Nnamdi Azikiwe A brief walk into the life of Nigeria's first president

Returning to Lagos in 1937, Nnamdi Azikiwe founded the West African Pilot, which he used as a vehicle to foster Nigerian nationalism.

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Nnamdi Azikiwe play

Nnamdi Azikiwe

(The Guardian)
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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 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 play

Nnamdi Azikiwe

(Online Nigeria)

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.

Nnamdi Azikiwe and Ahmadu Bello play

Nnamdi Azikiwe and Ahmadu Bello

(Word Press)

 

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.

ALSO READ: The life and achievements of Nigeria's first president

When it comes to personal achievements, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe is king.

Actively involved in sports at almost every stage of his life, Nnamdi Azikiwe was successful in many of the events he participated in.

And they include Welterweight Boxing Champion Storer College (1925–27); High Jump champion, Howard University Inter-Scholastic Games (1926)

Gold Medalist in Cross Country, Storer College (1927); Back-stroke Swimming Champion and No. 3 swimmer in Freestyle Relay team, Howard University (1928).

He was also Captain, Lincoln University Soccer Team (1930); Winner Two Miles Run, Central Inter-Collegiate Athletic Association Championships at Hampton Institute Virginia (1931)

Bronze Medalist, Richmond Cross Country Marathon (1931); Gold Medalist in the 1,000 yard run, One Mile Run and Three Mile Run, Caledonian Games in Brooklyn, NY (1932)

Young zik playing America football in 1926 play

Young zik playing America football in 1926

(Tori)

 

Silver Trophy winner in the Half Mile race, and Silver Cup winner in the One Mile Race, Democratic Field Day Championships, New Haven, Connecticut (1933).

Upon his return to Nigeria in 1937, Nnamdi Azikiwe continued his winning streak with that same energy.

Thus, he was runner-up (with G. K. Dorgu) at the Lagos Tennis Men’s Doubles Championships (Division B 1938); anchorman for the ZAC team which won the 50 yards Freestyle Relay at the Lagos Swimming Championships (1939).

In 1946, Nnamdi Azikiwe was inducted into the prestigious Agbalanze society of Onitsha as Nnayelugo (It was a customary recognition for Onitsha men of significant accomplishment).

Arguably one of his biggest achievement, was when he was appointed to the privy council of the United Kingdom by Queen Elizabeth II in 1960.

And two years later, he became a second-rank red cap chieftain or Ndichie Okwa as the Oziziani Obi in 1962.

He would also be installed as the Owelle-Osowa-Anya of Onitsha, making him a first-rank, hereditary red cap nobleman or Ndichie Ume in 1972.

At the age of seventy-six, in the year 1980 to be precise, Nnamdi Azikiwe was conferred with the highest national honour of Grand Commander of the Federal Republic (GCFR).

Nnamdi Azikiwe play

Nnamdi Azikiwe

(Mac sounding)

However, in the kingdom of academics where his position was incontestable, the Zik of Africa as he is fondly called, received fourteen honorary degrees from Nigerian, American and Liberian universities.

They 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 the University of Liberia.

In addition to his personal achievement, Nnamdi Azikiwe was also a member of many organizations and societies.

And they include Anti-Slavery Society for the protection of Human Rights; Phi Beta Sigma fraternity (Mu Chapter); West African Students' Union; Onitsha Improvement Union; Zik's Athletic Club; Ekine Sekiapu Society of Buguma, Kalabari

St. John's Lodge of England; Royal Economic Society; Royal Anthropological Institute; British Association for the Advancement of Science; American Society of International Law; American Anthropological Association

American Political Science Association; American Ethnological Society; Amateur Athletic Association of Nigeria; Nigerian Swimming Association, Nigerian Boxing Board of Control; Nigerian Cricket Association

Ibo State Union; Nigerian Table Tennis Association; Nigeria Olympic Committee and British Empire and Commonwealth Games Association

Aged Azikiwe play

Aged Azikiwe

(Jaguda)

 

Politically, the road that led him to become the first president of Nigeria was not straight and short. He had held several political posts beforehand.

They include Executive Committee Member of Mambili Party, Accra (1935–37); General Secretary of National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (1944–45); President of the NCNC (1946–60)

Vice-President of the Nigerian National Democratic Party (1947–60); Member for Lagos in the Legislative Council of Nigeria (1947–51); Member for Lagos and Leader of the Opposition in the Western House of Assembly (1952–53)

Member for Onitsha in the Eastern House of Assembly (1954–60); Minister of Internal Affairs (Jan.–September 1954); Minister of Internal Affairs, Eastern Region (1954); Member of His Excellency Privy Council, Eastern Nigeria (1954–59)

Primer of Eastern Nigeria (1954–59); President of the Senate of the Federation (January–November 1960); Governor-General and Commander-in-Chief of Nigeria (1960–63); President of the Republic of Nigeria (1963–1966).

On 11 May 1996, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe joined his ancestors at the age of Ninety-one after living a life of self fulfilment.

ALSO READ: A brief walk into the life of Nigeria's first president

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