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Zoning and its ugly consequences – Part 2

By Eric Teniola  
10 May 2022   |   1:37 am
The zoning policy would have worked in all positions proposed then by NPN, except that of the Speaker of the House of Representatives.

Chuba Okadigbo

The zoning policy would have worked in all positions proposed then by NPN, except that of the Speaker of the House of Representatives. After the 1979 election, the NPN went into an accord with the NPP as a result of which Chief Edwin Ume Ezeoke (September 8, 1935 – August 1, 2011) from Amichi in Nnewi of the NPP became speaker of the House of Representatives. With the NPN  Accord, Chief Ume Ezeoke defeated Mr. Hamza M. Ngadiwa from Biu (North) Constituency in Borno State by 245 to 201 votes in an election held on October 1, 1979. On the same date, Alhaji Idris Ibrahim of the NPN from Niger state defeated Mr. Faji Fajobi of the UPN from Ikere Ekiti by 244 to 201 votes to become the deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives.

After the convention, Alhaji Shehu Shagari picked Chief Alexander Ifeanyichukwu Ekwueme GCON (21 October 1932 – 19 November 2017) from Oko Town, in present day Anambra State as his running mate. Dr Joseph Wayas (21 May 1941 – 30 November 2021) from Basang, Obudu, Cross River state became the Senate President with the support of NPP/NPN by defeating Senator F.O.M. Atake from Warri of UPN by 53 to 42 votes. With the support of NPN/NPP accord also on 9th October 1979, Senator John Wash Pam from Plateau state of the NPP defeated Senator Sabo Barkin Zuwo from Kano state of the PRP by 51 to 43 votes to become the Deputy Senate President. 

Chief Egunjenmi Augustus Meredith Adisa Akinloye (August 19, 1916 – September 18, 2007) popularly known as A.M.A. from Itutaba and Seriki of Ibadanland became the Chairman of the Party. Alhaji Adamu Ciroma (20 November 1934 – 5 July 2018) from Bole family in Potiskum, Yobe State, became the Secretary of the Party.

The NPN was formed on September 20, 1978 at the Conference Hall of the Satellite Town in Lagos. I covered the event. The party held its Convention on December 8, 1978 at the Casino Cinema, Alagomeji, Yaba, Lagos—which has now turned to an apartment building. During the Civil war in 1967, the Casino Cinema was burnt. At the NPN Convention at Casino Cinema, the following officers were elected.

They are National Publicity Secretary—Alhaji Suleman Tukuma, assistant Publicity Secretaries—Dr Chuba Okadigbo, Mr. Okumagba, Mr. Mvendaga Jido. National Financial Secretary—Alhaji Ibrahim Dasuki, Assistant Financial Secretary—Mr Donald Etiebet, Alhaji Abdullahi Adamu (75), the Sarki Yakin Keffi, now National Chairman of APC, Mr. I. Sagari Usman. National Treasurer- Dr. Onibuje, deputy Treasurer-Alhaji Bello Maitama Yusuf, National Legal Adviser—Chief Richard Osuolale Akinjide, Assistant Legal Adviser—Mr Tunji Arosanyi, Auditor—Mr Kenton Giadon and assistant auditor—Alhaji Magaji Mauzu. 

Even before then, the military practiced what might be termed as zoning too. After the overthrow of General Gowon on July 29, 1975, Brigadier Ramat Murtala Muhammed (8 November 1938 – 13 February 1976) became Head of State while Brigadier General Olusegun Obasanjo from Abeokuta, Ogun State became Chief of Staff, Supreme Headquarters. After the assassination of General Murtala Muhammed, a Fulani from Kano, General Obasanjo was made the Head of State and a Fulani officer, Lt-Colonel Shehu Musa Yar’adua (March 5, 1943 – December 8, 1997) was over promoted from the rank of Lt-Colonel to a Brigadier and made Chief of Staff Supreme Headquarters, to pacify the Fulanis and the North. Even after the overthrow of President Shehu Shagari on December 31, 1983 by Major General Muhammadu Buhari, he refused to adopt the NPN zoning policy. He instead appointed Brigadier Babatunde Abdulbaki Idiagbon (14 September 1943 – 24 March 1999) from Ilorin, which is part of North Central zone at the moment as Chief of Staff Supreme Headquarters which is the equivalent of Vice President. 

When General Ibrahim Babangida (80) from Minna, Niger state overthrew General Buhari in 1985, he appointed Commodore Okoh Ebitu Ukiwe (81) from Abiriba in Abia State as Chief of General Staff. His father was a traditional ruler in Abiriba and Head of the Old Bendel Division Local Government Appeal Court. He served from August 1985 to October 1986. He was replaced by Admiral Augustus Akhabue Aikhomu (20 October 1939 – 17 August 2011), from Idumebo-Irrua, Edo State. 

Chief Ernest Adegunle Oladeinde Shonekan GCFR (9 May 1936 – 11 January 2022) did not have a deputy as such, but with the decree setting up the Interim Government, General Sani Abacha, who was then the Chief of Defence Staff, was presumed to be the most senior. He eventually took over power from Chief Shonekan on November 17, 1993 and named the ailing General Donaldson Oladipo Diya (78) from Odogbolu in Ogun state as the Chief of General Staff, who was the de facto Vice President of Nigeria at that time. 

Had he not been involved in the phantom military coup in 1997, Major General (rtd) Tajudeen Olanrewaju, from Lagos Island, the favourite of General Sani Abacha, would have succeeded General Diya as the Chief of General Staff. General Olanrewaju recently pardoned by the President, Muhammadu Buhari, is one of the descendants of Alhaji Muritala Ajadi Animashaun (1870-1959) from Olowogbowo in Lagos Island. A junior grammar school in Surulere, Lagos founded on January 1, 1970, was named after Alhaji Ajadi Animashaun whose family is very famous in Island. 

General Sani Abacha got frustrated that he did not name anyone as the Chief of General Staff till he died on the 8 June 1998.
General Abdusalami Abubakar (79) from Minna, Niger State, picked Admiral Okhai Mike Akhigbe from Fugar, Aviawu clan in Etsako Central Local Government Area of Edo State, to be his Chief of General Staff.

All these were military appointments. But when we embarked on the democratic system in 1999, Zoning became an integral and unofficial policy n Nigeria. Till today it has been so. Now the Zoning policy has become like a curse. It is a burden we are all carrying. How come a policy that was designed to unite the country has now divided us? Never have we been so divided as a Nation. 

To me zoning as a policy is a protest against abuse of power. If things had been fair in this country, there should not have been any demand for zoning.  If other areas had been carried along in appointments and distribution of amenities, the constant call for zoning would have been less. Those in authority in this country past and present are guilty of abuse of power.

Abuse of power or abuse of authority, in the form of “malfeasance in office” or “official abuse of power”, is the commission of an unlawful act, done in an official capacity, which affects the performance of official duties.