Published Date

May 1, 2004

Resource Type

Archival Resource, Primary Source



This resource was developed in 2004 as part of “Biafra, Nigeria, the West and the World” by David Trask. 

A Denunciation of European Imperialism

The most central figure in Nigeria’s efforts to obtain independence was Nnamdi Azikiwe who began his efforts as a journalist in the 1930s.  The following biographical information is a typical textbook entry:  “In 1935, the Nigerian Nnamdi Azikiwe (b. 1904) first edited the Accra African Morning Post, and in 1937 he introduced in Lagos the West African Pilot, thereby introducing populist, revolutionary journalism to Africa.  Azikiwe learned his journalism in the United States, where he also experienced at first hand American racism and the efforts of radical journalists to combat it. Returning to Africa, he helped to launch political movements and parties through his newspapers.” (Spodek, The World’s History, 1st edition, p. 715).  You will note that all of these statements were made following World War II.  In a sense these statements bridge the space between Nigerian politics and the broader issues expressed by all Africans.

From an address delivered at the Plenary Session of the British Peace Congress held at the Lime Grove Baths, Goldhawk Road, Hammersmith, London, on October 23, 1949.

From Nnamdi Azikiwe, Zik (Cambridge, England, 1961)

Take a look at the map of Africa. You will notice that its contour presents a shape which reminds one of a ham bone. To some people this ham bone has been designed by destiny for the carving knife of European imperialism; to others, it is a question mark which asks whether Europe will act up to its ethical professions of peace and harmony. Yet the paradox of Africa is that its wealth and resources are among the root causes of wars. Since the Berlin Conference, the continent of Africa has been partitioned and dominated by armies of occupation in the guise of political trustees and guardians, represented by the following European countries: Britain, France, Belgium, Portugal, Spain, Italy, and also the Union of South Africa.

When the Allied Powers sounded the tocsin for World War 1, Africa played a leading role not only as supplier of men, materials, and money, but as a theatre of war in which German colonialism in the Cameroons, in East Africa, and in South West Africa was destroyed. Again, when the Allied Nations beat the tom-tom for World War II, the African continent was used by military strategists in order to destroy the Fascist aims of Germany, Italy, and Vichy France. It is very significant that in the last two world wars, African peoples were inveigled into participating in the destruction of their fellow human beings on the ground that Kaiserism and Hitlerism must be destroyed in order that the world should be made safe for democracy–a political theory which seems to be an exclusive property of the good peoples of Europe and America, whose rulers appear to find war a profitable mission and enterprise.

Now the peoples of Africa are being told that it is necessary, in the interest of peace and the preservation of Christianity, that they should be ready to fight the Soviet Union, which the war buglers allege is aiming at world domination. Since the end of World War II, Field Marshal Lord Montgomery has been visiting several countries in Africa, including my country, Nigeria, which harbors uranium-233. Military roads are being constructed under the guise of economic development. American technicians are flooding Africa, and feverish preparations are being made for World War III. Certain factors have necessitated the stand which my organization, the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons, has taken in respect of the next war. In Nigeria and the Cameroons we face the inescapable reality that the blood of our sons has been shed in two world wars in vain. We remember that when during World War II the speaker requested Mr. Winston Churchill to confirm that the provisions of the Atlantic Charter applied to Nigeria, as was asserted by his Deputy, Mr. C. R. Attlee, the War Premier’s reply, couched in diplomatic language and delivered with a soothing manner, contradicted President Roosevelt’s interpretation to the effect that the Atlantic Charter applied to the whole world.

Today, in Nigeria, thousands of ex-servicemen are unemployed; they are disillusioned and frustrated, while some of them have been maimed for life, because they had been bamboozled into participating in a war which was not of their making. In spite of their war efforts, the people of Nigeria and the Cameroons have been denied political freedom, economic security, and social emancipation. Our national identity has been stifled to serve the selfish purposes of alien rule. We are denied elementary human rights. We are sentenced to political servitude, and we are committed to economic serfdom. Only those who accept slavery as their destiny would continue to live under such humiliating conditions without asserting their right to life and the pursuit of freedom, and joining forces with progressive movements for peace.

