Nationalism may be defined as a certain form of unity which grows out of historical experience. It is the sense of oneness that emerges from social groups, trying to control their destiny, environment and to defend their interest against competing groups. It can also be defined as the strong emotional awareness of belonging to a nation state held in bondage by foreign domination which leads to the struggle against such foreign rule and domination.
PROTO NATIONALISM BEFORE THE SECOND WORLD WAR
The exponents of the 19th century Nigerian nationalism were both the traditional rulers and the few elites in what later became Nigeria. They were generally referred to as traditional nationalists. These people were opposed to giving up their territories because they were denied respectable positions in their land or communities by reason of their race.
Nationalism in the territory that later became Nigeria could be traced to the period before the British colonial rule or administration and the amalgamation of Northern and Southern Nigeria in 1914.
There was an increasing resistance by the people to the British conquest and its intended domination.
Features of Nationalism Before Second World War
- Racial segregation: Discrimination against the natives was mostly witnessed in the 20th century in Nigeria. Such segregation was experienced in the area of maintaining separate residential areas (Government Reservation Areas) for the white, the provision of potable water-supply, electricity etc. for them.
- Administrative post: Nigerians were not allowed to hold any administrative posts and the highest they could attain was that of Chief Clerk.
- Economic exploitation: There was economic exploitation of Nigerians by foreign firms.
- Harsh treatment: The colonial authority maltreated even the traditional rulers, e.g. Jaja of Opobo and Nana of Itsekiri. This resulted in negative reactions and disregard for the whites colonial officers by the natives, and opposition to colonial rule.
- Lack of adequate educational facilities: The missionaries who were out to provide education did not achieve much due to financial problems. However, the essence of education at the time was not to produce high level manpower but basic education that will help the recipients to be able to read and write.
- Impact of the First World War: The impact was much in the development of national and political consciousness and this was due to movements like pan-Africanism, the struggle for independence in India etc. Educated Nigerians became critical of the colonial rule and their policies.
- Emergence of political organisations: The National Congress of British West Africa (NCBWA), the Nigerian Youth Movement (NYM), Nigerian National Democratic Party (NNDP) etc were established as effective instruments to oppose or resist colonial rule.
- The mass media: The West African Pilot, Lagos Daily News etc played vital roles in fighting colonial rule and domination in Nigeria.
FACTORS THAT LED TO THE RISE AND GROWTH OF NATIONALISM IN NIGERIA
- The Atlantic Charter: This charter emphasized the right to self-determination by all the people of the world. Both Britain and U.S.A. signed this charter which was published after the Second World War. The charter was in conflict with the British colonial polices in West Africa but the American government favoured decolonization. This encouraged the nationalists to demand for independence.
- British Labour Party: The influence of Labour Party in Britain in opposing the Conservative party’s policy on colonisation influenced the growth of nationalism in Nigeria.
- Colonial posture of United Nations Organization: The organization adopted a negative posture towards colonialism and imperialism. It gave its support to nations fighting for their independence. In addition, the United Nations General Assembly was used as a platform by most Heads of state and government to criticize colonial and imperial powers.
- The independence of some countries: India in 1947 and Ghana in 1957 attained their independence and this spurred on Nigerian nationalists into increased nationalism.
- The super powers: The emergence of U.S.A and USSR as super powers after the Second World War gave impetus to nationalist activities in Nigeria and West Africa as a whole. Both countries detested colonialism and imperialism.
- Activities of pan-African leaders organizations: The impact and activities of prominent individuals and organizations such as some black American leaders and other blacks in diaspora, like Du Bois, George Padmore as well as organizations like West African Students Union, Negro World Movement etc gave inspiration to Nigerian nationalists.
- Britain’s humiliating defeat by Japan: This reduced her influence and prestige worldwide.
- Economic depression: The effect of the Second World War which resulted in world economic depression aided the nationalists in their struggle for political independence.
- The impact of the Second World War: The war exposed the myth surrounding white supremacy. The whites were in no way superior to the blacks.
- The influence of Western and Eastern ideas: Informed ideas by intellectuals from both the West and the East (USA and USSR) encouraged the nationalists to continue their struggle for independence.
FACTORS THAT LED TO THE RISE AND GROWTH OF NATIONALISM IN NIGERIA
- The discriminatory attitude of the Europeans to Nigerians: There was racial discrimination in employment leading to limited opportunities for Nigerians in the the civil service.
- The influence of christianity and establishment of schools: This made the nationalists to realize that afterall, men are created equal by God.
- Return of the ex-servicemen: Some Africans fought along side Britain and the allied forces during the Second World War against Germany and Axis power. The job promised them after the war was not given to them on their return to West Africa.
- Activities of educated elites like: Nnamdi Azikiwe, H.O.Davies, Herbert Macaulay, Obafemi Awolowo, Kwame Nkrumah etc mobilised the masses for support during the struggle for independence.
- Introduction of elective principle in 1922: This principle only favoured Lagos and Calabar. The majority of Nigerians were dis-enfranchised and this provoked the growth of nationalism in Nigeria.
- Trade unions: Some of the trade unions, e.g. Railway Workers Union led by Michael Imoudu and others, became militant and used strike to back their demand for better conditions of service. They equally supported the nationalist leaders in the struggle against colonial rule.
- Formation of political parties: Nigerian Youth Movement (NYM), NNDP, NCNC etc were formed and they played leading role in the growth of nationalism in Nigeria.
- Establishment of newspapers: Newspapers e.g the West African Pilot, Lagos daily News etc played vital roles in the decolonization process.
- Economic Exploitation: There was open economic exploitation of Nigerians by foreign enterprises with the connivance of the British colonial administration. Nigerians had no access to the capital market because all the banks, until 1933, were foreign and were not willing to grant credit facilities to Nigerians. The establishment of National Bank and ACBin 1933 and 1948 respectively, granted generous credit facilities to Africans (Nigerians).
- The effects of Western education after the Second World War: A number of educated West Africans, who had the opportunity of studying in U.S.A and Britain came back to support and lead nationalists struggle for political independence.
- Students’ Union: The formation of the West African Students Union (WASU) in 1925.
- Youth movement: The formation of youth movements helped the growth and spread of nationalism in Nigeria e.g. Lagos Youth Movement (LYM).
- The National Congress of British West Africa (NCBWA): It was founded in 1919 and was led by Joseph Casely Hayford. It was established for the purpose of redressing the evils of the Crown Colony System.
- Indirect rule system: The colonial policy of indirect rule excluded the educated elite from governance.
- Urban centres: There was rise and growth of urban centres in Nigeria.
- Deposition of chiefs: The colonial masters took upon themselves the appointment and deposition of traditional rulers and chiefs in Nigeria.