Indeed, delay can never be denial.
After years of fleeing from anything government and law related, I finally decided it’s time to get familiar with Nigerian politics and its wahala.
For the past week, I’ve been hearing how the Shehu Shagari elections of 1979 were dramatic AF. Everywhere I turn, someone is comparing the ongoing 2023 elections drama to it. So I decided it was time to put on my amebo gear and get to work.
Luckily (or unluckily) for me, I stumbled on The 1979 Elections, a 212-page book on the subject.
According to this book, in 1960, everything was all well and good for a country that’d just emancipated itself from the clutches of colonisers. Nigerians were enjoying independence. They actually had cash to spend.
And they’d just conducted their first elections. But somehow, they were already talking about the domination of Northern Nigerians in government.
The southern political parties weren’t the happiest about this, but they picked their sandals off the ground, dusted themselves and decided to try again four years later.
Except, as usual, Nigeria said…
In came Nigeria’s first military government led by General Aguiyi Ironsi in 1966.
Which led to a ten-year military rule, featuring Yakubu Gowon, Murtala Mohammed and one of the owners of Nigeria’s internet, Olusegun Obasanjo.
By 1979, the military government had basically handed over.
Like those Iya arugbos who share souvenirs at burials, they put everything in place for the elections and eventual civil rule.
Election day comes, and Nigerians head to the polls to vote for the person they want to lead them. My people just wanted to do what’s best for themselves after years of early bedtimes and being parented by the Nigerian military.
Five days later, at 12:40 PM, FEDECO, the 1900’s INEC, released the election results.
Shehu Shagari, with a total of 568,857 votes, won the presidential elections and was announced president-elect. But as it turns out the people chasing Nigeria right now have been at it since colonisation, because why did FEDECO release results if they weren’t ready?
This caused kasala in 1979 Nigeria. Which was really the fault of the lawmakers, because, if they made the law easy and simple to understand, old men with grandchildren in the university won’t banter words with each other in public because of elections.
Less than 24 hours after the commotion and brouhaha, FEDECO stuck to their koboko, and named Alhaji Shehu Sahagari the winner of the 1979 elections.
The New Nigeria newspaper – a publication that clearly had it out for Shagari and refused to remove their leg from his trousers – started peddling the accusation that Obasanjo of the internet, the transitioning head of state, was in ACTIVE support of Shehu Shagari’s presidency.
After the president-elect was announced, most Nigerians didn’t know how to feel.
Why is politics filled with theatrics and drama? Isn’t there an easier way to do it? Maybe, come out like it’s testimony time, and tell us the plans you have for Nigeria, instead of putting us through all the drama.
And then the newspapers started fighting each other on behalf of the candidates.
After a while, everyone started noticing that the matter, like the current governor of Lagos state, had ironed gators into its jeans. Things were getting too hot. So, Chief Fani Kayode, like a pokenosing neighbour, carried his legs from nowhere, and went to beg the spiritual leaders.
The top three presidential contenders, Awolowo, Azikiwe and Waziri, were clearly listening, which is why they held a press conference, rejecting Shehu Shagari as the president-elect.
But as the Nigerian electoral body that they were, FEDECO told the three musketeers:
But Awolowo decided to take the matter to the distinguished court by himself. He filed a petition at the electoral tribunal, stating that Shehu Shagari wasn’t duly elected.
One week after, Shehu Shagari finally decided he also had a mouth and could speak.
Long and short, Shagari looked Awolowo in the eye and went:
The case spent less than a month in court, and the tribunal finally gave their judgment: Shehu Shagari for president. If you don’t like it, kneel down and face the wall.
But surely, someone who dragged Shehu Shagari through the Nigerian media and judiciary system wouldn’t suddenly stop because the electoral tribunal said no?
Awolowo dragged Shagari to the supreme court on the exact same basis as before, Shehu Shagari wasn’t duly elected. But the court wasnt having it and basically told him and his appeal to get out.
The court decreed Awolowo had no case or foot to stand on, and Shehu Shagari was the winner of the 1979 election.
This was the most confusing piece of literature, I’ve ever read.