PATH TO NIGERIAN GREATNESS: Under the new dispensation Charter of stability and progress*

I  AM happy to welcome you all to this Congress. I hope and pray that our deliberations here will be fruitful. I wholeheartedly congratulate all of you for the huge effort which you put forth in the last elections, and for the successes which attended those efforts in eleven State. In particular, I very warmly salute our five Governors, twenty-eight Senators, one hundred and eleven Members of the House of Representatives, and three hundred and thirty-three members in eleven House of Assembly.

Undoubtedly, the sum total of our success is not at all commensurate with our efforts and popularity in most parts of the country. We had made constructive and well-thought-out plans for a resounding overall victory. In the execution of our plans, we had been meticulous and thorough, and had left no stone unturned.


The Conspirators

We deserved to succeed over all; and so say the majority of Nigerians. But events which occurred from the seventh of July right up to the twenty-sixth of September this year indicate quite clearly that, in the making of our plans, and in their execution, we had overlooked three factors which were extremely crucial, but not factually discernible at the time.

The three factors are:

  1. The perfidy of FEDECO
  2. The grand deception by the Federal Military Government; and
  3. The inflexible determination of the latter to exclude all parties other than the NPN from power at all the levels of Government in the Federation, and in particular to install Alhaji Shehu Shagari as president at all costs.

A good deal has been said and written about these factors. I do not intend to go over the grounds already covered. But there are some important points which I would like to underline for emphasis.

Since November, 1978, Chief Ani and Mr. Kurfi led all of us to believe that two-thirds of the nineteen States in the Federation is THIRTEEN. As a matter of fact, in a circular letter No. EC/ AZ/7 / V /730 dated 8 November, 1978 addressed to all his colleagues in FEDECO, Chief Ani declared that two-thirds of the 19 states in the Federation was 13. In the eighth and last paragraph of this letter, Chief Ani asserted as follows:

The draft of this letter was cleared with the Federal Ministry of Justice and I suggest it should be brought to the notice of the Military Administrator of your state.

Five days after the issue of this letter (that is on 13/11/78), Mr Kurfi issued a press release on behalf of FEDECO in which he also asserted that two-thirds of the 19 States in the Federation is 13.

In another letter No. EC/ AZ/7 /VIII dated 14 May, 1979 addressed to all his colleagues, Chief Ani again reiterated his earlier declaration of six months previously that two-thirds of the 19 States in the Federation was 13. Chief Ani held religiously to this assertion right up to August, 1979.

Then, suddenly on 8 August, 1979, three days before the presidential election, he orally sought the opinion of the Federal Attorney-General as to whether two-thirds of 19 States was twelve two-thirds or 13 States. He followed up his oral inquiry with a letter on 12 August, 1979 – the day after the presidential election was held. The answer he got from the Federal Attorney-General was that two-thirds of the 19 States in the Federation would be two-thirds of 19, that is 12 2/3; but that the word each, in the phrase each of at least two-thirds of all the states in the federation, conveyed the idea of an entity or a whole which did not imply a fraction, in which case 2/3 of 19 would be aggregated to 13. The soundness of this opinion is now incontestably vindicated by the eleventh-hour amendment to the Constitution deleting the word each from the phrase.

From the foregoing facts, certain inferences emerge with crystal clarity.

  1. From November, 1978 to early August, 1979, Chief Ani had no doubt in his mind that two-thirds of the 19 States in the Federation was 13; and for the view, he had the imprimatur of the Federal Ministry of Justice which studied and cleared the draft of his letter of 8 November, 1978.
  2. Chief Ani’s oral and written inquiries addressed to the Federal Attorney-General on 8 and 12 August, 1979 respectively are explicable and understandable only on the ground that Chief Ani was motivated by a strong and consuming desire to ensure success for Alhaji Shehu Shagari at the presidential election, at all costs. Otherwise, and in the face of the opinion of the Ministry of Justice and of the Federal Attorney-General, he should have considered himself irrevocably bound — and indeed anyone with moral courage and a keen sense of self- respect and honour would feel so bound — by his voluntary and repeated declaration to the entire people of Nigeria but two-thirds of the 19 States in the Federation is 13.
  3. Mr Menkiti’s assertion that “in the absence of any legal explanation or guidance in the Electoral Decree,” the FEDECO considered two-thirds of the 19 States in the Federation to be 122/3 is a brazen subterfuge and deliberate falsehood. Though there was no interpretation of two-thirds of 19 states in the Decree, yet Chief Ani himself held the view that it was 13 states; and he was twice supported in that view – first by the Federal Ministry of Justice and second (nine months later) by the federal Attorney-General himself.
  4. When on 16 August, 1979 FEDECO declared that two-thirds of the 19 states was 12 2/3, it knew that it was perpetrating an act of unspeakable perfidy, and committing a blatant and unconscionable breach of trust towards both the electorate and the entire people of Nigeria.

FEDECO was by no means alone in its act of perfidy, and its unbridled desire to see Shagari win the Presidential race by hook or by crook. It was a combined operation by FEDECO and the Federal Military Government.

From the very beginning, both the FMG and FEDECO promised us free and fair elections; and the FMG, through its spokesmen including no less a personality than the then Military Head of State, never tired or repeatedly assuring the people of Nigeria that, in all the elections, it had no candidate. We now know that these solemn assurances were false and made in bad faith and with a view to deceive.

To be continued