THE ABANDONED ZIK MAUSOLEUM
The recent media report that some concerned Nigerians and Ghanaians in the United States (U.S.) are raising funds through the Internet for the completion of the abandoned mausoleum of the late foremost nationalist and elder statesman, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, in Onitsha, Anambra State, shows that the nation, which Zik and his fellow compatriots salvaged from colonial bondage, has easily forgotten the legend.
It is, indeed, shameful and embarrassing that 14 years after the demise of the nation's first president, first indigenous Governor-General and first President of the Senate, the final resting place which the Federal Government was building to immortalize him, is yet to be completed.
It will be recalled that the astute politician, who bestrode the Nigerian political landscape like a colossus, died in 1996, while construction work on his mausoleum was commenced in 1997 by the regime of late Gen. Sani Abacha.
Initially, the contract for the project was awarded to an indigenous contractor, Lemmy Akakem Nigeria Limited. But work on the site was later abandoned for lack of funds. But in 2007, the administration of the late president, Umaru Musa Yar'Adua, re-awarded the contract to a new contractor, Beton Bau Nigeria Limited, a civil engineering firm at the cost of N121 million.
Up till now, Zik's final resting place at his Inosi-Onira Residence, which ought to have been a tourist site and attraction, remains derelict, a sad reminder that the labour of our heroes past might, indeed, have been in vain. Zik's case is a classical illustration of how not to treat and immortalize a foremost nationalist and one of the founding fathers of the nation.
The treatment meted to the memory of Zik, has shown that subsequent Nigerian leaders do not appreciate the sacrifice and contribution of our past heroes. It shows that we, as a nation, have short memories, and that history and historical sites and monuments mean little or nothing to us. It is unfortunate that we tend to forget in a hurry the achievements of our past national icons. We seem not to remember them any more.
How can the Federal Government explain its seeming apathy and inability to complete the mausoleum of the late Pan-Africanist, and staunch believer in a united Nigeria and a highly detribalized Nigerian, who sacrificed his entire life for the nation?
Is the government tacitly saying that patriotism and dedicating one's life to a national cause is outmoded and does not pay any longer? Why is the government unduly silent about Zik's mausoleum? Surely, paucity of funds cannot be cited as one of the reasons for abandoning the project?
It is a pity that former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, who promised to complete the mausoleum if elected president in 1999 could not fulfill his promise in the eight years he ruled the country. No doubt, there are attempts in certain quarters to blot out the numerous contributions of Zik to Nigeria's political development by some revisionists and tribal irredentists. But the truth of the matter remains that Zik's contribution to political development in Nigeria and Africa is indelible and can never be erased.
Zik ranked among the world's greats. His peers include Mahatma Ghandi, Mao Tse Tung, Franklin Roosevelt, Lenin, Fidel Castro, Churchill and Will Brandt. Back home in Africa, his contemporaries include Kwame Nkrumah, Julius Nyerere, Jomo Kenyetta, Sekou Toure and Nelson Mandela.
We, therefore, call on the Federal Government to save itself this embarrassment by completing the mausoleum without further delay. America would not treat Lincoln or Jefferson like this. That the government should allow Nigerians and foreigners living in the U.S. to search for funds via the Internet for a project it begun years ago is unfortunate and demeaning. It does not require this group to remind us of our responsibility. It is incontestable that Zik had a place in Nigeria, Africa and World History.
Let the government act expeditiously and complete the work it started in 1997 so that the nation's foremost leader and one of the architects of Nigerian freedom and independence would rest in peace in a befitting mausoleum. That Zik has not been allowed to have a befitting place of rest many years after his death speaks volumes of the attitude of our political elite.
It is time our leaders lived up to the words of our national anthem-'the labour of our heroes past shall never be in vain.' The best way to ensure that Zik's labour was not in vain is to complete his mausoleum and make it a tourist site. Let the contract be re-awarded to a competent firm that would do a befitting job. Let government use the project to demonstrate how Africans honour their dead legends.