Government Notes

Nationalism In West Africa


  • Meaning.
  • Factors that led to the rise and growth of nationalist movement in West Africa.


Nationalism may be defined as the efforts made by Africans to oppose or reject colonial rule. It is the love and pride in a country shown by its people or the desire by a racial group to form an independent country. It could also be seen as a sense of oneness that emerges from social groups trying to control their destiny, environment and to defend their group against competing groups.


  • What is nationalism?
  • Mention five names of nationalists in Nigeria.


  • Western Education: Western education provided a common language with which West Africa used to fight colonialism.
  • World Depression: The First World War caused World economic depression which brought about untold hardships and agitation for self government.
  • Economic Exploitation: Monopoly of trade in West Africa by European firms or companies and its exploitation gave rise to the growth of nationalism.
  • Lack of Educational Facilities: The missionaries did not have enough money to finance the system. The essence of education was to enable the blacks to read and write not to produce man power.
  • High Cost of Living: The rise in prices of goods and services which resulted in high cost of living and fall in standard of living increased the agitation for self government.
  • Emergence of Political Parties: The demand for increased participation in the political process by parties helped the growth of nationalism.
  • Religion: The activities of Christian missionaries that disregarded Africa tradition and culture played a significant role in the rise of nationalism in West Africa.
  • Heavy Taxes: The heavy taxes imposed on Africans and the control of the money realized from such taxation helped to spark off nationalist activities in West Africa.
  • Racial Discrimination: The racial discrimination in the civil service practiced by the rulers gave rise to the growth of nationalism in West Africa.



  • The Atlantic Charter: The publication at the end of the 2nd World war, declared the right of all people to choose the form of government under which they will live. The American government favored decolonization and this encouraged nationalist to demand for independence.
  • Anti-colonial Posture of U.N.O: The organization adopted a negative posture towards colonialism and imperialism. It assisted nations fighting for independence and this revive the spirit of nationalism in the people of West Africa.
  • British Labour Party: The labour party in Britain opposed the conservative party on their policy on colonialism. This influenced nationalism in Nigeria.
  • The Independence of Some Countries: India in 1947 and Ghana in 1957 got their independence and this increased the agitation of Nigerian nationalists.
  • Activities of Pan- African leaders/ Organizations: The impact of prominent individuals and black American leaders and other blacks in Diaspora like W.E.B.Du Bois George Padmore and organization like West Africa union students union, Negro world movement all preached against racial discrimination and liberation of black nations from all forms of colonialism. This massage inspired the spirit of nationalism.
  • Loss of British Prestige: European power defeated Britain and its psychological effect influenced colonialism. Britain’s prestige world wide was reduced.
  • The World War 11: It exposed the myth surrounding white supremacy. The whites were in no way superior to the blacks.
  • The Super Powers: The emergence of U.S.A and U.S.S.R as super powers after the Second World War gave courage to nationalist activities in Nigeria and West Africa.
  • The Colonial Posture of United Nations Organization.


  • What do you understand by Atlantic charter?
  • How did the Second World War expose the myth surrounding the existence of the Europeans?


  • Racial discrimination: The way the Europeans treated Nigerians in the civil service added more flames to the growth of nationalism in West Africa after 1945.
  • The Introduction of the Elective Principle in 1922: This principle favored only Lagos and Calabar. Many Nigerians were disenfranchised as such it provoked the growth of nationalism in Nigeria.
  • The Return of Ex-service Men: The West African soldiers who participated in the Second World War came back with fresh ideals which they wish to put in practice to make their countries free like European nations.
  • Activities of Educated Elites: Nnamdi Azikiwe, H.O.Davies, Herbert Macaulay, Obafemi Awolowo, Kwame Nkrumah, Jomo Kenyatta, etc. mobilized the masses for support during the struggle for independence.
  •  Establishment of political parties, newspapers, e.g. the West Africa pilot, Lagos daily news etc played vital role in the decolonization process.
  • Trade Unions: Like the railway workers union led by Michael Imodu became militant. They used strike actions to back their demand for better conditions of service. They equally supported nationalist leaders in the struggle against colonial rule.
  • Poor Prices: The poor prices at which the colonial rulers bought African produce contributed to the growth of nationalism in West Africa.
  • Christianity and Establishment of Schools: This made the nationalist to realize that after all men are created equal by God.



