Anambra State will soon start to observe November 16 of every year a work-free day in the state to commemorate the birthday of Nigeria’s first president, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, who led the country to independence on October 1, 1960.
Governor Willie Obiano of Anambra State, who revealed the plan will go to the state House of Assembly with an appropriate bill any time from now for the legislature to pass into law.
Chief Obiano made these facts known in his response to the completion of the Zik Mausoleum in Onitsha, Anambra State, which was opened by President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday.
The governor has also asked the federal government to declare the birthday a national holiday as the “United States has done to its heroes like Martin Luther King, who successfully led the movement for the full restoration of human dignity to African Americans and other minorities in America by fighting racism in all its ramifications in the 1960s”.
Describing Azikiwe as the “greatest Nigerian who has lived in the last few centuries, a Nigerian who inspired the likes of former Ghanaian President Kwame Nkrumah whom he supported to go to the United States to study in order to have a better understanding of the black and African condition”, Gov Obiano recalled that African nations like Ghana and Tanzania have honoured their pan Africanist leaders like Nkrumah and Julius Nyerere.
Ghanaians celebrate the Founder’s Day on September 14 in honour of Nkrumah’s birthday while Tanzanians mark the Nyerere Day on October 4 in commemoration of his death.
“It is odd for Nigeria to continue to fail to honour Dr. Azikiwe on an appropriate scale, and this failure will continue to prick our individual and collective conscience until the right thing is done,” Obiano declared.
The governor said that Zik also inspired such Nigerian nationalists as Chief Obafemi Awolowo with his intelligence, eloquence and public oratorical skills as well as stupendous literary gift.
“Chief Awolowo felt so challenged that he had to go to England to study law even as a married man.
“In appreciation of Zik’s profound influence on him, Awo, also known as the sage among his admirers, established his Tribune newspapers on Zik’s birthday, as Awo himself revealed in a 1980 letter”.
Obiano called Azikiwe the most detrabilised Nigerian politician who spoke all three main Nigerian languages, gave his children names of other ethnic groups and named key institutions for leaders of different ethnic groups, including his opponents.
According to the governor, when he established the University of Nigeria at Nsukka in 1960, Zik named its halls and residences “after Sir Ahmadu Bello who was then the Premier of the Northern Nigerian Region, Chief Samuel Akintola who was the Western Premier and Chief Awolowo who was Leader of the Opposition in Parliament”.
Obiano recalled how “Zik’s bold and imaginative development strides resulted in the country’s rapid development.
“The establishment of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, caused the Western Region to establish the University of Ife and the Northern Region to set up Ahmadu University at Zaria.
“Zik’s establishment of the African Continental Bank, Nigeria’s first indigenous bank, led to the Western government’s building of the National Bank and the Northern Region’s building of the Bank of the North”.
Commenting on Zik’s strides in journalism, literature, sports, entrepreneurship and national integration, Chief Obiano observed that the National Council of Nigerian Citizens (NCNC) founded by Azikiwe and Herbert Macaulay was the country’s first mass movement.
“Zik was truly phenomenal,” the Anambra governor concluded.