African Liberators of Nigeria

African Liberators of Nigeria


ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes




For two years Nnamdi Azikiwe attended Howard University in Washington, D.C.,

where he studied under Ralph Bunche and played soccer.  In September 1929 he entered

Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, received his B.A. degree in 1930 and


Alhaji Ahmadu                                                                                                                                                                      Nnamdi Azikiwe



African Liberators of Nigeria

Alhaji Ahmadu, Obafemi Awolowo, Nnamdi Azikiwe


The largest Negro country in the world and the largest colony in the United Kingdom is the Federation of Nigeria (about 373,000 square miles).  It is divided into Northern, Western and Eastern regions, and since the 1954 constitution locally administered by three Premiers.  It also includes the quasi-federal Southern Cameroons and the municipality of Lagos as federal territory. 

Alhaji Almadu, the Sardauna of Sokoto, Premier of the Northern and largest region, is of Islamic culture as are the majority of tribes in that area.  Chief Obafemi Awolowo, of the Yoruba tribe completed his education in England as a lawyer and is Premier of the prosperous Western region and founder of the Action Group political party.  Nnamdi Azikiwe (popularly known as Zik), a member of the Ibo tribe and Premier of the Eastern Region, was educated in the United States and is internationally known.  He owns a chain of newspapers in Nigeria and as founder of the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC) political party is the foremost leader of the independence movement.

All but about 15,000 of the total population of over 33,000,000 (mid-1956 estimate) are Africans of some 240 tribes.  Until the mid-nineteenth century, Nigeria was known mainly as the source of slaves for the Americas.  Lagos was ceded to the British in 1861 and a year later constituted a colony.  In 1900, British formally annexed the Niger River Basin and in 1914 put the three regions together for administrative purposes.  Since World War II, three successive constitutions have been instituted by Britain, each one more liberal than the last.  A British Governor General is president of the Federal Council of Ministers.  A British Governor heads each of the three regional executive councils.  Nigeria, Awolowo seeks a looser federation, which the Sardauna prefers that the British remain in control until the Northern region is better prepared.

Alhaji Ahmadu was born in 1909 in Rabba, Sokoto province of Northern Nigeria, a great-great grandson of Othman Dan Fodio, founder of the Fulah Empire more than 150 years ago.  Ahmadu’s great-grandfather was the second Sultan of Sokoto and spiritual leader of the largest group of Moslems in Nigeria.  His grandfather was the eighth Sultan.  At the age of four, Ahmadu attended the Koranic School and at eleven the Provincial School at Sokoto.  He entered Katsina College in 1926, the only teachers’ training center in the Northern region and was graduated in 1931.  For three years he taught at the Sokoto Middle School, then was district chief of Rabba. 

After his cousin became Sultan in 1938, Ahmadu, as possible successor, was appointed Sardauna, chief adviser to the Sultan.  The title carries with it a sword of office and was originally intended to lead aristocrats into war, but is now a symbol of justice.  He was a member of the Sokoto Native Authority Council until 1944 when he was placed in charge of administration.  When transferred to Kaduna in 1948 to supervise public works, medical and health services and secondary education, three officials replaced him in Sokoto.

Later in 1948, he went to England for a course in local government at the University of London and visited several countries in Europe to study forestry, farm management and local government.  In 1949 he joined the Northern Peoples’ Congress, became its leader and was elected to the House of Representatives of Nigeria.  In the next two years, he was a member of the Regional Development and Production, Forest Inspection, Nigerian Coal and Loans boards. 

He was appointed Minister of Works in the northern region after the 1951 constitution was effected.  Early in 1953, he became Minister of Local Government and Community Development.  After Ahmadu became Premier in 1954, he attended the 1955 Cambridge Conference on development of local governments in the colonies and returned to Nigeria via Holland, Germany, Switzerland and Italy.  He also made a pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia in 1955.

Alhaji Ahmadu has three wives (the Koran permits four) and two teen-age daughters.  He is six feet one inch tall and broad-shouldered.  His genial smile, perfect English, impressive phrases and ways of putting questions are admired by many.  Ahmadu is popular with British officials in Nigeria and was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire.  He is a member of the Kaduna Rifle Club  and when possible goes on shooting expeditions. 

