemption Party and Waziri Ibrahim’s Great Nigeria Peoples Party. As the NPN Government approached the end of its first term In April 1983 and the parties jostled in preparation for the up-coming General elections. Incumbent candidates sought to consolidate their hold, whilst prospective candidates feverishly worked for the nomination of their parties, By now Franca Afegbua had joined the National Party of Nigeria, the ruling party, and become a women’s leader in her native Bendel State (which then comprised present day Edo and Delta States). Her task was an extremely difficult one though, as the incumbent Professor Ambrose Alli was of the opposition Unity Party of Nigeria. Professor Alli had distinguished himself in his first term, establishing a solid track record of Governance in the State and building on his established popularity with his proven works. Specifically the incumbent Senator John Umolu was a 64 year-old veteran Politician and Trade Unionist who had been the former Mayor of Port Harcourt and a member of the Unity Party of Nigeria, which controlled the State. He was a formidable personality, who had been involved in organising the first successful commercial workers strike in 1950, by staff of the UAC. It was to this near-impossible setting that Franca Afegbua expressed her intention to contest for a Senatorial seat in the then Bendel North Senatorial zone, in which her home-town Okpella was located. The party hierarchy was not at all optimistic about her chances, for the reasons stated above and this probably worked in her favour, as the competition for the slot was minimal. She managed to secure the nomination of her party as its candidate on the zone, becoming the first woman in Nigerian history to secure the nomination of a party to stand for a Senatorial election. In-spite of this momentous achievement, very few actually believed she would succeed in winning the election. The odds stacked against her were significantly real, present and historical. It was going to be up to her to prove herself once more, in the same manner Margaret Ekpo and Janet Mokelu had to do 22 years before. What skeptics had also forgotten was that Franca Afegbua was greatly loved and respected in her constituency even before her foray into party politics. In 1979, she had been conferred with no less than two Traditional Titles in her immediate local Government These
  26. 26. being as the Aidotse of Onwoyeni Town and the Memisesewe of Okpella (her hometown) respectively, these two towns being as said in the old Estako local government of the old Bendel State. Whilst male politicians may have sneered at her winning the global Hair-styling competition, her community were clearly proud of her and thus recognised her achievements in bringing pride to them. Fundamentally, these were the simple underpinnings of political success- acceptance and recognition by one’s own constituents. Franca Afegbua, set to work, first of all planning a simple campaign strategy of determining the balance of votes needed to overhaul the majority of the incumbent and attacking the said demographic of voters. Her target once more were women voters, who her opponent had largely ignored. She mounted a massive door-to-door campaign, establishing personal contact with women voters and building strong channels of rapport and trust. Slowly she built a wider base of supporters, who in turn worked on her behalf, a ripple effect of political goodwill was spreading in her favour. As Election Day approached, she relentlessly pursued her campaign, by now the opposition had noticed the growing groundswell of support for Afegbua and belatedly tried to counter, It was simply too late. On Election Day in August 15 1983, Franca Afegbua secured a slim majority, but enough for her to emerge as the first Nigerian female Senator in the nation’s history. She was duly sworn in on 1 October 1983 and took her place as Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Sadly her term was to last only three months, as the civilian Government was overthrown by the Military on 31st December 1983. However her place in history had been secured. SIGNIFICANCE AND CONCLUSIONS: 1. This victory was significant in that this was the highest elective office, to which a woman had successfully aspired in the nation’s history at that time. 2. Afegbua’s victory was further significant in that, once again women voters, were a crucial factor in determining the outcome of the election. The result once again showing that voter turn-out and participation is a crucial element and can actually influence electoral outcomes; 3. The significance of Afegbua’s personal determination in overcoming the substantial odds against her, allied with simple but effective planning in securing victory, is an inspirational marker for both voters and potential candidates as a whole. In short it shows potential political aspirants the possibilities that exist , in pursuing elective office in-spite of seeming odds. For voters it shows quite simply that your votes count and that the popular candidate can and will be elected, with proactive participation.
  27. 27. Cartoon by Adegboye Adegbenro and first published in the Concord Newspaper THE END ©ED EMEKA KEAZOR 2014

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