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Background to the study

Statement of the Problem

Significance of the Study

Scope of the Study

Objective of the Research

Structure of the Study

Research Methodology

Literature Review

Definition of Terms

End Notes



Early African Nationalist Movements                                                     

Latter African Nationalists Movements                                      

Nigerian Nationalist Movements                                                  

End Notes                                                                                                                             


Nationalist Activities between 1921 and 1960                                      

Role of Herbert Macaulay in Nationalist Struggles                               

The Rise of Nnamdi Azikwe and Militant Nationalism                        

The Zikist Movement 1946 - 1950                                           

National Church of Nigeria                                                                       

The Nigerian Labour Congress                                                                 

Effect of the World War One on Nationalist Struggle               

Effect of the Second World War on the Nationalist Struggles             

End Notes                                                                                                       



The Nationalists and the Formation of political parties           

The Regionalization of Nationalism                                            






End Notes






After several years of domination by foreign powers both economically and politically for centuries, Africans eventually decided to throw off the yoke of the imperialistic relationship with their European counterparts that reached its height with the effective occupation of African territories just after the Berlin Conference of 1884/85. This resistance was the revolution popularly called the Nationalist Movement. The origin of West African nationalist movements is also traceable to this period.

Although according to John D. Hargreaves, different African states utilized different methods to 'get the job done', ranging from violent (resistance) to non-violent (collaborative), The contributions of Africans all over the world to the struggles for the liberation of the continent cannot be understated and are indeed worthy of note. The likes of Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, Jomo Kenyatta of Kenya, Kwame Nkruma of Ghana, Felix Houphovet Boigny of Ivory Coast, Haile Selassia of Ethiopia etc. were known as the most vibrant Africans in the struggle. In Nigeria, there were' the likes of Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo, Ahmadu Bello, Amiun kano, Anthony Enahoro, Ladoke Akintola etc.

The concept of nationalism itself can generally be defined as the patriotic sentiments of a group of people towards their own way of life and culture in opposition to alien domination. Bringing it a lot closer to home, according to Adu Boahem (Ph.D.), nationalism is "the consciousness on the part of an individual or group of Africans of membership of a nation-state, either existing or which they aspire to, and of a desire to achieve political and economic freedom, over all social and economic development as well as the cultural revival of a nation state."

Nationalism may also be defined as the activities on the part of a group of Africans held by the bonds of common language and common historic experience to assert their right to live under one government of their own making for the preservation of their political, economic and social interests. Since the first encounter between Europeans and the peoples inhabiting what is now Nigeria, there has been a variety of manifestations of what might be broadly called nationalism, if going by our definition, which means sentiment or activities opposed to alien rule.



Between 1921 and 1960, dynamic methods were employed by nationalists all over Africa during the struggle for independence. As earlier noted, each of these methods was employed based on the nature of the opposition faced in the bid to make their respective states free. It is therefore necessary to take a closer look at what methods were employed by nationalists in Nigeria after the ilk of those mentioned earlier, and how the methods employed from time to time contributed automatically to the eventual independence of Nigeria on October 1, 1960.

The, nationalist struggles for independence country from the colonial government of the British was a joint effort between famous nationalists like Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Anthony Enahoro, Alhaji Tafawa Balewa, Amiun kano etc. These men agitated for self-government because they saw that the British system of government in Nigeria was in favour of their selfish agenda to exploit and control Nigeria's resources without respect for the country's own socio-cultural life.

And for the first time during, period understudy (1921-1960), the nationalists movements were able to mount pressures on the British government and truly seek for independence, a cause for which all regional parts of Nigeria were in support. These men were at forefront of the fight against the colonial presence in Nigeria.

While a lot has been written about their work, it is necessary to take a look at how they actually carried out their activities and how these activities; both directly and indirectly, solved the independence problem for Nigeria.



