Introduction and Justification for the Foundation
The narrative of any society cannot be written in isolation of their heroes. It is for this reason that many societies go the extra-mile to immortalize their heroes in an attempt to pass on to future generations the correct narratives of their evolutional trajectory.
Our people have a saying that he who does not know where the rain drenched him may not likely know where the rain dried. Ndigbo are reputed for their sense of justice and respect for the dead, especially those that have impacted their lives positively.
Remembering heroes of the past by societies is not a new phenomenon. In the ancient Greek civilization, we can read of the immortalization of such heroes in the Homeric Iliad and the Odyssey.
Admired through the ages as the ultimate epic, the heroes in the Iliad and Odyssey were venerated by the ancient Greeks themselves as the cornerstone of their civilization.
In ancient Egypt, such heroes were memorialized on papyrus and engraved on stones and also the pyramids. In recent history, there are welter of literatures and foundations established by societies to immortalize their heroes.
One of the commonest ways to immortalize legends in Nigeria is by naming streets, public buildings and institutions after them; e.g. the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja. Murtala Mohammed Airport, Lagos, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, etc
While the immortalization of our heroes through naming of objects leaves a permanent impression in the minds, organizing annual lectures in honour of the icons provokes thoughts on the lives and times of the personages.
Even in Nigeria, with all our tendencies for collective amnesia and pursuit of trivia instead of substance, some ethnic groups have broken the limitations of such despondency to commemorate the lives of their heroes.
In the old northern region, the Sir Ahmadu Bello Foundation stands out as a memorial for the late northern leader.
In the Yoruba nation, the Obafemi Awolowo Foundation has been established as a platform for the Yoruba to chronicle the exploits of Awolowo in Nigeria, articulate his views and ideology as a guiding philosophy for Afenifere.
Among the Ijaws, the Isaac Adaka Boro Foundation is writ large on the Ijaw nation.
Unfortunately, in Igboland, a land that is figuratively flowing with milk and honey; a land noted for its ingenuity, creativity, vision and intellectual prowess, we seem to have forgotten this fundamental aspect of our narrative.
For reasons that cannot be explained, we seem to have ignored the necessity of establishing a Foundation in memory of the great Nnamdi Azikiwe. By all definitions and descriptions, Nnamdi Azikiwe is a hero, not just in Igboland but also in Nigeria and beyond.
A hero is one who knowingly risks his or her own life to an extraordinary degree while saving or attempting to save the life of another person.
Nnamdi Azikiwe knowingly risked his life to dare the British in order to have a politically independent Nigeria. He did this at great risk to his life and comfort.
Hence, it is important that with Zik’s translation into immortality, we as Ndigbo must initiate processes to ensure the continuity of that communion with which he consecrated his beloved Ndigbo and the Nigerian state.
Establishing a Foundation in his honour, therefore, would be a befitting tribute to him in his overall philosophical testament, whose vitality is as cogent today as it was in Zik’s time. The sacredness of Zik’s vision cannot be bound by history or culture.
It was and still is a universal avowal of common sense and decorous experience; a kind of ritual of purification whose emblem is the fraternity of all nations, races and people on the standpoint of equality, egalitarianism and freedom.
Therein lies the justification for the establishment of Nnamdi Azikiwe Foundation.
SYNOPTIC PROFILE OF NNAMDI AZIKIWE
His Excellency, The Rt. Hon. Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe (1904-1996), popularly known as Zik of Africa, is mostly regarded as the father of Nigeria; and perhaps, that accounts for why the International Airport, Abuja is named after him.
Azikiwe served Nigeria in various capacities: as a radical and plaintive journalist, nationalist, party leader, legislator, minister, premier, senate president, governor –general and finally the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe was one of the prominent leading lights of the Igbo nation. He was among the first generation of Igbos that stowed away to the United States of America (USA) for further studies.
He passed through the Storer College, in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia; Howard University, Washington DC and Lincoln University, Pennsylvania all in the USA.
He earned both Bachelors and Masters Degrees in the areas of history, anthropology, religion, philosophy, journalism and political science.
By 1935, Azikiwe had become a house-hold name in Nigeria.