Nigeria’s Past Heroes: Three Great Politicians of First Republic

Nigeria’s Past Heroes: Three Great Politicians of First Republic

Nigeria, being an epicentre of multiethnic groups in West Africa and the most highly populated country in Afican continent, has been blissfully hallowed beyond human understanding with great potentialities in its human and natural resources.

The country, like any other African nation, which became one of the British protectorate in 1901, struggled for its independence in the late 1950th.

However, through it independence movement, the country succeeded and its colonization lasted until 1960. The Federation of Nigeria was granted full independence on 1st October, 1960 under a constitution that provided for a parliamentary government and a substantial measure of self-government for the country’s three regions namely: Northern, Western and Eastern.

In all its regions, there were great men and women whose philosophies, ideologies and works had immensely contributed in reawakening the country’s sources of pride, peace and progress. Of course, history will never forget with some of the nation’s great personalities whose voices echoed high in championing the country’s independence as well as setting a good leadership example and developmental plan of the entire country.

Take for instance in Eastern region, ‘ Nnamdi Azikiwe who’s also referred as ” Zik “, was one of the Nigerian statesmen and a political leader who served as the first President of Nigeria from 1963 to 1966. He was Considered a driving force behind the nation’s independence, his experience helped in giving birth to numerous achievements.

Azikiwe became active in the Nigerian Youth Movement (NYM), the country’s first nationalist organization. He came to be known as the “father of Nigerian Nationalism ” .

He entered politics, co-founding the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC) with Herbert Macaulay in 1944. Azikiwe became the council’s secretary-general in 1946. He established the University of Nigeria, Nsukka in 1960.’ Notwithstanding, Queen Elizabeth II appointed him to the privy council of the United Kingdom.

He was made Grand Commander of the Federal Republic (GCFR), Nigeria’s highest national honour in 1980. He was removed from office in the 15th January 1966 military coup, and he was the most prominent politician to avoid assassination after the coup.

Azikiwe was a spokesman for Biafra and advised its leader, Chukuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, during the Biafra war (1967-1970). He switched his allegiance back to Nigeria during the war, and appealed to Ojukwu to end the war. This was to fact that things were out of control.

After the war, he was made a chancellor of the University of Lagos from 1972-1976. He joined the Nigeria People’s Party in 1978, making unsuccessful bids for the presidency in 1979 and 1983. He left politics involuntarily after the 31st December, 1983 military coup.

While in Northern region, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa was one of the forestanding figures whose height reached the highest peak in bringing positive contribution to the country. He was elected in 1946 to the Northern House of Assembly, and to the Legislative Council in 1947.

As a legislator, he was a vocal advocate of the rights of Northern Nigeria. Balewa entered the government in 1952 as Minister of Works, and later served as Minister of Transport during a time Nigeria was moving towards self-government.

During his tenure at the transport ministry, both the Marine and Railway departments were transformed to corporations and the designs for a bridge over the Niger and plans for the Kainji Dam were developed.He retained the post as Prime Minister of Nigeria when Nigeria gained independence in 1960, and was reelected in 1964.

As Prime Minister of Nigeria, he played important roles in the continent’s formative indigenous rule. He was an important leader in the formation of the Organisation of African Unity and creating a cooperative relationship with French speaking African countries .

He was also instrumental in negotiations between Moise Tshombe and the Congolese authorities during the Congo Crisis of 1960–1964. He led a vocal protest against the Sharpeville Massacre of 1960 and also entered into an alliance with Commonwealth ministers who wanted South Africa to leave the Commonwealth in 1961.

In January 1960, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa was knighted by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II as a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire . He was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Sheffield in May 1960. He was also awarded an honorary doctorate of laws from the New York University in July 1961.

Moreover, the Western region wasn’t left behind in producing one of their kind who profoundly contributed toward the national growth.” Chief Obfemi Awolawo was a Nigerian nationalist and statesman that played a key role in Nigeria’s independence movement and also in the First and the Second Republics.

He was the first premier of the Western Region and later federal commissioner for finance, and vice chairman of the Federal Executive Council during the Nigerian Civil War. He was thrice a major contender for his country’s highest office. He started his career as a nationalist in the Nigerian Youth Movement in which he rose to become Western Provincial Secretary.

Awolowo was responsible for much of the progressive social legislation that has made Nigeria a modern nation. He was also the first Leader of Government Business and Minister of Local Government and Finance, and first Premier of the Western Region under Nigeria’s parliamentary system from 1952 to 1959. He was the official Leader of the Opposition in the federal parliament to the Balewa government from 1959 to 1963.”

“As premier, he proved to be and was viewed as a man of vision and a dynamic administrator. Awolowo was also the country’s leading social democratic politician. He supported limited public ownership and limited central planning in government. He believed that the state should channel Nigeria’s resources into education and state-led infrastructural development.

He introduced free primary education for all and free health care for children in the Western Region, established the first television service in Africa in 1959, and the Oduduwa Group, all of which were financed from the highly lucrative cocoa industry which was the mainstay of the regional economy.”

Looking at the aforementioned political figures, one will undoubtedly believe that their great works have helped in giving shape and direction to our country Nigeria. Their good qualities make them fit John C Maxwell’s definition of good leadership, “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.”

They have never been formally accused of corrupt-charges due to their unquestionable honesty and integrity. Contrariwise, in our modern Nigeria, the reverse is the case. Politicians lack focus and development plan for their people. They spearhead the ship of corruption and sail through the nation’s treasury, looting, embezzling and quenching the public fundst.

Insubordination, jingoism, mismanagement, infraction and mistrust are their kith and kin that become part of them. They have no emotional intelligence and empathy to connect with their teaming people. Unlike before, politicians of the first republic made closer connection with their people by sharing their concerns and understanding their people’s pains.

This is a wake-up call to all our contemporary politicians whose people’s trust, belief, expectation and leadership are put in their hands to honestly discharge their responsibilities without any misuse of trust for personal interest and aggrandizement.

They should always remember to have commitment, compassion, humility and transparency in all their endeavours, and expect to be accountable for their actions. This was what our past politicians (Azikiwe, Balewa and Awolawo) did and championed the minds of Nigerians. They still remain immortal even after their physical death and history keeps remembering them everyday as if they are alive. It worths to keep a good legacy than a bad one.

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