Britain governed indirectly through the existing local institutions. Sir Frederick Lugard’s Indirect Rule worked well in the North and the West where Traditional rulers were already in place. It however, failed woefully in the East where there was no tradition of central governing authority. What the British did therefore, was to create artificial chiefs whom they called “Warrant chiefs”. Because of the alien authority so created in the East and because some of them were actually insignificant people, the warrant chiefs commanded little or no authority. People either ignored them or protested their rule. One of the upshots of this anomaly was the ‘Aba Riots’ of 1929, led by women who were protesting in the main, the imposition of tax by a warrant chief.
THE CLIFFORD CONSTITUTION OF 1922
The Governor of Nigeria at this time, Sir Hugh Clifford had earlier attacked the National Congress of British West Africa, a political party which was formed and led from the Gold Coast by Casely Hayford, for having sent a petition to the secretary of state for the Colonies in London. One of the agitations of the educated minority in Lagos and Calabar areas was for proper constitutional representation, and the petition was rejected by Lord Milner, the secretary of state. Clifford himself had attacked the National Congress of British West Africa as a whole, but he fully appreciated the need for reform and especially for increased participation of Nigerians in the government of their own country.
One of the political consequences of the Clifford Constitution was that the introduction of elective principle in the Legislative Council stimulated political activity, particularly in Lagos, which had three seats. Political parties and newspapers were founded, though some were short-lived due to personal rivalries and inadequate funding. That was the early stage of Nigerian nationalism. Herbert Macaulay founded the first Nigerian political party – Nigerian National Democratic Party (NNDP) – and which won all the elections of 1923, 1928 and 1933.
The supremacy in Lagos of the NNDP was not challenged until the foundation in 1934 of the Lagos Youth Movement, which changed its name to Nigeria Youth Movement (NYM) in 1936. The NYM emerged from relative obscurity at the 1938 General Elections to challenge the NNDP and it became the predominant Nigerian party under Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe’s leadership, until he resigned from it on an internal issue of confidence in 1941, after which it faded away.
The impact of the Second World War (1945-1949) upon Nationalist movements in British West Africa was the same in all territories. The impact was threefold: military, psychological, and economic.
Large numbers of West African troops were recruited and saw military service in East Africa, in North Africa, and most particularly, in South East Asia. They were taught that they were fighting for freedom, and were promised good resettlement facilities when they returned home and were demobilized. However, West African units in South East Asia had been issued with pamphlets describing demobilization and resettlement procedures applicable to British troops …