There are factors that contributed to the emergence of nationalism in Nigeria. These factors will be discussed under the internal and external factors.
1. Internal Factors That Prompted Nationalism In Nigeria
1. Economic Exploitation:
The Europeans wanted Africans to pay taxes and to be free from such payment of taxes which was alien to our culture. The natives teamed up in order to resist the payment, and such collective resistance gave rise to nationalism in Nigeria. Even some portions of land belonging to the local peasants were seized by the colonial authorities which also forced them to render their labour in colonial plantations and mining activities.
The rising cost of living and scarcity of essential goods experienced by Nigerians after the end of the second world war also fuelled nationalist activities.
2. Western Education:
Western education contributed greatly to the Europeanization of Nigerians, but also enabled the educated elites to challenge the colonial government. It was the major factor that exposed Africans, motivated and sustained their determination, to remain persistence in their demand for self-rule.
When the Europeans introduced the Western education to Africans, it was not meant to benefits them rather to provide them with the opportunity of being able to read and write. As this would enable the Africans relate with the whites in economic exploitation.
Therefore, education became the vehicle through which injustice, humiliation, exploitation and oppression were fully appreciated.
3. Racist Policies Of The Colonial Government:
The Europeans had access to more and better social and welfare service such as hospitals, recreation centres, electricity, and houses than Africans. African culture was seen as primitive and all these increased the level of nationalist activities among Nigerians.
Colonial racism assumed the form of discrimination in economic and professional life as well as denial of vital opportunities on the basis of being black. Africans enjoyed limited opportunities in their own fatherland.
4. Formation Of Political Parties:
The formation of political parties helped to mould public opinion in support of the struggle for independence. It equally provided the forum for mobilizing nationalist activities. Examples of such political parties include the Nigerian Youth Movement, Nigerian National Democratic Party, Action Group, Northern Peoples Congress, National Congress of Nigeria and Cameroon.
5. The Birth Of Indigenous Press:
These newspapers enabled the nationalists to expose the evils of colonialism, thus educating the masses politically as well sensitizing them to agitate for political independence. Example of such newspapers include: The West African Pilot, Daily Comet, Lagos Daily Service, the Nigerian Times, the African Messenger, etc.
6. Activities Of Labour Movements:
The labour movement also propelled the zeal for nationalist activities, especially after the second world war. These gave rise to the increase in the number of labour/trade organizations, who embarked on strikes and protest to react to the discriminatory and attitudes of the colonial authorities. An example of such strikes is the “General Workers” Strike of 1945 which was organized and coordinated by the Action Civil Service Technical union which lasted for 37 days.
7. The Emergence Of Political Elites/Nationalists:
Some of these elites from Southern part of Nigeria who increased the political mobilization and national consciousness include: Herbert Macaulay, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo and Ernest Ikoli. These nationalists fought and made sure that Nigerian Independence became a reality.
2. External Factors That Prompted Nationalism In Africa
1. Pan Africanism:
The Pan-African movement led by W.E.B. Dubois organized congresses that were aimed at arousing the nationalist consciousness and international opinion against the exploitation of Africans.
The aim was to bring together Africans throughout the world to fight racial discrimination and colonialism. Other individuals who were prominent in the union are Marcus, A Garvey, Blaise Diagne of Senegal, Kwame Nkurumah etc.
2. The African Church Movement:
The African Church movement was another form of nationalist activity in the English-speaking West Africa. The movements were a nationalist reaction against European domination, that fought for the emancipation of Africans through the adoption of African native names at baptism. They equally fought and translated prayer books and bible into vernacular.
3. The West African Students Union In London:
The West African Students Union was founded in 1925 in London by Solanke, a Nigerian law Student. The formation of the union was inspired by the ideas of Joseph Casely Hayfold.
Between 1925 and 1945 the Union contributed significantly in fostering political and racial consciousness among its members who comprised mostly of West African students studying in London. Many of whom later became major nationalist leaders.