Historical Fact: Nwafor Orizu, Nigeria’s Second Senate President

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Prince Abyssinia Akweke Nwafor Orizu. was a Nigerian of Igbo origin and Nigeria’s second Senate President from 16 November 1960 to 15 January 1966, during the Nigerian First Republic. Orizu was also Acting President of Nigeria from late 1965 until the military coup of January 1966.
Orizu was born in 1914 into the royal house of Nnewi, Anambra State, in southeast Nigeria, a son of Eze Ugbonyamba, Igwe Orizu I. Orizu went to the United States in 1939, earning a degree in government at Ohio State University and an M.A. degree at Columbia University.
Orizu ran successfully for election as an independent candidate to represent Onitsha Division, and became the chief whip in the Eastern House of Assembly. Later he joined with other independent candidates to form the National Council of Nigeria and Cameroon (NCNC).
He played a central role in helping Zik become premier of the Eastern Region, using his influence in the NCNC to persuade Professor Eyo Ita to resign as premier of the Region. Zik appointed Orizu the minister of local Government.
When Nigeria attained independence on 1 October 1960, Orizu became the President of the Nigerian Senate.
The President of Nigeria, Nnamdi Azikiwe left the country in late 1965 first for Europe, then on a cruise to the Caribbean. Under the law, Orizu became Acting President during his absence and had all the powers of the President.
A coup was launched on 16 January 1966 by a group of disaffected young military officers led by Major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu.
The army quickly suppressed the revolt but assumed power when it was evident that key politicians had been eliminated, including Prime Minister Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Premier of Northern Region Sir Ahmadu Bello and Premier of the Western Region, Chief Samuel Ladoke Akintola.
Orizu made a nationwide broadcast, after he had briefed Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe on the phone on the decision of the cabinet, announcing the cabinet’s “voluntary” decision to transfer power to the armed forces.
After the coup, Orizu faded from the political scene but remained active in education. Before the civil war he had set up a high school, the Nigerian Secondary School, in Nnewi.

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