  • Policy of Assimilation: The African elites enjoyed equal rights as there was no form of discrimination. They could not agitate or revolt since the system benefit them.
  • Indignant Policy: This policy threatened the liberty of Africans. They arrested and imprisoned without trial.
  • Absence of Political Parties: This made it difficult for the people to express their political views on governing activities.
  • Granting of Citizenship:  France unlike Britain granted Africans from all its colonies French citizens. They enjoyed all the privilege and social amenities enjoyed to their white counter parts. Therefore it was unnecessary to form nationalist movements.
  • Freedom of the Press: the government censored the press. There was no way of criticizing government policies.


  • The nationalist movement led to the formation of political parties and political education e.g. NNDP, NCNC, AG.
  • It led to the introduction of newspaper e.g. West Africans pilot, Lagos daily news etc.
  •  It led to the independence of Nigeria on 1st October 1960.
  • It made Nigeria to become aware of their political and fundamental rights.
  • Nationalist movement led to constitutional development and change in Nigeria.
  • It projected the image of Nigeria and West Africans to the outside World.
  • It forced the colonial ruler to modify their racial discrimination in the civil service.    


  • Discuss the role of racial discrimination as a factor that helped the growth of nationalism.
  • Explain the role of elected principles in spreading nationalist feeling.


  1. Explain how the Atlantic Charter contributed to the rise and growth of nationalism.
  2. What was the impact of the ex-service men to nationalist movement?
  3. Discuss 4 effects of nationalism in Nigeria.
  4. How did the policy of Assimilation contributed to slow nationalist movement in French West Africa colonies?
  5. (a) Define Electoral Commission. (b) State 6 features of an electoral commission.


  1. The NNDP was founded by  (a) Ernest Ikoli (b) Herbert Macaulay (c) Obafemi Awolowo (d) Nnamdi Azikiwe
  2.  The following were nationalist leaders except (a) Ernest Ikoli (b) Nnamdi Azikiwe (c) Gen. Aguiyi Ironsi (d) Sani Abacha
  1. One of the following was responsible for slow nationalist movement in French West Africa colonies (a) Racial discrimination (b) Absence of political parties (c) Self government (d) heavy tax
  2. Ghana  got her independence in (a) 1943 (b) 1947 (c) 1957 (d) 1960
  3. NNDP stands for (a) Nigeria National Democratic Party (b) National Nigeria Development Party (c) New Nigeria National Party (d) National New Democratic Party


  1. What is Nationalism?
  2. Explain 5 factors that led to the growth of nationalism.


Comprehensive Government Pages 144-146 Essential Government Pages 156-158.


  • How did education contribute to nationalist movement?
  • What is racial discrimination?  


  1. Explain the features of Nationalism before Second World War.
  2. Identify six nationalists that fought for independence in Nigeria.
  3. Discuss how World depression led to nationalist activities in West Africa.
  4. How did high cost of living contributed to the rise of nationalism?
  5. Discuss the strategies employed by nationalist movements in campaigning against colonialism in West Africa.


  1. The term Nationalism refers to —- (a) Imperialism (b)the  struggle for independence (c) legitimacy (d) colonialism
  2. The policy of indignant was practiced in the colonies controlled by — (a) Britain (b) Portugal (c) France (d) Belgium
  1. The West Africa student union was formed in 1925 in — (a) Dakar (b) London (c) New York (d) Lagos
  2. The policy of Association was adopted by the — (a) French to replace their policy of Assimilation  (b) Herbert Macaulay (c) British to replace their policy of Indirect Rule (c) French for their home government (d) Britain
  3. The following were the factors that led to the rise of nationalism except —- (a) heavy taxes (b) provision of social amenities (c) religion (d) economic exploitation


  1. How did the return of educated elites contributed to nationalist movement?
  2. Mention the names of the nationalists that fought for independence in West Africa.


Comprehensive Government Pages 152-153

Essential Government Pages 165-167

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