Top 11 Nationalist in Nigeria and their Contributions.

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Gaining independence for Nigeria, in 1960, did not come without struggles and hassles. The likes of Nnamdi Azikiwe, Tafawa Balewa and Obafemi Awolowo were active Nationalists who fought for the independence of our dear country. And after their success, they continued to lend tremendous support to the development of Nigeria.

“The Labours of our Heroes Past
Shall Never Be in Vain.”

National Anthem.

In this post, we list the Top 11 Nigerian Nationalists and their contributions.

1. SIR NNAMDI AZIKIWE.

Nnamdi Azikiwe.
Nnamdi Azikwe, ZIK of Africa.

Born on 16 November 1904, Nnamdi Azikiwe was a core leader of the Nigerian Nationalism. Nnamdi is famously known as “Zik”. He was born in Zungeru in Niger state. Azikiwe travelled to the United States where he attended Storer College, Columbia University, the University of Pennsylvania and Howard University. He returned to Africa in 1934, where he began his career in journalism

  • For most of his life, he advocated for Nigerian nationalism as a journalist and then as a politician.
  • He created the African Continental Bank (ACB) – the first bank to be founded by any African politician.
  • After his return from the US, Nnamdi worked for a Ghanaian newspaper, African Morning Post. In 1937, he founded the West African Pilot with the aim of promoting Nigerian independence from British colonial rule.
  • He joined the Nigeria Youth Movement in 1937.
  • He inspired the Zikist movement, a radical revolutionary and multi-ethnic youth body which championed the Nigerian struggle against imperialism.
  • In 1944, Azikiwe cofounded the NCNC, alongside Herbert Macaulay, which became one of Nigeria’s leading political parties in the struggle for independence.
  • He played a significant role in the establishment of several educational institutions in Nigeria, including the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN) in 1955.
  • He led NCNC to contest the General election in 1959.
  • He became the first indigenous Senate president and later the first indigenous Governor-General in 1960.
  • Nnamdi Azikiwe was the first president of Nigeria when Nigeria became a republic in 1963.
  • He joined the Nigerian People’s Party (NPP) in the Second Republic and was their presidential flag-bearer in the 1979 and 1983 General Elections.

2. HERBERT MACAULAY.

Herbert Macaulay
Father of Nigerian Nationalism.

Known as the Father of Nigerian Nationalism, Herbert Macaulay was born on 14 November 1864. He was the grandson of Bishop Ajayi Crowther. His face was crested on the one Naira coin for his numerous contribution to Lagos, Nigeria and Nigerian nationalists.

  • He was the first to establish a political party in Nigeria. In 1922, he founded Nigeria National Democratic Party a party that dominated Nigerian politics until 1938.
  • Herbert Macaulay was the first National President of the National Council of Nigeria and Cameroons (NCNC).
  • He established a Newspaper, Lagos Daily News, through which he mobilized support and fought the colonial government.
  • He supported labour unions in the organise strikes, rallies and fought for their work rights.
  • He was a core memeber of the National Congress of British West Africa (NCBWA). His activities at NCWBA led to the introduction of elective principles in British West Africa – Nigeria in 1922, Ghana in 1925 and Sierra Leone in 1926.
  • He led a nationwide protest against the undemocratic 1946 Richard’s Constitution.

3. SIR TAFAWA BALEWA.

Alhaji Sir Tafawa Balewa
The first Nigerian Prime Minister.

Alhaji Tafawa Balewa was a Nigerian politician who served as the first and only Prime Minister of Nigeria upon independence. Born in December 1912 in present-day Borno, Balewa’s portrait is the one on the Five Naira Note. He was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Sheffield in May 1960. He was also awarded an honorary doctorate of law from New York University in July 1961.

  • He attended various constitutional conferences that led to Nigeria’s independence.
  • He joined a Northern-based cultural organization known as Jamiyaar Mutanem Arewa, which he and Sir Ahmadu Bello transformed into the Northern People’s Congress (NPC) in 1951.
  • He served as the deputy leader of NPC.
  • In 1959, NPC won the majority of the seats in the Federal legislature and as the Chief Minister, he formed the government.
  • He was the first Prime Minister of Nigeria and was re-elected in 1964.
  • He played an important role in the formation of the Organization of African Unity (OAU).
  • His party, NPC, formed a coalition government with NCNC in the first republic.

TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE OF NIGERIA IN 3-MINS.

4. SIR AHMADU BELLO.

Sir Ahmadu Bello

Sir Ahmadu Ibrahim Bello was born on 12 June 1900 in Rabah, Zamfara. He was a trained Local Government administrator. Ahmadu Bello was known to be conservative and visionary. He never sought leadership over all of Nigeria.

  • He was the Sarduana (Crown Prince) of Sokoto and political adviser of the Sultan of Sokoto and a member of the Sokoto Native, Authority Council.
  • He was the leader of the Northern People’s Congress, the ruling party at the time consisting of the Hausa–Fulani elite.
  • He won a seat in the Northern Regional House of Assembly and was a member of the Regional Executive Council.
  • He masterminded Northern Nigeria through the 1960 independence and served as its first and only Northern Premier from 1954 until his assassination in 1966.

5. CHIEF OBAFEMI AWOLOWO.

Obafemi Awolowo
Premier of the Western region.

Chief Obafemi Jeremiah Awolowo was the premier of the Western region. He played a key role in Nigeria’s independence movement. He was born on 6 March 1909 in Ikenne, present-day Ogun state. He became a London-trained lawyer in 1946.

  • Awolowo founded the Yoruba nationalist group Egbe Omo Oduduwa.
  • He was the founder and leader of Action Group (AG), a party that dominated the political scene in the Western region in tge first republic.
  • He was the first Premier of the Western Region under Nigeria’s parliamentary system, from 1952 to 1959.
  • In 1959, he established the first Television Station, the Western Nigeria Television (WNTV), in Ibadan.
  • He was the first Leader of Government Business and Minister of Local Government and Finance.
  • He was the official Leader of the Opposition in the federal parliament to the Balewa government from 1959 to 1963.
  • In 1963, he was imprisoned for sedition against the state and was granted a pardon by Major Gen. Yakubu Gowon’s government.

6. SIR MICHAEL OKPARA.

Sir Michael Okpara
Sir Michael Okpara.

Michael Iheonukara Okpara was a Nigerian politician and Premier of Eastern Nigeria during the First Republic, from 1959 to 1966. At age 39, he was the nation’s youngest Premier. Michael Okpara was born on 25 December 1920 in present-day Abia state. He studied medicine at Yaba Higher College, Lagos.

  • He joined NCNC in 1951.
  • In 1959, he was elected into the Eastern Regional House of Assembly and elected the premier of the region in the first republic (after Nnamdi Azikiwe).
  • In November 1960, Dr. M. I. Okpara was elected the leader of NCNC when Dr. Azikwe was appointed the Governor General of Nigeria.
  • NCNC political party led by Dr. Okpara formed a national government with NPC in the first republic.
  • He believed that agricultural reform was crucial to Nigeria’s success and embarked on rapid industrialization and agricultural development of the eastern region.

TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE OF NIGERIA IN 3-MINS.

7. CHIEF SAMUEL LADOKE AKINTOLA.

Chief Ladoke Akintola
Chief Ladoke Akintola.

Ladoke Akintola was one of the founding fathers of modern Nigeria. He served as premier of Western Nigeria from independence in 1960 till his assassination in 1966. Chief Ladoke Akintola was born on 6 July 1910 in Ogbomoso, Ibadan. He was a great orator and lawyer by training.

  • He was an editor of the Daily Service Newspaper and founder of Iroyin Yoruba Newspaper.
  • He was a core member of the Nigeria Youth Movement (NYM).
  • He co-founded the Action Group political party (AG) in the Federal Parliament where he served as Minister of Communication and Aviation. 
  • Owing to the AG crisis of 1962, Akintola was forced out of the party.
  • He formed the United Progressive Party (UPP) and later the Nigeria National Democratic Party.
  • His party NNDP formed an alliance with NPC in 1964 to control the Federal Government.
  • In the 1965 Western regional election, his party won majority seats in the parliament.
  • Akintola was assassinated in Ibadan, the capital of the Western Region, on the day of Nigeria’s first military coup.

8. ANTHONY ENAHARO.

Sir Anthony Enaharo
Chief Michael Enaharo.

Chief Anthony Eromonsele Enahoro was born on 22 July 1923 in Uromi, in present-day Edo State. He attended King’s College Lagos. Chief Anthony had a long and eminent career in the press, politics and civil service.

