Azikiwe, Benjamin Nnamdi

1904–1996
President of Nigeria

Benjamin Nnamdi Azikiwe was the first president of the Federal Republic of NIGERIA, after the country won its independence from Britain in 1960. As a young man, Azikiwe left Nigeria to study in the United States. He earned master’s degrees in both political science and anthropology. After his studies, he worked for three years as editor of the newspaper African Morning Post in Accra, GHANA. Then Azikiwe returned to Nigeria and started the newspaper West African Pilot.

Azikiwe launched his political career in 1944, when he joined forces with Herbert MACAULAY, the founder of Nigeria’s first political party, the Nigerian National Democratic Party. Together they organized the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons. Azikiwe became leader of the party (renamed the National Convention of Nigerian Citizens) two years later.

Azikiwe served as premier of Eastern Nigeria under British rule from 1954 to 1959. After Nigeria achieved independence, he served as governor general from 1960 to 1963 and became the nation’s first president in 1963. However, Azikiwe was deposed three years later when the military seized control of Nigeria and banned political parties. After the ban was lifted in 1978, Azikiwe returned to political life as a member of the Nigerian People’s Party. By the time he retired from politics in 1986, he had gained wide respect as a political strategist. He was also known as a Nigerian patriot and a champion of human rights. He wrote several books on African politics.

Azikiwe, Benjamin Nnamdi