Nigeria@60: 7 politicians that fought for Nigeria’s Independence


The journey to Nigeria’s independence was a rough and tough one. However, some prominent personalities traversed it till the end, shedding their sweats for what we celebrate as independence today.

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Below are 7 most prominent politicians that fought for Nigeria’s independence:

1. Sir Ahmadu Bello

Sir Ahmadu Bello was born in Rabbah Sokoto and is one of the most prominent early leaders in Nigeria. He was the Sardauna of Sokoto and a leader of the Northern People’s Congress where he dominated Nigerian politics throughout the First Nigerian Republic. Sir Ahmadu Bello fought actively in the independent struggle of Nigeria, and on his return from a trip to Britain, he was nominated to represent the province of Sokoto in the regional House of Assembly. His face graces the ₦200 note, and The Ahmadu Bello University of Zaria was named after him. Aside that, Bello’s greatest legacy was the modernization and unification of the diverse people of Northern Nigeria.

2. Chief Anthony Enahoro

Chief Anthony Eromosele Enahoro was Nigeria’s foremost anti-colonial and pro-democracy activists. At 21, he became the editor of Nnamdi Azikiwe’s newspaper, Southern Nigerian Defender, making him the youngest editor in Nigeria. Enahoro was the first to move the motion for Nigeria’s independence and was usually referred to as the “Father of the Nigerian State”. He was an academician and fought for the good cause of the nation until his death in late 2010.

3. Herbert Macaulay

Olayinka Herbert Samuel Heelas Badmus was a nationalist, politician, engineer, architect, journalist, and musician and is considered by many Nigerians as the founder of Nigerian nationalism. Macaulay was a strong opponent of British rule in Nigeria. In 1919, he argued successfully for the chiefs whose land had been taken by the British in front of the Privy Council in London and as a result, the colonial government was forced to pay compensation to the chiefs. Thus made the British Council to be mad at Macaulay and jailed him twice. Macaulay became very popular and on 24 June 1923, he founded the Nigerian National Democratic Party (NNDP), the first Nigerian political party. He later died in 1946 and was the face of the defunct ₦1 note.

4. Chief Obafemi Awolowo

Chief Obafemi Jeremiah Oyeniyi Awolowo was a nationalist and a statesman who played a key role in Nigeria’s independence movement. He is most notable as the outstanding first premier of the Western Region but was also a successful federal commissioner for finance and vice president of the Federal Executive Council in the Civil War. Beginning from the eve of independence, Awolowo led the Action Group as the Leader of the Opposition in the federal parliament and although he didn’t win the 1979 and 1983 presidential elections, he had the second highest number of votes. He is the man on round glasses that is seen on the ₦100 naira note.

5. Funmilayo Ransom Kuti

The only female on the list, Funmilayo Ransome Kuti was a teacher, political campaigner, women’s rights activist and traditional aristocrat. She was the mother of famous afro-beat artist, Femi Kuti and also the first woman in Nigeria to drive a car. Due to Ransome’s political activism she was described as the doyen of female rights in Nigeria, as well as “The Mother of Africa.” She was elected at the native house of Chiefs and served as an Oloye of the Yoruba people. Her activism robbed off on her three sons and even in her old age they had faced several oppositions from the Nigerian military juntas.

6. Nnamdi Azikwe

Chief Benjamin Nnamdi Azikiwe was one of the leading figures of modern Nigerian nationalism. Fondly referred to as Zik, Nnamdi promoted pro-African nationalist agenda while he worked as an editor for African Morning Post. He became the first Nigerian to be named to the privy council of the United stated. Following the declaration of Nigeria as a republic, Dr Nnamdi fought relentlessly for an independent but unified Nigeria. He was the first Nigerian President.

7. Tafawa Balewa

Alhaji Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa was a Nigerian politician, and the only prime minister of an independent Nigeria. He was elected in 1946, to the colony’s Northern House of Assembly, and to the Legislative Assembly in 1947. As a legislator, he was a vocal advocate of the rights of northern Nigeria, and together with Alhaji Ahmadu Bello, who held the hereditary title of Sardauna of Sokoto, he founded the Northern People’s Congress (NPC).

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