Nnamdi Azikiwe popularly known as ‘Zik of Africa’.
Other popular words associated with Nnamdi Azikiwe, are Zik, Zikists and Zikism.
So to understand and appreciate who Zik really was and his Legacies, we need to look deeper into the following:
The Person : Zik
The Movement: Zikism
The followers: Zikists
ZIK, The Person: Get a copy of his autobiography “My Odyssey” and you won’t regret you did, it is a beautiful read, it chronicles the journey of Dr. Azikiwe from birth, through his education in the North, East and Western Nigeria to the UK and finally into the US in the mid-1920s and his experiences thereafter. It is a must read. It is quite startling to see him express certain experiences in thought and words that more recent immigrants or travelers like us might have thought unique to our times . The book is scarce in bookshops, I don’t know why.
ZIKISM, The Movement: Zikism is the system of political thought attributed to Nnamdi Azikiwe one of the founding fathers of modern Nigeria
and the first democratically elected President of Nigeria
. Azikiwe expanded on this philosophy through his published works such as Renascent Africa (1973) and his autobiography My Odyssey.
Zikism is characterised by five principles for African liberation:
Spiritual balance: To show empathy for other peoples views, and recognize their right to hold such views.
Social regeneration: To expel from one’s self national, religious, racial, tribal, political-economic, and ethical prejudice.
Economic determinism: To realize that being self-sufficient economically is the basis for rescuing the Renascent African.
Mental emancipation: To be knowledgeable of African history and accomplishments, and to dismiss any kind of complex exhibited by any race or tribe.
Political resurgence: To regain the sovereignty that Africa has lost to colonialists.
Quotes on Zikism
“In the case of the great Zik, it became fashionable among his adherents and supporters to be a Zikist. But interestingly, Zikism was not synonymous with an ethnic ideology nor did it a divisive cause. Instead, Zikism was more an ideology for African Renaissance emphasizing the restoration of the dignity of the black man after centuries of colonial imposition and exploitation” …….Ibrahim Babangida, former Military President of Nigeria
ZIKISTS: The followers:
No historical sketch about the struggle against imperialism in Nigeria will ever be complete without a mention of the impact of the Zikist Movement; a radical revolutionary youth body which was founded 70 years ago on February 16, 1946 (to be precise) by young enthusiastic multi-ethnic Nigerian nationalists. Among its founding members were Kolawole Balogun who became the first President, M.C.K. Ajuluchukwu who became the first Secretary General, Abiodun Aloba, Nduka Eze, G. Onyeagbula, M. Aina, G. Ebo, J. Inoma and S. Aderibigbe to mention but a few. In the 1940s, the youths were unsure about the pace and commitment of the elders to immediate self-government. This period was also an era of self-determination and educational expansion. World War II and its immediate aftermath ushered in a worldwide depression and this in turn ignited the demand for self-governance. Some notable changes that began to take root before the downturn of this era included urbanization, western education and transport. All this contributed to the growth of nationalist activities. Newspapers, magazines and information began to circulate and this influenced opinions. Political and nationalist ideas also grew and proliferated within cities. The spread of western education especially in the south created a population segment that could read and write, producing leaders with new ideas, visions and ambitions. A growing local media allocated space for anti-colonial issues and political associations emerged and quickly became key nationalist platforms. The General Workers’ Strike of 1945, the formation of the Zikist Movement in 1946 and the Burutu Strike of 1947 were all key catalysts of change that fuelled and intensified this national clamour for self-governance although from a political view point, the formation of the Zikist Movement was arguably the most significant of these historical occurrences.
The leaning of the Zikist Movement was socialist and anti-colonial in outlook and in its early years, acted more or less as the youth wing of the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons. The Movement pledged positive action in defending Nnamdi Azikiwe against attacks by his opponents and to further take on the repressive nature of colonial rule by seeking its end. The Movement garnered some of its inspiration from the writings of Nwafor Orizu in his book, “Without Bitterness”, and from Nnamdi Azikiwe’s own book, “Renascent Africa”. Orizu has been credited with coining the term “Zikism”, a vague expression that he described as not being racialism, jingoism, anarchism, monistic or sarcastic but a form of social life that strives to redeem Africa from social wreckage, political servitude and economic impotency. The aims and objectives of the Zikist Movement were among others as follows:
Zikism holds that self-determination constitutes the inalienable right of the people, and that colonialism is wholly incompatible with this right.
Zikism accepts the Marxist thesis that the economic factor conditions the moral, legal and political aspect of development in any society and therefore urges the need for a just distribution of national wealth.
The Movement’s height in popularity was between 1948 and 1949 at a time self-determination movements had just propelled India to Independence in 1947 and a riot in Ghana had resulted in some political concessions being granted to the nationalists over there. By the beginning of 1947, the Zikist Movement had 29 branches all over Nigeria and was attracting dedicated young people who were willing to sacrifice their careers for a righteous political cause. Notable among such people were Raji Abdallah and Adesanya Idowu.
