AZIKIWE AND THE UNIFYING QUESTION By Bode George

AZIKIWE AND THE UNIFYING QUESTION By Bode George


Chief Bode George and other participant at the Nnandi Azikwe Day organised by the National Institue of international Affairs


My fondest memory of the Right Honourable Dr. Benjamin Nnamdi Azikiwe was sometime in the early

1950’s when I was just a mere stripling. As a restless young boy I had rushed with other youths to the

huge open fields of Jankara popularly known to the natives as ORIKORIKO to watch a political rally

where the Great Zik of Africa was going to talk.

The crowd surged with energy and vivid animation. There was an electrifying participatorial charm

everywhere. There was that infectious spirited aura of being present at a historic moment. We were all

gripped with a raucous partisan feverishness as the great man of the moment emerged. All at once,

thousands of voices rang out with the thunderous echo: “Zik! Zik! The Zik of Africa!”

It was a magical moment I will never forget. He was a tall man with confidence and poise. There was

grace and certain majesty in his strides. There was an undisguised heroic pose and determined valour

about this man. There was that mightiness of presence that exuded power, bravura and intelligence.

Here was the Great Azikiwe in robust, radiant totality. His voice soared with velvety articulations. There

was passion and tremendous vigour in every stress and pitch of his constructions. Even to my young

mind, as I watched and fixated by the eloquence of the great man, I was proud to be a Nigerian. I was

proud to be an African. I was proud to be black.

Dr. Azikiwe who spoke both in English and Yoruba struck my young mind with a sense of kinship and a

chord of filial affinity. I thought I had known him all my life. I thought I beheld an Uncle, a father, a

Guardian Angel with all the charm, with all the solidity of a liberating eminence.

But what even resonated much more in this great man was the unifying thematic essence of the first

President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. It is indeed impossible to talk about the Zik of Africa without

invoking his vast accommodating largeness, without polishing him in the deserved luster of a total,

uninhibited Nationalist.

If the great Wizard of Kirsten Hall, my great grand Uncle, the immortal Herbert Heelas Macaulay became

a legend as the founding father of Nigerian Nationalism, Dr. Azikiwe was equally etched in deserved

immortality by deepening the nationalistic centrality of his great mentor and teacher. Nnamdi, which

means “my father is alive” demonstrated the resurrective correctness of his name in his prompt and vivid

sustenance of all the defining values of Herbert Macaulay, long after the mortal departure of the Wizard of

Kirsten Hall. The great Zikk of Africa who spoke Yoruba with effortless grace of a native speaker

maintained a life-long relationship with an abiding coterie of very close lieutenants who were mostly

Yoruba. For instance wherever Zik pitched his political camp, you would find Chief Teophilus Benson,

Chief Adeniran Ogunsanya among many other Yoruba politicians.

And in the tradition of his great mentor the Zik of Africa continuously waged a relentless crusade against

the imperial policies of the colonial government, savaging the ills of the British officialdom by marshalling

all the newspapers under the stable of his West African Pilot to fight the colonial overlords.

Despite being hurled from one court to the other to silence him, he was uncowed, unyielding. He risked

life and limb, defiant against the sometimes brutal scourge of imperial tyranny.

Indeed Azikiwe and Macaulay were two of a kind, thoroughbred soul mates, selfless, self-sacrificing

personages woven in Siamese idealism. I will hazard that there is somekind of spiritual linkages and

illustrations about these foremost men who devoted their lives to the endurance and workability of the

Nigerian Union even in that tumultuous formative stages when it was almost ruinous to collide against the

mighty power of British Imperialism.

Their pursuits and immovable fixities were predicated upon the unity of the Nigerian people. The great,

older man from Lagos, was the restless tutor, the painstaking guide who took the younger, questing,

adventurous Azikiwe through a nationalistic discipleship which appeared to be borne upon the

sanctification of heaven.

One was Igbo and the other Yoruba. But that is all there is! There was never the least disputation about

the melding of their vision, about the synchronicity of their mission. They worked in swift, rancor free

unison. There was never any provocation about the recourse to the provincialism of the tribal focus.

The two great men worked from the profound heights of service to the Nigerian people, no matter the

ethnic provenance. Their paramount idealism reached far beyond the narrow purview of partisan pursuits.

Their greatest podium and raison detre was Nigeria! And Nigeria! And Nigeria! Nothing else mattered.

