The Nigerian Eastern Regional Crises of 1953

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The Nigerian Eastern Regional Crises of 1953 | Nigeria Politics

As a result of the Eastern Regional elections of 1951, the NCNC formed the government of the region and Mr. Eyo Ita, the Deputy National President of the party was appointed Premier. Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, the National President of the NCNC remained only a member of the Western House of Assembly where the party formed the opposition.

Azikiwe had wanted to go to the House of Representatives through the Western House of Assembly. His ambition, however, did not materialise because of a clever manouevre by the Action Group, which led to the sudden resignation of five NCNC members of the Western House and subsequent defection to the Action Group.

There was in the mean time no love lost between the Eyo Ita government and the national executive of the NCNC led by Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe. The disagreement was carried to the convention of the party held at Jos in late 1952 which the central ministers of the NCNC failed to attend.

The absentee ministers were consequently expelled by the party at the convention. The Parliamentary Committee of the NCNC which met on 29th January, 1953 also requested nine Eastern Regional Ministers belonging to the party to resign because they were suspected to have sympathy for the expelled Central Ministers.

The ministers complied and tendered their letters of resignation. Before the letters of registration could get to the Lieutenant Governor, six of the nine ministers had a change of heart, and wrote to withdraw their letters of resignation. In other words, the second letters withdrawing the letters of resignation reached the Governor before the original letters of resignation. There was therefore a legal controversy about whether the ministers could be said to have resigned.

Before this legal issue could be resolved, the Eastern Region House of Assembly passed a vote of no confidence in the nine ministers and asked them to leave the cabinet. The ministers, however, faulted the way the vote was taken and insisted that the vote which was by a show of hands should rather be by a secret ballot as laid down in the party’s constitution, a demand which the NCNC was not eager to accede to as it was not sure of the outcome of the voting. There was thus a stalemate.

The Regional Governor, through the Legal Secretary, also ruled that the six ministers had not validly re-signed their portfolios since the second letters (letters of withdrawal) came before the first letters (letters of resignation). The NCNC, however, insisted that they had resigned their portfolios.

The deadlock continued until the Eastern House of Assembly a dissolved on May 6, 1953. The NCNC won the election that followed the dissolution by a large majority and Azikiwe became the Premier of the region.

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