Obafemi Awolowo was born at Ikenne, western Nigeria on March 6, 1909, the son of a farmer and descendant of Oduduwa, founder of the Yoruba kingdom.  Awolowo inherited the titles of Ashiwaju of Ijebu Remo, Losi of Ikenne, Lisa of Ijeun and Apesin of Oshogbo.  His early schooling in Ikenne at the Church Missionary Society and Wesleyan School was interrupted by his father’s death and he had to help support the family by cutting wood, marketing it, and other odd jobs.  When possible, he attended classes and at sixteen was able to enter the Imo Methodist School in Abeokuta as a full-time student.  The next year, he went to Wesley College to train as a teacher and was graduated in 1927.

He taught for awhile, studied stenography at the same time and from 1930 to 1934 worked as a stenographer.

For a year, he was a newspaper reporter, then for eight years was employed by the Motor Transporter and Produce Trader, studied evenings and took his B.Com. degree with honors in 1944.  Through hard work and frugal living, he managed to go to London to read law.  While at the University of London, he lived in Hampstead lodgings and cooked his own meals. 

For relaxation, he studied British colonial policy and frequented places where it was discussed, including the Fabian, Royal African and Royal Empire societies.  He attended House of Commons debates and met people interested in overseas problems like Sir Stafford Cripps and Margery Perham, who wrote the foreword to his book Path to Nigerian Freedom (Faber, 1947), which he wrote while a law student.

With Nigerian friends in England, he founded Egbe Omo Odudua, a semireligious society intended to unite Yorubas.  He passed his bar examinations with second class honors, received his LL.B. degree and was called to the Bar at Inner Temple in 1947.  Returning to Nigeria, he served as solicitor and advocate of the Superior Court of Nigeria from 1947 to 1951.  In 1950 he launched the Action Group as the political wing of Egbe Omo Odudua and took over the political activities of the Nigerian Youth Movement of which he had long been a member.

Branches of Egbe Omo Odudua spread to the North and East.  To publicize the movement, Awolowo ran a newspaper, the Tribune.  In the general election of 1951, the Action Group defeated the well-organized NCNC in the Western region and provided its first government under the new constitution, with Awolowo as Minister of Local Government. 

An admirer of Jawaharlal Nehru, Awolowo visited India in 1952–53 to discuss comparative aspects of self-government with him and other Indian leaders.  Ceylon, Pakistan and Egypt were included in the trip.  Later, Nehru’s autobiography was serialized in the Tribune.  Early in 1956, Awolowo, as Premier and Finance Minister of the Western Region, headed a five-member mission on a tour which included Britain, the United States, West Germany, Italy and Japan to arouse trade and investment interest in his country.

Obafemi Awolowo was married on December 26, 1937 to Hannah Idowu Dide Olu.  They have two sons and three daughters.  The Premier is of medium height and well built and wears Nigerian robes and a dark red and gold turban.  With all his political preoccupation, he keeps the mark of missionary training and youthful seriousness and is a devout member of the Wesleyan Church.  His approach to politics is realistic and his speeches are filled with hard facts and systematic analysis rather than emotionalism.

Awolowo has stated that “West and East Nigeria are as different as Ireland from Germany.  The North is as different from either as China.”  He has also noted: “No Communist danger exists in southern Nigeria, though we have a few  Communists.  There could be a Communist danger in the North, when the feudal system there breaks down.”  In regard to British administration was carried out by incompetent, inferior officials, and that the British do not have the true interests of the country at heart.  “In fourteen months under the present government, we have done more for Nigeria than the British did in 120 years,” he stated in 1955. 

Nnamdi Azikiwe was born on November 16, 1904 at Zungeru in northern Nigeria where his father, a member of the Ibo tribe, was employed in government service.  He was educated at the Church Missionary Society’s Central School at Onitsha, the Hope Waddel Training Institute at Calabar and was graduated in 1925 from the Methodist Boys’ High School in Lagos at the head of his class.  His father retired the same year and gave young Zik $1200 to pursue his education in the United States.

For two years he attended Howard University in Washington, D.C., where he studied under Ralph Bunche and played soccer.  In September 1929 he entered Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, received his B.A. degree in 1930 and continued for two years of graduate work as an instructor.  He took a course in journalism at Columbia University and was a student instructor at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, studied anthropology, and earned the M.A. degree.  His summers were spent in a variety of jobs.  Later he was a reporter for the Baltimore Afro-American, Philadelphia Tribune and with the Associated Negro Press in Chicago.  He received two honorary doctorates, the LL.D. degree from Howard and the D.Lit. from Lincoln universities. 

