EXCERPTS FROM INAUGURAL SPEECH OF NNAMDI AZIKIWE NOV 16 1960

It is with humility mingled with joy that I thank this grand concourse of patriots and friends of Nigeria for congregating here, today, on the occasion of my inauguration as the first African Governor-General and Commander-in-Chief of the federation of Nigeria. I was appointed to this post of high honour by her Majesty Queen Elizabeth 11, on the advice of the Prime Minister of Nigeria, to succed my predecessor in office, that accomplished colonial administrator, Sir James Robertson, G.C M.G., G.C.V.0.

This mighty audience comprises of eminent men and women drawn from all the Regions of Nigeria and different parts of Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States of America. We have in this august assemblage representatives of heads of states and governments, paramount rulers and chieftains, statesmen and politicians, nationalists and freedom fighters, university administrators and professors, trade union leaders and ex-service men, local government heads and civil servants, moulders of public opinion in addition to professional men and women in different walks of life, including a select group of invitees who represent various organizations which are interested in Africa and in the orderly progress or our country towards national autonomy….

I have gone to the length of giving this historical background because of the nature of the oaths I have taken today and because of my honest belief that the existence of a stable and constitutional government in Nigeria can become a motive power for the revival of the stature of man in Africa and an impelling force for the restoration of the dignity of man in the world…

Without respect for the rule of law permeating our political life Nigeria would degenerate into a dictatorship with its twin relatives of tyranny and despotism. I hold that the arbitrary exercise of power without the restraining influence of the rule of law must be condemned as a fundamental departure from constitutional government. Any justification of such untrammelled exercise of political power is, to me, an outrage on human conscience and a gross violation of human rights…

The sanctity of the person. the right of a person to fair and public trial, the assumption of the innocence of an accused person until he is proved guilty: these are examples of the basic human rights which feature our constitution and which I have sworn today to uphold. But there are other ancillaries to these elements of liberal democracy. I have in mind religious freedom – freedom of thought. freedom of conscience. freedom 0f worship. the independence of a responsible judiciary. which is conscious of its responsibilities in a democratic society. and the existence of an untarnishable public service whose members are appointed or promoted strictly on the merit of their qualifications and good character and not on any other extraneous criteria…

I submit that respect for human dignity is the challenge which Africa offers to the world. The lack of respect for human dignity has led to the political bondage of man by man in Africa. This act of commission has also accentuated race relations in Africa. Until the conscience of the world has been energetically aroused to solve this problem frankly with absolute honesty, it is safe to predict that the political resurgence which is now sweeping all over Africa is capable of leading to a revanche movement which would be disastrous to the peace of the world…

The challenge of Nigeria as a free State in twentieth century Africa is the need to revive the stature of man in Africa and restore the dignity ol man in the world. Nigerians believe passionately in the fundamental human rights. We regard all races of the human family as equal. Under no circumstance shall we accept the idea that the black man is inferior to any other race. No matter where’this spurious doctrine may prevail. it mav be in Lodwar or Sharpville or Decatur, we shall never admit that we are an inferior race, because if we accept the Christian or Muslim doctrine that God is perfect and that man was made in the image of God, then it would be sacrilegious, if not heretical to believe that we are an inferior race. We cannot concede that it is in our national interest to fraternise with such nations which practise race prejudice and we must not acquiesce in such an outrageous insult on the black race. In fact. we must regard it as a mark of disrespect and an unfriendly act if any country with whom we have friendly relations indulges in race prejudice in any shape or form, no matter how it may be legally cloaked.

We in Nigeria cannot reconcile with good government the imprisonment of an African who refuses to wear a badge of racial inferiority which is disguised as an identification card. We cannot see the logic of a minority group, which controls power, to subvert the ends of governnient by punishing representatives of a majority group who refuse to be discriminated or segregated against, merely on the basis of race and not necessarily on any infraction of a law which is not repugnant to natural conscience. Our people find it extremely puzzling to believe that intelligent people can be so wicked and inhuman and yet be accepted as civilised nations by the international community…

As members of a maltreated race. it would be the height of folly for us to hobnob with those who regard the members of our race as inferior. As firm believers in the principle of brotherhood of man, we should be foolish to pretend that we arc happy when the rights of our fellow human beings are wantonly trampled upon by irresponsible rulers and government agencies of undemocratic countries. Having passed through the crucible of political bondage in the furnace of colonial tutelage, how can any reasonable world statesman expect Nigerians to associate in an alliance of mutual security with countries which still regard Africa as a colonial pasture fit for safaris and cattle grazing and not for the enjoyment of basic human rights…

We are more concerned in reviving the stature of man in Africa. We have developed into a stage where we now lead the rest of Africa in the number of elementary and secondary schools and their population. We now have institutions of higher learning of university standard. About 10,000 of our sons and daughters are attending the leading universities of Europe and America. Our hospitals and health centres outnumber those of any other country in Africa. The total mileage of our tarred and untarred roads measures up with the best in Africa. Our economy is expanding in the agricultural and industrial sectors, and we arc busily engaged in stimulating investments so as to increase earning opportunities for our people and thereby increase their purchasing power and raise their living standards. Our population is highest in Africa, fourth in the Commonwealth and thirteenth in the world.

Whilst I appreciate the good intentions of these critics, I should make it clear that one important reason why human society is unstable and full of conflicting emotions is because of the tendency to intensify rivalry beyond their normal course. After all, our leaders fought the good fight with all their might because they believed in the righteousness of their causes; and history has proved them right. But they also knew that in a team of many players all cannot be elected captains since it is generally accepted that more than one captain cannot run a ship efficiently… (to be contd)

Author: Olajide Oluwafemi

2 thoughts on “EXCERPTS FROM INAUGURAL SPEECH OF NNAMDI AZIKIWE NOV 16 1960”

  1. Hi There! We are searching for some people that might be interested in from working their home on a part-time basis. If you want to earn $500 a day, and you don’t mind creating some short opinions up, this might be perfect opportunity for you! Simply check out the link here NOW!

  2. Hi There! We are searching for some people that might be interested in from working their home on a full-time basis. If you want to earn $200 a day, and you don’t mind writing some short opinions up, this might be perfect opportunity for you! Simply click the link here NOW!

Comments are closed.