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The Western Regional Elections In Nigeria
The Western Regional Elections were held on 11th October, 1965 to elect members of the region’s House of Assembly. This was an election, which the new NNDP government needed to win to consolidate its hold on power in the region. On the other hand, the ActionGroup, which had been decimated by crises, saw it as an opportunity to re-assert its position as the dominant party in the region.
The odds, however, appeared to favour the NNDP which had been in power in the Region since 1963. The NNDP used the power of incumbency to full advantage. For example, it raised the price of a ton of cocoa from the actual selling price of N180 to N240 in order to win the votes of cocoa farmers.
Several promises of development projects were also made. The Akintola government also dissolved the elected local government councils and replaced them with management committees appointed by his government. The traditional rulers were warned not to oppose the government.
The government also stressed the need for Yoruba solidarity. Moreover, members of the party were employed as electoral officers even though the Federal Electoral Commission had responsibility for conduct of the election.
The Action Group and the NCNC which were the main opposition parties in the region were divided and could not present a united front against the NNDP in the elections. Few days before the election, fifteen members of the Nigerian National Democratic Party had been returned unopposed. The House had 94 members.
Thus, the election was virtually won even before it got started. There was violence before, during and after the elections and the thousands of policemen drafted to the region to maintain law and order were, to a large extent, unable to contain the riots and disturbances perpetrated by both sides in all parts of the region. Both AlhajiD.S. Adegbenro, the leader of the AG and Akintola claimed victory.
Consequently, Adegbenro was arrested by the police. With the arrest and detention of Adegbenro, the way was clear for Akintola to form a government. But the open rebellion continued and all entreaties on the Prime Minister to declare a state of emergency in the region went unheeded until the military struck in January 1966.