Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, the Great Zik of Africa, leader of the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC) then, was invited to the University of Ibadan in 1951 to deliver a lecture.
Akin Mabogunje who died yesterday, 4 August 2022 at the age of 90, was the secretary of the Progressive Party on campus. He later became a Professor of Geography. He was asked to write to invite Zik. He did. Mabogunje’s schoolmates then were Bola Ige, Caleb Olaniyan , Julius Lanrewaju and Michael Ifaturoti and others (see photo).
Leaders of another group, the Dynamic Party, who were preponderantly Igbo youths, decided to also invite Zik.
On the lecture day, the two groups lined both sides of the roads, two parallel lines! Mabogunje who first wrote the letter boarded Zik’s car after introducing himself. Pronto, an Igbo student, representing the Dynamic Party, also jumped into the same car and started talking to Dr. Azikiwe in Igbo.
Mabogunje wrote further that realizing what was happening, “[Azikiwe] told [the student]: ‘Speak the language the other person understands!’ Whereupon, [Azikiwe] pushed him out of the car.”
The conflict was resolved by the warden who made the students to agree that the lecture would be delivered under the auspices of the Student Union [of the University College Ibadan].
Mabogunje narrated the story in his autobiography, A Measure of Grace (BookBuilders, 2011) pp. 86-87. It was posted on Nigerian Nostalgia, 1960-1980, Project by Ugo Ezeh.
Below is the relevant passage of the book:
My encounter with Zik
By Akin Mabogunje
“The year 1951 was memorable in the political history of the country as the year for the implementation of the MacPherson Constitution. This Constitution accepted the 1946 Richards Constitution’s division of Nigeria into three regions, each governed by a lieutenant governor. The major difference was that the houses of assembly would now have a majority of elected representatives of the people, unlike the former Richard’s Constitution, where the majority comprised unelected, official members. The elections to the houses of assembly, however, was to be conducted through electoral colleges comprising representatives from different political divisions of each region.”
“From 1950, therefore, there were a lot of political activities in the country. As students of the premier tertiary institution in the country [University College Ibadan], we wanted to be better informed as to what our leaders were thinking on the political and constitutional issues of the moment. Consequently, as secretary of the Progressive Party, I was asked to write to invite the Rt. Honourable Nnamdi Azikiwe, the leader of the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC) to come and deliver a lecture to the students.
This I did, and ensured that the letter was delivered in Lagos and we received the assurance that the invitation was accepted.”
“It later transpired that the leaders of the Dynamic Party, who were mainly comprised Igbo youths, decided that they could not be left out in an invitation bringing the Great Zik to the campus and quickly forwarded another letter of invitation to him. On the evening on which the lecture was scheduled, at the gate to the campus, representatives of both parties lined both sides of the street. As soon as the motorcade arrived, I went to the car conveying Dr. Azikiwe and introduced myself as the representative of the Students’ Progressive Party that had invited him to give the lecture. An Igbo student, representing the Dynamic Party, jumped into the car and started talking to Dr. Azikiwe in Igbo.”
“Realizing what was happening, [Azikiwe] told [the student]: ‘Speak the language the other person understands!’ Whereupon, [Azikiwe] pushed him out of the car. But by then it was clear that there was a minor crisis as to under whose auspices the lecture was to be delivered. The warden then stepped into the matter and got us to agree that the lecture would be delivered under the auspices of the Student Union [of the University College Ibadan].”
Credit: Akin L. Mabogunje, ‘A Measure of Grace’ (BookBuilders, 2011) pp. 86-87