The name, Nnamdi Azikiwe, will forever remain engraved upon the marble of Nigeria’s history.
It is said that your life experiences, prepares you for what your heart has asked for. You’re moulded, instructed, tested and stretched taut beyond the confines of your convenience.
Much in the content of Azikiwe’s life holds this to be true, and capturing this very sentiment are his very own words:
“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?”
Born in Zungeru, Northern Nigeria, on 16 November 1904, to Obed-Edom Chukwuemeka Azikiwe and Rachel Chinwe Azikiwe, Nnamdi Azikiwe had his secondary education at Hope Waddell Training Institute, Calabar, and Methodist Boys High School Lagos.
He would later attend Howard University in Washington DC, United States of America.
Nnamdi Azikiwe was well grounded in the world of education. He attended several universities and earned multiple certificates and degrees, including bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Lincoln University in Pennsylvania and a second master’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania.
He would work as an instructor at Lincoln before returning to Nigeria.
Upon his return to Africa, Nnamdi Azikiwe went to Ghana (then it was known as Gold coast) and founded a nationalist newspaper in 1934, before returning to Nigeria in 1937.
It was during this time that he became directly involved in politics; first with the Nigerian Youth Movement and later (1944) as a founder of the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC).
However, before his involvement with the Nigerian Youth Movement, the zealous Azikiwe published an article, entitled “Has the African a God?” on 15 May 1936.
Although the article was written by I. T. A. Wallace-Johnson, Azikiwe, being the publisher, was brought to trial on charges of sedition.
He was found guilty of the charges and sentenced to six months in prison. But he would be acquitted on appeal.
Returning to Lagos in 1937, Nnamdi Azikiwe founded the West African Pilot, which he used as a vehicle to foster Nigerian nationalism.
The Zik Group of Newspapers that aided the publishing of multiple newspapers in cities across the country was also founded by him.
Being an active member of the Nigerian Youth Movement (NYM), the first nationalist organization in Nigeria that is believed to be genuine, Nnamdi Azikiwe backed Samuel Akinsanya to be NYM candidate for a vacant seat in the Legislative Council.
Ernest Ikoli would be selected by the executive instead.
And this would lead to his resignation from the NYM, accusing Yoruba leadership of discrimination against the Ijebu-Yoruba members, Ibos and some Ijebu members with him and thus splitting the NYM along ethnic lines.
Announcing his entrance to the political scene, Nnamdi Azikiwe co-founded the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC) alongside Herbert Macaulay in 1944.
In 1946, he became the secretary-general of the National Council and was elected to Legislative Council of Nigeria the following year.
He would become the leader of the opposition to the government of Obafemi Awolowo, in the Western Region’s House of Assembly after losing the four-cornered elections to the Action Group, in 1951.
In 1952, he moved to the Eastern Region, and was elected to the position of Chief Minister and in 1954 became Premier of Nigeria’s Eastern Region.
On 16 November 1960, he became the Governor General, with Abubakar Tafawa Balewa as Prime Minister.
And with the proclamation of Nigeria as a republic in 1963, Nnamdi Azikiwe became the first President of Nigeria.
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~ Mark Twain