If I may be allowed to be frank, I must say that it is not enough for us to congregate here and adopt manifestoes for peace. We must search our hearts and be prepared to accept some home truths. Someone has rightly said that “Peace is indivisible.” One-half of the world cannot enjoy peace while the other half lives in the throes of war. You may succeed in averting war between the two great blocs, but yours will be a hollow victor so long as any part of the world remains a colonial territory. It is clear that imperialism is a perennial source of war.

From a speech delivered at Oxford University on Fridav, August 15, 1947.

The present colonial policy of the British Government can be reliable index of the prospects for the future. I mean no harm when I say without equivocation that such policy has been formulated in accordance with the logic of imperialism, buttressed by a false belief about the incapacity of the colonial peoples to develop initiative. To an extent, this policy was justified in the past, for historical reasons, but it can hardly stand the test of impartial analysis and criticism today.

Politically, British colonial policy has been to grant dependent peoples constitutions which are essentially autocratic. In spite of treaty obligations, Britain has ruled British Protectorates and mandates as if they were British Crown colonies. …

Socially, the ogre of racial segregation and discrimination makes it extremely difficult for the colonial to develop his personality to the full. Education is obtainable but limited to the privileged. Hospitals are not available to the great number of the people but only to a negligible minority. Public services are lacking in many respects; there are not sufficient water supplies, surfaced roads, postal services, and communications systems in most communities of Nigeria. The prisons are medieval, the penal code is oppressive, and religious freedom is a pearl of great price.

Economically, the colonial peoples have been made to appreciate that colonial possessions constitute “undeveloped estates” specially reserved as a legacy for exploitation by the colonial power in control, either through a closed-door policy or a system of preferential tariff, or as a dumping ground for the unemployed of the “protecting state.” This policy has affected the colonial peoples adversely. There exists in colonial territories a regime of monopoly which has a stranglehold on the country’s economy. The system of taxation is arbitrary and inequitable. The civil service is not as efficient as it should be, owing mainly to favoritism, nepotism, and racism. …

We demand the right to assume responsibility for the government of our country. We demand the right to be free to make mistakes and profit from our experiences.

From an address delivered at the Second Annual Conference of the Congress of Peoples Against Imperialism on “Colonies and War,” Poplar, London, on October 9, 1949.

Every sixth man on the continent of Africa is a Nigerian. Every other person in the British colonial empire is a Nigerian. Add the British Isles to Belgium, Holland, Portugal and the Irish Free State, and then you have an idea of the area of Nigeria. There is gold in Nigeria. Coal, lignite, tin, columbite, tantalite, lead, diatomite, thorium (uranium233), and tungsten abound in Nigeria. There is palm oil galore. Rubber, cocoa, groundnuts, benniseeds, cotton, palm oil, and palm kernels are there in very large quantity. Timber of different kinds is found in many areas of this African fairyland. Yet in spite of these natural resources which indicate potential wealth, the great majority of Nigerians live in want.

… It is our considered opinion that factors of capitalism and imperialism have stultified the normal growth of Nigeria in the community of nations. We are confident that only by the crystallization of democracy in all aspects of our national life and thought–political, economic, and social–can we develop pari passu with the other progressive nations of the peaceloving world. We are determined that Nigeria should now evolve into a fully democratic and socialist commonwealth in order to enable our various nationalities and communities to own and control the essential means of production and distribution, and thereby more effectively promote political freedom, economic security, social equality, religious toleration, and communal welfare.

For these reasons, we define imperialism as the enforced rule of one nation by another nation. This we hold to be an antithesis of democracy, for the realization of which our sons have shed their blood in two world wars. Therefore, we are compelled to denounce imperialism as a crime against humanity, because it destroys human dignity and is a constant cause of wars. …