By Senator Andy Uba
One of the greatest achievements of Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe was his impact in education, especially in Igbo land.
How Ndi Igbo closed the education gap between them and Yoruba people who encountered western education ahead of them by 1960 can be view as a miracle and you cannot possible remove the impact of Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe from this achievements.
Zik returned from America 🇺🇸 to Nigeria in 1930s and led the most provoking education growth in Igbo land.
Zik mobilized Ndi Igbo to pursue education and human capital development. The striving for higher education in Igbo land was through the great Zik.
In 1938, Zik facilitated moving to America by 8 Nigerians for the pursuit of University education. According Zik, ‘The Eight Argonauts’ were to go to America to win the Golden Fleece back to Africa. On November 28, 1938, seven out of eight left to United State after, including Nwafor Orizu, who joined them same year. It is worthy to note that the ‘eight argonauts’ as Zik referred to them, returned and fueled new drive for higher education and Nationalism in the country.
The Igbo drive for higher educational advancement, began in the 1930s and Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe played a key role on this and we must acknowledge it.
He started with giving lectures, mobilizing Ndi Igbo to embrace education. Zik started with calling for wealthy individuals and communities to give scholarships for bright students.
For example, educated Igbo resident in Lagos and other urban centers throughout Nigerian started organizing themselves in villages, towns and clans as improvement and progressive unions.
This marked the beginning of a pan-Igbo movement which its main purpose was to advance Igbo in the field of education at that time.
It is on the record that during Igbo Federal Union, Lagos branch meeting in early 1940s, Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe made donation of £100 pounds sterling for an Igbo Education development plan.
As Premier of Eastern region, Zik made sure that Eastern Nigeria invest 45% of her budget on Education development.
On May 18, 1955, the Eastern House of Assembly, the regional legislature for Eastern Nigeria, moved a resolution to established the first university in Eastern Nigeria. Nnamdi Azikiwe gave a speech seconding the motion introduced by the Eastern Region Minister of Education. That eastern university became the University of Nigeria. Extract from Azikiwe’s remarks given on May 18, 1955, appear below:
“It is my fondest wish that when the University of Nigeria ultimately becomes a reality, our young men and women will find opportunities for gaining experience in life’s battle, so that lack of money will not deter them from obtaining higher vocational education in any of the faculties or institutes of the university. I hope that the training in self-help and the experience in self- reliance will make them more confident of themselves and enable them to puncture the myth of the proverbial lack of initiative and drive on the part of the Nigerian worker.”
Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe should have special place in the history of development of education in Igbo land.
Impact of Zik in education development also influenced my intervention in education development in Anambra State. Building a Mass Communication department of Nnamdi Azikiwe University and my instituting of ‘Philip Uba scholarship foundation’ which have trained many students in different fields.
As a senator, one of my legislative focus was on rebuilding schools and equipping them.
As the world celebrate this great colossus, I call for improved investment in Education development in Anambra State.
Happy Posthumous birthday Owelle!
- Senator Emmanuel Andy Uba