Celebrities Featured Maxim Uzoatu Nigeria Notes

Zik’s Day Beckons

By Maxim Uzoatu

The man fondly called Zik of Africa deserves his day.

Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, Nigeria’s foremost nationalist and first president, deserves his birthday, November 16, to be slated as a national holiday.

It is a deserving honour for the pivotal leader who led the charge for Nigeria’s independence on October 1, 1960.

As a result of his unparalleled efforts Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe would in the course of time become the only black Governor-General of Nigeria, the first President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, the only Nigerian whose name appeared in a Constitution of Nigeria, the first Senate President, among many other sterling firsts.

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The great one lionized as Zik of Africa remains a binding force of togetherness in Nigeria even in death.

He deserves a national holiday on his birthday, November 16, and it is incumbent on the authorities to declare the birthday of Nigeria’s first president as a public holiday.

Some African nations like Ghana and Tanzania had honoured their pan-African leaders such as Kwame Nkrumah and Julius Nyerere. Incidentally, Zik mentored both Nkrumah and Nyerere back in time.

Dr. Azikiwe is arguably the greatest Nigerian who lived in the last century, and it is crucial that with the requisite honour being given to Zik, it would enable the people to have a better understanding of Africa and the black race that Azikiwe inspired.

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Zik of course inspired notable citizens and nationalists, including Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Bashorun MKO Abiola, with his intelligence, eloquence and public oratorical skills.

There is no gainsaying that Zik remains Nigeria’s foremost nationalist and therefore deserves a national holiday.

Former President Muhammadu Buhari had set the precedent of honouring the presumed winner of the June 12, 1993, presidential vote, Chief Moshood Abiola, with the renaming of the National Stadium in Abuja after him.

Buhari also bestowed on Abiola the Grand Commander of the Federal Republic (GCFR), Nigeria’s highest national honour given to only heads of state and made June 12 a national holiday.

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As the erudite public intellectual and Anambra State’s former Commissioner for Information and Public Enlightenment, C. Don Adinuba, said, “Chief MKO Abiola never left anyone in doubt that he was greatly inspired by the nationalism, patriotism and sportsmanlike spirit of Nigeria’s first president, Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, (GCFR, PC). Abiola remained an avowed Zikist up to his death.”

To give him his due, former President Buhari completed the building and commissioning of the exquisite Zik Mausoleum at Onitsha.

What remains now is to declare Zik’s birthday a national holiday.

Ghanaians observe the birthday of their first president, Dr Kwame Nkrumah, himself a Zik protégé.

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Tanzanians observe a national holiday in memory of their first president, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, as Angolans do in memory of Dr Agustiono Neto, their first president.

The Great Zik of Africa was not just Nigeria’s first president or the man who led Nigeria to independence in 1960.

He was Nigeria’s first indigenous Governor-General and the first Senate President.

He was the first Nigerian to build a bank, thus inspiring his colleagues as regional premiers in the 1950s to establish their own banks. He was also the first Nigerian to set up a university, and consequently challenged his peers to follow in his footsteps.

A Nigerian nationalist of incomparable status and a man of letters through and through, the Great Zik of Africa had established as early as the 1950s newspapers in Ibadan, Zaria, Kano, Onitsha, Port Harcourt and, of course, Lagos to fight for Nigeria’s liberation from oppressive colonial rule.

Zik inspired a generation of Africans, including the late President Nkrumah of Ghana, Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Dr Nwafor Orizu, who became Nigeria’s second Senate President.

It has, therefore, become somewhat a national scandal that a national holiday has yet to be declared in honour of this great African inspirer of vision.

This national blight ought to end by declaring November 16 of every year a national holiday in commemoration of Dr Azikiwe’s birthday.

A quintessential Renaissance man, Zik was a politician, poet, author, orator, sportsman, visionary, and nationalist, but above all else, a remarkable human being.

Zik lived and died as the acclaimed Father of Modern Nigeria, the complete Nigerian in every aspect of his life.

Born in the Hausa-Fulani North of Eastern Igbo parentage, Zik spent his most productive years in the Yoruba West. He spoke Hausa, Yoruba and Igbo fluently, as well as other Nigerian languages.

He was a welcome presence everywhere in the country.

A native of Onitsha in Anambra State, Zik was born on November 16, 1904, in Zungeru and died on May 11, 1996.

Zik who wore the traditional title of Owelle of Onitsha with uncommon aplomb was the celebrated author of books such as Renascent Africa, Liberia in World Politics, My Odyssey etc.

Even as Nigeria’s President Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe took out time to write the foreword of the important book Reflections – Nigerian Prose & Verse’ edited by Frances Ademola thusly: “The poems and stories in this book have given me immense pleasure. Nothing can be more poignantly, and more amusingly, relevant than Wole Soyinka’s “Telephone Conversation.” The formal elegance of Chinua Achebe’s stories, the deeply traditional yet fanciful quality of Amos Tutuola’s, the exuberant pace of Cyprian Ekwensi’s and the graphic liveliness of description in Onuora Nzekwu’s have already earned all these writers an honoured place in world literature. Nkem Nwankwo’s whimsical narrative and his individuality of observation will earn him, and several others among the young contributors in this volume, a place of their own as well.”

A national holiday for the leader who made Nigeria’s independence possible is very imperative. It is especially crucial at this time that Nigerians are being torn apart by centrifugal power mongers. I just saw a viral Whatsapp video where Zik made the rousing 1960 Independence Day speech calling on Alhaji Ahmadu Bello (Sardauna of Sokoto), Chief Obafemi Awolowo and other leaders to work with him to put Nigeria together in progress. That is the way to go.

The Nnamdi Azikiwe national holiday, or Zik’s Day, is an idea whose time has come in celebration of the father of modern Nigeria.

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