Nationalism is the feeling of pride, which people have about their country and identity. It also means a strong desire of a people who share the same or similar economic and political experiences, culture, language, tradition, history and heritage. Nationalism can be defined as a political ideology for the attainment of self-government and sovereignty. The major goal of nationalist activities is for a nation to end colonial rule and also be in a position to organize and manage its political and governmental affairs.

Nationalism includes an expression of political maturity in which a country struggles to design and have its national flag, national anthem, currency and other important symbols of identity. The activities of nationalists in any country are directly linked to the desire to end many abuses and exploitation associated with colonial or foreign rule. For instance, the emergence of nationalist movements in Africa in the 19th century was a natural response to the earlier imposition of colonial rule.

Nationalism influenced the activities of nationalists towards redeeming, protecting and promoting African identity, by reclaiming the independent status of former kingdoms, city-states and non-centralised states that had existed centuries before the era of colonial intervention. Besides the political relevance of nationalist agitations, nationalist movements also struggle to establish mutual respect and meaningful interactions between Africans and Europeans. Nationalism was not only aimed at confronting colonial abuses, it also connotes an awareness of the opportunities and possibilities, which the prospects of independence and self-government could offer a country. There were two major types of nationalism witnessed in the relationship between African elites and European colonisers.

First, was traditional nationalism, which was exhibited in fierce opposition to colonial conquest and subsequent occupation of different African areas.

Secondly, traditional nationalism refers to the activities of nationalist movements in their preparation for independence and a return to self-government in Nigeria.



Nigerian nationalism influenced by a number of factors. The Nigerian nationalists established newspapers in which they promoted the idea of independence and publicized the poor living conditions of the people brought about by colonial rule. The newspapers used for this purpose included the West African Pilot, Nigerian Chronicle, Weekly Record and the Nigerian Times.

Another factor that influenced Nigerian nationalism was the formation of socio-cultural organisations some of which transformed into political parties. Such socio-cultural organisations included Egbe Omo Oduduwa, Igbo Federal Union and Jamiyar Mutanin Arewa. Later, political parties were established by nationalists such as Nnamdi Azikiwe who established NCNC, Herbert Macaulay who established NNDP, Chief Obafemi Awolowo who established the Action Group (AG) and Sir Ahmadu Bello’s Northern Peoples Congress (NPC).

There was also the issue of participation of Nigeria in the first (1914-1918) and second world wars (1939-1945). Their participation in the two wars made them to realise that there was the need to fight for independence in Nigeria. This was because the UN promoted equality of people and nations and their rights to independence across the world.

The development of Western education as a result of the establishment of schools which produced many educated Nigerians helped to promote the establishment of youth organisations and the participation of youths in the struggle for independence.



The nature of Nigerian nationalism was non-violent. It was characterized by agitations for constitutional changes which were carried out periodically. Each constitutional change carried out helped to move Nigeria towards independence.

The following is in the sequence of Nigeria’s constitutional development;

  1. Clifford Constitution (1922).
  2. Richards Constitution (1946).
  3. Macpherson Constitution (1951).
  4. Lyttleton Constitution (1954).
  5. Independence Constitution (1960).

The Nigerian nationalist movement was dominated by western educated elites; lawyers, teachers, civil servants and journalists. Most of them were trained in institutions within and outside Nigeria. It is important to add that labour movements played important roles in Nigeria’s nationalist movement through strikes and protests against low wages and high taxation.

Large number of political associations some of which evolved into political parties was another feature of Nigerian nationalism. These associations and political parties helped in motivating many Nigerians to join the struggle for independence.