Nigerian 1979 Presidential Election was an election in which Nigerian citizens aged 18 vote for the president. The 1979 election was the first of its kind in the Nigerian history in which an executive president was voted. Prior to 1979, Nigeria have never practiced a presidential system.
The Nigerian 1979 Presidential Election was held throughout the country on 11 August, 1979.
The history of the Nigerian 1979 Presidential Election can traced back to the military regime of General Murtala Muhammed. When General Murtala came to power in in 1975 he began a process of returning Nigeria to a democratic system. In January 1976, a committee was set up in order to come up with a constitution for the return to the democratic civilian rule.
By 1979, the constitutional drafting committee finished their work, and a constitution with a American model presidential system was made.
On the other hand, five political parties were registered in order to provide presidential candidates for the Nigerian 1979 Presidential Election. The political parties were as follows :
- National Party of Nigeria (NPN)
- Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN)
- Nigerian People’s Party (NPP)
- People’s Redemption Party (PRP)
- Great Nigerian People’s Party (GNPP)
Before the election every party was required to produced its candidate who will contest in the upcoming election. The candidates were as follows :
- Alhaji Shehu Shagari for the National Party of Nigeria (NPN)
- Chief Obafemi Awolowo for the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN)
- Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe for the Nigerian People’s Party (NPP)
- Malam Aminu Kano for the People’s Redemption Party (PRP)
- Alhaji Ibrahim Waziri for the Great Nigerian People’s Party (GNPP)
The Nigerian 1979 Presidential Election was the first of its kinds. Because, the Nigerians aged 18 years throughout the country elected executive civilian president.
On 11 August 1979, the Nigerian voters casted their votes in all the Nigerian 19 states. The election was heavily contested. However, two candidates received the highest votes that made them very close to each other. The two candidates were Alhaji Shehu Shagari of the NPN, and Chief Obafemi Awolowo of the UPN. The following were the votes each candidate received :
- Alhaji Shehu Shagari of the NPN : 5,668,857 votes
- Chief Obafemi Awolowo of the UPN : 4,916,651
- Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe of the NPP : 2,822,523
- Malam Aminu Kano of the PRP : 1,732,113
- Alhaji Ibrahim Waziri of the GNPP : 1,732,113
After each state collated its votes, the overall votes were combined in the electoral headquarter in Lagos. Finally, the the national presiding officer announced the winner of the presidential election as Alhaji Shehu Shagari of the NPN. However, his closest rival Chief Obafemi Awolowo of the UPN refused to accept the results and headed to court.
Shagari and Awolowo Case
Immediately, after the declaration of the election, on 20 August, Chief Obafemi Awolowo challenged the election in the Nigerian Supreme Court under the case Suit No: SC.62/1979. Chief Justice of the Federation Justice Atanda Fatai Williams and other seven Justices headed the case for more than one month. Finally, on 26 September 1979 Chief Justice Atanda Fatai Williams ruled in favour of the NPN candidates Alhaji Shehu Shagari of the NPN.