Preparatory to the independence of Nigeria, election into the Federal House of Representatives was conducted on December 12, 1959. The election was significant as it featured the participation of key regional leaders of the East and West which were Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe and Chief Obafemi Owolowo respectively. The duo of the Nigeria’s political triumvirate of the era were attracted by the prospects of being the first prime minister of the independent Nigeria and they left their posts as Premiers of their respective regions. The remainder of the triumvirate, Sarduana of Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello sent his trusted disciple, Alhaji Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa to the Lagos politics while he remained in his comfort zone as the Premier of the Northern region. The election largely reflected the ethnic configuration of Nigeria. The National Congress of Nigeria Citizens (NCNC) controlled the East; the Northern People’s Congress (NPC) bestride the North; and Action Congress (AG) dominated the West. There were however coalitions by NCNC and AG with Northern Elements Progressive Union (NEPU) and United Middle Belt Congress (UMBC) respectively. After the election, there was the need for a hung parliament due to the following reasons:
#1 None of the parties won absolute majority: Absolute majority entails winning more than half of the seats in the House. The final result showed that the NPC won 134 seats, the NCNC 89, and the AG 73 with independent candidates winning the remaining 16 seats (Dudley 1982). It should be noted that the legislature had 312 seats, out of the one representative to 100, 000 people representational ratio. It means that a party could have won an absolute majority by winning 156 seats, but that did not happen. Hence, there arose the need for a political marriage between either of the three parties since the sum of the number of seats won by any two of the three parties could have amounted to 156 seats or more. NPC/NCNC later entered into coalition and formed government for the independent Nigeria. Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe was the Governor General while Alhaji Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa became the Prime Minister.
#2 Awolowo's double standard when he shopped for coalition partner: The account on the double standard played by Awolowo when he shopped for coalition partner after the 1959 election was given by Chief Mbazulike Amaechi who was not only an active participant in the NCNC politics of the era but also a right hand man to Zik. He became a member of the House of Representatives in the First Republic when Sir Louis Ojukwu resigned from the House having failed to secure the post of Finance Minister. The First Republic parliamentarian said that they were having a meeting at Onitsha, in Zik’s house, a message came and said that Awolowo was sending a delegation to Zik to discuss how AG might form an alliance with AG. When they came, Chief Mbazulike Amechi said that the delegation offered Zik the Prime-Minister position while Awolowo would become the Finance Minister. He said that while the meeting was going on, Zik’s phone rang upstairs and Zik went up and answered it, and it was Sarduana of Sokoto, Alhaji Sir Ahmadu Bello that called telling Zik that he was hosting a delegation from Awolowo offering him the Prime Minister Position. Zik told him that he was hosting another delegation from Awolowo too. “There and then, Zik and the Sardauna decided that this man was a treacherous person and was not the type of person they wanted to work with in a government that would usher in Nigeria's independence. It was on that ground that Zik and the Sardauna agreed to negotiate,” he revealed.
#3 In the Interest of Nigeria's Unity: The North won simple majority in the election, and when they were faced with the fact that NCNC and AG could as well form government with their number of seats, leaving them in opposition, they threatened secession. The NPC leader, Alhaji Sir Ahmadu Bello had stated in his autobiography that should polarization ever occur between the North and South (i.e. NCNC/AG Coalition) and the North finds itself in the opposition, the North might have to reconsider its whole position in the federation. (Dudley, 1982). Then, no one wanted a united Nigeria more than Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe. His NCNC entered into alliance with NPC.
#4 NCNC thought that they could benefit more from NPC/NCNC coalition: Given the fact that NPC was a northern party, NCNC felt that they could get more of their bargains threatening NPC that they could vote with their sister party, AG in the House and such a threat could be compelling. This they thought was far better than what could be obtained from NCNC/AG coalition where the two parties could have posed equal danger to each other. Table however turned against the NCNC as by the end of 1960, NPC gained the entire 16 independent members of the House, and also other members that crossed over to NPC from AG, to the extent that NPC at the beginning of 1961 already had a working majority in the federal parliament, and could, if it had wished so, have done without the support of the NCNC.