By Chioma Anyagafu
CHIEF Mbazulike Amaechi, popularly known as ‘the boy is good’ is the only surviving minister of the First Republic. He was born in Ukpor in the present day Nnewi South Local Government Area of Anambra State on June 16, 1929. As a young boy, Mbazulike Amaechi developed the passion and desire of liberating his people. He had a burning zeal of extricating his dear country Nigeria from the clutches of the colonial masters.
This was perhaps why he joined the Zikist Movement while still a secondary school student in Onitsha and was always on the entourage of political campaigns. He was a vibrant trade unionist for many years and held full-time offices in the unions from 1949 to 1955. As a trade unionist, Amaechi demonstrated extreme boldness and spirit of sacrifice.
One significant incident stands him out as a trade unionist and that was when, after the murder of eighteen workers of the Nigerian Coal Corporation in November 18, 1949 while they were participating in a sit-down strike to press home their demands for seniority pay for the underground workers by a team of about hundred policemen led by a white Superintendent Philip, the young Mbazulike Amaechi, who was then the General Secretary of Armels Transport Union, Secretary of Benin Council of Labour and Assistant Secretary of Benin and Warri Districts of the Zikist Movement organized a protest rally of all workers in Benin and environs and demanded adequate punishment for the perpetrators of the repulsive and disgusting crime in Enugu.
As a member of the Zikist Movement, Amaechi, together with other members took an oath never to get married until Nigeria gained her independence. Also as members of the Zikist Movement, they took another oath that no Zikist arraigned before any court should make any plea of leniency or show any sign of regret for fighting for the freedom of the nation.
Some members of the Zikist Movement included: Kola Balogun, M C K Ajuluchukwu, Mokwugo Okoye, Nduka Eya, Ogedengbe Macaulay (son of Sir Hebert Macaulay), Raji Abdallah, Mbazulike Amaechi, Ikenna Nzimiro (later Prof. Nzimiro), Magaret Ekpo, Zana Bukar Dipcharima from Northern Nigeria, Fred Anyiam, Osita Agwuna, R B K Okafor, among others.
These brave Nigerians stood out and spoke without fear their discontentment of imperialist government and the need for independence of Nigeria. Their stance was at variance with that of the colonial masters and they suffered both physically and emotionally for daring to speak the truth.
In 1959, Mbazulike Amechi was elected member of the House of Representatives on the platform of the National Council of Nigerian Citizens, NCNC, and was appointed Minister of Aviation and Transport in 1962. He remained a minister until the first military coup on January 15, 1966.
Chief Mbazulike Amaechi was indeed a true nationalist. He was victimized, jailed, maimed, wounded and mercilessly beaten but his spirit was never dampened, neither was his patriotic spirit dulled. He and others lost many things in the process of ensuring that Nigeria gained her independence.
The independence of Nigeria was indeed a bye-product of the struggles and active nonviolent resistance of Nigerian youths of Mbazulike Amaechi era, especially members of the Zikist movement.
Chief Amaechi is still with us and so are his feats and contributions. In his home town, Ukpor, Chief Mbazulike Amaechi holds the traditional titles of Dara Akunwafor.