NATIONALIST MOVEMENT IN BRITISH WEST AFRICA

NATIONALIST MOVEMENT IN BRITISH WEST AFRICA

The nationalist movements played significant role in influencing Nigerians and propelling them towards the struggle for self-rule.

1) West African Students’ Union (WASU): It was formed in 1925 by Chief Ladipo Solanke of Nigeria. The interests of this union centred on commerce, education, politics etc.

 

Achievements/Contributions of West African Student Union

  • Forum: This union served as a forum for protest movement among West Africans and other sympathisers in Britain.
  • Publication: A journal known as WASU, and other pamphlets were published and they had effect on West Africans abroad and at home.
  • Racial equality: Teachings on racial equality and self-determination for the people were more pronounced in this students’ movement. The teaching was carried home by ex-members.
  • Training ground: It served as a training ground for political leadership for West African intellectuals.
  • Nationalist movements: In British West Africa, nationalist movements drew some of their active members From the union like Late Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana.
  • A link: West African Students’ Union became a link between West African leaders at home and the Parliament in Britain, who supported the African cause for political development and change.
  • The British press and public opinion: West African affairs were constantly studied and critically analysed.
  • Unity: The union succeeded in bringing together West Africans in the United Kingdom.

 

2) National Congress of British West Africa (NCBWA)

It was formed in 1920 by Joseph Ephraim Casely Hayford of Gold Coast (Ghana) and Dr. Akinwande Savage of Nigeria. In most ofhis writings, Casely criticized the shortcomings of British administration. Political issues associated with the First World War helped greatly in rekindling people’s interest in the congress e.g.these West African leaders wanted to be involved in formulating policies as they affected post-war Togo and Cameroon. They also wanted more African participation in administration, judiciary and other sensitive areas of government. They equally opposed discrimination and advocated for the use of elections into representative assemblies.

 

Aims and Objectives of the Congress

  • Free election: It wanted an effective representation in government at all levels, based on free election.
  • Administrative reforms: It demanded for administrative reforms, and also equal opportunities irrespective of colour. Italso argued that the Civil Service should be Africanised.
  • Judiciary: It wanted trained and qualified lawyers to be made judges and that the flogging of women for any offence be stopped.
  • Self-determination: The Congress demanded for the right to self-determination of West Africans.
  • The right to appoint and depose the traditional rulers: This right should be given to the people.
  • Economic exploitation: It condemned the attitude of economic exploitation and the restrictions on trade, including, the inflow of Asians into West Africa.
  • Establishment of a West African University: They demanded for the establishment of university, as well as, creating standards in the educational sector.
  • The Press: They demanded for the development of the press and its role in a developing nation and that laws inimical to press freedom be repealed.
  • Medical sector: It wanted an improvement in the medical sector.
  • Control over revenue and expenditure: This should be given to the proposed legislative council.
  • Municipal council: The administration of the affairs of the municipal council should involve majority of Africans.
  • Control of taxation: Each legislative council should be empowered to control taxation.
  • Elected Africans: The establishment of legislative council in each of the West African territories should accommodate Africans and half of members should be elected.

 

ACTIVITIES OF THE NATIONAL CONGRESS OF BRITISH WEST AFRICA

  • Unity: It tried to unite the four British West African colonies of Nigeria, Gold Coast, Sierra-Leone and The Gambia by holding meetings.
  • Educated elite: The congress under the dT leadership of J.E. Caseley Hayford, a Gold Coast lawyer, mobilized educated elite in the four British colonies.
  • Delegation to London: At a meeting held blot in Accra in 1920, the congress sent a delegation to London to present certain demands.
  • The Congress identified: Shortcomings, objectionable practices and policies of colonial administration in British West African colonies.
  • Radical approach: The congress introduced radical approach to the nationalist activities in British West Africa e.g. holding international meetings, petitions to the colonial government and demand for elective principle.
  • Enlightenment: The congress enlightened the people of West Africa through its meetings and publications.

