“Honour to whom honour is due” is an axiom that harps on the virtue of appreciating the truly deserved. It holds up appreciation and thumbs down ingratitude. On a national scale, a country that appreciates its people invariably honours its great citizens. Little wonder that John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the beloved former American President, once noted that, “a country is great by the people it honours”.
Honouring the truly deserved seems to sit well with President Muhammadu Buhari. Last year, Buhari, to wide national acclaim, honoured the winner of the annulled June 12, 1993 Presidential election, the late Chief MKO Abiola. Abiola, the victor that was denied power by a clique of Military despots led by General Ibrahim Babangida was deservedly bestowed, howbeit posthumously, with the nation’s highest honour, Grand Commander of the Federal Republic (GCFR). Buhari went a step further to declare June 12 “Democracy day”.
While the applause that greeted the immortalization of Abiola is yet to fully die down, Buhari is at it again. This time he has taken practical steps to further immortalized the acclaimed father of modern Nigeria Rt. Hon. Dr. Nnamdi Azikwe better known as Zik of Africa. Buhari’s feat this time around is in the successful completion of the decades old Zik Mausoleum inside the great Zik’s ancestral “Inosi Onira” home beside All Hallows Seminary, Onitsha.
Buhari’s zeal in completing the long abandoned resting place of the nation’s founding father was peeped up by the relentless intercession of the focused and history conscious Governor of Anambra State, Chief Willie Obiano.
Buhari, in seeing to the completion of Zik’s Mausoleum has not only honoured Zik in death but has honoured himself. Ditto Obiano, who was resolute in his passionate entreaties to the Federal Government to complete the Mausoleum, which almost became an eyesore.
The Igbos, from which stock emerged Zik, have an adage that “the day a person honours the dead is the day he honours himself”. Implicit in this axiom is the truism that the honour done to the dead bears the stamp of selflessness and points to a nobility of heart that should be treasured as the honour is done with little or no material reward in mind. Now that the Mausoleum has been completed and commissioned, it is believed, in Igbo Cosmology, that the great Zik, who joined his illustrious ancestors 22 years ago, can truly be said to rest in peace.
Built to transcend just a burial site, the Zik Mausoleum is a national monument that if properly managed will grow to become a tourist center. Indeed, the challenge that the doggedness of Buhari and Obiano, in actualizing the Mausoleum, poses to future leaders both at the State and Federal level is to ensure the nurturing of the Mausoleum to a world heritage center. Such a global recognition will be a befitting tribute to Zik for his immense contribution to the political independence of Nigeria and indeed the emancipation of the black race.
Born Benjamin Nnamdi Azikwe in Zungeru in the present Niger State to parents who hailed from Onitsha in 1904, Zik grew to become an instructor in Political Science at Lincoln University, USA, Editor-in-Chief of The Morning Post in Accra, Ghana, and publisher of Zik Group of newspapers in Nigeria of which the then influential West African Pilot was the flagship.
A primus inter pares and outstanding orator, Zik was the first Premier of the defunct Eastern Region, first President of the Nigerian Senate, first Governor-General of Nigeria and the first President and Commander-in-Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces. Described by the notable Nigerian journalist Dare Babarinsa as “the dean of Nigerian politics and a fighter of superlative merit”, Zik led the nationalist vanguard in the fight against colonialism and imperialism in Nigeria. He was a man of many parts; sportsman, raconteur, businessman, orator, intellectual, nationalist, pan-Africanist and visionary.
The recently commissioned Zik Mausoleum adds to the long list of the due recognitions accorded him by a grateful nation. At his death in 1996, the Nigerian government renamed the international Airport in the nation’s capital Abuja after him.
A Federal University in Awka is named after him, a stadium in Enugu is named after him and his portrait is emblazoned in one of the highest denomination of the nation’s currency among other honours. However, the Zik Mausoleum takes the cake for it is final resting place and a unity centre of sort.
Egbuna writes from Nnewi