usually referred to as Nnamdi Azikiwe and popularly known as "Zik", was one of the leading figures of modern Nigerian nationalism. He was head of state of Nigeria from 1960 to 1966, serving as the second and last Governor-General from 1960 to 1963 and the first President of Nigeria from 1963 to 1966, holding the presidency throughout the Nigerian First Republic.
Early lifeAzikiwe was born on November 16, 1904, in Zungeru, Northern Nigeria. 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. After studying at Hope Waddell Training Institute, Calabar, and Methodist Boys' High School Lagos, Azikiwe went to the United States. While there he attended Howard University, Washington DC, before enrolling and graduating from Lincoln University, Pennsylvania, in 1930. He obtained a masters degree in 1933 from the University of Pennsylvania. He worked as an instructor at Lincoln before returning to Nigeria.
Newspaper careerAfter teaching at Lincoln, Azikiwe, in November 1934, took the position of editor for the African Morning Post, a daily newspaper in Accra, Ghana. 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."
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.
Political careerAfter a successful journalism enterprise, Azikiwe entered into politics, co-founding the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC) alongside Herbert Macaulay in 1944. 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
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.
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.
AchievementsHe 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.