As the Secretary – General of the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCMC) Zik worked

under the rallying leadership of Herbert Macaulay with the deepest sincerity of purpose, with the absolute

devotion and loyalty to the cause and to the great man.

Zik was not a disciple who merely served the hour, who merely latched himself to Macaulay for the

transient benefit of the moment. He was a totally detribalized Nigerian. He was an honest believer and

committed stalwart of a Nigerian Union spurred along without the biases of the ethnic venom or the dark

prejudices of provincial hatred.

In the philosophical and idealistic union of Zik and Macaulay one can deduce the balancing of an

astrological attraction, the unavoidable promptings of the Heavenly Stars.

nation. The choice is ours. We dare not choose wrongly. God bless you all. And God bless Nigeria.

The two of them were born under the zodiac guidance of Scorpio. While Macaulay was born on

November 14, 1864, Azikiwe was born on November 16, 1904. Again, while Macaulay died on May 7,

1946, Zik died on May 11, 1996. By the way, and on a lighter note, I too was born on November 21,

1945! You can make anything out of all this. But you cannot deny the sequence, the logic in the

ordering and pattern of dates. You cannot deny the unique centripetal oneness of these great men.

You cannot deny their absolute devotion to the growth and development of the Nigerian nation. You

cannot deny their unrepentant nationalism, their total celebration of merit and excellence over

nepotism, over the clannish narrowness of tribal primitivism.

While Macaulay preferred the proven excellence of Azikiwe over the recourse to tribal discipleship, Zik

would replicate the purity of his detribalized vision when he chose Samuel Akinsanya as the candidate

of the Nigerian Youth Movement over Ernest Ikoli. And when the Executive Council of the Nigerian

Youth Movement refused to concede to the logic of Zik, the great man pulled out of the Movement with

all his Ijebu and Ibo supporters.

Can this kind of unalloyed unifying nationalistic vision be displayed in the present balkanized politics

of the Nigerian Union? This is indeed the vexing issue of the hour. Unfortunately we are all far

removed from the instinctive unifying emblem of our founding fathers. We are presently lacking in the

thoughtful philosophical grandeur of the great men who practiced politics from the purest of motives,

who engaged in public activism from the fundament of enhancing the quality of the lives of our people.

We must return to the sanitizing beginning where the diverse richness of public debate governed the

tenor and tempo of partisan politics. We must acknowledge the guiding credo of the great Zik of Africa

whose whole political philosophy is summed up in these words: “You talk, I listen, you listen, I talk.” In

the simplicity of this wisdom one can discern the instinctive accommodating spirit of the great Zik of

Africa. He was a man ever prepared to mend the broken places, to heal the frayed edges. He was a

great reconciliator, a nationalist without partisan bitterness, a natural patriot without the least venom of

ethnic colouration.

Alas, we have all derailed from the sterling legacy that strengthened the fighting spirit of our founding

fathers against the scourge of imperialism.

We have reduced the grand patriotic visions of our fore fathers to a petty, shabby wrangling over the

spoils of office. We have smudged and dirtied the pristine purity of our unifying ancestors with

tarnishing selfish squabble about who occupies what position and when. No nation moves forward

when the constituents are permanently detained in sheer mercenary fixation. The nation must come

first before the clamour for party interest, before the selfish uproar about ethnic concerns. We must

ask ourselves about what we can contribute meaningfully to the national development instead of being

weighed down about what we can benefit from the nation. We must move away from the dark

primitivism of the crab mentality where anything and everything must be dragged down just for us to

move up.

love for our

Let us eschew the politics of hate. Let us embrace the selfless credo of our founding fathers who insisted

on unity in diversity. Let us move forward with common purpose and common vision of raising the

Nigerian ideal beyond the transient predication of the moment.

Let us look beyond the crass advantages of personal gains. Let us all resolve that the ultimate essence

of governance is to serve the interest of the people. The wise political leadership must listen and learn.

Leadership cannot and must not impose itself in odious hubristic indifference like we are witnessing now

in the flurries of draconian laws that governor Fashola is inflicting on the electorate of Lagos State.

The hounding and savaging of the poor Okada riders should be of interest to all of us regardless of our

position in society. The elites who shrug their shoulders amid the pains and sufferings of the helpless

Okada riders will eventually be consumed by the end result of this primitive policy. Sooner than later,

these hundreds of thousands of unemployed young men will invariably stray into some illegal activities in

their desperation to make ends meet. And who will blame them when their livelihoods had been taken

away from them by Fashola?

