The 1962 State of Emergency


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 The 1962 State of Emergency, West and the First Republic



Jide Ajani, Political Editor

culled from VANGUARD, Wednesday, May 19, 2004

LAGOS-The 1962 State of Emergency in Western Region
started with an intra-party crisis between Obafemi
Awolowo, leader of Action Group, AG, and his colleague
of the same political party, Samuel Ladoke Akintola.

According to one of the reports of that era by Nelson
Ottah, it was one fight which was to rock the
foundations of not only the AG, but the entire
Nigerian polity at that time.  advertisement
According to Ottah, the Action Group which has, for
the past ten years (1952 - 1962), spared political
Nigeria the spectacle of public quarrels, departed
from this tradition on February 2 (1962). It proved
that as a party of human beings, it too has its own
contradictions - high ambitions and lack of patience,
insistent idealism in conflict with insistent realism,
courage and cowardice, intoxication and stupor,
ideological headiness and ideological surrenders,
intellectual strength and intellectual weakness,
pettiness and grandeur, love and hate, and mutual
trust and mutual suspicion.

To many students of Nigerian party politics, the
disagreement that erupted into an open quarrel during
the annual congress of the Action Group at Jos,
Northern Nigeria, on February 2, 1962, was no sudden
thing. It had been long in maturing. In fact, it
started gathering force immediately Chief Obafemi
Awolowo, federal president of the party, gave up the
premiership of Western Nigeria to seek election in the
federal parliament.

By giving up the premiership of Western Nigeria and
retaining his post as the head of the AG, he, like Dr
Nnamdi Azikiwe before him, created a condition in
which he found himself as the leader of the party
outside a government that is formed by the same party.
And like Dr Azikiwe, he soon realised that the
parliamentary body of the AG, of which he is not a
member, only sees him as a mandarin who should be
humoured when possible, but who will not bring down
the heavens if ignored.

And that the clash should, when it came, be between
Chief Awolowo, federal president of the Action Group,
and Chief Samuel Akintola premier of Western Nigeria
and the leader of the Action Group parliamentary
party, was simply because each of the two men
represented two powers in conflict. The disparate
powers that involved them in their open conflict were
the same disparate powers that involved Dr Azikiwe,
then national president o the NCNC, in a similar open
conflict with Professor Eyo Ita, the leader of
government business and. of the NCNC parliamentary
body in Eastern Nigeria.

The first open quarrel between the two leaders took
place shortly before Akintola went on his economic
mission to Europe in 1961. The quarrel occurred when
Chief Akintola turned down the men Chief Awolowo
nominated for the mission and substituted them with
his nominees. This revolt was overlooked by Chief
Awolowo and the mission was able to set off without
many people knowing that anything was wrong.

After the economic mission, the next thing that
happened to widen the gulf between them was the issue
of the renewal of board appointments. Chief Akintola
simply cleared the old board members in Western
Nigeria's public corporations like the printing
corporations, the housing corporation and the radio
and television corporation, and put his own nominees
in their places. He felt it was his right as the
premier and leader of the Action Group's parliamentary
party to do so.

In the words of Ottah, "I understand that Chief
Awolowo, on his part, managed by the skin of his teeth
to side-step an open quarrel on the matter. Another
thing Chief Akintola tried to do was to stop huge
loans his government and its controlled organisations
had been making to certain individual AG leaders. But
Chief Awolowo successfully resisted the move. Another
thing that brought them into an almost open quarrel
was the decision of the government of Western Nigeria
to increase the assumed local contribution in Western
Nigeria's secondary grammar schools. It was because
Chief Akintola and his government made the increase,
in opposition to Chief Awolowo's wish, that all the
Nigerian newspapers directly or indirectly controlled
by the AG so unanimously attacked the increase despite
the fact that individuals and public organs that are
normally opposed to the party welcomed it.

"That Chief Akintola climbed down on the increase was
because of the sudden realisation that to insist on it
in the face of concerted attack from the AG leadership
and newspapers would greatly injure the government in
Western Nigeria. As Chief Awolowo himself publicly
admitted, another issue that helped greatly to soil
the relationship between the leadership of the AG was
whether the party should or should not drop its
ideology of democratic socialism. On February 9 -
after their open rupture had lasted for eight days -
it was announced by a meeting of the elders of the AG
that the quarrel between Chief Obafemi Awolowo and
Chief Samuel Akintola "has been amicably settled".

>From all indications - for instance, from the
inability of the elders of the party to resolve the
ideological differences within the party, from their
inability to reverse the Jos election that stripped
Chief Akintola and his co-adjusters of their national
offices in the party, and their silence on the very
important issue of whether or not Chief Akintola and
his government should continue to accept orders from
the party - there are still many explosive issues that
were not resolved by the elders and that are bound to
bring the two men into another head-on clash in

Ottah, who was able to penetrate the AG and the
government of Western region in his drive to get first
hand information about the goings-on, for his
publication DRUM, maintained that it was this bitter
inter-personal quarrel between the two leaders which
created other further tension, culminating in the
declaration of emergency rule in the region. A blow by
blow account of what transpired in the Western Region,
leading up to the May 29, 1962 declaration of a state
of emergency is here presented:

- February 1: The annual Convention of the AG in Jos,
Northern Region (in today's Plateau State) saw Chief
Akintola, together with Chief Ayo Rosiji, then Federal
Secretary of the Action Group, as well as four
ministers walk out.

