Nnamdi Benjamin Azikiwe, PC (16 November 1904 – 11 May 1996), usually referred to as “Zik”, was a Nigerian statesman and political leader who served as the first President of Nigeria from 1963 to 1966. Considered a driving force behind the nation’s independence, he came to be known as the “father of Nigerian Nationalism”.
Born to Igbo parents from Anambra State Eastern Nigeria in Zungeru in present-day Niger State, as a young boy he learned to speak Hausa (the main indigenous language of the Northern Region). Azikiwe was later sent to live with his aunt and grandmother in Onitsha (his parental homeland), where he learned the Igbo language. A stay in Lagos exposed him to the Yoruba language; by the time he was in college, he had been exposed to different Nigerian cultures and spoke three languages (an asset as president).
Azikiwe travelled to the United States where he was known as Ben Azikiwe and attended Storer College, Columbia University, the University of Pennsylvania and Howard University. He contacted colonial authorities with a request to represent Nigeria at the Los Angeles Olympics. He returned to Africa in 1934, where he began work as a journalist in the Gold Coast. In British West Africa, he advocated Nigerian and African nationalism as a journalist and a political leader.