 

Effects Of The Activities Of The National Congress Of British West Africa (NCBWA)

  • Introduction of elective principles: In Nigeria in 1922, Sierra Leone in 1924, and the Gold Coast in 1925.
  • Establishment of Educational Institutions: Higher educational institutions were established in Nigeria, the Gold Coast and Sierra Leone e.g. Fourah Bay College, Yaba College, and Achimota College.
  • Election: Africans were elected into the legislative council
  • Unification: The activities unified the nationalists in British West Africa towards fighting a common cause.
  • Emergency of Political Parties: The introduction of elective principle in some British West African countries was followed by the springing up of political parties e.g. NNDP in Nigeria and NCSL in Sierra-Leone.
  • Development of Newspapers: The awareness created by the NCBWA led to the development of newspapers in British West Africa e.g. Daily News of 1925 in Nigeria and the Morning Star of the Gold Coast.
  • Rival Group: The congress did not get the blessing and cooperation of the West African traditional rulers who considered the body as a rival group that intended to usurp their powers.
  • Divide-and-Rule Tactics: The colonial governors used divide-and-rule tactics on the members of the congress which eventually led to its demise.
  • It brought about policy changes: e.g. abolition of Nigerian Council.

 

3) Nigerian Youth Movement (NYM)

The Nigerian Youth Movement was founded in 1935. It was originally known as Lagos Youth Movement formed in 1934 by some Nigerians like Ernest Ikoli, Dr. J. C. Vaughan and Samuel Akinsanya. It was led by Ikoli.

Later, H. O. Davies and Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe joined the movement. Other members were: Obafemi Awolowo, Samuel Akintola etc. With this wide membership, it’s composition, assumed a national outlook. This movement was able to compete with NNDP for the control of political activities in Lagos.

 

NATIONALIST MOVEMENT

It is an association formed by a group of people who share common interest, to resist political domination and cultural intimidation and to struggle for political independence.

The nationalist movements played significant role in influencing Nigerians and propelling them towards the struggle for self-rule.

 

Achievements / Contributions of Nigerian Youth Movement

  • Legislative council: It won all the three elected seats allocated to Lagos in the legislative council. It defeated NNDP which was formed in 1923.
  • Unity: It worked hard to promote national unity.
  • National outlook: It was the first political party with a national outlook based on the diverse and wide composition of the membership.
  • It set the machinery: The Party spearheaded the quest for a political independence of Nigeria
  • Modern nationalism: It could be said that, this movement brought modern nationalism into Nigeria.
  • Branches: Some branches of the movement were opened in some towns in the Southern protectorate.

 

The Organisational Structure of the Nigerian Youth Movement (NYM)

  • Congress/Convention: The NYM had a congress/convention as part of its organizational structure.
  • National executive: A national executive was also in place headed by the President.
  • Branches: The movement had branches established in some urban areas throughout Nigeria and a committee of twelve (12) to prepare for the 1938 elections.
  • Headquarters: Lagos was its national headquarters.

 

OBJECTIVES OF THE NIGERIAN YOUTH MOVEMENT

  • United Nation: To develop a united nation out of the conglomeration of people who inhabited Nigeria.
  • Scholarship award: To pressurized the government to award scholarship to youths to study abroad.
  • New legislative council: To strive for the establishment of a new legislative council built on the principle of an unofficial majority
  • Equal economic opportunities: To demand equal economic opportunities for Nigerians with those enjoyed by foreigners.
  • Better pay: To demand better pay for Africans in the civil service.
  • Higher executive appointments: To demand higher executive appointment for Africans within the civil service.
  • Administrative branch: To see that more use are being made of Africans in the administrative branch of the public service.
  • Cooperation: To cooperate with all bodies whose aims and aspirations are similar to its own.
  • Township councils: To struggle for the complete control of the township councils by Nigerians
  • Political emancipation: To work for political emancipation of Nigerians with the aim of achieving complete autonomy within the British Empire.

 

REASONS FOR THE COLLAPSE OF NYM

  • Internal wrangling: There was internal wrangling within the movement and the establishment of the Daily Service, as the official mouthpiece of the party, did not go down well with Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, the publisher of the West African Pilot.
  • Internal weaknesses: The inherent internal weaknesses of the NYM structure could not solve the movement’s problems.
  • Resignation: The eventual resignation of Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe and Samuel Akinsanya virtually destroyed the limited national character of the NYM.
  • Ethnic/Tribal conflicts: The movement was faced with ethnic/tribal conflicts which pitched the leaders and supporters against one another.