Today in 1904: Nigeria’s First President, Nnamdi Azikiwe Was Born

Today in 1904: Nigeria's First President, Nnamdi Azikiwe Was Born

Nnamdi Benjamin Azikiwe popularly known as “Zik,” was a statesman and political figure from Nigeria. Who presided as the country’s first president from 1963 to 1966. 

He became renowned as the “father of Nigerian Nationalism” and was seen as one of the main forces for Nigeria’s independence. 

Azikiwe was largely considered Nigeria’s best speaker, and he was also an accomplished athlete, journalist, politician, and novelist. He attended Columbia, Lincoln, and Pennsylvania Universities in the United States for his undergraduate education, where he studied anthropology, theology, economics, political science, and journalism. Before going back to Africa, he also briefly taught political science at Lincoln University from 1925 to 1934.  

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Dr. Azikiwe, a strong nationalist and pan-Africanist, spent three years on Ghana’s Gold Coast before returning to Nigeria in 1937. While there, he started his career as a writer by creating and editing the popular weekly African Morning Post. This provided a platform for nationalist movements in the countries of Anglophone West Africa. His groundbreaking writings on colonialism, African independence, and education is found in Liberia in World Politics (1932) and Renascent Africa (1937). He established a number of journals upon his return to Nigeria in 1937 with the goal of bringing about political freedom as well as sociocultural and economic change in Nigeria. His extremely diverse academic background served him a good foundation for his long-lasting employment in journalism and politics.  

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 Nnamdi Azikiwe’s Newspaper 

His newspapers included the most influential one, West African Pilot, which he personally edited from 1937 to 1947. The Eastern Nigerian Guardian, published in Port Harcourt. The Daily Comet and Nigerian Spokesman, published in Onitsha, his native town. Southern Nigerian Defender, published in Warri and Ibadan. The Sentinel, published in Enugu; and the Nigerian Monitor, published in Uyo. As Uwujaren has noted about his career in journalism. His entrance into the profession in 1937 really changed the face of the Nigerian media, as the press became more courageous with an overt bent towards helping to loosen the noose of the oppressive colonial system and the shackles of the feet of oppression.  

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Political Career  

In 1948, with the backing of the NCNC, Azikiwe was elected to the Nigerian Legislative Council, and he later served as premier of the Eastern region.  

Azikiwe led the NCNC into the important 1959 federal elections, which preceded Nigerian independence. He was able to form a temporary government with the powerful Northern People’s Congress, but its deputy leader, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, took the key post of prime minister. Azikiwe also received the largely honorary posts of president of the Senate, governor-general, and, finally, president.  

An important figure in the history of politics in Nigeria, Azikiwe had broad interests outside that realm. He also served as chancellor of the University of Nigeria at Nsukka from 1961 to 1966, and he was the president of several sports organizations for football, boxing, and table tennis. 

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