By 1948, preparatory measures were in full swing for the recruitment of youths and other interested members into this active anti-colonial group. The movement began to intensify its attacks on colonialism and ensured that their ideas became more potent and remained in public consciousness by making use of strikes and boycotts, as well as other propaganda through lectures, publishing of newsletters and revolutionary pamphlets. A particularly revered newsletter was written by Osita Agwuna called “A call to Revolution”. It was earlier delivered as a lecture by Agwuna under the chairmanship of Anthony Enahoro and called for positive action which included:
(a) Boycott of British goods.
(b) Boycott of schools and employment (including the Police and the Army).
(c) Non-payment of taxes to Government but instead to the NCNC and other nationalist organisations.
(d) Mass violation of every law and executive order that negates human rights.
(e) The flooding of the prisons with protesters in the mode of India under Ghandi.
(f) The programme of non-cooperation with the authorities and civil disobedience as a means of liquidating imperialism in Nigeria.
Other highlight about Zik’s influence on other African Leaders:
Azikiwe moved from Howard University to Lincoln University in 1928, and graduated double honors in Philosophy and Politics from Lincoln in 1930 and recieved the MA in Politics in 1931 and another MA in Anthropology from U-PENN in 1933. He commenced his doctoral work at Columbia (NY) that year completing all his doctoral work pending defence in 1935. It was in 1935 that he decided to return to West Africa, choosing rather than defend his dissertation which examined the implication of forcing Liberia towards a debt overhang as part of the excuse to withdraw its sovereignty by the “international community” and place the only independent country in West Africa as trust legate under the old league of Nations. He chose to publish it as Liberia in World Politics, as a means of raising money to return to the continent. In fact by 1933, Azikiwe was already an Instructor and Head of the dept of Political Science at Lincoln! He designed and taught one of the first classes in African History in any US university and was among the very early pioneers of African Studies in American universities in conjunction with his old Professor at Howard, Leon Hansberry. You will notice of course that throughout his career and life, Azikiwe very deliberately emphasized, promoted, and affirmed the Black Universities that he attended in the US rather than the ivy-league universities he also attended. It was an ideological statement.
By 1935 when Azikiwe returned to Africa and settled in the Gold Coast, Francis Kwame Nkrumah
was still in a Catholic Seminary studying to be a priest. It was through Azikiwe’s activist journalism and his address to the Ghana Teachers Union that Nkrumah first met Zik, who began to mentor him, and in fact convinced him to seek further education in the US. He gave him introductory and recommendation letters to his old school in Lincoln into which Nkrumah was enrolled in 1938 with other men who had been inspired by Zik – Ebenezer Ako Adjei
, from Ghana, K. Ozumba Mbadiwe
, Mbonu Ojike
, Nwafor Orizu
, Okechukwu Ikejiani
, Nwankwo Chukwuemeka, Abdulkareem. K Disu, K.A.B Quartey-Jones also from Ghana, and Nnodu Okongwu. These men arrived Lincoln U between 1938 and 1939. These were all acolytes of the great Zik, and the foot soldiers of his Liberation movement in West Africa. Nkrumah’s contemporaries in Lincoln in fact were Ojike, Orizu, Ikejiani, Okongwu, A.K. Disu and Mbadiwe from Nigeria. In fact Nkrumah, Mbadiwe, Okongwu, Disu, took the Lincoln-Columbia route in the footseteps of Zik. Of all this group of Zikists, the Ghanaian K.A.B. Quartey-Jones became Azikiwe’s first biographer ( Cambridge UP, 1961), A.K. Disu (Kings college, Lagos, Lincoln, Columbia and Harvard Law), became first, associate Editor of the West African Pilot, Zik’s private secretary as Premier of the East, General Manager Eastern Nigerian Information Services and later Permanent Secretary to the President of the federation. To put it blandly, in other words, if Nkrumah had been a Nigerian, he would have been part of the NCNC. To put it another way, Zik paved the way for Nkrumah and the nationalist movement in Ghana which was in a doldrums in 1935 until Azikiwe arrived the scene and with the likes of I.T.A. Wallace Johnson awakened the defiance movement and the anti-colonial movement in Ghana from 1935-1937. Following the sedition charges, and his arrival in Nigeria in 1937, Azikiwe ignited the anti-colonial liberation movement which hitherto had been colorless, sterile, elitist and accommodationist. The men Azikiwe recruited from 1938 pushed the anti-colonial debate, fanning out, to give colonialism a bloody mouth. That is the story of Zik. To be clear, Nkrumah was not Azikiwe’s contemporary at Lincoln. He was with Mbonu Ojike, Mbadiwe, Ikejiani etc.
His dream was to establish a school in Liberia for Black Africans, due to funds, he could not achieve that, he then went to the Eastern Region Government(Nigeria) and sold the idea to them and that was how University of Nigeria came with the motto: “To Restore The Dignity of Black Man” The Black was latter removed and it is “To Restore The Dignity of Man”
In conclusion, Zik personally remains one of the greatest influential black African leader.