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Nigerian flag map. Source :

Nigerian Nationalism was a movement or struggle by patriotic Nigerians who fight for the Nigerian independence against the British colonial rule.

The Nigerian Nationalism began since the early 1920s, and ended until the declaration of Nigeria as an independent from the British colonial rule in 1960.

Background to the Nigerian Nationalism


The Nigerian Nationalism began after the introduction of the Clifford Constitution by the then Nigerian Governor-General Sir Hugh Clifford. Under the Constitution, elective principles and the formation of political parties were introduced. These two major developments set the basis for the party system and struggle of the Nigerian Nationalism.

In 1923, a Yoruba public figure called Herbert Macaulay founded the first Nigerian political party the Nigerian National Political Party (NNDP). This initiative by Herbert Macaulay motivated other Nigerians in joining the political struggle and the inclusion of Nigerians into their affairs.

In 1933, Professor Eyo Ita founded the National Youth Movement (NYM) with the purpose of bringing all Nigerians irrespective of their ethnic or religious background from both southern and northern parts of Nigeria. Since then, the Nigerian Nationalism began to produced strong nationalist figures with pan-Africanist orientation such Nnamdi Azikiwe. Later, in 1944, the Nigerian National Democratic Party and the National Youth Movement were merged to formed the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC). Herbert Macaulay became the national leader, while Nnamdi Azikiwe became the Secretary of the newly NCNC.

In 1949, a Yoruba British trained law student called Obafemi Awolowo founded a newspaper called the Nigerian Tribune which he purposely used to spread the Nigerian Nationalism. Later, in 1951, Awolowo founded a new political party Action Group (AG).


It was until the 1940s that northern part of Nigeria became conscious and active in the struggle of the Nigerian Nationalism. The first major nationalist movement in the north began with a political organization called the ‘Jam’iyyar Mutanen Arewa’. Later, in 1949, the organization was renamed into an English name Northern Peoples Congress (NPC) and registered as the first political party in the north. The purpose of founding the NPC was to motivate and awakened the northerners into the Nigerian Nationalism. In the early 1950s, Ahmadu Bello, the great grandson of Shehu Usman Danfodio became the leader of the NPC.

In 1950, another new political party called Northern Elements Progressive Union (NEPU) was formed in the major northern city of Kano. Aminu Kano who was very much radical and famous anti-imperialist became the leader of the NEPU.

The Struggle for Independence 1950s- 1960

After the southern and the northern parts became conscious enough about the needs for Independence, the Nigerian Nationalism became a united one. Top nationalist emerged as the leaders of the struggle. From the south there were nationalists such Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo, Anthony Enahoro, Samuel Akintola, and others. While, from the north nationalists such Ahmadu Bello, Abubakar Tafawa-Balewa, and Aminu Kano emerged. Traditional rulers such as the Sultan of Sokoto, Oba of Benin, Emir of Kano, and others have helped in the struggle.

In the process of granting Nigeria its independence, two most important conferences were held in Lancaster House, London. During the conferences, the constitution for an independent Nigeria was prepared, as well as the granting of independence. These two conferences were in 1957 and 1958.


After long years of Nigerian Nationalism struggle, the ambition of nationalists was achived on 1 October, 1960. On the day, Nigeria was declared an independent nation after over sixty years of the British colonial rule.


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