Nnamdi Azikiwe and the vision of a united Africa -II

Wednesday May 22 2019

 

The story of Nnamdi Azikiwe who later became the father of the Nigerian Nation embodies the beginning of the liberation movement for Nigeria in the 1940s when he was a journalist in West Africa.

In the West African Pilot Newspaper he founded in Lagos in 1940 he began to carry editorials calling for African States independence.

In 1943 the British Council sponsored eight West African editors (including Azikiwe) and he and six other editors for a tailored training to raise awareness of the possible future political independence of Nigeria.

As a result of this training the journalists called for a gradual socio-political reforms, including repeal of the crown colonial system, and attainment of independence for British West African colonies by 1958.

The memorandum was ignored by the colonial office, and this increased Azikiwe’s political militancy.

He again 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.

By this time Azikiwe was the icon of the West African newspaper industry leading to the ban of Azikiwe’s West African Pilot and Daily Comet newspapers on the on 8th July 1945 accused of arousing a general strike that was called in June 1945 to call for independence.

As a result of Azikiwe’s support for a general strike in June 1945 he was put under the colonial government surveillance and he escaped an assassination attempt and went into hiding in Onitsha.

Azikiwe and other political activism had put enough pressures on the British Colonial government and it considered the review of the Constitution of 1922 to increase the number of nominated African members to the Legislative Council.

However, these constitutional review changes were opposed by NCNC party of Azikiwe and other parties and the ACNC begun a countrywide tour to raise awareness and money to travel to the Unite Kingdom to protest.

The NCNC president Herbert Macaulay died during the tour, and Azikiwe assumed leadership of the party.

Azikiwe then led a delegation to London and submitted its proposals to the colonial secretary, but the demands were ignored and the proposals were effected in in 1947 and ageneral election was called.

The CNCN and other parties decided to participate in the elections under this new constitution where Azikiwe was elected to the Legislative Council in a Lagos municipal election from the National Democratic Party (an NCNC subsidiary).

In 1951, he became leader of the Opposition to the government of Obafemi Awolowo in the Western Region’s House of Assembly. Azikiwe later moved to the Eastern Region in 1952, where he was a member of the Eastern Assembly.

He was then selected as Chief Minister, and became Premier of Nigeria’s Eastern Region, a federal state of the Nigerian colonial Government from1954 to 1959. On the 30th October 1960 Nigeria gained its independence as a Federation and Nnamdi Azikiwe became the Governor-General with Abubakar Tafawa Balewa as Prime Minister.

Azikiwe as a pan-African belonged to the Monrovia Bloc of West African Free States known as “moderate states”, established on the 12th May 1961 in a Pan-African Conference held in Monrovia wanted a gradual approach to continental unity, through regional cooperation and integration.

The Monrovian Bloc was known as comprised of Nigeria, Senegal, Cameroon, Ethiopia and Liberia. On the other hand the Casablanca blocs of African of Free African States “progressive states” wanted an immediate political Federation of all African countries. The group comprised of Ghana, Algeria, Guinea, Morocco, Egypt, Mali and Libya.

As a patriotic pan-Africanist, Azikiwe was very concerned of the warring Monrovia and Casablanca blocs of African heads of states that would affect the future of the pan-African movement he then convened the historic conference of Heads of African and Malagasy states in Lagos, Nigeria, on 25th January 1962, when he reconciled the two blocs; thus together with Emperor Haile Selassie could ensure the birth of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in 1963.

Dr Kafumu is the Member of Parliament for Igunga Constituency

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