Nnamdi Azikiwe was born on to Igbo parents, Obed-Edom Chukwuemeka Azikiwe and Rachel Chinwe Ogbenyeanu (Aghadiuno) Azikiwe, on November 16, 1904, in Zungeru, present-day Niger State.
As a consequence of his father’s duties as a clerk in the colonial administration of Nigeria, he travelled extensively across Nigeria. This fact itself would help to later mould Nnamdi as a detribalized Nigerian and nationalist.
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Nnamdi learned to speak Hausa as a young boy in Northern Nigeria and he later learnt his native Igbo language when he was sent to live with his aunt and grandmother in Onitsha. Settling down in Lagos also exposed him to the Yoruba language and the early politicians in Nigeria under whom he cut his teeth.
Azikiwe had his earliest education at Holy Trinity School, Onitsha and at Christ Church School. In 1918, he was back in Onitsha and finished his elementary education at CMS Central School. Azikiwe worked briefly as a student-teacher, supporting his mother with his earnings; and from there proceeded to secondary schooling at the Hope Waddell Training College, Calabar.
It was at another secondary school, Methodist Boys High School in Lagos, which Azikiwe transferred to from Calabar that he befriended classmates from aristocratic Lagos families such as Francis Cole George Shyngle, and Ade Williams which would later benefit his political career.
On completion of his secondary school education, Azikiwe applied to work with the colonial service and he was subsequently accepted for the role of a clerk in the treasury department of the colonial government.
Someday, at a lecture by James Aggrey, an educator in Lagos who strongly believed that young Africans would need foreign education to effect meaningful change on their return home; and he set his goals to get educated abroad by all means possible.
With Aggrey’s assistance directing the young but vibrant Azikiwe on schools accepting black students, coupled with his father’s sponsorship, travelled to the United States. In America, he attended a string of higher institutions such as Columbia University, Lincoln University, University of Pennsylvania and Howard University where he bagged honours in subjects ranging from Anthropology, African History and Political Science. He capped his studies with a doctorate degree at Columbia University in 1934, before returning to Nigeria.
Azikiwe’s first attempt at patriotism was when he contacted colonial authorities in Nigeria with a request to represent his country in sport at the Los Angeles Olympics in 1932. The teachings of foremost African American thinker, Marcus Garvey, which he must have encountered while studying abroad helped to also carve much of Azikiwe’s nationalistic rhetoric.
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On his return from America in 1934, he started working as a journalist in the Gold Coast, present-day Ghana. As a prominent member of the early Nigerian nationalist organization, the Nigerian Youth Movement (NYM), he also actively advocated for Nigerian and African nationalism such that he became known as one of the proponents of Nigerian nationalism after Herbert Macaulay.
Featured image source: The Guardian Nigeria
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