Nnamdi Azikiwe: Biography, Career, and Death

Benjamin Nnamdi Azikiwe was the first President of Nigeria. He served as the second and last Governor-General and Commander-in-Chief of Nigeria before becoming the president. He is also one of the youngest rulers Nigeria has had.


Azikiwe was born on November 16, 1904, in Zungeru, northern Nigeria to Igbo parents. His father was Obededom Chukwuemeka Azikiwe, who worked as a clerical officer for the British Administrator of Eastern Nigeria. Racheal Chinwe Azikiwe was his mother while his maternal grandfather was an Igbo Chief. He attended school in Onitsha, Lagos, and Calabar.


Nnamdi began his career as an educator at the Lincoln University, teaching political science. He always had a profound interest in politics and was also a very eloquent writer. He devised a “Syllabus for African History” and penned several books outlining his pan-African ideology. Eventually, he became a newspaper editor and promoted a pro-African nationalist agenda.  He obtained a second masters degree in Anthropology and Political Science from the University of Pennsylvania in 1933


Azikiwe also became directly involved in political movements. In 1937 he joined the Nigerian Youth Movement, leaving it for the Nigerian National Democratic party in 1941. He founded the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC) in 1944. The aim was to “weld the heterogeneous masses of Nigeria into one solid block”.

In 1963, Nigeria decided to become a republic. Azikiwe was chosen as President and Commander-in-Chief. Nigeria’s political parties were pulling in different directions. The constitution allocated seats in the federal assembly based on the population of each of the regions.

When former Southern Cameroon joined Nigeria as part of the Northern region in 1961, this guaranteed the North a larger number of seats. The NCNC favored the creation of smaller states to replace the regions and a weaker central government, although Azikiwe was a strong federalist. 


Azikiwe died on 11 May 1996 at the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital in Enugu after a long illness and is buried in his native Onitsha

Nnamdi Azikiwe was also the first Nigerian named to the Privy Council of the United Kingdom.

Author: BF

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