Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Premier of Eastern Region, at N.C.N.C. rally, Urualla, Nigeria. Circa 1959. By Eliot Elisofon
Former Lincoln University President Sudarkasa asserted that "Zik was the only African leader whose history as Pan-Africanist theoretician and activist predated and rivaled that of Nkrumah." Prof Ali Mazrui also observed that "for parts of Africa, Nnamdi Azikiwe`s life traversed the entire span of European colonial rule and beyond."
Two great Pan-Africanist Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe and Dr W.E.B. DUBOIS
Azikiwe was born on November 16, 1904, in Zungeru, Northern Nigeria where he learnt Hausa language at his tender age. His parents were Igbo; his father Obed-Edom Chukwuemeka Azikiwe (1879–1958), a clerk in the British Administration of Nigeria and his mother was Rachel Ogbenyeanu Azikiwe. Nnamdi means "My father is alive" in the Igbo language.
Young Nnamdi Azikiwe
He left for the United States in the late 20s, as he put it, "in search of a Golden Fleece." While in the US, he worked as a dishwasher, coal miner, potato peeler, car wash attendant, elevator boy, kitchen hand, and waiter, to pay his way through college. He attended Storer College in West Virginia for two years (1925-1927). Due to financial difficulties, he left for Howard University, Washington DC, where he studied for two years (1927-1929).
Commencement honorees of Howard University, June 4, 1954 (L-R) Nnamdi Azikiwe, Roy Williston Bornn, Chester Bowles, and Azikiwe`s year-mate in Lincoln University Thurgood Marshall.
In summer 1930, he was admitted to Columbia University to read journalism, with a scholarship from the Phelp Stokes Fund. He obtained an MA degree in Religion and Philosophy at Lincoln University (1932). While still at Lincoln University, he was employed as a Graduate Assistant in summer 1930. In 1933, he concluded two Master’s degree programs, in Anthropology and Political Science at University of Pennsylvania, PA. He was appointed a full-time lecturer in Political Science in 1933. He taught ancient, medieval, modern and English history, as well as African history. While still pursuing his Master’s at Columbia University, he registered for the Doctor of Philosophy degree at the school. In 1934, his Ph.D. Thesis, “Liberian Diplomacy, 1847-1932” was published as “Liberia in World Politics.” Since his attendance at these schools, he has received many honorary degrees from them, including two from Lincoln University. After accomplishing his academic dreams, he knew it was time to go back to his homeland, to join in the fight to free Nigerians from the evil grasp of Britain, who was then our colonial masters.
Alain Locke (far left), with Judge James S. Watson, Nnamdi Azikiwe— the first African president of Nigeria— K. O. Mbadwie, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Clarence Holt, Howard University, Washington, D.C., circa 1960. Credit: Courtesy of the NYPL digital gallery, New York Public Library
After teaching at Lincoln, Azikiwe returned to Nigeria in mid 30`s and proceeded to Gold Coast (Ghana) where he took the position of editor for the African Morning Post, a daily newspaper in Accra, Ghana in November 1934. In that position he promoted a pro-African nationalist agenda. Smertin has described his writing there: "In his passionately denunciatory articles and public statements he censured the existing colonial order: the restrictions on the Africans' right to express their opinions, and racial discrimination. He also criticised those Africans who belonged to the "elite" of colonial society and favoured retaining the existing order, as they regarded it as the basis of their well being." Azikiwe is still studied by Ghanaian journalism students in the history of journalism in Ghana for bringing firestorm in the practice of journalism under colonialsim.
Nnamdi Azikiwe: Statesman, Intellectual and Titan of African politics
As a result of publishing an article on May 15, 1936, entitled "Has the African a God?" written by I. T. A. Wallace-Johnson he was brought to trial on charges of sedition. Although he was found guilty of the charges and sentenced to six months in prison, he was acquitted on appeal. He returned to Lagos, Nigeria, in 1937 and founded the West African Pilot, which he used as a vehicle to foster Nigerian nationalism. He founded the Zik Group of Newspapers, publishing multiple newspapers in cities across the country. Azikiwe became active in the Nigerian Youth Movement (NYM), the first genuinely nationalist organization in Nigeria. However, in 1941 he backed Samuel Akinsanya to be NYM candidate for a vacant seat in the Legislative Council, but the executive selected Ernest Ikoli instead. Azikiwe resigned from the NYM amid accusations of discrimination against Ijebu members, taking all Ibo and most Ijebu members with him.
