#TBT: Nnamdi Azikiwe from 1904

Yesterday, the world remembers Fela Kuti, the sensation and enigmatic Afrobeat entertainer. we could have dedicated today’s piece to celebrating a legend, that passed-on from this world 20 years ago, but we did that already, in our previous post on him here. Today, we are remembering Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, christened Benjamin, was born on the 16th of November 1904, in Zungeru Northern Nigeria (present-day Niger state), and died on the 11th of May 1996 in Enugu. Azikiwe learned to speak Hausa, the main indigenous language of the Northern Region at an early age. He later lived in Onitsha, his parental homeland where he was raised by his aunt and grandmother and learned the Igbo language. Zik, as he is fondly called was one of the leading figures of modern Nigerian nationalism. He was the first president of Nigeria after independence from 1963 to 1966. He served as the last Governor-General from 1960 to 1963 when he became the first president and held the presidency throughout the Nigerian first republic.

Azikiwe was an important advocate of Nigerian and African nationalism, first as a journalist and later as political leader. In November 1934 he became the editor of the African Morning Post in Gold-Coast, now Ghana where he published an article entitled “Has the African a God” he was charged for sedition, found guilty and sentenced to six months in prison but was later acquitted on appeal. He went on to become the founder of “The West African Pilot” in Lagos which he used as a means to promote unity. He later became active in politics from co-founding The National Council of Nigeria and later serving as the Secretary General of The National Council in 1946. At the highlight of his political career he became the first Nigerian president.

Nnamdi Azikiwe as a young journalist in 1936
Getty image

Nnamdi Azikiwe as one of the greatest promoter of ‘one Nigeria’ and ‘unity in diversity’ is famous for these quotes;

“There is plenty of room at the top because very few people care to travel beyond the average route. And so most of us seem satisfied to remain within the confines of mediocrity” — from My Odyssey, No. 5.

“My stiffest earthly assignment is ended and my major life’s work is done. My country is now free and I have been honoured to be its first indigenous head of state. What more could one desire in life?” — talking about Nigeria’s Independence on 1 October 1960.

Azikiwe didn’t die an ordinary man, before his death, he made some prodigious accomplishments, culturally, nationally and internationally. He was inducted into the prestigious Agbalanze society of Onitsha as Nnanyelugo in 1946, a customary recognition for Onitsha men of significant accomplishment. Then, in 1962, he became a second-rank red cap chieftain or Ndichie Okwa as the Oziziani Obi. In 1972, he was installed as the Owelle-Osowa-Anya of Onitsha, making him a first-rank, hereditary red cap nobleman or Ndichie Ume.

In 1960, He established the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, and Queen Elizabeth II appointed him to the Privy Council of the United Kingdom. He was conferred with the highest national honour of Grand Commander of the Federal Republic (GCFR) by the Federal Republic of Nigeria, in 1980. He has received fourteen honorary degrees from Nigerian, American and Liberian universities, which include Lincoln University, Storer College, Howard University, Michigan State University, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, University of Lagos, Ahmadu Bello University, University of Ibadan, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, and University of Liberia.

He died in Enugu on the 11th of May 1996.

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