In 2006, distinguished Senator Dr. Ben Ndi Obi CON, FNIPR conceived the idea to institute an endowment in perpetuity to immortalize the good works of Nigeria’s foremost nationalist, statesman and pan Africanist, the inimitable, Rt Hon, His Excellency, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, First President, and first Indigenous Governor-General of Nigeria. As a young person, Senator Ben Ndi Obi had followed the political trajectory of Zik, as Dr. Azikiwe was fondly called, with tremendous admiration and respect. Zik was a trailblazer, who together with other contemporaries in Africa like Herbert Macauly, Kwame Nkrumah, Leopold Senghor, Julius Nyerere, Jomo Kenyatta Obafemi Awolowo, Ahmadu Bello, led the struggle for the complete decolonization of Africa. It was on Zik’s young shoulders that the struggle for the emancipation of Africa rested. He was a rallying point, who provided the intellectual impetus for an African renaissance.
Zik was not only a political colossus, but a political philosopher of gargantuan heights with several academic degrees and laurels in his kitty who should be celebrated as a way of keeping Zik’s values and contributions to national and African development, permanently ingrained in our memories. Senator Obi had reasoned that outside the many physical monuments in memory of Zik, there were no commensurate intellectual engagements that rallied to discuss myriad burning issues confronting Nigeria, Africa, the black man, and humanity generally under the umbrella of Zik. It was therefore in appreciation of Zik’s legendary roles, that Senator Ben Obi, discussed with Dr. Au Nnonyelu, then Head Of Department of Sociology and Anthropology, and Sub Dean, Faculty of Social Sciences, who accompanied the distinguished Senator to visit the University’s Vice-Chancellor, Prof Ilochi Okafor SAN, and members of the University Management, where he presented his proposal to institute the Zik Lecture Series.
In 2012 the first Zik’s lecture series was held. The inaugural guest speaker for the series was Professor Okwudiba Nnoli, a renowned professor of Political Science, with Professor Au.Nnonyelu the then Dean of Social Sciences serving as the first Dean of the Faculty under whose watch the lecture series was held.. The Lecture Series has grown in leaps and bounds becoming the University most widely attended event, a signature project of the University and an initiative of the Faculty of Social Sciences. It has come to be the biggest intellectual conversation in any Nigerian University drawing eminent scholars and statesmen from across Africa and the globe. The select list of speakers include Profs Wole Soyinka, Okwudiba Nnoli, Asisi Asobie, former Presidents of Ghana, Fl Lt JJ Rawlings, Benjamin Mkapa of Tanzania , former Prime Minister of Kenya, Raila Odinga, former Vice President of Nigeria, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, Senator Bukola Saraki, Past President of Senate , respected diplomat, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, senior citizens, Tanko Yakassai, Chukwuemeka Ezeife, State Governors Peter Obi, Adams Oshimole, Nyesom Wike, Willie Obiano, poet and public speaker, Dike Chukwumerije , and a host of others harping on a variety of themes.
In Nnamdi Azikiwe University, November 16th has been set aside as a day to mark Zik’s Birthday with the Lecture Series under the auspices of the Faculty of the Social Sciences. It is an intellectual harvest that is most sought after, and that has come to stay.