Nigeria at 61
Today will mark the 61st year of Nigeria’s independence, the independence however was not gotten on a platter of gold. The resilience and grit of some of our past leaders were what resulted in our independence today.
In celebration of Independence, here are the 6 leaders responsible for Nigeria’s Independence
1. Herbert Macaulay
Herbert Macaulay was a Nigerian nationalist, who is considered by many Nigerians as the founder of Nigerian nationalism. Macaulay was one of the first Nigerian nationalists and for most of his life, a strong opponent to the colonial government and many of its policies.
In 1908 he exposed European corruption in the handling of railway finances and in 1919 he argued successfully for the chiefs whose land had been taken by the colonial government in front of the Privy Council in London. As a result, the colonial government was forced to pay compensation to the chiefs. In 1909, he came out publicly against the prohibition of spirits into Nigeria which he felt will ultimately lead to reduced government revenues and thereafter increased taxation. He also opposed colonial taxation to fund the water supply in Lagos on the grounds of taxation without representation.
To further his political activities, Macaulay co-founded the Nigerian Daily News, On 24 June 1923, he founded the Nigerian National Democratic Party (NNDP), the first Nigerian political party. The party won all the seats in the elections of 1923, 1928, and 1933. Though, the party’s major function was to put candidates into the legislative council, it had a broader objective of promoting democracy in Nigeria, increasing higher Nigerian participation in the social, economic, and educational development of Nigeria.
#2. Nnamdi Azikiwe
Nnamdi Benjamin Azikiwe popularly referred to as “the Great Zik of Africa” was a Nigerian Nationalist and political leader who served as the first President of Nigeria from 1963 to 1966. Considered a driving force behind the nation’s independence, he came to be known as the “father of Nigerian Nationalism.”
Azikiwe began his fight for Nationalism as an editor of the African Morning Post (a new daily newspaper in, Ghana). Azikiwe wrote “The Inside Stuff by Zik”, a column in which he preached radical nationalism and black pride which raised some alarm in colonial circles. As an editor, he promoted a pro-African nationalist agenda.
In 1937 He founded the West African Pilot, a newspaper that he used to promote nationalism in Nigeria. In addition to the Pilot, his Zik Group established newspapers in politically- and economically important cities throughout the country
Azikiwe became active in the Nigerian Youth Movement (NYM), the country’s first nationalist organization. He entered politics, co-founding the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC) with Herbert Macaulay in 1944. Azikiwe became the council’s secretary-general in 1946. He became governor-general on November 16, 1960, and became the first Nigerian named to the Privy Council of the United Kingdom. When Nigeria became a republic in 1963.
3. Chief Obafemi Awolowo
Chief Obafemi Awolowo was a Nigerian nationalist and statesman who played a key role in Nigeria’s independence movement. He was the first Leader of Government Business and Minister of Local Government and Finance, and first Premier of the Western Region under Nigeria’s parliamentary system, from 1952 to 1959. He was also the official Leader of the Opposition in the federal parliament to the Balewa government from 1959 to 1963.
He started his career, like some of his well-known contemporaries, as a nationalist in the Nigerian Youth Movement in which he rose to become Western Provincial Secretary. In 1949 He founded the Nigerian Tribune, a private Nigerian newspaper, which he used to spread nationalist consciousness among Nigerians. He advocated federalism as the only basis for equitable national integration and, as head of the Action Group, he led demands for a federal constitution, which was introduced in the 1954 Lyttleton Constitution, following primarily the model proposed by the Western Region delegation led by him.
Sir Ahmadu Bello, was the leader of the Northern Peoples Congress, a conservative Nigerian nationalist who masterminded Northern Nigeria through the independence of Nigeria in 1960 and served as its first and only premier from 1954 until his assassination in 1966.
Ahmadu Bello began his political career as a representative of the province of Sokoto in the regional House of Assembly. As a member of the assembly, he was a notable voice for northern interests and embraced a style of consultation and consensus with the major representatives of the northern emirates. He was among the members of a committee that redrafted the Richards Constitution.
In 1952, Sir Ahmadu Bello became a member of the regional executive council as minister of works, and in 1954 the first Premier of Northern Nigeria. In 1959 he led the NPC to win a plurality of the parliamentary seats forging an alliance with Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe’s NCNC (National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons) to form Nigeria’s first indigenous federal government which led to independence from Britain.
5. Eyo Ita
Eyo Ita is a Nigerian nationalist, and politician who led the Eastern Government of Nigeria in 1951. He was a member of Youth and Education movements, proprietor of West African People’s Institute, Calabar, and a deputy national president of the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC) in the 1940s
Ita was a leading Nigerian nationalist during British colonial rule. Upon his return from the United States, he formed the Nigerian Youth Movement (NYM) in 1934 and galvanized the Nigerian youths for nationalism. The Youth Charter adopted in 1937 centered on nationalism, inter-tribal harmony, and a greater tomorrow. The Youth Movement became the catalyst for championing Nigeria’s independence from Britain.
6. Anthony Enahoro
Chief Anthony Eromosele Enahoro was one of Nigeria’s foremost anti-colonial and pro-democracy activists. He was the founder of the Mid-West Party and the editor of Nnamdi Azikiwe’s newspaper, the Southern Nigerian Defender, Ibadan, in 1944
In 1953, Enahoro became the first to move the motion for Nigeria’s independence which was eventually granted in 1960 after several political setbacks and defeats in parliament. Enahoro has been regarded by academics and many Nigerians as the “Father of Nigeria State”