On this day in 1904, a prominent Nigerian politician, nationalist and statesman who served as the first President of Nigeriafrom 1963 to 1966, holding the presidency throughout the Nigerian First Republic, Dr. Benjamin Nnamdi Azikiwe, was born in Zungeru, Niger State, North-Central Nigeria.
He is popularly considered a driving force behind the nation’s independence and came to be known as the “father of Nigerian Nationalism”.
Azikiwe had his education at CMS Grammar School in Lagos and Hope Waddell School Calabar.
After Hope Waddell, Azikwe transferred to Methodist Boys High School Lagos. Dr. Azikiwe had his College education in Howard University, Washington DC, as well as Lincoln University,Pennsylvania, in 1930, obtaining a master’s degree in Religion from Lincoln University in 1932 and another master’s degree in Anthropology fromUniversity of Pennsylvania in 1934.
Azikiwe became a graduate student instructor in the history and political science department at Lincoln creating an African history course.
He was a candidate for a doctorate degree from Columbia before returning to Nigeria in 1934.
Dr Azikiwe became a Journalist and founded the West African Pilot which was head-quartered in Lagos.
He used the platform to fight colonialism to a standstill and aided several constitution amendments leading to independence.
On the same day he became the first Nigerian named to the Privy Council of the United Kingdom.
With the proclamation of a republic in 1963, he became the first President of Nigeria. In both posts, Azikiwe’s role was largely ceremonial.
Azikiwe and his civilian colleagues were removed from power in the military coup of 15 January 1966.
He was the most prominent politician to escape the spate of assassinations following the coup.
He switched allegiance back to Nigeria during the war and publicly appealed to Ojukwu to end the war in pamphlets and interviews published at the time.
After the war, he served as Chancellor of University of Lagos from 1972 to 1976.
He joined the Nigerian People’s Party in 1978, making unsuccessful bids for the presidency in 1979 and again in 1983.
He left politics involuntarily after the military coup on 31 December 1983.
He died on 11 May 1996 after a brief illness aged 91.