History: I regret advising Azikiwe not to join forces with Awolowo – Former Eastern Premier, Okpara

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An old newspaper published in November 1980, has resurfaced showing former Premier of the Eastern Nigeria Region, late Dr Michael Okpara, saying he regretted the advice he offered the first President of Nigeria, late Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, not to form an alliance with the former Premier of Western Region, late Chief Obafemi Awolowo.

The archived newspaper, The New Nation, showed how the late Okpara expressed regrets for advising Azikiwe not to join forces with Awolowo.

Okpara had developed an interest in the Zikist Movement (named after Nnamdi Azikiwe), a militant wing of the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC).

After the granting of internal self-rule in 1952, he was elected into the Eastern Nigerian House of Assembly on the NCNC platform.

Between 1952 and 1959 he held various Cabinet positions in Eastern Nigeria, ranging from Minister of Health to Minister of Agriculture and Production.

He was the leader of the NCNC and a Premier of Eastern Nigeria during the First Republic from 1959 to 1966.

Although he was one of the politicians detained soon after the military coup of January, 1966, he survived the army revolt, in which the other two premiers were killed.

The newspaper had asked him, “Given the very nature of your militant position in the Nigerian politics of the First Republic, one could safely believe that you were one of those custodians of the country’s political barometer at the time. By your honest calculation, what caused the failure of the First Republic?”

Okpara had answered, “I believe the Republic failed because of a number of factors. Firstly, the first Republic violated the most basic structure of federalism. No one state should be larger than the rest of the states combined.

“In other words, no state should be larger than the rest of the country. This was violated from the beginning and every effort made to safeguard it failed….And I shall regret to my dying day, having taken part to advise Zik not to form the alliance with Chief Awolowo.”

The defunct Eastern and Western Regions of Nigeria are believed to share similar political ideologies different from the Northern Region, which have mutated into the present-day agitations for federalism, restructuring and self-determination rocking the country under President Muhammadu Buhari.

Source: Sahara Reporters

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