22 years after Zik… no ‘Pan-Africa’, whither ‘one Nigeria’?
THE history of lives and people of Anambra State and Nigeria can never be complete or even meaningful without mentioning the three eminent sons of the state who were born on the same date and month, but different widely separated years.
Their existence and positive contributions to humanity in general and pride to their home state may to some extent, lay credence to the assumption that indeed ‘horoscope’ has a lot to do with human nature.
Can one discuss the history of Nigerian Literature without mentioning the name of the internationally acclaimed writer and founding father of modern African Literature in English, Albert Chinua Achebe?
Will the history of Nigeria be complete without mentioning the name of the Nigerian military officer and politician, Chief Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, who served as the military governor of Eastern Region of Nigeria in 1966 and as the leader of the breakaway in defunct Republic of Biafra?
Can we think about ‘the labours of our heroes past’ without the name,Nnamdi Azikiwe mirroring the world in our minds? These names, alongside their contemporaries are always remembered with enthusiasm and appreciation.
The roles of these great men to the development of Nigeria cannot be over-emphasized. For the purpose of this write up, focus will be made on the ”Owelle of Onitsha”, Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe,
Nnamdi Azikiwe, who was born on the 10th day of November, in Zungeru, where his father Obed-Edom Chukwuemeka Azikiwe, worked as a clerk in the British administration of Nigeria, was a long serving statesmen, reputed variously as one of the foremost Nigerian and West African Nationalists, the first president of Nigeria,
a one-time Governor-General and commander-in chief of Nigeria, the first Nigerian to be named after the privy council of the United Kingdom, and the first president of the Senate of Nigeria.His family’s ancestral home is in Onitsha, in Anambra state.
He was first christened Benjamin by his parent but he later changed to Nnamdi -my father is alive. He schooled in three major places. First was Onitsha, then Lagos and later Calabar and was fluent in the languages of the three major ethnic groups of Nigeria; the major assets that helped him in reshaping the future of Nigeria.
In 1925, Azikiwe went to the United States where he studied Political Science, among other courses.
Nnamdi existed when preoccupation was to emancipate Nigeria from the firm grip of colonialism. As the father of Nigerian Nationalism, his primary concern was to make Nigeria an independent nation. He distinguished himself among the African nationalists.
In conjunction with Leopold Senghor of Senegal, and Jomo Kenyatta of Kenya and Kwameh Nkrumah of Ghana, he formed the great Pan African Movement that championed independence across the African continent and sought to reduce, if not eliminate, every vestige of colonial system inimical to the unity, peace and progress of Africa.
The great Zik of Africa was among the Africans to strengthen their goals – unity. He was a non-tribalist whose primary dream for Nigeria was not to elevate his people, the Igbo, but a dream of making Nigeria become a nation on the African continent strengthened with ‘a hate-free, fear-free and greed free people, that shall be in the vanguard of a world task force, whose assignment is not only to receive the stature of man in Africa, but to restore the dignity of man in the world’.
The pledge to his service was to solemnly render faithful and loyal service to his country, having no consideration for his personal comfort, safety, or even life itself, the price a good leader must pay in order to protect and preserve the freedom and unity of Nigeria.
While some of his nationalist contemporaries fell by the way side through personal aggrandisement, whims and caprices, Zik was among the faithfuls, who swam to shore, in spite of all odds. When some of the faithful paid with their lives, some were incarcerated, some lost their jobs, some sacrificed their fortunes, some ostracized, while some were victimized and made to suffer in dignity.
In his visionary attitude, while addressing Nigerians on 1st October 1964, during the 4th anniversary of Nigeria’s independence, he beseeched the people not to let the labours of our heroes past not to be in vain.
“Let it not be said of us that we struggled all those years to win independence all for our people and when we had the chance to build heaven on earth for them, we made a colossal mess of our country because of our selfish materialism… and allowed our private prejudice and partial affections to distort our interest to our motherland”
Down home, he brought the great University of Nigeria, Nsukka, an institution that stands tall among all the tertiary institutions of the world as a citadel of learning. After his exposure to Lyncoln University, America, he realised the indispensability of education, as captured in his speech: “If you want to be independent, you must be educated, because, if you don’t read it, you can’t write it.”
In an interview by Vanguard, the Former Dean, Faculty of Education, University of Nigeria Nsukka and wife of Dr Azikiwe, Prof Uche Azikiwe, disclosed that years after independence, her husband’s dream for Nigeria remains unrealised, adding that his dream was that of fighting and getting freedom for his country, Nigeria and Africa.
Uche further disclosed that in his write-ups and statements, he had always asserted that the struggle for Nigeria’s independence was not for his family, adding that all he wanted was to set his people free, showing the light and people will find the way.
“He believed in ‘one Nigeria’. Nnamdi Azikiwe’s ambition was to fight and get freedom for Nigeria and Africa as a whole because he started from Ghana,” she said.
However, she expressed her disappointment with the failure of the present day leaders to make Nigeria a leading nation in the world.
“I had thought that Nigeria will become a leading nation in the world, the giant of Africa in the real sense. There is nothing preventing Nigeria from achieving the tall dreams of the founding fathers, Nigeria has all it takes to achieve greatness, but sadly, we have not achieved greatness.” She said.
However, she expressed her optimism about the future of Nigeria, expressing the hope that Nigeria will achieve the dreams of the founding fathers.