Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe’s biography: legacy of Nigeria’s first president

Aug 15, 2023 | Uncategorized

Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe was a prominent Nigerian nationalist and statesman who played a significant role in the fight for Nigeria’s independence from British colonial rule. Throughout his life, Azikiwe was an ardent advocate for African nationalism and independence.

Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe
Doctor Benjamin Nnamdi Azikiwe on the day of his appointments, 16th November 1960. Photo: Popperfoto
Source: Getty Images

Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe was a gifted orator and journalist using these skills to advance the cause of independence through his newspapers and speeches.

Profile summary

Full name Nnamdi Benjamin Azikiwe
Gender Male
Date of birth 16 November 1904
Died 11 May 1996
Age 91 years (at the time of his death)
Zodiac sign Scorpio
Place of birth Zungeru, Nigeria
Place of death The University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital Enugu, Nigeria
Nationality Nigerian
Ethnicity African
Religion Christianity
Sexuality Straight
Mother Rachel Ogbenyeanu Azikiwe
Father Obed-Edom Chukwuemeka Azikiwe
Siblings 1
Marital status Married
Partner Uche Azikiwe, Flora Azikiwe, Ugoye Comfort Azikiwe
Children 7
University Storer College, Howard University, Lincoln University, University of Pennsylvania
Profession Politician

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Nnamdi Azikiwe’s history and biography

Azikiwe’s contributions to Nigeria’s independence and his commitment to African unity and progress earned him respect and admiration both within Nigeria and internationally. He was a vocal advocate for unity and nationalism in Nigeria and continued to be involved in Nigerian politics even after his presidency.

Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe’s state of origin

Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe was born on November 16, 1904, in Zungeru, Northern Nigeria. His first name, Nnamdi, holds the meaning “my father is alive” in the Igbo language, reflecting his Igbo ancestry.

nnamdi azikiwe's achievements
Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe P.C., LL.D. Photo: Bettmann / Contributor
Source: UGC

His father, Obed-Edom Chukwuemeka Azikiwe, originally from Onitsha, served as a clerk in the British Administration of Nigeria. Azikiwe’s mother, Rachel Chinwe Ogbenyeanu Azikiwe, was the third daughter of Aghadiuno Ajie. Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe had a sister named Cecilia Eziamaka Arinze.

Nnamdi Azikiwe’s educational background

Nnamdi Azikiwe pursued his education both in Nigeria and the United States. He attended various schools, including Holy Trinity School and Christ Church School in Onitsha, Wesleyan Boys’ High School (now known as Methodist Boys’ High School) in Lagos, and the Hope Waddell Training College in Calabar.

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He attended Storer College, Columbia University, the University of Pennsylvania, and Howard University in the United States. He obtained bachelor’s degrees in political science and anthropology and master’s degrees in religion and anthropology.

Career summary

Nnamdi Azikiwe was a Nigerian statesman and political leader. He served as the ceremonial first President of Nigeria during the First Nigerian Republic from 1963 to 1966. He was considered a driving force behind the nation’s independence and earned the title “father of Nigerian nationalism.”

Azikiwe was a prominent journalist and founded several newspapers, including the West African Pilot, to advocate for Nigerian and African nationalism. He co-founded the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC) with Herbert Macaulay in 1944 and became its secretary-general in 1946.

Azikiwe’s political career spanned several decades, and he held various leadership positions, including becoming the premier of Nigeria’s Eastern Region in 1954 and later serving as the Governor-General and the first President of Nigeria. His political journey was marked by his commitment to African independence and self-government.

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What did Nnamdi Azikiwe do for Nigeria?

Nnamdi Azikiwe was crucial in Nigeria’s struggle for independence from British colonial rule. As a journalist, politician, and statesman, he advocated for Nigerian and African nationalism, promoting the ideals of self-government and African pride.

He co-founded the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC). He used his newspapers, such as the West African Pilot, to raise awareness about the need for independence and social justice.

Azikiwe was a key figure in the negotiations for Nigeria’s independence, and he became the first President of Nigeria when it became a republic in 1963.

nnamdi azikiwe's children
The late Nigerian politician and president Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe with his Naval Defence Minister Matthew M’Bu. Photo: David Cairns
Source: Getty Images

Although his role as president was largely ceremonial, he remained influential in Nigerian politics and continued to advocate for unity and progress.

Achievements of Nnamdi Azikiwe

Nnamdi Azikiwe’s achievements were significant and impactful. Some of his key accomplishments include:

  • Founding several influential newspapers to promote African nationalism and advocate for social and political change.
  • Established the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, in 1960, which became one of Nigeria’s leading universities.
  • Serving as the first President of Nigeria and the first Nigerian to be appointed to the Privy Council of the United Kingdom.
  • Earning the title of Grand Commander of the Federal Republic (GCFR), Nigeria’s highest national honour.
  • Playing a leading role in Nigeria’s struggle for independence and being regarded as the “father of Nigerian nationalism.”
  • Advocating for unity and nationalism in Nigeria, despite challenges and conflicts in the country’s early years as an independent nation.
  • Using sports, mainly through Zik’s Athletic Club, to promote national unity and a sense of “Nigerian-ness.

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Some of his honours include:

  • Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport Abuja
  • Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium in Enugu
  • Nnamdi Azikiwe University in Awka, Anambra State
  • Nnamdi Azikiwe University Teaching Hospital in Nnewi
  • Nnamdi Azikiwe Library at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka
  • Nnamdi Azikiwe Press Centre, Dodan Barracks, Obalende, Ikoyi, Lagos
  • Azikiwe Avenue in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
  • CRDB Azikiwe Branch in Dar es Salaam

Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe’s children and family

nnamdi azikiwe's history
Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe (left) at a London reception with the Nigerian High Commissioner Mr Ojiako and his wife. Photo: Paul Popper/Popperfoto
Source: Getty Images

The late Nnamdi was married and had kids. He was married to Uche Azikiwe (1973–1996), Flora Azikiwe (1936–1983) and Ugoye Comfort Azikiwe. He had several kids, including Chukwuma, Emeka A., Nwachukwu, Ngozi, Molokwu, Uwakwe and Jayzik Azikiwe.

Where was Nnamdi Azikiwe buried?

Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, who passed away at the age of 91 on 11 May 1996, succumbed to a prolonged illness at the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital in Enugu. He was laid to rest in his hometown of Onitsha, Nigeria.

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Quick facts about Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe

  • He was the chancellor of the University of Lagos from 1972 to 1976.
  • The picture of Nnamdi Azikiwe appears on Nigeria’s ₦500 banknote since 2001.
  • He was inducted into the Agbalanze Society of Onitsha as Nnanyelugo in 1946.
  • He competed in boxing, athletics, swimming, football and tennis.
  • A Yoruba faction criticized him for utilizing his newspaper to stifle dissenting opinions and suppress opposing viewpoints.

The late Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe’s legacy remains influential in Nigeria’s history and politics. His dedication to the cause of independence and his efforts to promote African nationalism has solidified his place as one of Nigeria’s most important historical figures.

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