- February 9: Elders of AG, meeting in Ibadan,
announce that the feud between Chief Akintola, Chief
Awolowo and the AG is resolved. According to available
records, something interesting heralded the month of
May, 1962, just as the same fate has befallen Plateau
State in the same month of May, some 42years after.

The quarrel which the leadership of the AG told
Nigerians had been resolved was resolved in the breach
rather than the observance. Firstly, it was obvious
that both men still harboured a great amount of animus
for each other.

Secondly, rather than engage activities which would
lead to the softening of ground, each continued along
his path of rigidity on the many issues which had been
keeping them apart and tearing the AG into shreds.

Added to these were the action of supporters of
Awolowo and Akintola, actions which merely served to
exacerbate the already messy relationship. In fact, at
that time, the quality of the encounter between
supporters of Awolowo and Akintola was less than

And the leaders did not help matters. For instance,
Awolowo, even against the counsel of some leaders of
the party like Chief Rotimi Williams, QC, that the
former should drop the idea of visiting Oshun
Division, from whence cometh Akintola, obviously in a
show of strength. Chief Akintola, cognisant of the
implications of an Awolowo visit to Oshun Division,
was said to have rushed after him and eventually
catching up with him in Oshun Division.

- MAY 19, there was another effort at resolving the
crisis. A joint meeting of AG, compriising its Western
Region and Mid-Western Region exco met to resolve the
problem. After listening to Awolowo, who presented a
24-point charge against his deputy, asks Chief
Akintola (in spite of his apologies) to resign his
premiership of Western Nigeria and deputy leadership
of the party.

- May 20, Akintola writes to the governor of the
region and to the speaker of the region's House of
Assembly calling for the dissolution of the House and
for an emergency meeting of the House to test his
popularity. But Akintola's requests were not met.

- May 21, the AG parliamentary body elects Dauda
Soroye Adegbenro, an Alhaji, as the new premier of
Western Nigeria. He is sworn-in immediately.

But Akintola also had his own agenda and scheme. Not
one to be outdone, Akintola, a few hours later, calls
on Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, the Prime Minister,
requesting the sacking of Adegbenro. But the politics
of that era was one of push-me-I-push-you. Just a few
hours after Chief Akintola's call, the governor
announces that he, as governor, has sacked Chief
Akintola as premier of Western Region. After
demonstrating political power, it was time to rely on
judicial interpretation. And so, Akintola filed an
action seeking to restrain the governor from removing
him as premier at an the Ibadan High Court.

- May 22, Governor-General Nnamdi Azikiwe, who all the
while was on vacation in Nsukka, Eastern Nigeria,
returns to Lagos for what was dubbed "urgent state
matters". Another report at that time was quoted as
announcing that Chief Akintola, in the company of his
supporters, has left the Premier's Lodge for the
Premier's Office.

On getting there, the main gate to his office had been
locked. He, however, forces his way in. The chronology
of events, as captured in Volume 2 of a publication,
Nigeria, The Birth of Africa's Greatest Country, goes
as follows:

The following day,

- MAY 23 Premier Adegbenro names his new cabinet. On
the same day, the Ibadan High Court hears Akintola's
motion and adjourns the hearing till June 5. Chief
Rotimi Williams, Queens Counsel, QC, is, as a result
of a preliminary objection raised by Chief Ladipo
Moore, another QC, counsel for Chief Akintola, refused
permission by the court to continue as counsel for the

- MAY 23: Chief Akintola's daughter flies to London,
with her father's petition against the governor for
the queen.

- MAY 24: Dr. Okpara, Premier of Eastern Nigeria,
announces that his government will not recognise
Adegbenro's government of the West.

- May 25: There is a riot in the Western House of
Assembly. Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa speaks about the
riot in nation-wide broadcast during which he also
announces that the federal House of Representatives
and Senate will hold emergency sessions on May 29.

- May 26: An adjourned meeting of both the Western
House of Assembly and the Western House of Chiefs is
called off.

- May 27: A delegation of the obas of Western Nigeria
calls on the prime minister to ask for more time to
try to settle the dispute in the Action Group.

- MAY 28: The Action Group central executive council
expels Chief Akintola and Chief Ayo Rosiji from the

- May 29: A state of emergency is declared throughout
Western Nigeria after the meeting of the Federal House
of Representatives and the Federal Senate.

In the evening Dr Majekodunmi, the federation's
Minister of Health, is appointed administrator of
Western Nigeria. Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, signs thirteen
Emergency Regulation Acts that give effect to the
state of emergency in Western Nigeria.

The governor of Western Nigeria leaves Government
House for Ile Ife. An order restricting Chief Awolowo,
Chief Akintola and six other Nigerians are signed by
the administrator of the region.

- May 31: Dr Majekodunmi flies into Ibadan to assume
his new office as administrator of Western Nigeria.
The same day twelve more Nigerians are served with
restriction orders. This was what happened in the
First Republic. The curious thing now, as being asked
by people is: What makes Kaduna and Kano not qualify
for emergency rule in 2000 and 2001, but which makes
Plateau State more qualified, even when the sordid
events which occurred in Kaduna and Kano dwarfs
whatever killings may have occurred in Plateau State?

That is a question Obasanjo himself would find
difficult to answer.



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