Today, October 1 , 2015, Nigeria celebrates the 55th anniversary of her independence as a sovereign nation.
There are some notable personalities that are worth remembering and celebrating as their efforts during the pre-colonial era greatly contributed to the freedom attained by the nation.
Worthy of mentioning also, are other national heroes whose efforts have helped to sustain and advance the gains of independence.
On the list of those Nigeria’s heroes and heroines are the following individuals.
Herbert Macaulay on June 24, 1923, founded the Nigeria National Democratic Party (NNDP), the first Nigerian political party. The NNDP won all the seats in the elections of 1923, 1928 and 1933.In the 1930s, Macaulay took part in organizing Nigerian nationalist militant attacks on the British colonial government in Nigeria.
Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe
Chief Benjamin Nnamdi Azikiwe, usually referred to as Zik, was one of the leading figures of modern Nigerian nationalism. He was head of state of Nigeria from 1963 to 1966. He served as the second and last Governor-General from 1960 to 1963 and the first President of Nigeria from 1963 to 1966, holding the presidency throughout the Nigerian First Republic
After a successful journalism career, Azikiwe entered into politics. In 1944, Macaulay and NYM leader Azikiwe agreed to form the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC). A part of Cameroon was incorporated into the British colony of Nigeria. Azikiwe increasingly became the dominant Nigerian nationalist leader, he supported Pan-Africanism and a pan-Nigerian based nationalist movement.
Chief Obafemi Awolowo
Chief Obafemi Jeremiah Oyeniyi Awolowo, GCFR (who lived between 6 March 1909 and 9th of May 1987), was a nationalist and statesman who played a key role in Nigeria’s independence movement, the First and Second Republics and the Civil War. He is most notable as the outstanding first premier of the Western Region but was also a successful federal commissioner for finance and Vice President of the Federal Executive Council in the Civil War and was thrice a major contender for his country’s highest office.
A native of Ikenne in Ogun State, he started his career, like some of his well-known contemporaries, as a nationalist in the Nigerian Youth Movement, where he rose to become Western Provincial Secretary. Awolowo was responsible for much of the progressive social legislation that has made Nigeria a modern nation.
Alhaji Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa
Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa was born late in 1912 in Bauchi. He was the son of a Bageri Muslim district head in the Bauchi divisional district of Lere.
He was a vocal advocate of the rights of northern Nigeria, and together with Alhaji Ahmadu Bello, who held the hereditary title of Sardauna of Sokoto; he founded the Northern People’s Congress (NPC).
Balewa entered the government in 1952 as Minister of Works, and later served as Minister of Transport. In 1957, he was appointed Chief Minister, forming a coalition government between the NPC and the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC), led by Nnamdi Azikiwe. He retained the post as Prime Minister when Nigeria gained independence in 1960, and was reelected in 1964.
However, as Prime Minister of Nigeria, he played important roles in the continent’s formative indigenous rule. He was one of the leaders in the formation of the Organization of African Unity and creating a cooperative relationship with French speaking African countries
Sir Ahmadu Bello
Sir Ahmadu Bello KBE (June 12, 1910 – January 15, 1966) was one of the foremost early Nigerian politicians, and was the first premier of the Northern Nigeria region from 1954-1966. He was the Sardauna of Sokoto and one of the prominent leaders in Northern Nigeria alongside Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, both of whom were prominent in negotiations about the region’s place in an independent Nigeria.
As leader of the Northern People’s Congress, he dominated Nigerian politics throughout the early Nigerian Federation and the First Nigerian Republic.
In forming the 1960 independence federal government of the Nigeria, Bello as president of the NPC, chose to remain Premier of Northern Nigeria and devolved the position of Prime Minister of the Federation to the deputy president of the NPC Abubakar Tafawa Balewa.