After a successful journalism enterprise, Azikiwe entered into politics, co-founding the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC) alongside Herbert Macaulay in 1944.
Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo, Ahmadu Bello
He became the secretary-general of the National Council in 1946, and was elected to Legislative Council of Nigeria the following year. In 1951, he became the leader of the Opposition to the government of Obafemi Awolowo in the Western Region's House of Assembly. 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 November 16, 1960, he became the Governor General, with Abubakar Tafawa Balewa as Prime Minister. On the same day became the first Nigerian named to the Privy Council of the United Kingdom. With the proclamation of a republic in 1963, he became the first President of Nigeria. In both posts, Azikiwe's role was largely ceremonial
1958 LancasterHouse Conference on Nigerian Independence —(From Left) Alan Lennox-Boyd, British Colonial Secretary with the big four: Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Premier of the West Region; Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Federal Prime Minister; Alhajii Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna of Sokoto, Premier of the North Region; Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Premier of the East Region.
Azikiwe and his civilian colleagues were removed from power in the military coup of January 15, 1966. During the Biafran (1967–1970) war of secession, Azikiwe became a spokesman for the nascent republic and an adviser to its leader Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu. After the war, he served as Chancellor of Lagos University from 1972 to 1976. He joined the Nigerian People's Party in 1978, making unsuccessful bids for the presidency in 1979 and again in 1983. He left politics involuntarily after the military coup on December 31, 1983. He died on May 11, 1996, at the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital, in Enugu, Enugu State, after a protracted illness.
His time in politics spanned most of his adult life and he was referred to by admirers as "The Great Zik of Africa". His motto in politics was: "You talk I listen, you listen I talk."
The writings of Azikiwe spawned a philosophy of African liberation Zikism, which identifies five concepts for Africa's movement towards freedom: spiritual balance, social regeneration, economic determination, mental emancipation, and political resurgence.
Nnamdi Azikiwe. Nigerian statesman and nationalist leader Nnamdi Azikiwe answers questions at a news conference in London in August 1968. Azikiwe served as president of Nigeria from 1963 to 1966.
Places named after Azikiwe include the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja, the Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium in Enugu, the Nnamdi Azikiwe University in Awka, Anambra State, Nnamdi Azikiwe Press Centre, Dodan Barracks, Obalende, Ikoyi, Lagos. His portrait adorns Nigeria's five hundred naira currency note. History reveals Zik as the only individual whose name appeared in a democratic constitution. The Nigeria's 1963 Republican Constitution which was an amendment of the 1960 Independent Constitution has the following words: “Nnamdi Azikiwe shall be deemed to have been elected President and Commander in-Chief of the Armed Forces,” as submitted by then Prime Minister Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa who posited that, “Nigeria can never adequately reward Dr. Azikiwe” for his nationalism.
Governor-General Nnamdi Azikiwe
He was inducted into the prestigious Agbalanze society of Onitsha as Nnayelugo 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 1970, he was installed as the Owelle-Osowa-Anya of Onitsha, making him a first-rank, hereditary red cap nobleman or Ndichie Ume.
In 1960, 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.
(L-R)Ambassador Alex Quaison Sackey (Ghana), Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe (Nigeria), Diallo Telli (Guinea)and US Diplomat nd Nobel Laureate Ralph Bunche at the International House, United Nations July 19, 1959. Photo: Paul Cordes, courtesy of Department of Special Collections UCLA Charles E. Young Research Library
Azikiwe was actively involved in sports at every stage of his life, and he was successful in many of the events that he participated in. 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); 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, Catedonian Games in Brooklyn, NY (1932); 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); Runner-up (with G.K. Dorgu) at the Lagos Tennis Men’s Double Championships (Division B 1938); anchor man for the ZAC team which won the 50 yards Freestyle Relay at the Lagos Swimming Championships (1939).