Returning to Africa in 1934, he became editor in chief of the African Morning Post in Accra, Gold Coast.  In 1937 he started the West African Pilot in Lagos, and added four newspapers in other cities under Zik Enterprises, Ltd.  Zik is the undisputed leader of the Ibos and leader of the nationalist cause.  He helped to organize the NCNC in 1944 and became its first secretary-general, and in 1946 its president.  This group advocates universal adult suffrage, direct elections, control of the civil service by African ministers, and complete “Nigerianization” of the country’s military forces.  Zik was elected a Lagos member of the Legislative Council of Nigeria in 1947 and in 1952 was the first NCNC opposition leader in the Western House of Assembly.  He resigned a year later and was elected to the Eastern House of Assembly.  Nigerian nationalism is sometimes called “Zikism” after this powerful leader, who advocates self-government and a united country.

His thirteen books include The Practice of Forced Labor (1932), Renascent Africa (Zik’s Press, 1937), Our Struggle for Freedom (1955), and Economic Rehabilitation of Eastern Nigeria (1956).  He was a member of the Brooke Arbitration Tribunal in 1944, Cameroons Arbitration Tribunal in 1948, and the Foot Nigerianization Committee in the same year.

On several occasions he led delegations to England with proposals for constitutional changes.  According to A. T. Steele (New York Herald Tribune, December 21, 1947) Zik promised the British “plenty of trouble” if his plans for full freedom in fifteen years received an unsatisfactory reply.  Early in 1954 he toured Europe, England, the United States and Canada with members of the Eastern region economic commission to attract capital for developments in textile, vegetable oil refineries, steel and chemicals.  Oden Meeker (Saturday Evening Post, October 16, 1954) mentioned that Zik had studied communist political techniques and was not above using communism as a “political poker chip,” although his $2,000,000 business interests made it difficult for him to be seriously interested in communism. 

Nnamdi Azikiwe was married in 1936 to Flora Ogbenyeanu Ogoegbunam.  They have three sons and one daughter.  Zik has been described as tall, slim, handsome, magnetic, and a dynamic orator, who knows how to attract and hold vast crowds.  A sportsman, he is president of the Lagos Football Association and vice-president of the Nigeria Boxing Board.

Late in July 1953, Ahmadu, Awolowo and Zik led their respective delegations to the London conference to pave the way for self-government.  Awolowo and Zik demanded self-government by 1956.  Ahmadu advocated a more moderate “as soon as practicable” program.  When the British proposed to detach Lagos, Nigerian capital and principal port, from the Western region, Awolowo objected.  Colonial Secretary Oliver Lyttelton settled the point by announcing that the British government had made the decision and Awolowo and his delegates walked out.  They returned three days later to discuss other factors.

The discussions were continued in Lagos in January 1954, after it was understood that Awolowo would drop the issue.  The southern part of the Cameroons was detached from the Eastern region and became “quasi-federal” territory.  A “no holds barred” conference was promised for September 1956.

The three leaders were elected as the first Premiers after the revised constitution became effective in October 1954 and established the Federation of Nigeria.  It was revealed by the Gold Coast Weekly Review (December 1, 1955) that wealthy Moslems in the north sought the Premiership, but Ahmadu was recognized as the only man by birth and capacity who could act as a link between the House of Chiefs and keep northerners together against alleged threats from the Eastern and Western regions.  Awolowo and Zik had less competition in their respective areas.

In the wealthy Western region where farms based on palm oil and cocoa flourished, education programs advanced faster.  Ibadan’s University College, the only university in Nigeria, was founded in 1947 and is an affiliate of the University of London.  As Minister of Local Government, Awolowo made education a major development.  Free and compulsory primary education was introduced in 1955 and six new secondary technical schools planned.  Zik introduced a new education program in the Eastern region.  Nigeria sends more students abroad than the rest of Africa.  Azikiwe is credited with being most responsible for this achievement.  But basically a  politician, the London Observer noted that Zik had invaded some of the strongholds of the Action Group which increased political antagonism with the Yorubas.

The impromptu Sudanese declaration of independence on January 1, 1956, the Toronto Star Weekly (January 28, 1956) reported, may have hastened the three-week royal visit of Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh to Nigeria in early 1956.  The people, commented one of the local papers, hate British imperialism, but love the Queen.  A reigning woman is regarded as a mystical figure.  Britain hoped that the Queen’s visit would keep the country within the British framework of nations when the conference on self-government was held later in the year.