  • He was an editor of the Azikwe newspaper, Southern Nigeria Defender, in 1944 at the age of 21, thus becoming Nigeria’s youngest editor ever. He was later an editor of Comet.
  • He was associate editor of West African Pilot, and later editor-in-chief of Morning Star and co-founder, of Mid-West Press.
  • He was a member of the Mid-West Party which later merged with Action Group in 1951.
  • He was in 1951 elected member of the Western House of Assembly.
  • He proposed the motion for self-government for Nigeria by 1956 in the Federal Legislature in 1953 under AG.
  • He led delegates from the Mid-Western region to constitutional conferences in 1966 after the Military Coup.
  • He was one of the Nationalists that struggled for Nigeria’s independence.

9. MARGARET EKPO.

Margaret Ekpo.
Margaret Ekpo.

Born on 27 July 1914 in Creek Town in present-day Cross River State, Margaret Ekpo was a Nigerian women’s rights activist and a social mobiliser who helped lead the charge for women’s rights and Nigerian independence. She was a true Nigerian heroine.

  • In 1954, she established the Aba Township Women’s Association.
  • She teamed up with Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti to protest killings at an Enugu coal mine.
  • Margaret Ekpo won a seat in the Eastern Regional House of Assembly in 1961, a position that allowed her to fight for women better.
  • She was regarded as a female “pillar” of the political party the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC).

10. MALLAM AMINU KANO.

Mallam Aminu Kano.
Mallam Aminu Kano.

Aminu Kano was a reputable Nigerian politician, reformist and teacher. Born in 1920 to a family of Fulanis, Aminu Kanu worked vigorously in support of democratisation and freedom of speech. In 1946, he was offered one of seven scholarships for a year’s study at the University of London’s Institute of Education alongside Alhaji Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa.

  • After he returned from London, Aminu Kano formed the Northern Teachers Association (NTA) in March 1948, the first successful regional organisation in the history of the North.
  • The People’s Redemption Party (PRP) was led by Kano and other prominent leaders.
  • He led an Islamic movement in the north of the country in opposition to British rule.
  • Aminu Kano was one of the country’s delegates to the UN in the wake of Nigeria’s independence in 1960.
  • He abolished taxes such as haraji (formal tax) and jangali (cattle tax).

11. FUNMILAYO RANSOME-KUTI.

Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti.
Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti

Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti was born on 02 October 1900 in Abeokuta, Ogun state. Funmilayo was one of Nigeria’s foremost heroines. She was awarded membership in the Order of the Niger in 1965; and an honorary doctorate in Law from the University of Ibadan in 1968.

  • In 1932, Ransome-Kuti established the Abeokuta Ladies Club and by 1940, through the club, she organized literacy classes for market women in Abeokuta.
  • In 1944, Ransome-Kuti founded the Abeokuta Women’s Union, one of Nigeria’s then-most important social organizations, which later became the Nigerian Women’s Union (NWU) in 1949.
  • She played an active role in politics, notably in the pre-independence constitutional negotiations of 1946.
  • In 1953, she was elected vice-president of the Women’s International Democratic Federation.
  • She was the first Nigerian representative at the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) and was also awarded the Lenin Peace Prize in 1970.

CONCLUSION.

Nigeria in the 1900s was formed, fought for and fought within. After the independence which was well fought for, she had a struggles within. These nationalists, however, carried the country’s weight on their shoulders for unity, for growth and for generations to come…

To serve our fatherland
With love and strength and faith.

~ National anthem.
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9 Comments

Elizabeth November 11, 2023 Reply

Great thanks to u and great work

Giftz January 11, 2024 Reply

So much 2 learn about Nigeria

Abdulbasit Toriola January 11, 2024 Reply

A country so vast, we have.

Ale Victoria February 8, 2024 Reply

Thanks

Joseph February 12, 2024 Reply

Keep it up well organized and brief. *Nigeria we hail*

Abdulbasit Toriola February 17, 2024 Reply

That’s the goal, Joseph! Thanks for your kind words.

Praise Edet Abiya February 25, 2024 Reply

Thanks for this. I really learnt alot and it also helped me with my assignmentqw

Abdulbasit Toriola February 27, 2024 Reply

We are glad you found it helpful, Praise.

Teslim Aisha February 28, 2024 Reply

Thanks a lot for this.so helpful

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