He won letters in athletics (Lincoln University) and cross country (Storer College and Lincoln University), swimming (Howard University), and football (soccer) (Lincoln University); entered to compete in the Half-Mile Race and One-Mile run at the British Empire Games to represent Nigeria, but was rejected by the A.A.A. of Great Britain on technical grounds (he dropped his English Christian name, “Benjamin”); and founded (with M. R. B. Ottun) of the Zik’s Athletic Club to promote athletics, boxing, cricket, football, swimming and tennis in Nigeria.
During his lifetime, he held several political posts, especially in Nigeria. They include Executive Committee Member of Ga Mambii Party of Gold Coast led by iron-hot nationalist fighter Kojo Thompson (father of late Tommy Thompson,owner of free press newspaper) between (1935–37); General Secretary of National Council of Nigerian 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); and Chairman and Presidential candidate of the Nigeria People’s Party (1978–83).
He made a name for himself in the professional world. The many posts he held included: Third-class Clerk, Treasury Department, Lagos (1921–24); Recruit, Gold Coast Police Force (July-September 1924); Solicitor Clerk to the late Mr. Justice Graham Paul at Calabar (January-Augut 1925); Instructor in Political Science, Lincoln University (1931–34); University Correspondent for the Baltimore Afro-American (1928–34); General and Sports Correspondent for the Philadelphia Tribune (1928–34); Editor-in Chief of the West African Pilot (1937–45); Correspondent for the Associated Negro Press (1944–47); Correspondent for Reuters (1944–46); Managing Director of Zik’s Press Limited printers and publishers of the West African Pilot (Lagos), Eastern Guardian (Port Harcourt), Nigerian Spokesman (Onitsha), Southern Nigeria Defender (Ibadan), Daily Comet (Kano), and Eastern Sentinel (Enugu); Managing Director of Comet Press Limited (1945–53); Chairman of West African Pilot Limited and the Associated Newspapers of Nigeria Limited and six other limited liability companies (1952–53); Chairman, Nigerian Real Estate Corporation Limited (1952–53).
Societies and organizations
He was a member of many organizations and societies, including Anti-Slavery Society for the protection of Human Rights; Phi Beta Sigma fraternity (Alpha Chapter and 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.
LITERARY WORKS - In his lifetime, he wrote a lot of books, poetry, and articles. His celebrated publications include Liberia in World Politics: Renascent Africa (1934); Political Blueprint for Nigeria (1943); Economic Reconstruction of Nigeria (1943); Zik: A Selection of the Speeches of Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe (1961); Assassination Story: True or False? (1946); “Essentials for Nigeria’s Survival.” (1965); “Before Us Lies The Open Grave” (1947); “The Future of Pan-Africanism” (1961); “The Realities of African Unity” (1965); “Origins of the Nigerian Civil War” (1969); I Believe in a One Nigeria (1969); Peace Proposals for Ending the Nigerian Civil War (1969); My Odyssey: An Autobiography (1970); Dialogue on a New Capital for Nigeria (1974); “Creation of More States in Nigeria, A Political Analysis” (1974); Democracy with Military Vigilance (1974); “Reorientation of Nigerian Ideologies: lecture on 9th December 1976, on eve of the launching of the UNN Endowment Fund” (1976); Our Struggle for Freedom; Onitsha Market Crisis (1976); Let Us Forgive Our Children, An appeal to the leaders and people of Onitsha during the market crisis (1976); A Collection of Poems (1977); Civil War Soliloquies: More Collection of Poems (1977); “Themes in African Social and Political Thought” (1978); Restoration of Nigerian Democracy (1978); Matchless Past Performance: My Reply to Chief Awolowo’s Challenge (1979); A Matter of Conscience (1979); Ideology for Nigeria: Capitalism, Socialism or Welfarism? (1980); “Breach of Trust by the NPN” (1983); and History Will Vindicate The Just (1983).
The Spirit-Man: Nnamdi Azikiwe
By Philip Emeagwali
philip@ emeagwali.com: A Father of the Internet, Supercomputer pioneer,Nigerian Scientist, Inventor and proud Igbo man.