My appeal now is to the men and women of the law enforcement agencies who have been detailed to

enforce the oafishly conceptualized Lagos Traffic Law. Please stop treating fellow Nigerians as if they

are not human beings. Dragging them across the roads, battering them with gun butts and even shooting

them as If this is some kind of a war zone is totally unacceptable. It is unsavory. It is wrong. It is against

all the norms and ethics of civilized policing.

Won ni ti aba ran ni ni ise eru, afi ti omo je. If you are sent on a slaves’ errand, act like a free born!

Now, what is the alternative for the Okada riders? They should simply go to hell! Is this what government

is all about? Is this the ultmate mission of leadership? The Okada riders come from all walks of life.

There are graduates, artisans, bankers, school teachers, mechanics who are forced to this line of

employment. And they come from all ethnic groups. There are Ibos, Yorubas, Hausas, Tivs and every

other tribe upon this God given earth called Nigeria who ride Okada for a living.

What do we do now about them? We should pretend they don’t exist ! Or they should merely dissipate

and melt away into the horizon? I don’t think they will vanish. They will surely remain with us as long as

their services are crucial to the metropolitan demands of Lagos.

Indeed, the good leader must be like a good shepherd. He must lead with instinct. He must lead with

concern and a milk of kindness. He must have a wise, absolute grasp of the terrain so that the people

are not pushed beyond the cliffs. He must lead with prompt sensitive consciousness.

Surely, the leader cannot and must not withdraw into a reckless omniscient hubris, pretending he

knows better than everyone else. This is definitely the beginning of destruction. The leader must

therefore be humbled enough to know that he too must learn from the people that he governs.

Leadership of course is a privilege. It is not a right. This is the only way our society can grow and

develop. This is the only way we can establish a true and authentic nation where everyone will be

proud with the emblems of a progressive Union.

Finally, our journey is still far. The road to national salvation is still rough and tortuous. But there is

redemption at the end of the horizon. But only if we endure. Only if we work hard. Only if we show

commitment and absolute faith in ourselves and in our nation. The challenge is now before all of us:

we must now choose between the ennobling ideal of painful self sacrifice or the quick and petty

shortcut of personal gains. We must choose between the crass love for riches or the more redeeming.

Chief Olabode George

Atona Odua of Yorubaland

Click here to subscribe to The Paradigm Newsletter

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comments

Share your thoughts


Chief Bode George and other participant at the Nnandi Azikwe Day organised by the National Institue of international Affairs


My fondest memory of the Right Honourable Dr. Benjamin Nnamdi Azikiwe was sometime in the early

1950’s when I was just a mere stripling. As a restless young boy I had rushed with other youths to the

huge open fields of Jankara popularly known to the natives as ORIKORIKO to watch a political rally

where the Great Zik of Africa was going to talk.

The crowd surged with energy and vivid animation. There was an electrifying participatorial charm

everywhere. There was that infectious spirited aura of being present at a historic moment. We were all

gripped with a raucous partisan feverishness as the great man of the moment emerged. All at once,

thousands of voices rang out with the thunderous echo: “Zik! Zik! The Zik of Africa!”

It was a magical moment I will never forget. He was a tall man with confidence and poise. There was

grace and certain majesty in his strides. There was an undisguised heroic pose and determined valour

about this man. There was that mightiness of presence that exuded power, bravura and intelligence.

Here was the Great Azikiwe in robust, radiant totality. His voice soared with velvety articulations. There

was passion and tremendous vigour in every stress and pitch of his constructions. Even to my young

mind, as I watched and fixated by the eloquence of the great man, I was proud to be a Nigerian. I was

proud to be an African. I was proud to be black.

Dr. Azikiwe who spoke both in English and Yoruba struck my young mind with a sense of kinship and a

chord of filial affinity. I thought I had known him all my life. I thought I beheld an Uncle, a father, a

Guardian Angel with all the charm, with all the solidity of a liberating eminence.

But what even resonated much more in this great man was the unifying thematic essence of the first

President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. It is indeed impossible to talk about the Zik of Africa without

invoking his vast accommodating largeness, without polishing him in the deserved luster of a total,

uninhibited Nationalist.

