BY IKENNA ASOMBA
IF Nigeria’s first indigenous Governor-General and President, Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, had been alive, he would have been 108 years last Friday. Remembered for his leading rolein the fight for the country’s independence and his quest for a pan-Nigerian society, a host of eminent Nigerians did not allow the day to pass without paying tributes to the Great Zik of Africa.
They congregated at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, NIIA, Lagos to celebrate Zik’s 108 posthumous birthday. He was born on November 16, 1904 in Zungeru, Niger State. Among those who recalled Zik’s virtues and ideals and beckoned political leaders to the late nationalist’s ideals were Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer of the Republic of Antigua and Barbuda and Senator Florence Ita-Giwa.
Others included Chief Debe Odumegwu-Ojukwu; Eze Hycinth Nwabueze Ohazulike (OON), Eze-Ndigbo Lagos State; Chief Olabode George, former National Vice-Chairman of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP); Chief Olatunji Shelle, Lagos State PDP Chairman;Chief Sonny Iroche, Igbo leader; and Chief Udoka Udeogaranya, coordinator ZIKDAY Initiative.
Lauding the high ideals and values of nationalism preached and practiced by Dr. Azikwe and his remarkable efforts in Nigeria’s attainment of independence in 1960, they urged the nation’s political gladiators to play politics devoid of corruption, rancour, violence and see the county’s unity beyond ethnic and religious sentiments.
Chief Debe-Odumegwu Ojukwu, son of the late Biafran leader, Chief Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, who chaired the occasion, said Dr. Azikiwe would forever be remembered for the high virtues and ideals of nationalism he preached and practiced.
“Let me confess that I feel petrified at being hoisted on this pedestal today to chair this occasion celebrating immortality, yes immortality -for to live in the hearts of those who love you is not to die. For what he stood for, what he did for us, I would celebrate this doyen of African nationalism anytime, anywhere and give due reverence to this grandfather my own father – Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu -Ojukwu openly confessed ‘practically groomed him on his laps’ in his book – Because I am involved (1989).”
He also described the Owelle of Onitsha as ‘the cuncator quintus fabius maximus,’ who was instrumental to Nigeria’s agitation and struggle for independence, which was secured and won not by arms but by polemics, logic and sheer force of argument. “For being a rabid apostle of that strategy, Dr. Azikiwe in 1966 declared openly that ‘violence was never espoused in settling political problems,’ and today, we can as well celebrate him as Nigeria’s best man of peace.”
On the discord that had long torn apart the Ojukwu and Azikiwe families, he said the younger generation were bent on redressing what according to him, “is an aberration that has imparted negatively on the fortunes of Nigeria. This explains in fact my prominence today, aimed to rejig the friendship between the Ojukwu and Azikwe families.”
In the same vein, Sen. Ita-Giwa, who was represented by Mr. Patrick Doyle said Zik played a pivotal role in her political evolution, noting that the acute absence of political actors of equal charisma and sagacity in the country today was lamentable.
She said: “Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe was in many ways to me a source of inspiration and sustenance. Yes, indeed sustenance as he was my late mother’s boss. My mother Chief Beatrice Bassey was one of Nigeria’s pioneer female journalists and for many years worked as a journalist in the Zik Group of Newspapers. So as my mother’s employer, I dare say that the great Zik would be proud of what I later turned out to be.”
Ita-Giwa also averred that occasions like this that celebrate the life and times of great nationalists like Dr. Azikwe would trigger higher ideals in Nigeria’s current political actors.
Share Nigeria’s resources equitably
On his part, Eze Hycinth Nwabueze Ohazulike described Zik as a true Nigerian nationalist, who stood for the struggle for one and indivisible Nigeria. He, however, opined that the call for an indivisible Nigeria was unattainable if some ethnic regions were better favoured in terms of distribution of Nigeria’s rich resources than their counterparts.
His words: “When Chief Herbert Macaulay, Dr. Nnamdi Azikwe, Alhaji Ahmadu Bello and others fought for Nigeria’s independence, they never planned for the dehumanization of the South-Eastern region.
For the attainment of a true one Nigeria, I implore our current crop of leaders to engender the immediate creation of one more state for the region, so that our God-given natural resources could be equitably distributed.”
Our politicians must extol unifying nationalistic vision
In the same vein, Chief Olabode George described Azikwe and his great-grand Uncle, Herbert Macaulay, as “two of a kind, thoroughbred soul mates, selfless, self-sacrificing personages woven in Siamese idealism. They devoted their lives to the endurance and workability of the Nigerian Union even in that tumultuous formative stages when it was almost ruinous to collide against the mighty British imperialism.”
While noting that the paramount idealism of the duo, reached beyond the narrow purview of partisan pursuits, despite their ethnic differences, the Atona Oodua of Yorubaland implored today’s crop of politicians to toe the line of the great Nigerian nationalists.
“No nation moves forward when the constituents are permanently detained in sheer mercenary fixation,” he said.
The nation must come first before the clamour for party interest, before the selfish uproar about ethnic concerns. We must all eschew the politics of hate, but embrace the selfless credo of our founding fathers, who insisted on unity in diversity,” he urged.