Nigeria@63: Meet citizens whose actions affected country since Independence

Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, also called Zik, was a Nigerian statesman and political leader who served as the ceremonial first President of Nigeria during the First Nigerian Republic between 1963 to 1966.

Zik of Africa, as he was popularly called, was considered a driving force behind Nigeria’s independence. He came to be known as the “father of Nigerian nationalism”.

He was born on November 16, 1904 in Zungeru, present-day Niger state, to Igbo parents from Anambra state, South East, Nigeria

Zik was exposed to different Nigerian cultures and spoke three Nigerian languages: Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba, an asset later as president. He learned Hausa language, the main indigenous language of the North where he was born and lived as a young boy.

He learned to speak Igbo language when he later lived with his aunt and grandmother in Onitsha (his parental homeland) and a stay in Lagos exposed him to the Yoruba language.

He advocated Nigerian and African nationalism as a journalist a political leader.

Azikiwe co-founded National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC with Herbert Macaulay in 1944 and contested for president of Nigeria in 1979 on the platform of Nigeria Peoples Party (NPP).

Abubakar Tafawa Balewa

Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa was the first Prime Minister and only Prime Minister of Nigeria at independence in 1960.

Balewa’s major political activity began in 1946 when he was elected to the House of Assembly of the Northern Region and in 1947 was one of its five representatives to the Central Legislative Council in Lagos. He was re-elected to the assembly in 1951 despite the hostility of some conservative emirs of the generally Muslim north.

From 1952 Balewa served in the federal government. He was minister of works and of transport in the middle 1950s, and then, as leader of the Northern Peoples Congress (NPC) in the House of Representatives, he was made the first prime minister of Nigeria in 1957.

After the pre-independence elections of 1959, he again became prime minister in a coalition government of the NPC and Nnamdi Azikiwe’s National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC) and he continued to hold that position after Nigeria was officially granted independence in 1960.

As prime minister of Nigeria, he had his powers limited by the federal structure of the government, which reserved more authority for the regions.

Balewa was unable to contain the growing tensions of 1964–66, manifested by a partial boycott of the election in 1964, army unrest, and outbreaks of violence in the Western Region, the wild wild west. Abubakar Tafawa Balewa was killed in the first coup by the Nigerian Army on January 15, 1966.

Obafemi Awolowo

Chief Obafemi Awolowo was born on March 6, 1909 in Ikenne, present day Ogun state.

He was the first Premier of the Western Region under Nigeria’s parliamentary system, from 1952 to 1959 and later federal commissioner for finance, and vice chairman of the Federal Executive Council during the Nigerian Civil War.

Awolowo was a Nigerian nationalist and statesman who played a key role in Nigeria’s independence movement (1957-1960).

He founded the Yoruba nationalist group “Egbe Omo Oduduwa” and was the first leader of Government Business and Minister of Local Government and Finance.

He was the official Leader of the Opposition in the federal parliament to the Balewa government from 1959 to 1963.

As a young man he was an active journalist, editing publications such as the Nigerian worker.

Chief Awolowo was thrice a major contender for presidency of Nigeria.

His party, tha Action Group (AG) was dominant in the South West during Nigeria’s parliamentary system of government. He later formed the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) and contested the presidential election of 1979 and w983, but lost to Ahaji Shehu Shagari of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN).

He started his career, like some of his well-known contemporaries, as a nationalist in the Nigerian Youth Movement in which he rose to become Western Provincial Secretary.

Awolowo was responsible for much of the progressive social legislation that has made Nigeria a modern nation.

In 1962 he was tried for treason and imprisoned by the government until 1967, after which he assumed the role as Minister of Finance.

Awolowo was famously referred to as the best president Nigeria never had by leader of Biafra, Odimegwu Ojukwu. He died on May 9, 1987.

Sir Ahmadu Bello

Sir Ahmadu Bello (Sardauna of Sokoto) was born on June 12, 1910. He was a strong Northern Nigeria politician who masterminded the independence of Nigeria in 1960 and served as its first and only Premier from 1954 until his assassination on January 15, 1966 military coup.

Sir Ahmadu Bello as Premier of Northern region was very influential and dominated national affairs for over a decade.

He was also the leader of the Northern Peoples Congress (NPC), the ruling party at the time consisting of the Hausa–Fulani elite, which formed alliance with Zik’s NCNC.

He had previously been elected into the regional legislature and later became a government minister. A member of the Sokoto Caliphate dynasty, he made attempts at becoming Sultan of Sokoto before later joining politics.

Chief MKO Abiola

Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola was born on August 24 1937. He was a Nigerian businessman publisher and politician.

Chief Abiola was the acclaimed winner of the 1993 presidential election in Nigeria on the platform of Social Democratic Party (SDP). However, the election adjudged to the fairest ever in the history of Nigeria was annulled by the then Maradona Military President, General Ibrahim Babangida.

MKO Abiola then declared himself the President. He was arrested and incarcerated by the maximum ruler, General Sani Abacha.

Unfortunately, General Abacha died suddenly on June 8, 1998.

Abiola also died on July 7, 1998 in controversial circumstances.

Chief Ladoke Akintola

Chief Ladoke Akintola was also a great and famous politician in old Western region. He was Awolowo’s deputy and would become the substantive premier when Awolowo moved up to the federal Parliament as the leader of opposition. Another of Akintola’s feat was that he was an Are Ona kakanfo (generalissimo) of the Yoruba.

Akintola fell out with his political leader, Awolowo and in the course of their respective stints as leader of AG and premier of Western region.

Herbert Macaulay

Herbert Macaulay was a Nigerian nationalist, politician, journalists and musician who is considered by many Nigerians as the founder of nationalism .

In 1944, Macaulay co-founded the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC) together with Nnamdi Azikiwe and became its president. The NCNC was a patriotic organization designed to bring together Nigerians of all stripes to demand independence. In 1946, Macaulay fell ill in Kano and later died in Lagos on May 7, 1946.

Dr. Alvan Ikoku

The history of Nigerian education cannot be completed without mentioning the name of Dr. Alvan Ikoku.

He established the first indigenous private secondary school in Nigeria, Aggrey Memorial College in Arochukwu, Abia State, in 1932.

He introduced Carpentry as a subject, which he called “the Education of the Hand,” and taught in the school for 39 years. In the school, students made their own desks, chairs, and tables.

Pa Tai Solarin

Pa Augustus Taiwo Solarin, popularly known as Tai Solarin, was an educationist, author, columnist, social critic and activist. Born on August 20,1916, he established the popular Mayflower School in Ikenne, Ogun State in 1956.

In 1952, Solarin became the principal of Molusi College, Ijebu Igbo, a post he held till 1956 when he became the proprietor and principal of Mayflower School.

He was a critic of military rule in Nigeria. In 1989, President Ibrahim Babangida appointed him as the first chairman of ‘The Peoples Bank of Nigeria’, a bank established by the regime to give soft loans and some other credit facilities to the poor to set up their own businesses. He always wore his khaki uniform. He died on June 27, 1994 at the age of 77 years.

Prof Eyo Ita

Prof Eyo Ita was a nationalist, historian and educationist.

He was the first Nigerian who established a school, The West African Peoples Institute (WAPI), which is still existing in Calabar.

It became prominent in 1952 when he was elected as lawmaker in the Eastern House of Assembly. Years later, he made it to the Federal House of Assembly, where he and his colleagues like Anthony Enahoro, Obafemi Awolowo, Nnamdi Azikiwe and others, started pushing on for Nigeria’s sovereignty.

culled from Daily Times Nigeria

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