The aim of this research work to pinpoint the various watersheds that characterized the nationalist movements in Nigeria. It will also attempt to chronicle and analyzed the contributions of eminent nationalists. To this end, it will be of immense benefits to many students, scholars and the general public that want to dig deeper into nationalist activities of individuals during this period.

It will also serve as a great guide for the general public on the nature of the activities of the nationalists and how (if) the country was able to benefit from the activities of these individuals during the pre-independence years.



In order to make this study easily understood and to save time, this research was limited to the period of modern nationalism between 1921 and 1960, an era in which various nationalist movements arose to fight for the common causes, which was to decolonized Nigeria and achieve self-rule for the country. The study therefore includes in-depth look at modern nationalism which was used against the foreign domination to achieve the desired result.

Limitations of the study include financial constraints that made it difficult to carry out the research as extensively as possible.



The major objectives of the study include:

i.                   Providing an outline of the nationalist activities that took place in Nigeria in the pre-independence years.

ii.                 Laying emphasis on the various activities of eminent nationalists against the imperialistic domination of the British in Nigeria

iii.              Assessing the reactions of Nigerian nationalists to the achievement of independence in 1960.



As earlier noted, the major purpose of this study is to highlight the activities of the nationalist movements that arose in the early 1900s and fought the British for the creation of an independent Nigerian state. The period understudy as also earlier noted would be between 1921 and 1960. This will be done in five (5) chapters.

Chapter One principally will be an introduction of the study; it will give a background of the study, which will show the general description of the study to be carried out:

Chapter Two will be on the evolution and the activities of early and later nationalist movement.

Chapter Three will entail a historical analysis of the data source from secondary and primary sources.

Chapter Four will further reinforce the analysis of the data collected made from Chapter Three. It will analytically present the facts source from the data on the subject matter in line with the objectives of the study.

Chapter Five will include the summary, conclusion and recommendations.



In order to achieve the goal of this research work, the data gathering method that were employed were not empirical, but historical. The reason for this is that the aim of the study is to chronicle the nationalistic activities of the country's elite towards the goal of achieving the ultimate aim of the Nigerian peoples - independence. The methodology employed also includes study of

Research work on some of these nationalists as well as what have been written about them in the text book.



Ozkirimli Umut, said nationalism is the application of the belief that a group of people bound by a professed sense of collective identity will be made better off by joining together in some entity to seek self-determination'. This definition is based upon several characteristic of social groups. Example, people tend to unity with those they see as similar to themselves. Additionally, it is easier to join collection action if there is a sense of unity among those group.

Philips Gorski also talked about Nationalism usually connotes a social or political movement that seeks to build or capture a state. Oxford dictionary explain nationalism devotion and loyalty to one’s own nation patriotism.

Awodiya muyiwa, the challenges of ethic nationalism Duruji Mose M, the colonialist had little interest in the social economic development of the country. The administration style adopted by the British, created destruction, suspicion and cleavages which result in rivalry among the major ethic for the control of the soul of Nigeria state as manifested in several violent confrontation prior and post the country independent.

To Barth, Nationalism on another hand is an ideology that creates and sustains a nation as a concept of common identity for groups of humans.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines nationalism as loyalty and devotion to a nation; especially: a sense of national consciousness’s exalting one nation above all others and placing primary emphasis on promotion of its culture and interests as opposed to those of other nations or supranational groups.

But the scholars at Stanford University, United States of America say the term "Nationalism" may generally refer to two phenomena: first is the attitude that the members of a nation have when they care about their national identity, and second, the actions that the members of a nation 'take when seeking to achieve (or sustain) self-determination, so says the scholars Stanford University.

Wikipedia says it is a political ideology that involves a strong identification of a group of individuals with a nation. Nationalism has also been defined as the feeling of a people for their home land, the state of their existence, the land of their birth or the ground of their common belonging. Thus, it is usually a movement occasioned by subjugation that elicits a reaction for emancipation. It is a ferment of protest against perceived denials of rights and therefore a fight for freedom.

