The Federal Electoral Commission (FEDECO) had on its record 52 Associations that announced their existence since the ban on political activities was lifted. Out of this number, 35 applied for registration, but by 31st December 1978 which was the closing date, only 19 Associations considered themselves eligible and submitted application but only five were eventually recognized and registered.
One of the five registered political parties was the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) which was announced by Chief Obafemi Awolowo within 24 hours after the lifting of the embargo by the Federal Military Government. The party was built on the ideology of democratic socialism with the four cardinal programmers as follows:
1. Free education at all levels
2. Free medical services
3. Full and gainful employment and
4. Integrated rural development.
Membership of the party was stuffed with the old members of the defunct Action Group with the exception of a few like Chief Anthony Enahoro, Dr. Samuel Ikoku who had disagreed with Chief Obafemi Awolowo on principle over continued participation in the military regime after the civil war and others who had gone with Chief Akintola’s NNDP during the 1962/1964 Western Region crisis. The other four registered political parties were:
1. National Party of Nigeria (NPN)
2. Nigerian Peoples Party (NPP)
3. Great Nigeria Peoples Party (GNPP)
4. Peoples Redemption Party (PRP)
1. The National Party of Nigeria (NPN)
This party had Alhaji Shehu Usman Shagari as its flag bearer and actually won the 1979 election to become the first Executive President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The NPN was a reincarnation of the defunct Northern People Congress (NPC) of the First Republic. Although the party did not profess any ideology, it was inclined towards a free market economy and its major policy thrust was on agriculture for which it designed a term green revolution. Unlike the UPN, the party’s Chairman was different from its flag bearer. While Chief Meredith Adisa Akinloye was the Chairman, the Presidential flag bearer was Alhaji Shehu Shagari which was in disparity with the UPN structure where the two positions were combined by Chief Obafemi Awolowo.
2. The Nigerian Peoples Party (NPP)
The founder of this party was Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe who also led the defunct National Convention of Nigerian Citizens (NCNC) in the First Republic. The Constitution, the manifesto, political philosophy and membership of the NPP was similar with those of the defunct NCNC.
There was a dichotomy between the office of the Chairman of the party and its Presidential flag bearer. Like the NPN, while Chief Olu Akinfosile was the party’s National Chairman, its Presidential candidate was the Owelle of Onitsha, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe.
3. The Great Nigeria Peoples Party (GNPP)
This party was a breakaway faction of the NPP under the leadership of Alhaji Waziri Ibrahim who was popularly known in the political circle as the apostle of politics without bitterness. Alhaji Waziri Ibrahim served as a Minister with Cabinet rank under the Balewas’s government. Like the UPN counterpart, the positions of the party’s Chairman and the Presidential flag bearer were combined as the Alhaji Waziri Ibrahim and the party tited toward progressivism.
4. The Peoples Redemption Party (PRP)
Mallam Aminu Kano who was the leader of the Peoples Redemption Party joined the National Party of Nigeria before he pulled out to form his own party. The PRP attracted majority of members of the defunct Northern Element Progressives Union (NEPU), a party of Nigerian radicals and who are anti northern oligarchy. Both Mallam Aminu Kano’s PRP and the Waziri’s GNPP were later to form an alliance with the UPN and a faction of the Azikiwe’s NPP to fight the 1983 general elections.