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The Rt. Hon. Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, P.C., GCFR

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The Rt. Hon. Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Owelle-Osowa-anya of Onitsha, and Zik of Africa was born on November 16, 1904 in Zungeru, Niger State into the family of Obededom Chukwuemeka Azikiwe and Racheal Chinwe Azikiwe. His father was a Government worker, a clerk, and his mother was a trader. He attended various schools in Nigeria, including CMS Central School, Onitsha (1911); Methodist Boys High School, Lagos (1915-18); Hope Waddell Institute, Calabar (1920-21). He was also a pupil teacher at St. Jude’s CMS Central School, Orafite, and CMS Central School, Onitsha (1919). He was a third class clerk with the Treasury Department, Lagos (1921). Residing all over Nigeria enabled him know how to speak the three main languages in Nigeria, Igbo, his mother tongue,Hausa, and Yoruba. After an unsuccessful attempt to stow away to America in 1924, his father saved some money, and gave him for his journey to America.

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, DC, where he was for two years (1927-1929). In 1929, he entered Lincoln University, PA. In 1930, he received his BA degree in Political Science. His classmates included Thurgood Marshal, the late Supreme Court Justices who left a mark in Americas Judicial system, and Langston Hughes, the late African American Poet. 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.

He returned to Nigeria in the mid-30s and got involved in politics forming the NCNC party. He was a journalist, which translates, to his running a couple of newspapers of which The West African Pilot was the most prominent of them all. He was actively involved in Nigeria's fight for independence. His dream was finally realized on October 1, 1960 when Nigeria became an independent nation and he was sworn in as her first indigenous Governor-General and Commander-in Chief of the Federation. In 1963, Nigeria became a republic, and he was then made the First President. He was forced out of office in 1966 by a deadly coup that I believed destroyed everything that our founding fathers fought and stood for. He helped put an end to the slaughtering of innocent Igbo men and women, during Biafra. He was perceived as a coward and sell out, but anyone that knows him, knew that he never believed in violence, rather he believed that dialogue could solve any problem. He saw that Biafrans did not have a chance against the firepower of the Nigerian army, so he intervened. If he did not intervene, I wonder what would have become of the Biafrans. The Nigerian Army might have used the Biafran War as an excuse to wipe the Igbos off the surface of the Earth. We thank him for that, and I think that Igbos owe their existence to him.

He returned to politics in 1978, by founding the Nigerian Peoples Party (NPP). In 1979 and 1983 his bids for the presidency were unsuccessful, amidst suspicions of riggings. He retired from active politics and withdrew to his country home in Nsukka where he lived until May 11, 1996 when he passed away at the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital. He was buried on November 16, 1996, at his country home in Onitsha. There were a lot of controversies surrounding his burial, but in the end he was buried with the respect and dignity he deserved. His burial period was the most peaceful time that I have ever experienced in Nigeria. Nigerians from all nooks and corners came to pay their last respect to the man who was known to all as The Great Zik of Africa. He may be gone, but his legacy lives on.


ACHIEVEMENTS

He was inducted into the prestigious Agbalanze society as Nnayelugo in 1946. Then, in 1962, he became a second-rank red cap chief (Ndichie Okwa), as Oziziani Obi. In 1970, he was installed as Owelle-Osowa-Anya, making him a first-rank red cap chief (Ndichie Ume). In 1960, Queen Elizabeth II awarded him the title of Privy Councilor to the Queen of England. He was conferred with the highest national honor 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. They schools 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.

SPORTS – He was actively involved in sports at every stage of his life, and he was successful in a lot of events that he participated in. They include Welterweight Boxing Champion Storer College (1925-27); High Jump champion, Howard University Inter-Scholastic Games (1926); Gold Medallist 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 Medallist, Richmond Cross Country Marathon (1931); Gold Medallist in the 1,000 yards run, One Mile Run and Three Miles 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); Won letters in athletics (Lincoln University) and cross country (Storer College and Lincoln University), swimming (Howard University), and 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 Founder (with M.R.B. Ottun) of the Zik’s Athletic Club to promote athletics, boxing, cricket, soccer, swimming and tennis in Nigeria.

POLITICS – During his lifetime, he held some political posts all over the world, especially our great country, Nigeria. They include Executive Committee Member of Mambili Party, Accra (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.-Sept. 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 (Jan.-Nov. 1960); Governor-General and Commander-in-Chief of Nigeria (1960-63); President of the Republic of the Republic of Nigeria (1963-1966); and Chairman and Presidential candidate of the Nigeria People’s Party (1978-83). Professional World – He also made a name for himself in the professional world. He was a Third-class Clerk, Treasury Department, Lagos (1921-1924); Recruit, Gold Coast Police Force (Jul.-Sept. 1924); Solicitor Clerk to the late Mr. Justice Graham Paul at Calabar (Jan.-Aug.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); etc.

SOCIETIES AND ORGANIZATIONS - He was a member of many organizations or 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 Society; American Ethnological Society; Iwarefa, Reformed Ogboni Fraternity; Amateur Athletic Association of Nigeria; Nigerian Swimming Association, Nigerian Boxing Board of Control; Nigerian Cricket Association; Ibo State Union; and 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).


MY EPITAPH

When my epitaph is written

I should be happy if it could be shown

That I saw those who thirsted, and gave them water to drink

That I saw those who hungered and gave them food to eat

That I saw those who were naked, and clothed them

That I saw the blind, and helped them to see

That I saw the lame, and helped them walk

That I saw the deaf, and helped them to hear

That I saw the dumb, and helped them to speak

That I saw those in affliction, and succoured them

That I saw my country in chains, and helped to liberate it

That I saw my people in darkness, and helped to show them the light

That I tried to love my neighbour as I would that he should love me

That I tried to live by the side of the road and be a friend to a man

HIS FINAL RESTING PLACE. MAY HIS SOUL REST IN PERFECT PEACE. AMEN


"This page was built to remember the great Zik of Africa, who left us on May 11, 1996. He is gone, but he is not forgotten. His dreams, ideas, and beliefs still live on in many Nigerians including myself. We will dearly miss him. He was my best friend, my mentor, my role model, my motivator, and most importantly, my father. As long as I live, I would make sure that the people who he fought for their freedom remember him. I shall also make sure that the poor and powerless Nigerians have a voice."

UWAKWE AZIKIWE

Long Live Zik of Africa!!!!

Long Live the ideas and dreams of Zik of Africa!!!!

Long Live a One Nigeria!!!!

UUA for President, Year 20...!!!!


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