But all these are definitions of the term in a general sense. Africans and the continent's apologists define nationalism a little differently, and with certain specific details that are missing from the above definitions already considered. One of such 'Afro-centric definition defines nationalism as the process of uniting and regaining freedom from European rule. But also it has been defined by pioneer African leaders to also mean the creation of new nations as well as their economic and political transformation. Another definition along this line says the terms refers to the desire for Africans to end all forms of foreign control and influence so as to be able to take charge of their political, social and economic affairs.

From all the above, it is clear that there are at least two different perceptions of what nationalism really means. To an African, it simply means the battle for freedom from colonial rule, but to other scholars and people not of the continent, it refers to the maintaining of national identity by a nation or a group of people. One fact about African nationalism is that the people of the continent had always been in favour of self determination. They had always preferred to be ruled by themselves and nobody else.

This is perhaps why from the moment the colonial masters stepped onto the shores of Africa, they had to face one form of rejection or the other until the last colonial regime was eventually intentions, which Eurocentric historians like J.S Coleman claimed were not as dark and evil as portrayed by their African counterparts, were doubted from the outset. The setting up of the Aborigines Rights Protection Society in 1897, just over a decade after the famous Berlin Conference of 1884/5 shared up the continent among rival European powers, is a clear indication of fact. The Aborigines Rights Protection Society (ARPS) was to protect Africans from being cheated by the' Europeans.

Although Africans were not as educated in the 19th century as they were in the 20th century, they were suspicious of the Europeans, who actually came first as traders in legitimate goods after the abolishment of slave trade earlier in the same century.

The loss of independence to foreigners and the introduction of foreign systems of government caused feelings of resistance among rulers and peoples of Africa. Therefore, foreign control caused feelings of nationalism. There .were also unfair colonial policies. Colonial economic policies such as taxation, forced labour and compulsory growing of crops caused discontent among Africans. The suffering of Africans that was also expressed in form of armed resistance in many countries marked the growth of African Nationalism.



Below is a list of some words and phrases as they were used in this work.

Elites These are the learned Nigerian nationalists whose activities ensured that the resistance against the British colonialists succeeded.

Independence This refers to the official hand over of political power to Nigeria by the colonial administration.

Interwar years This refers to the period between the end of the First World War and the start of the Second World War.

Nationalism This refers to the spirit of sentiments in a people about what is their own, particularly cultural freedom and self-determination.

Nationalist movements This refers to concerted efforts by learned Nigerian men to set the country free.

Nationalist struggles This refers to the resistant movements of Nigerians in the bid to achieve independence

Pre-independence years This refers to the years before Nigeria was granted independence. It particularly refers to the years between the 1920s and late 1950s.was granted independence. It particularly refers to the years between the 1920s and late 1950s.

Resistance This refers to the nationalist struggles, the activities of Nigerian nationalists to ensure freedom.

Zikism This refers to the popular term used to identify the philosophies of Nnamdi Azikiwe during the pre-independence years.



1.                 Fajana and Anjorin, From Colony to Sovereign State (1900) Fajana Department of Continued Education, University of Ife, and Oyo, Nigeria. Pg. 120.

2.                 Ibid Pg. 120.

3.                 John D. Hargreaves, The End of Colonial Rule in West Africa, Macmillan Press, London, 1979. Pg. 71.

4.       Ozkilimli Umut, Theory of nationalism. New York palgrave Macmillan.2000 pg125

5.       Philips Gorski, The Sage Hand book of Nation and Nationalism 2006 SAGE Publication Pg43

6.       Duruji Mose .M The change context of Ethno Nationalism in.' Nigeria (2008) pg77

7.       Barth, Fredrik Ethnic Groups, and Boundaries. Boston: Little. Brown (1969) pg 98

8.       Joireman, Sandra F, Nationalism and Political Identity. London/New York: Continuum (2003).pg122)





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