By PAMELA EBOH, Awka
The Anambra State Government has declared Monday, November 16, a work-free day in honour of Nigeria’s first president, Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, whose birthday falls on November 16.
To this end, all government offices, except those which provide essential services, will not open for business, just like the organised private sector and open markets in the state.
In a statement by the state Commissioner for Information and Public Enlightenment, C Don Adinuba, said that Governor Obiano has reiterated his call on the Federal Government to declare November 16 a national holiday in honour of Dr Azikiwe who led Nigeria to independence on October 1, 1960.
According to him, the governor has written President Muhammadu Buhari to harp on the importance of the holiday which he is clamouring to be made a national holiday.
The statement partly reads: “In a letter to President Muhammadu Buhari, Obiano noted that the failure thus far to declare the birthday of the Great Zik of Africa a national holiday has become not just a national but also an international scandal.
“The Ghanaians observe President Kwame Nkrumah’s birthday as a national holiday. Angolans observe Dr Agostino Neto’s birthday as a national holiday, just the way Tanzanians do the birthday of Mwalimu Julius Nyerere.
“Interesting enough, it was the Great Zik of Africa who mentored Dr Nkrumah whom he discovered when he was editing the African Morning Post in Ghana and sent him to his alma mater in the United States, Lincoln University, the first historically black university in America, to study the humanities just like himself.
“Zik inspired a generation of Africans, including Nigerians, into African nationalism. The list includes Chief Obafemi Awolowo who wrote that he decided to study law in the United Kingdom after watching Zik address the Nigerian Youth Movement in Yaba, Lagos; in appreciation Chief Awolowo launched his Nigerian Tribune Newspapers on November 16, 1949, Zik’s 45th birthday.”
Obiano named late Chief MKO Abiola as another Nigerian that Zik inspired into embracing pan Africanism.
While describing Zik as Nigeria’s most detribalised leader in Nigerian history, the statement added: “He spoke the three main Nigerian languages, gave his children non-Igbo names and fought more than any person for Nigeria’s unity and indivisibility like all Pan Africanists of his generation who were determined to prove to the world that Africans were capable of governing themselves admirably in peace and unity.
“When he founded the University of Nigeria at Nsukka in 1960, he named key places on the campus after such Nigerian leaders as Chief Samuel Akintola, Sir Ahmadu Bello, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Professor Eyo Ita and Sir Abubakar Tafewa Balewa, even though they were his political opponents,” Governor Obiano stated.
“At a time most people in the world did not reckon with women, The Great Zik of Africa ensured that halls of residence at the UNN were named for Mrs Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti and Mrs Margaret Ekpo.
“Dr Azikiwe lived ahead of his generation. That was why he could establish the country’s first indigenous university and also the nation’s first indigenous bank when Africans were discriminated against in various endeavours.
“These institutions played critical roles in Nigeria’s rapid economic development.
“The Nigerian people are consoled by the fact that this great Zikist has officially been declared winner of the historic vote, though posthumously, and June 12 proclaimed a national holiday.”
He stressed that Nigeria is in dire need of transformational leaders like Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, the symbol of national unity and progress saying that Nigerians are grateful to the memory of this great man of philosophy and action.
This is the second time Anambra State will observe Dr Azikiwe’s birthday as a work-free day since Governor Willie Obiano announced the annual observance in January 2019.