Nnamdi Azikiwe: The life and achievements of Nigeria's first president

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Nnamdi Azikiwe

Actively involved in sports at almost every stage of his life, Nnamdi Azikiwe was successful in many of the events he participated in.

When it comes to personal achievements, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe is king.

Actively involved in sports at almost every stage of his life, Nnamdi Azikiwe was successful in many of the events he participated in.

And they include Welterweight Boxing Champion Storer College (1925–27); High Jump champion, Howard University Inter-Scholastic Games (1926)

Gold Medalist in Cross Country, Storer College (1927); Back-stroke Swimming Champion and No. 3 swimmer in Freestyle Relay team, Howard University (1928).

He was also Captain, Lincoln University Soccer Team (1930); Winner Two Miles Run, Central Inter-Collegiate Athletic Association Championships at Hampton Institute Virginia (1931)

Bronze Medalist, Richmond Cross Country Marathon (1931); Gold Medalist in the 1,000 yard run, One Mile Run and Three Mile Run, Caledonian Games in Brooklyn, NY (1932)


Silver Trophy winner in the Half Mile race, and Silver Cup winner in the One Mile Race, Democratic Field Day Championships, New Haven, Connecticut (1933).

Upon his return to Nigeria in 1937, Nnamdi Azikiwe continued his winning streak with that same energy.

Thus, he was runner-up (with G. K. Dorgu) at the Lagos Tennis Men’s Doubles Championships (Division B 1938); anchorman for the ZAC team which won the 50 yards Freestyle Relay at the Lagos Swimming Championships (1939).

In 1946, Nnamdi Azikiwe was inducted into the prestigious Agbalanze society of Onitsha as Nnayelugo (It was a customary recognition for Onitsha men of significant accomplishment).

Arguably one of his biggest achievement, was when he was appointed to the privy council of the United Kingdom by Queen Elizabeth II in 1960.

And two years later, he became a second-rank red cap chieftain or Ndichie Okwa as the Oziziani Obi in 1962.

He would also be installed as the Owelle-Osowa-Anya of Onitsha, making him a first-rank, hereditary red cap nobleman or Ndichie Ume in 1972.

At the age of seventy-six, in the year 1980 to be precise, Nnamdi Azikiwe was conferred with the highest national honour of Grand Commander of the Federal Republic (GCFR).

However, in the kingdom of academics where his position was incontestable, the Zik of Africa as he is fondly called, received fourteen honorary degrees from Nigerian, American and Liberian universities.

They include Lincoln University, Storer College, Howard University, Michigan State University, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, University of Lagos, Ahmadu Bello University, University of Ibadan, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, and the University of Liberia.

In addition to his personal achievement, Nnamdi Azikiwe was also a member of many organizations and societies.

And they include Anti-Slavery Society for the protection of Human Rights; Phi Beta Sigma fraternity (Mu Chapter); West African Students' Union; Onitsha Improvement Union; Zik's Athletic Club; Ekine Sekiapu Society of Buguma, Kalabari

St. John's Lodge of England; Royal Economic Society; Royal Anthropological Institute; British Association for the Advancement of Science; American Society of International Law; American Anthropological Association

American Political Science Association; American Ethnological Society; Amateur Athletic Association of Nigeria; Nigerian Swimming Association, Nigerian Boxing Board of Control; Nigerian Cricket Association

Ibo State Union; Nigerian Table Tennis Association; Nigeria Olympic Committee and British Empire and Commonwealth Games Association


Politically, the road that led him to become the first president of Nigeria was not straight and short. He had held several political posts beforehand.

They include Executive Committee Member of Mambili Party, Accra (1935–37); General Secretary of National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (1944–45); President of the NCNC (1946–60)

Vice-President of the Nigerian National Democratic Party (1947–60); Member for Lagos in the Legislative Council of Nigeria (1947–51); Member for Lagos and Leader of the Opposition in the Western House of Assembly (1952–53)

Member for Onitsha in the Eastern House of Assembly (1954–60); Minister of Internal Affairs (Jan.–September 1954); Minister of Internal Affairs, Eastern Region (1954); Member of His Excellency Privy Council, Eastern Nigeria (1954–59)

Primer of Eastern Nigeria (1954–59); President of the Senate of the Federation (January–November 1960); Governor-General and Commander-in-Chief of Nigeria (1960–63); President of the Republic of Nigeria (1963–1966).

On 11 May 1996, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe joined his ancestors at the age of Ninety-one after living a life of self fulfilment.

ALSO READ: A brief walk into the life of Nigeria's first president




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