The conference was postponed.  Time (August 6, 1956) explained that Zik was accused of having withdrawn $5,600,000 in government funds and placing it in the African Continental Bank to save it from collapse.  Zik and the Zik Enterprises hold 28,000 shares in the bank.  The British Governor requested an inquiry.  In a message to Colonial Secretary Alan T. Lennox-Boyd, Zik asked that the Governor be removed and added: “My humble advice is that you be careful not to mess up the affairs of Eastern Nigeria as in the case of Cyprus and Singapore. …  We … will not stand nonsense from anybody.  You have been warned.”  Lennox-Boyd ordered an investigation.

The British tribunal found Zik “guilty of improper conduct,” according to the Christian Science Monitor (January 19, 1957).  Awolowo and Ahmadu became outspoken opponents of Zik and asked the Nigerian independence be postponed until 1959.  Time (March 25, 1957) related that Zik, heeding “the voice of the people”, dissolved the Legislature and called an election, and found himself a hero.  It was whispered that the tribunal had been an “imperialist plot” to discredit the nationalist movement, that Zik had been building a bank for Africans to “break the British monopoly.”

The New York Times (March 19, 1957) reported that Zik’s party won forty-four seats out of eighty-four and Awolowo’s Action Group gained nine seats in the Eastern Assembly.  The postponed London conference was opened on May 23, 1957 with the three Premiers leading the delegation.  Among the Nigerian representatives was a Moslem commoner, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, a powerful leader of the North.

Source: Current Biography (1957)

*   *   *   *   *

My Life—The Sardauna of Sokoto

By Sir Ahmadu Bello

Ahmadu Bello (1910-1966), Sardauna of Sokoto, the Premier of the Northern Region of Nigeria, is thought by many to have been an influential figure in Nigeria’s history. The descendant of the great reformer, Shehu Usuman dan Fodio, the Sardauna grew up in the atmosphere of the Muslim and aristocratic tradition of the Fulani conquerors of Northern Nigeria. . He reached maturity in a Nigeria that was rapidly advancing towards independent nationhood, with political institutions deriving largely from the traditions of the Christian West.

As leader of the Northern People’s Congress, the majority political party in Northern Nigeria, the Sardauna became the first Premier of that region in 1954. He was assassinated in January 1966 in the military coup. His autobiography discusses many things including whether Islam can co-exist with other communities of different faiths, whether institutional education and the franchise be extended to Muslim women, the role of the Emirs in the new parliamentary system


*   *   *   *   *

Spectres of 1919: Class and Nation in the Making of the New Negro

By Barbara Foley

A carefully argued, nuanced presentation of the genesis of the Harlem Renaissance. Foley’s breadth of knowledge in American radical history is impressive.—American Literature

Foley’s book is a lucid and useful one… A heavyweight intervention, it prompts significant rethinking of the ideological and representational strategies structuring the era.—Journal of American Studies  

Foley does a masterful job of analyzing the racial and political theories of a wide range of black and white figures, from the radical Left to the racist Right… Students of African American political and cultural history in the early twentieth century cannot ignore this book. Essential.—Choice

In our current time of crisis, when ruling classes busily promote nationalism and racism to conceal the class nature of their inter-imperialist rivalries, one can only hope that readers will not be daunted by Foley’s dedication to analyzing the ideological milieu of the 1920s that contributed to the eclipse of New Negro radicalism by New Negro nationalism.—Science & Society

With the New Negro movement and the Harlem Renaissance, the 1920s was a landmark decade in African American political and cultural history, characterized by an upsurge in racial awareness and artistic creativity. In Spectres of 1919 Barbara Foley traces the origins of this revolutionary era to the turbulent year 1919, identifying the events and trends in American society that spurred the black community to action and examining the forms that action took as it evolved.