Chief Anthony Enahoro
Chief Anthony Enahoro, born 22nd July, 1923 was one of Nigeria’s foremost anti-colonial and pro-democracy activists. He became the editor of Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe’s newspaper, The Southern Nigerian Defender, Ibadan in 1944 at the age of 21, thus becoming Nigeria’s youngest editor ever. He later became the editor of Zik’s Comet, Kano from 1945 to 1949; associate editor of West African Pilot, Lagos and editor-in-chief of Morning Star from 1950 to 1953.
Professor Wole Soyinka
Akinwande Oluwole Soyinka, born 13th July, 1934, is a Nigerian playwright and poet. His work, “A Dance of The Forest” (1960), a biting criticism of Nigeria’s political elites, won a contest that year as the official play for Nigerian Independence Day on 1st October, 1960. In 1986, Soyinka was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, becoming the first African to be honoured. His Nobel Prize acceptance speech, “This Past Must Address Its Present”, was devoted to South African freedom-fighter, Nelson Mandela.
Mrs. Fumilayo Ransome-Kuti
Mrs. Fumilayo Ransome-Kuti, born 25th October, 1900 in Abeokuta, Nigeria, is the mother of the legendary Fela Anikulapo Kuti. She was a very powerful force advocating for the Nigerian woman’s right to vote and has been described as the doyen of female rights in Nigeria. In 1947, she was described by the West African Pilot Newspaper as the ‘Lioness of Lisabi’ for her leadership of the women of the Egba clan in a campaign against arbitrary taxation. That struggle led to the abdication of the Egba high king, Oba Ademola II in 1949.
Aminu Kano was born to the family of an Islamic scholar, Mallam Yusuf of the scholarly Gyanawa fulani clan, who was a mufti at the Alkali court in Kano. He attended Katsina College and later went to the University of London’s, Institute of Education, alongside Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa. While in Bauchi, he spoke freely on political issues and extended his educational horizon by engaging in some various political and educational activities beyond his formal teaching duties.
He was also a secretary of the Bauchi Discussion Circle, a group whose activities were later constricted as a result of an attack on indirect rule by Aminu Kano.
During the pre-independence era, a new progressive union led by Aminu Kano and composed of progressive leaning teachers and some radical [intellectuals] such as Magaji Dambatta, Abba Maikwaru and Bello Ijumu emerged to fill any vacuum in political radicalism in the region.
He was Kano State governor in the second republic under the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP).
Akinkunmi was born Michael Taiwo Akinkunmi in Ibadan, of Yoruba origin. He was the designer of the Nigerian (Green White Green) flag. He had worked some years before gaining admission to the Norwood Technical College in London where he studied electrical engineering. While studying there, he designed the Nigerian Flag. He entered the competition which he came across in a library.
He always wears the colours of the flag he designed as part of his attire, usually wearing a green Yoruba cap, and painted his house with a green-white-green pattern.
Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola, CFR (24 August 1937 – 7 July 1998), often referred to as M. K. O. Abiola, was a popular Nigerian Yoruba businessman, publisher, politician and aristocrat of the Yoruba Egba clan.
He ran for the Presidency in 1993, and is widely regarded as the presumed winner of the inconclusive election since no official final results were announced. He died in 1998, after being denied victory when the entire election results were dubiously annulled by the preceding military president Ibrahim Babangida because of alleged evidence that they were corrupt and unfair.
He overwhelmingly defeated his rival, Bashir Tofa of the National Republican Convention. The election was declared Nigeria’s freest and fairest presidential election by national and international observers, with Abiola even winning in his Northern opponent’s home state.
The fact that Moshood Abiola (a Southern Muslim) was able to secure a national mandate freely and fairly remains unprecedented in Nigeria’s history. Moshood Abiola sprang to national and international prominence as a result of his philanthropic activities. Chief MKO Abiola’s memory is celebrated in Nigeria and internationally, on 12 June.
MKO Abiola has been referred to as Nigeria’s greatest statesman.
