Nationalism In West Africa | Characteristics, External Factors & Internal Factors

Nationalism in Africa can be defined as the collective efforts of Africans to resist or repudiate colonial rule. It encompasses the love and pride that a population has for its country, as well as the aspirations of a racial group to establish an independent nation. Additionally, nationalism manifests as a sense of unity among social […]

Nationalism in Africa can be defined as the collective efforts of Africans to resist or repudiate colonial rule. It encompasses the love and pride that a population has for its country, as well as the aspirations of a racial group to establish an independent nation. Additionally, nationalism manifests as a sense of unity among social groups striving to shape their destiny, control their environment, and defend against rival groups.


Characteristics of Nationalism Before the Second World War:

  1. Western Education: The adoption of Western education provided West Africa with a common language to confront colonialism.
  2. World Depression: The economic downturn resulting from the First World War led to widespread hardship, fostering agitation for self-government.
  3. Economic Exploitation: The monopoly of trade in West Africa by European companies and their exploitative practices fueled the growth of nationalism.
  4. Lack of Educational Facilities: Insufficient funding for missionary education hindered the development of human resources, as education was primarily aimed at basic literacy.
  5. High Cost of Living: Soaring prices of goods and services, causing a decline in living standards, intensified the call for self-government.
  6. Emergence of Political Parties: Political parties advocating for increased participation in the political process contributed to the rise of nationalism.
  7. Religion: Christian missionaries, with their disregard for African traditions and cultures, played a significant role in fueling nationalism in West Africa.
  8. Heavy Taxes: The imposition of substantial taxes on Africans and the control of funds derived from taxation played a pivotal role in igniting nationalist activities.
  9. Racial Discrimination: Discrimination in the civil service based on race contributed to the growth of nationalism in West Africa.


Factors contributing to the ascension and expansion of nationalist movements

External Factors

  1. The Atlantic Charter: Published after World War II, this charter asserted the right of all people to choose their form of government, encouraging nationalist movements by aligning with the American stance favouring decolonization.
  2. Anti-colonial Stance of the U.N.O: The United Nations Organization took a critical stance against colonialism and imperialism, supporting nations seeking independence. This bolstered the spirit of nationalism in West Africa, particularly in response to the assistance received.
  3. British Labour Party: The opposition of the British Labour Party to the conservative party’s colonial policies influenced the growth of nationalism in Nigeria.
  4. Independence of Other Countries: The independence of India in 1947 and Ghana in 1957 heightened the aspirations of Nigerian nationalists for self-rule.
  5. Pan-African Leaders and Organizations: Influential figures such as W.E.B. Du Bois, George Padmore, and organizations like the West Africa Union Students Union and Negro World Movement advocated against racial discrimination and colonialism, inspiring nationalist sentiments.
  6. Loss of British Prestige: Britain’s defeat in World War II diminished its global prestige, impacting the perception of colonialism and encouraging nationalist movements.
  7. World War II: The war debunked the myth of white supremacy, challenging the notion of racial superiority.
  8. Emergence of Super Powers: The rise of the U.S.A and U.S.S.R as superpowers post-World War II provided support and encouragement for nationalist activities in Nigeria and West Africa.
  9. Colonial Posture of the United Nations Organization: The United Nations’ position on colonialism further contributed to the rise of nationalist movements.


Internal Factors

  1. Racial Discrimination: European mistreatment of Nigerians in the civil service fueled nationalist sentiments in West Africa after 1945.
  2. Introduction of the Elective Principle in 1922: The selective application of this principle, favoring only Lagos and Calabar, disenfranchised many Nigerians, sparking nationalist growth.
  3. Return of Ex-service Men: West African soldiers returning from World War II brought back ideals for achieving freedom, akin to European nations.
  4. Activities of Educated Elites: Figures like Nnamdi Azikiwe, H.O. Davies, Herbert Macaulay, Obafemi Awolowo, Kwame Nkrumah, and Jomo Kenyatta mobilized the masses for independence.
  5. Establishment of Political Parties and Newspapers: Political parties and newspapers, such as the West Africa Pilot and Lagos Daily News, played pivotal roles in the decolonization process.
  6. Trade Unions: Militant unions, like the railway workers union led by Michael Imodu, supported nationalist leaders through strikes for better conditions of service.
  7. Poor Prices: Unfavorable prices for African produce under colonial rule contributed to nationalist sentiments.
  8. Christianity and Establishment of Schools: The realization through education that all men are created equal by God fueled nationalist sentiments.


Factors Contributing To Slow Nationalist Activities In French West Africa Colonies

  1. Policy of Assimilation: The policy granted African elites equal rights, dissuading agitation or revolt as the system benefited them.
  2. Indignant Policy: The threat to African liberties, including arbitrary arrests and imprisonment without trial, inhibited nationalist activities.
  3. Absence of Political Parties: The lack of political parties hindered the expression of political views on governing activities.
  4. Granting of Citizenship: France’s practice of granting Africans from its colonies French citizenship, with associated privileges, discouraged the need for nationalist movements.
  5. Freedom of the Press: Government censorship of the press limited avenues for criticizing government policies.


Effects Of Nationalism On Nigeria

  1. The nationalist movement led to the formation of political parties and political education (e.g., NNDP, NCNC, AG).
  2. It prompted the introduction of newspapers (e.g., West African Pilot, Lagos Daily News).
  3. It culminated in the independence of Nigeria on October 1, 1960.
  4. It heightened awareness of political and fundamental rights among Nigerians.
  5. Nationalist movements led to constitutional development and change in Nigeria.
  6. It projected the image of Nigeria and West Africans to the outside world.
  7. It compelled colonial rulers to modify their racial discrimination in the civil service.

Related Posts:

Colonialism In Africa | The Positive Impacts & Negative Impacts

French Colonial Administration | Characteristics, Causes, Features, Assimilation Policy

Indirect Rule | Features, Reasons, Northern Nigeria, Western Nigeria, Eastern Nigeria

Colonial Administration | Meaning, Background, Reasons, Features & Classification

Pre-Colonial Administration or Political System | Hausa, Igbo & Yoruba, Nigeria

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