By Anthony Obi
Twenty years after the death of the first Nigerian President, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, First Republic minister of Aviation, Chief Mbazuilike Amaechi reiterated yesterday that the late Nigerian leader believed in the unity of the country.
Ameachi said this yesterday in Lagos during the presentation of a 400-page book of tributes written to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the death of Dr. Azikiwe. He noted that the latter was a man who fervently and religiously believed in the oneness of the country.
“I must try to touch an area where Zik was misunderstood, misquoted, and calumnised for no just reason in the matter of the NCNC and the eastern minorities. Zik had fervently and religiously believed in one Nigeria. His political base originally was Lagos. In 1951, he contested election in Lagos to the Western House of Assembly.
“His party, the NCNC won a comfortable majority over-all to the Western House of Assembly and by the Constitution the leader of the majority party would be the designated “Leader or government Business” to become Premier when the region would have had internal self-government in two years. The other political party, Action Group, won less than one-third of the seats against NCNC comfortable majority.”
Not satisfied with the outcome of the election, he said the Action Group leader quickly contacted the then Ooni of Ife and they mobilised the traditional rulers to mount pressure on the Yoruba NCNC elected members to resolve that an Igbo man must not be allowed to be leader of Government Business and later Premier of Western Region.
“When the House convened, many of the Yoruba NCNC elected members got up one by one and announced that they were crossing the red carpet to join the Action Group.
“So, in a moment, the NCNC majority turned a minority, leaving Zik and the NCNC members from the Mid-West and a few Yoruba reliables mainly from Ibadan (Adelabu and Mojeed Agbaje) and two others from Ilesha.
The National Executive Committee of the NCNC met and decided that its leader, Dr. Azikiwe, should resign his membership of the house to contest, the Eastern House of Assembly.”
The only surviving leader of the First Republic, further stated that Zik’s bitter experience in the West did not stop him from preaching the gospel of one Nigeria as the policy of his NCNC party was one Nigeria.
Eulogising Zik’s nature as a nationalist, he said when the war was at its peak and hottest, he took the grave risk of crossing the firing line to go to Nigeria and broker peace and to keep the country one.
However, the former minster expressed regret that 46 years after the war ended on the famous and patriotic declaration of “No Victor, No Vanquish,” “His people are still being treated as conquered people and second class citizens. His part of the country has been steadily and callously marginalised and denied infrastructural development.”
Urging politicians to emulate the efforts of the country’s heroes past, he stated that in spite of the political differences, Dr Azikiwe, Sir. Ahmadu Bello, Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, led their supporters to found a big nation called Nigeria.