If the great Wizard of Kirsten Hall, my great grand Uncle, the immortal Herbert Heelas Macaulay became

a legend as the founding father of Nigerian Nationalism, Dr. Azikiwe was equally etched in deserved

immortality by deepening the nationalistic centrality of his great mentor and teacher. Nnamdi, which

means “my father is alive” demonstrated the resurrective correctness of his name in his prompt and vivid

sustenance of all the defining values of Herbert Macaulay, long after the mortal departure of the Wizard of

Kirsten Hall. The great Zikk of Africa who spoke Yoruba with effortless grace of a native speaker

maintained a life-long relationship with an abiding coterie of very close lieutenants who were mostly

Yoruba. For instance wherever Zik pitched his political camp, you would find Chief Teophilus Benson,

Chief Adeniran Ogunsanya among many other Yoruba politicians.

And in the tradition of his great mentor the Zik of Africa continuously waged a relentless crusade against

the imperial policies of the colonial government, savaging the ills of the British officialdom by marshalling

all the newspapers under the stable of his West African Pilot to fight the colonial overlords.

Despite being hurled from one court to the other to silence him, he was uncowed, unyielding. He risked

life and limb, defiant against the sometimes brutal scourge of imperial tyranny.

Indeed Azikiwe and Macaulay were two of a kind, thoroughbred soul mates, selfless, self-sacrificing

personages woven in Siamese idealism. I will hazard that there is somekind of spiritual linkages and

illustrations about these foremost men who devoted their lives to the endurance and workability of the

Nigerian Union even in that tumultuous formative stages when it was almost ruinous to collide against the

mighty power of British Imperialism.

Their pursuits and immovable fixities were predicated upon the unity of the Nigerian people. The great,

older man from Lagos, was the restless tutor, the painstaking guide who took the younger, questing,

adventurous Azikiwe through a nationalistic discipleship which appeared to be borne upon the

sanctification of heaven.

One was Igbo and the other Yoruba. But that is all there is! There was never the least disputation about

the melding of their vision, about the synchronicity of their mission. They worked in swift, rancor free

unison. There was never any provocation about the recourse to the provincialism of the tribal focus.

The two great men worked from the profound heights of service to the Nigerian people, no matter the

ethnic provenance. Their paramount idealism reached far beyond the narrow purview of partisan pursuits.

Their greatest podium and raison detre was Nigeria! And Nigeria! And Nigeria! Nothing else mattered.

As the Secretary – General of the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCMC) Zik worked

under the rallying leadership of Herbert Macaulay with the deepest sincerity of purpose, with the absolute

devotion and loyalty to the cause and to the great man.

Zik was not a disciple who merely served the hour, who merely latched himself to Macaulay for the

transient benefit of the moment. He was a totally detribalized Nigerian. He was an honest believer and

committed stalwart of a Nigerian Union spurred along without the biases of the ethnic venom or the dark

prejudices of provincial hatred.

In the philosophical and idealistic union of Zik and Macaulay one can deduce the balancing of an

astrological attraction, the unavoidable promptings of the Heavenly Stars.

nation. The choice is ours. We dare not choose wrongly. God bless you all. And God bless Nigeria.

The two of them were born under the zodiac guidance of Scorpio. While Macaulay was born on

November 14, 1864, Azikiwe was born on November 16, 1904. Again, while Macaulay died on May 7,

1946, Zik died on May 11, 1996. By the way, and on a lighter note, I too was born on November 21,

1945! You can make anything out of all this. But you cannot deny the sequence, the logic in the

ordering and pattern of dates. You cannot deny the unique centripetal oneness of these great men.

You cannot deny their absolute devotion to the growth and development of the Nigerian nation. You

cannot deny their unrepentant nationalism, their total celebration of merit and excellence over

nepotism, over the clannish narrowness of tribal primitivism.

While Macaulay preferred the proven excellence of Azikiwe over the recourse to tribal discipleship, Zik

would replicate the purity of his detribalized vision when he chose Samuel Akinsanya as the candidate

of the Nigerian Youth Movement over Ernest Ikoli. And when the Executive Council of the Nigerian

Youth Movement refused to concede to the logic of Zik, the great man pulled out of the Movement with

all his Ijebu and Ibo supporters.

Can this kind of unalloyed unifying nationalistic vision be displayed in the present balkanized politics

of the Nigerian Union? This is indeed the vexing issue of the hour. Unfortunately we are all far

removed from the instinctive unifying emblem of our founding fathers. We are presently lacking in the

thoughtful philosophical grandeur of the great men who practiced politics from the purest of motives,

who engaged in public activism from the fundament of enhancing the quality of the lives of our people.