Unlike prior studies of the Harlem Renaissance, which see 1919 as significant mostly because of the geographic migrations of blacks to the North, Spectres of 1919 looks at that year as the political crucible from which the radicalism of the 1920s emerged. Foley draws from a wealth of primary sources, taking a bold new approach to the origins of African American radicalism and adding nuance and complexity to the understanding of a fascinating and vibrant era.—

*   *   *   *   *’s 25 Best Selling Books



#1 – Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark #2 – Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree #3 – Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane #4 – Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper #5 – Stackin’ Paper 2 Genesis’ Payback by Joy King #6 – Thug Lovin’ (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark #7 – When I Get Where I’m Going by Cheryl Robinson #8 – Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby #9 – The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane

#10 – Covenant: A Thriller  by Brandon Massey

#11 – Diary Of A Street Diva  by Ashley and JaQuavis

#12 – Don’t Ever Tell  by Brandon Massey

#13 – For colored girls who have considered suicide  by Ntozake Shange

#14 – For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree

#15 – Homemade Loves  by J. California Cooper

#16 – The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper

#17 – Player Haters by Carl Weber

#18 – Purple Panties: An Anthology by Sidney Molare

#19 – Stackin’ Paper by Joy King

#20 – Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey

#21 – The Upper Room by Mary Monroe

#22 – Thug Matrimony  by Wahida Clark

#23 – Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark

#24 – Married Men by Carl Weber

#25 – I Dreamt I Was in Heaven – The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter


#1 – Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable #2 – Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans #3 – Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane #4 – Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper #5 – Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You’re Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant #6 – Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey #7 – The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight #8 – The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing #9 – The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson

#10 – John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History  by Ahati N. N. Toure

#11 – Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley

#12 –The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

#13 – The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell

#14 – The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

#15 – Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can’t Commit  by RM Johnson

#16 – Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins

#17 – Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell

#18 – A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

#19 – John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard

#20 – Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris

#21 – Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice

#22 – 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino #23 – Chicken Soup for the Prisoner’s Soul by Tom Lagana #24 – 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields

#25 – Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class  by Lisa B. Thompson

*   *   *   *   *

Debt: The First 5,000 Years

By David Graeber

Before there was money, there was debt. Every economics textbook says the same thing: Money was invented to replace onerous and complicated barter systems—to relieve ancient people from having to haul their goods to market. The problem with this version of history? There’s not a shred of evidence to support it. Here anthropologist David Graeber presents a stunning reversal of conventional wisdom. He shows that for more than 5,000 years, since the beginnings of the first agrarian empires, humans have used elaborate credit systems to buy and sell goods—that is, long before the invention of coins or cash. It is in this era, Graeber argues, that we also first encounter a society divided into debtors and creditors.  Graeber shows that arguments about debt and debt forgiveness have been at the center of political debates from Italy to China, as well as sparking innumerable insurrections. He also brilliantly demonstrates that the language of the ancient works of law and religion (words like “guilt,” “sin,” and “redemption”) derive in large part from ancient debates about debt, and shape even our most basic ideas of right and wrong. We are still fighting these battles today without knowing it. Debt: The First 5,000 Years is a fascinating chronicle of this little known history—as well as how it has defined human history, and what it means for the credit crisis of the present day and the future of our economy.  

Economist Glenn Loury  /Criminalizing a Race

*   *   *   *   *


Sex at the Margins

Migration, Labour Markets and the Rescue Industry

By Laura María Agustín

This book explodes several myths: that selling sex is completely different from any other kind of work, that migrants who sell sex are passive victims and that the multitude of people out to save them are without self-interest. Laura Agustín makes a passionate case against these stereotypes, arguing that the label ‘trafficked’ does not accurately describe migrants’ lives and that the ‘rescue industry’ serves to disempower them. Based on extensive research amongst both migrants who sell sex and social helpers, Sex at the Margins provides a radically different analysis. Frequently, says Agustin, migrants make rational choices to travel and work in the sex industry, and although they are treated like a marginalised group they form part of the dynamic global economy. Both powerful and controversial, this book is essential reading for all those who want to understand the increasingly important relationship between sex markets, migration and the desire for social justice. “Sex at the Margins rips apart distinctions between migrants, service work and sexual labour and reveals the utter complexity of the contemporary sex industry. This book is set to be a trailblazer in the study of sexuality.”—Lisa Adkins, University of London

*   *   *   *   *

The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

*   *   *   *   *

Ancient African Nations

*   *   *   *   *

If you like this page consider making a donation

online through PayPal

*   *   *   *   *

Negro Digest / Black World

Browse all issues

1950        1960        1965        1970        1975        1980        1985        1990        1995        2000 ____ 2005        


*   *   *   *   *

The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery /

George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

*   *   *   *   *

The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 — The Founding of Haiti 

*   *   *   *   *


*   *   *   *   *






update 19 April 2010




 Home   The African World 

Post Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.