Monday, March 8, 2021
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‘’A prophet has no honour in his own country’’ Jesus Christ made this assertion following an observation by Him that the people of Nazareth, the town in which He grew up, refused to believe in His teaching. Reason: They considered Jesus to be one of them without an authority to preach to them. Indeed, familiarity breeds disdain. The current generation of Nigerians and Africans might not recognize the worth of those who fought spiritedly to give Nigeria, nay, Africa freedom from colonial rule. You may not be able to value freedom until it is lost. Nigeria was blessed with highly skillful orators and wordsmiths like Nnamdi Azikiwe, ‘’Golden Voice’’ Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Ladoke Akintola, thundery Adegoke Adelabu; bombastic Kingsley Ozumba Mbadiwe, Mbonu Ojike of the ‘’boycott the boycottables’’ fame; highly eloquent Yusuf Maitama Sule, and master strategists and thinkers like Obafemi Awolowo; who all, deployed their endowments into the liberation struggles that we are all enjoying today. These heroes reasoned brilliantly and spoke eloquently to persuade their followers and admirers. Their contributions are such that one might be tempted to think that colonialists from Europe and other First World nations that exploited Africa, might have regretted the opportunity accorded these brilliant minds to gain exposure through education abroad.

Dr. Nnamdi Benjamin Azikiwe, fondly called ‘ZIK OF AFRICA’ by his teeming political admirers, was one of the frontline Pan Africanists who became stormy petrels to colonialists in Africa. He was the first Nigerian to obtain a university degree in an institution in the United States. Described as a great motivational speaker, Azikiwe’s image started looming large after he completed his university education at Howard University, Washington, D.C; and Lincoln University, Pennsylvania. Azikiwe opted to work as a journalist and founded the West African Pilot, a tabloid that was printed in Ghana. (Then Gold Coast) The publication was founded by Azikiwe, a freedom fighter, to sensitize the populace on the independence struggle. Only a few people, perhaps know that Azikiwe mentored fame Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, having attended the same university in the United States. He was one year ahead of Nkrumah in the university, after which their paths crossed again in the Gold Coast. ZIK OF AFRICA waged ‘’war’’ unrelentingly against colonialists such that Azikiwe, a champion of the rights of Africans had to flee Nigeria at a point in his glorious political career as an activist. He berthed in the Gold Coast (Ghana) in 1934, from where he preached his Pan African ideals. He left the country for Nigeria in 1937, when the political heat in Nigeria subsided. One of Azikiwe’s publications in 1936, entitled “Has the African a God?” authored by I. T. A. Wallace-Johnson earned him a court trial on charges of sedition.

He was found guilty by the lower court that sentenced him to six months in prison; but was acquitted on appeal. Undeterred, Azikiwe returned to Lagos in 1937, and founded the West African Pilot, that he used to sensitize Nigerians on nationalism. He founded the Zik Group of Newspapers, publishing multiple newspapers in cities across the country. The first Nigerian to occupy the exalted position of Governor General; and Ceremonial President in 1963, the Pan Africanist joined the Nigerian Youth Movement, and later founded the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC) Azikiwe scored many firsts. He was the first Premier of Eastern Region, Nigeria; first Nigerian to receive attend a University in the United States, first Nigerian to be appointed the Governor General of Nigeria, first Ceremonial President of Nigeria, first President of the Senate of Nigeria; and was a notable nationalist, and independence fighter who inspired several notable politicians, including K.O. Mbadiwe, Mbonu Ojike, Nwafor Orizu, Okechukwu Ikejiani, Nwankwo Chukwuemeka, Abdulkareem Disu, K.A.B Quartey-Jones also from Ghana, and Okongwu. Ebenezer Ako Adjei, from Ghana.

They became faithful followers of Azikiwe after he formed the NCNC, in collaboration with Herbert Macaulay. Zik gained acceptance rapidly after returning to Nigeria. His was beyond tribal inclination as people in the North too had begun to join his party. In Kaduna, for instance, whose population was not Northern dominated, NCNC was gaining speedy acceptance. In those days, the Southerners mainly inhabited Kaduna. Zik was predominant on political field throughout the length and breadth of the country. The effect of this was that the Igbos were becoming preponderant, almost colonizing the Yoruba; even in Ibadan. They were everywhere reaping the popularity of Zikism, and exploiting the gains of nationalism, which was imbued in Nigerians through Azikiwe’s propaganda. For instance, Dr. Ikejiani, an Igbo, Medical Doctor, based in Ibadan, was made Chairman of Nigeria Railway Corporation. The Yoruba then, were not bothered, as their faces were covered by spirit of nationalism, as a result of which there was nothing like federal character or quota system, in distribution of posts or appointments whatsoever. All what everybody wanted was independence and self-government. In 1948, Azikiwe was elected to the Nigerian Legislative Council and emerged the Leader of Opposition in the Western Region House of Assembly in 1951, with Obafemi Awolowo as Premier. He moved over to the East in 194 to serve as the region’s premier.

Azikiwe, became a fugitive following his relocation to Ghana in order to evade sedition charges slammed on him by the colonial government. At independence in 1960, Azikiwe became the Governor-General of Nigeria, the first native to hold that appointment. In 1963, he because the ceremonial President of the Federal Republic on Nigeria, in a parliamentary democracy., and he later served as premier of the Eastern region (1954–1959) At an occasion, Nnamdi Azikiwe noted that: ”I think that Pan-Africanism should be concretized either in the form of regional States or one continental State, whichever is feasible, allowing this to be done voluntarily without upsetting the total sovereignty of the States concerned. If this barrier is hurdled, I suggest that the African States concerned should sign and ratify conventions, among others which I shall dilate upon, guaranteeing fundamental human rights among their citizens, social security among their workers, and collective security among their populations. Above all, I will suggest that African States should now, as an earnest of their sincere belief in Pan- Africanism, declare a doctrine of non-intervention in the continent of Africa, making it clear that the establishment of the continued existence of any colonial territory in Africa, by any non-African State, shall be regarded as an unfriendly act and an act of aggression against.

When Kwame Nkrumah visited Nigeria shortly after Ghana became independent and Nigeria was looking forward to 1960, he was hosted by Premier Azikiwe who recalled, in his speech to the Eastern Nigerian Parliament, how he was a ‘’new arrival at Accra and an energetic journalist in charge of the African Morning Post, whose motto was: ‘Independent in all things and neutral in nothing affecting the destiny of Africa. Nnamdi Azikiwe in the Welcome Address stated that: ‘’ May I also acclaim the entourage of my worthy comrade in the cause of human freedom. These men have made history and it is proper that we should honour them today. ‘’May I say that I look forward eagerly to the day when Nigerians, as citizens of a fully independent and sovereign State, can join our honoured guests and the people of Ghana not only in enjoying political freedom, but also in participating in the titanic struggle for the freedom of all Africa from exploitation in every form and, under God, create a hate-free, a fear-free, and a greed-free continent peopled by free men and women. And I pray that Almighty God may give us the strength to accomplish this herculean task which it has pleased history to assign to us.’’ Sentimentally, Nnamdi Azikiwe concluded the memorable speech, as recorded in a publication: ‘A Selection from the Speeches of Nnamdi Azikiwe’ this way: ‘’ Indeed, history has shown that the struggle for freedom in Africa is an epic in the annals of humanity. ‘’Welcome to Nigeria, Kwame Nkrumah! ‘Welcome to this corner of West Africa, Kodjo Tiotsio, Krobo Edusei, Kofi Baako! Welcome to Africa, the land of your grandsires and tile land of your dreams, George Padmore!’’

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