Fela Kuti (born Olufela Olusegun Oludotun Ransome-Kuti, lived between 15th October 1938 – 2nd August 1997. Also known as Fela Anikulapo Kuti or simply Fela, he was a Nigerian multi-instrumentalist, musician, composer, pioneer of the Afrobeat music genre, human rights activist, and political maverick. He was famed for being the pioneer of Afrobeats music as well as a controversial figure, due to his unusual music style and personal lifestyle. Kuti thought the most important way for Africans to fight European cultural imperialism was to support traditional African religions and lifestyles.
He was a candid supporter of human rights, and many of his songs are direct attacks against dictatorships, specifically the militaristic governments of Nigeria in the 1970s and 1980s. He was also a social commentator, and he criticized his fellow Africans (especially the upper class) for betraying traditional African culture.
Chinua Achebe, born Albert Chinualumogu Achebe; 16 November 1930 – 21 March 2013) was a Nigerian novelist, poet, professor and critic. His first novel Things Fall Apart (1958) was considered his magnum opus, and is the most widely read book in modern African literature.
Achebe has been called “the father of modern African writing”, and many books and essays have been written about his work over the past fifty years. Achebe was promoted at the NBS to the position of Director of External Broadcasting. One of his first duties was to help create the Voice of Nigeria network.
The station broadcast its first transmission on New Year’s Day 1962, and worked to maintain an objective perspective during the turbulent era immediately following independence.
Chief Abdul-Ganiyu “Gani” Oyesola Fawehinmi, (22 April 1938 – 5 September 2009) was a Nigerian author, publisher, philanthropist, social critic, human and civil rights lawyer, politician and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria.
With his boundless energy he tenaciously and uncompromisingly pursued and crusaded his beliefs, principles and ideals for the rule of law, undiluted democracy, and all embracing and expansive social justice, protection of fundamental human rights and respect for the hopes and aspirations of the masses who are victims of misgovernment of the affairs of the nation.
He was beaten up time after time and was deported from one part of the country to another to prevent him from being able to effectively reach out to the masses among whom he was popular.
In 2008 Mr. Gani Fawehinmi rejected one of the highest national honours that can be bestowed on a citizen by the Nigerian Government – Order of the Federal Republic (OFR) – in protest of the many years of misrule since Nigeria’s independence.
Alhaji Abdulsalami Abubakar
Alhaji Abdulsalami Abubakar is a retired Nigerian Army General who was military President of Nigeria from 9 June 1998 until 29 May 1999. He succeeded Sanni Abacha upon Abacha’s death. It was during Abubakar’s leadership that Nigeria adopted its new constitution on 5 May 1999, which provided for multiparty elections. Abubakar transferred power to president-elect Olusegun Obasanjo on 29 May 1999.
A few days after assuming office, Abubakar promised to hold elections within a year and transfer power to an elected president. He established the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), appointing former Supreme Court Justice Ephraim Akpata as chairman
Surprising some critics of the country’s military, Abubakar kept his word and transferred power to elected president Obasanjo on 29 May 1999.
Ameyo Adadevoh was born Ameyo Stella Shade Adadevoh, born 27th of October 1956, was a Nigerian physician. Her great-grandfather, Herbert Macaulay, is one of the most celebrated founders of modern Nigeria.
She is credited with having curbed a wider spread of the Ebola Virus in Nigeria by placing the patient zero, Patrick Sawyer, in quarantine despite pressures from the Liberian Government. On 4 August 2014, it was confirmed that she tested positive for Ebola virus disease and was being treated.
Professor Attahiru Muhammadu Jega is a Nigerian academic and former Vice-Chancellor of Bayero University, Kano. He was appointed as the chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in 2010.
Jega is a former President of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), and was an opponent of the Babangida military government in the early 1990s. He is widely seen as an astute intellectual with a strong sense of ethics and morality.
In spite of the fierce criticism he faced during the campaigning for the 2015 general elections from both the opposition and the ruling party, he went on to deliver a historic and successful elections.
On the 28 of March 2015, under his leadership, elections were conducted in what Nigerians and the World see as free, fair and credible which declared the APC Presidential candidate General Muhammadu Buhari as winner defeating the Incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan.