If there is one thing that Africa and Nigeria’s history has taught us, then it is that we had great personalities as founding fathers and leaders who knew what they desired and wanted for their countries after independence from the colonial masters. For Nigeria one of such personalities was Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe; the Zik of Africa, the leader of the Zikist Movement that swept through Africa and Nigeria. In this piece we would be bringing you interesting facts about this legend of Nigeria’s political history.
#10 As A Spirit –Man
For those who lived in colonial Nigeria, Nnamdi Azikiwe was believed to be a superman sent to free us from alien rule of the British. Many didn’t understand him so many stories were made up concerning the person of Zik. A part of such stories has it that Zik as a child saw an old woman carrying a heavy load. He helped her carry it to her house and on getting to her place, the woman asked him what she should do for him and Zik said he wanted wisdom and power. The woman was actually a spirit. The story continues that she cut Zik into pieces, boiled him in a pot and magically brought him back to life. On her request Zik killed her to avoid her doing the same to another man and this explains the wisdom and power Zik has over his fellow man. Myths like this helped to situate him in legendary proportions.
#9 To Emeka O. Ojukwu
To the late Ikemba Nnewi, Zik was the indefatigable fighter for freedom and equality even though at independence Ojukwu saw the role he took as tragic. Zik on all fronts was expected to be the Prime Minister of the new independent Nigeria but he compromised to be in coalition with the NPC which made him occupy a figure head role as Governor-General and later ceremonial President. To Ojukwu this compromise was what left the Igbo naked.
#8 On The January 1966 Coup
The first coup in the country was such that most victims of that coup were all Northerners perpetuated by mainly Igbo officers even though it was meant to cut across board. During this exercise that will continue to live in infamy, Zik was out of the country on a medical trip to treat a lung infection. This trip was duely agreed on with Tafawa Belewa being the Prime Minister then. While on this trip he also met with Haiti’s dictator, ‘Papa Doc’ Duvalier. However some of the coup plotters believed that Major Ifeajuna (one of the plotters) tipped off Zik on the coup that was being planned.
#7 Key Positions Occupied
Among many things Zik was at the forefront of pioneering many things in Nigeria and also occupying various positions. He was the first indigenous Senate President of Nigeria in January 1960, the first indigenous Governor-General of Nigeria on November 16, 1960 and also the first President of Nigeria when the nation became a republic in 1963. He was also the premier of the Eastern Region from October 1954 to December 1959.
#6 As A Publisher
In November 1934, Zik became the editor of the African Morning Post in Ghana. There he published a piece which he titled “Has the African a God” which led to him being charged with sedition, found guilty and sentenced to six months in prison but was acquitted after an appeal. He later founded The West African Pilot in Lagos which he used to promote unity in the country.
#5 To Adeniran Ogunsanya
He used to sneak out of Kings College, Lagos to go and listen to Zik deliver lectures in public. He saw the elder statesman as an embodiment of all the virtues a man of the people can have. Among these was his respect for the opinion of others, charisma and an undying nationalism. He also recounts of an event where he, Ogunsanya was the chairman and when Zik was about to speak he said; Mr Chairman, can I have your permission to say one or two things? Ogunsanya was surprised that Zik could be calling a small boy like him Mr. Chairman.
#4 According To Mbadiwe
According to Mr. Kingsley Mbadiwe, Zik was like more like a god when the colonialists were in Nigeria. “His orders” according to Mbadiwe were feared by everybody including the police. Furthermore he said that Zik had “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”. In describing the man Zik he said 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.
#3 His Response on Losing the Prime Ministership
Zik was expected to be Prime Minister in 1960 but Tafawa Belewa was picked instead and he has wonderful response when he was being sworn-in as Governor-General. In quoting Douglas Malloch “If you can’t be a sun, be a star.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?”
#2 Desire to Become Head Of State
After a brief sojourn of military and a return to civilian rule in 1979, Zik sought to get elected as the Head of State but lost to Alhaji Shehu Shagari. After four years, he contested again in 1983 and lost after what was alleged as mass rigging of the elections by the ruling party. Zik was highly saddened by this that he had to quote Pro. 11:21 which states that the wicked shall not go unpunished. Three months later the military struck and the many players of that time were imprisoned and sent on exile for 10 years.
#1 A Forgiving Man
Sometime in 1989 there was news about his death and the people who peddled the story were R.B.K. Okafor and Mbadiwe. They were at the forefront of selling the story to the media about the demise of Zik and of course this was not true seeing that Zik died much later in 1996. Zik on the other hand readily forgave them for such a wicked scheme.