That is kind of like asking if water or food is more important for human growth. As both are fundamentally necessary to support the life cycle of a human, one could argue that they are equally important.
Nitrogen comprises one of the three “macronutrients,” the three main nutrients which are necessary for plant growth. The three macronutrients are nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium. These three macronutrients make up the NPK scale. On any bag of plant food, you will see the NPK scale transcribed as three numbers (1-0-5). This would mean that the ratio of these macronutrients in the plant food is 1 part nitrogen, 0 parts phosphorous, and 5 parts potassium. As such, nitrogen is one of the fundamental components to plant life.
That said, all plants require some form of oxygen at the root structure to perform respiration, the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide which allows plants to feed. Unless there is oxygen around the roots, this gas exchange cannot happen and the plant will die (just as surely as it will die without nitrogen). In some plants which grow with subaquatic root structures, the oxygen is supplemented directly from the water around it.
I would say that nitrogen is more important for plant growth. Plants need sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide to carry out photosynthesis and create energy in the form of sugars, necessary for growth. Oxygen is a by-product of this process, not a required ingredient. Nitrogen is an essential mineral nutrient for plants, along with potassium, calcium, sulphur, and magnesium. Other minerals, like copper and iron, are required in smaller doses. Nitrogen is important in plant protein manufacture.
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