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Quotes of founding fathers on Nigeria

I am pleased to see that we are now all agreed that the Federal system is, under present conditions, the only sure basis on which Nigeria will remain united. We must recognize our diversity and the peculiar conditions under which the different tribal communities live in this country – Tafawa Balewa, 1957

  • One of the monsters which menaced the public life of this country up to 14th January, this year (1966) is OPPORTUNISM with its attendant evils of jobbery, venality, corruption, and unabashed self-interest. .. a truly public-spirited person should accept public office not for what he can get for himself — such as the profit and glamour of office — but for the opportunity which it offers him of serving his people to the best of his ability, by promoting their welfare and happiness.

* A quote from Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s letter from prison to Major General John Thomas Aguiyi-Ironsi pressing for his release and that of his colleagues dated March 28, 1966.

  • The influence which a nation exerts, the respect which it enjoys, and the prestige accorded to it on the world scene,depend on two important factors: the size of its wealth and the calibre of its leadership. Granting an incorruptible, courageous, public-spirited, enlightened and dynamic leadership,the wealth of a nation is the fountain of its strength. The bigger the wealth, and the more equitable its distribution among the factors and agencies which have helped to produce it, the greater the out-flow of the nation’s influence and power.

* Chief Awolowo in a speech he delivered in London on November 3 1961.

  • If rapid political progress is to be made in Nigeria, it is high time we were realistic in tackling its constitutional problems. Nigeria is not a nation. It is a mere geographical expression. There are no ‘Nigerians’ in the same sense as there are ‘English’, ‘Welsh,’ or ‘French’. The word ‘Nigerian’ is merely a distinctive appellation to distinguish those who live within the boundaries of Nigeria from those who do not.

* Obafemi Awolowo in Path to Nigerian Freedom (London: Faber and Faber, 1947), pp. 47–48.

  • Violence has never been an instrument used by us, as founding fathers of the Nigerian Republic, to solve political problems. In the British tradition, we talked the Colonial Office into accepting our challenges for the demerits and merits of our case for self-government. After six constitutional conferences in 1953, 1954, 1957, 1958, 1959, and 1960, Great Britain conceded to us the right to assert our political independence as from October 1, 1960.
  • None of the Nigerian political parties ever adopted violent means to gain our political freedom and we are happy to claim that not a drop of British or Nigerian blood was shed in the course of our national struggle for our place in the sun. This historical fact enabled me to state publicly in Nigeria that Her Majesty’s Government has presented self-government to us on a platter of gold.
  • Of course, my contemporaries scorned at me, but the facts of history are irrefutable. I consider it most unfortunate that our ‘Young Turks’ decided to introduce the element of violent revolution into Nigerian politics. No matter how they and our general public might have been provoked by obstinate and perhaps grasping politicians, it is an unwise policy.

Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe’s reaction to Nigeria’s fisrt military coup of January 15, 1966

  • In these days of rapid communications, we cannot live in isolation, apart from the rest of the world, even if we wished to do so. All too soon it has become evident that for us, independence implies a great deal more than self-government.

This great country, which has now emerged without bitterness or bloodshed, finds that she must at once be ready to deal with grave international issues. This fact has of recent months been unhappily emphasised by the startling events which have occurred in this continent. I shall not belabour the point but it would be unrealistic not to draw attention first to the awe-inspiring task confronting us at the very start of our nationhood.

 

When this day in October 1960 was chosen for our Independence, it seemed that we were destined to move with quiet dignity to our place on the world stage. Recent events have changed the scene beyond recognition, so that we find ourselves today being tested to the utmost. We are called upon immediately to show that our claims to responsible government are well-founded, and having been accepted as an independent state, we must at once play an active part in maintaining the peace of the world and in preserving civilisation

Excerpts of The Speech declaring Nigeria’s Independence Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa – October 1, 1960

  • My parents are natives of Eastern Nigeria, the arsenal of republicanism in Nigeria. Although I am Ibo, yet I speak Yoruba and I have a smattering of Hausa. I am now Premier of Eastern Nigeria, the land of my fathers, which lies five hundred miles from Lagos and almost a thousand miles from the place of my birth in Zungeru, in Northern Nigeria.
  • Each of our three Regions is vastly different in many respects, but each has this in common: that, despite variety of languages and custom or difference in climate, all form part of one country which has existed as a political and social entity for fifty years. That is why we believe that the political union of Nigeria is destined to be perpetual and indestructible. Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe to the National Association

Nnamdi Azikiwe in an address to the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) at its 50th anniversary celebration at the Polo Grounds, New York City, July 19, 1959.

Since 1914 the British Government has been trying to make Nigeria into one country, but the Nigerian people themselves are historically different in their backgrounds, in their religious beliefs and customs and do not show themselves any sign of willingness to unite, Nigerian unity is only a British intention for the country.

* Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa speaking at the Legislative Council in 1948


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