"It is better we disintegrate in peace and not in pieces."~Nnamdi Azikiwe
The Spirit-Man: Zik's persona is enigmatic, full of complex layers that are almost impossible to peel away completely to get at the real man
FOR MANY OF THOSE who lived in colonial Nigeria, Nnamdi Azikiwe was a super-man sent especially to free them from alien rule. Unable to understand Zik's persona, fables were woven around him. A story has it that as a child, Zik saw an old woman carrying a heavy load. Moved with pity, he offered to help her. On reaching her home in the forest, the old woman who was in fact a spirit, asked Zik what she could do for him. Zik requested for wisdom and power. The woman obliged. She cut Zik into bits and boiled the flesh in a big pot. Later, she magically brought him back to life. On her request, Zik killed the woman to prevent her from performing the same feat for others. That explains his legendary source of wisdom and power over his fellow man.
Another has it that with the magical gift from the old woman of the forest, Zik managed to extricate Nigeria out of a deadly situation. Ages ago, the Atlantic Ocean was inhabited by a wicked mermaid who caused the water to overflow its banks perennially to drown thousands of Nigerians. For a long time, the people of Lagos prayed for a redeemer. None came. When Zik learnt of their predicament, he went into the ocean and challenged the wicked mermaid to a contest. First, Zik changed into a spirit, entered a bottle and then came out. Then he dared the mermaid to do the same. The mermaid quickly changed into a spirit and entered the bottle. But before it could come out, Zik corked the bottle and took it away. Since then the Bar Beach has been given less trouble. The moral of the fable was that if Nigerians annoyed the politician too frequently, he could release the mermaid to torment Lagosians again. Could if be that he had actually released the mermaid to cause the recent flooding of parts of Victoria Island?
Even if these myths evoke laughter there is a sense in which even those close to Zik helped to elevate him to legendary proportions. With years, however, the man became situated more and more in an earthly context.
To Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, Ikemba Nnewi, Zik was the indefatigable fighter for freedom and equality. As he later saw him up close: "At independence, he cut a rather tragic figure. He was to met the symbol of a Nigeria that would have been but was not." As leader of secessionist Biafra, the former warlord disagreed with the Owelle's politics of compromise which Ojukwu believed, left the Igbo naked.
Adeniran Ogunsanya who grew from just in admirer as a boy in King's College, Lagos, when he used to sneak out to listen to public lectures delivered by Zik, to a political associate saw the late elderstatesman as an embodiment of "all the virtues a man of the people can have." He listed these to include Zik's respect for the opinion of others, charisma and uncompromising nationalism.
chief Nnamdi Azikiwe
He cited an occasion when he, Ogunsanya presided over a meeting in which the Owelle was in attendance. According to him, he was overwhelmed by admiration when Zik, with the greatest humility called out and said: "Mr Chairman, can I have your permission to say one or two things?" Ogunsanya reflected: "Can you imagine Zik saying 'Mr Chairman' to a little boy like me?"
Even those who were opposed to Zik politically spoke of him with awe and in superlatives. As an opponent, Kingsley Mbadiwe wrote that Zik was like a god when the colonialists were administering Nigeria. "His orders," according to Mbadiwe, "were feared by everybody, including the police." On his person, Mbadiwe noted that Zik had what he described as "a varied nature. But he was more patient than myself, perhaps accountable by age difference, but his patience can be overtaxed and when he wants to fight, he fights like a wounded lion." According to Mbadiwe, Zik had a messianic outlook like Mahatma Gandhi of India in certain respects. But unlike Gandhi who said he was the light and the way, Zik only showed the light for people to find the way.
Nnamdi Azikiwe( Zik of Africa) is the First President of Republic of Nigeria and Micheal Okpara is the Premier of Eastern Region.
Despite the mythic heights to which he was raised, Zik was nothing if not pragmatic, always conscious of his limits and ever eager to extract all that was possible from that limited horizon. Even though his nationalist endeavours contributed immeasurably to Nigeria's independence, he knew how to make the best out of his loss of the prime ministership to Abubakar Tafawa Balewa in 1959. During his swearing-in as governor-general in November 1960, Zik quoted Douglas Malloch rather tellingly: "If you can't be a sun, be a star." As he saw it: "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?"