We must return to the sanitizing beginning where the diverse richness of public debate governed the

tenor and tempo of partisan politics. We must acknowledge the guiding credo of the great Zik of Africa

whose whole political philosophy is summed up in these words: “You talk, I listen, you listen, I talk.” In

the simplicity of this wisdom one can discern the instinctive accommodating spirit of the great Zik of

Africa. He was a man ever prepared to mend the broken places, to heal the frayed edges. He was a

great reconciliator, a nationalist without partisan bitterness, a natural patriot without the least venom of

ethnic colouration.

Alas, we have all derailed from the sterling legacy that strengthened the fighting spirit of our founding

fathers against the scourge of imperialism.

We have reduced the grand patriotic visions of our fore fathers to a petty, shabby wrangling over the

spoils of office. We have smudged and dirtied the pristine purity of our unifying ancestors with

tarnishing selfish squabble about who occupies what position and when. No nation moves forward

when the constituents are permanently detained in sheer mercenary fixation. The nation must come

first before the clamour for party interest, before the selfish uproar about ethnic concerns. We must

ask ourselves about what we can contribute meaningfully to the national development instead of being

weighed down about what we can benefit from the nation. We must move away from the dark

primitivism of the crab mentality where anything and everything must be dragged down just for us to

move up.

love for our

Let us eschew the politics of hate. Let us embrace the selfless credo of our founding fathers who insisted

on unity in diversity. Let us move forward with common purpose and common vision of raising the

Nigerian ideal beyond the transient predication of the moment.

Let us look beyond the crass advantages of personal gains. Let us all resolve that the ultimate essence

of governance is to serve the interest of the people. The wise political leadership must listen and learn.

Leadership cannot and must not impose itself in odious hubristic indifference like we are witnessing now

in the flurries of draconian laws that governor Fashola is inflicting on the electorate of Lagos State.

The hounding and savaging of the poor Okada riders should be of interest to all of us regardless of our

position in society. The elites who shrug their shoulders amid the pains and sufferings of the helpless

Okada riders will eventually be consumed by the end result of this primitive policy. Sooner than later,

these hundreds of thousands of unemployed young men will invariably stray into some illegal activities in

their desperation to make ends meet. And who will blame them when their livelihoods had been taken

away from them by Fashola?

My appeal now is to the men and women of the law enforcement agencies who have been detailed to

enforce the oafishly conceptualized Lagos Traffic Law. Please stop treating fellow Nigerians as if they

are not human beings. Dragging them across the roads, battering them with gun butts and even shooting

them as If this is some kind of a war zone is totally unacceptable. It is unsavory. It is wrong. It is against

all the norms and ethics of civilized policing.

Won ni ti aba ran ni ni ise eru, afi ti omo je. If you are sent on a slaves’ errand, act like a free born!

Now, what is the alternative for the Okada riders? They should simply go to hell! Is this what government

is all about? Is this the ultmate mission of leadership? The Okada riders come from all walks of life.

There are graduates, artisans, bankers, school teachers, mechanics who are forced to this line of

employment. And they come from all ethnic groups. There are Ibos, Yorubas, Hausas, Tivs and every

other tribe upon this God given earth called Nigeria who ride Okada for a living.

What do we do now about them? We should pretend they don’t exist ! Or they should merely dissipate

and melt away into the horizon? I don’t think they will vanish. They will surely remain with us as long as

their services are crucial to the metropolitan demands of Lagos.

Indeed, the good leader must be like a good shepherd. He must lead with instinct. He must lead with

concern and a milk of kindness. He must have a wise, absolute grasp of the terrain so that the people

are not pushed beyond the cliffs. He must lead with prompt sensitive consciousness.

Surely, the leader cannot and must not withdraw into a reckless omniscient hubris, pretending he

knows better than everyone else. This is definitely the beginning of destruction. The leader must

therefore be humbled enough to know that he too must learn from the people that he governs.

Leadership of course is a privilege. It is not a right. This is the only way our society can grow and

develop. This is the only way we can establish a true and authentic nation where everyone will be

proud with the emblems of a progressive Union.

Finally, our journey is still far. The road to national salvation is still rough and tortuous. But there is

redemption at the end of the horizon. But only if we endure. Only if we work hard. Only if we show

commitment and absolute faith in ourselves and in our nation. The challenge is now before all of us:

we must now choose between the ennobling ideal of painful self sacrifice or the quick and petty

shortcut of personal gains. We must choose between the crass love for riches or the more redeeming.

Chief Olabode George

Atona Odua of Yorubaland

Click here to subscribe to The Paradigm Newsletter

Comments

comments

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