Much more if the opportunity availed itself. Thus in 1979, he made for the hustings again when he saw that the post of first executive president of Nigeria ought just to be within his reach. He failed. He tried again in 1983 and failed again - more disastrously. So incensed was he with what he saw as the barefaced rigging of the 1983 elections by the ruling party that literally swore, quoting Proverbs (11:21) to express his faith that surely, "the wicked shall not go unpunished." Three months later, the military struck, throwing many of the architects of Zik's defeat into detention and forcing others into self-exile for 10 years.
Zik's capacity to forgive was also legendary. In 1989 when the hoax over his purported death made rounds thus giving him the distinction of one of the very rare persons to read of his own obituary while yet alive, he readily forgave R.B.K. Okafor and Mbadiwe, the pair who played major roles in selling his "death" story to the media.
The Wedding of Nnamdi Azikiwe and Flora Ogoegbunam -1936
Even as a public man, his private life was shrouded in mystery. He married Flora Ogboegbunam in 1936 when he was 32 years. Between them, they had one daughter and three sons. Chukwuma, his first son, is a diplomat, while Chukwuemeka is a businessman. Not much is known about Zik's children.
Zik and his wife Lady Flora Ogboegbunam
Apart from the occasional appearance at state occasions with her husband as president, Lady Flora was hardly seen in public and less even known of her. From 1966 when Zik stopped being Nigeria's president to 1983 when she died, Lady Flora could have passed for cypher in the consciousness of Nigerians. And although Zik later re-married Uche and had more children by her, what sort of father he was did not enter into the conscious of his compatriots. Zik himself hardly wrote or said anything about family life, and certainly not his own. There was no sign that he was close to his kids, especially those of his late wife. After his death May 11, only his half sister, Obiageli Ifejika, made one or so utterances concerning his burial, Zik's first son arrived four days after his father's death.
His generosity ironically seemed to have gone more to other Nigerian children other than his own. In 1990, he donated the set of buildings adjacent to his Onuiyi residence in Nsukka to the University of Nigeria. The building consisted of 20 storey buildings, each consisting of three floors; 12 bungalows' and appurtenances and two surrounding parcels of land covering a total of 1.3 hectares and 6037.4 square metres. The buildings which have served as student hostels since they were put up are capable of accommodating about 6,000 students. Yet, it was said that Zik hardly gave materials things to his children, apart from a good education. His insistence is that they should fend for themselves. That's the vintage Zik enigma, Nigeria's spirit-man.
Reported by Jaiyeola Ajasa in TheWeek May 27, 1996. (http://emeagwali.com/nigeria/nigerians/nnamdi-azikiwe.html)
Nnamdi Azikiwe and Kwame Nkrumah: Pan-Africanist Mentor and Mentee"Zik had been instrumental in sending many Ghanaian and Nigerian students to Lincoln. The most famous of these was Nkrumah." - Niara Sudarkasa, former president, Lincoln University, PA.
Some of the more distinguished beneficiaries of Zik's West African scholarship program include, from Ghana: E. Ako Adjei, K. A. B. Jones-Quartey, and Kwame Nkrumah; from Nigeria: Abdul Karimu Disu, Okechukwu Ikejiani, George Mbadiwe, Kingsley Ozuomba Mbadiwe, Mbonu Ojike, and Nwafor Orizu.
"My nationalism was also revived ... through articles written in The West African Morning Post by Nnamdi Azikwe, a Nigerian from Onitsha. Azikiwe was himself a graduate from an American university and when I had first met him after he had addressed a meeting of the Gold Coast Teachers' Association some years earlier in Accra, I had been greatly impressed by him and had been more determined than ever to go to America." - Kwame Nkrumah.
Obiwu. “The Pan-African Brotherhood of Langston Hughes and Nnamdi Azikiwe.” Dialectical Anthropology, 31.1-3 (November 2007): 143-165.(http://obiwu.blogspot.com/2009/06/nnamdi-azikiwe-and-kwame-nkrumah-pan.html)
Quotes of Nnamdi Azikiwe
"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.
"Originality is the essence of true scholarship. Creativity is the soul of the true scholar." ~Nnamdi Azikiwe