HOW THE NATIONAL COUNCIL OF NIGERIA AND THE CAMEROONS WAS FORMED

During the Second World War in 1944, the student boarders of King’s College, Lagos were moved from the college premises to ‘Bonanza House’ in Customs Street, to enable the Army to use the College buildings. The students went on strike when they felt they were badly treated in their new accommodation. Some of the student leaders were arrested and charged before a Magistrate’s court in Lagos. In court they were defended by Mr. Alex Taylor, a famous Nigerian lawyer practicing in Lagos, whose son, Mr J I C Taylor, a brilliant lawyer too, later became Chief Justice of the High Court of Lagos. Five of the King’s College student leaders were then conscripted into the Army. One of them died at Enugu where he was posted. The Students Union felt the death very much and the members were very sore about the affair. They appealed to Nigerian leaders in Lagos to take up the matter. Mr. Herbert Macaulay, Mr. Duse Mohammed Ali and Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe heeded the call of the Students Union and arranged a public protest meeting at the Glover Memorial Hall in Lagos in July 1944. Duse Mohammed Ali, an Egyptian journalist and newspaper owner living in Nigeria, had always associated himself with Nigerian nationalism. His weekly newspaper, The Comet, was of a high literary standard and appealed to the Nigerian intelligentsia and students of literature.

Many speakers addressed the huge gathering at the Glover Memorial Hall. After the ‘King’s College Students Affair’, as the incident came to be called, everyone was angry. In the gathering were representatives of the cosmopolitan community of Lagos. Follow – up meetings were held and those who attended included trade unionists, the Market Women’s Association and public men and women in Lagos. The Ibo Federal Union sent Mr. H. U. Kaine, its president, and three other members, including myself, to represent it at these meetings. The meetings gave birth to the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (N.C.N.C.) as a united front to fight against imperialism and for self – government.

The N.C.N.C. was not formed as a political party but as a supra – organisation to which political parties, tribal and communal unions, trade unions and other bodies sent representatives. Individuals could not be members of the N.C.N.C. and its member – unions and associations retained their independence and identity.

A committee of eight was set up to draft the organisation’s constitution. The members of the committee were Mr. Herbert Macaulay (Chairman), Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe (Secretary), Dr. I. L. Olorun – Nimbe, Mr. E. E. Esua (Secretary of the Nigerian Union of Teachers), Mr. P. M. Kale of the Cameroons, Prince Ibikunle Akitoye of one of the ruling houses of Lagos, Mr. O. Ogunye and I.

It is significant to note that out of this committee of eight, four were Yorubas – Macaulay, Olorun – Nimbe, Akitoye and Ogunye. Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe and I were Ibos. Esua was a native of Calabar and Kale was a Cameroonian. This analysis is necessary because the N.C.N.C. was in later years often accused of being an Ibo organization. The N.C.N.C. was never an Ibo organization, but a militant movement with a pan – Nigerian membership.

When the name ‘National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons’ was proposed at one of the early meetings of the organisation , I argued that the name should be ‘National Council of Nigeria’. Because the term ‘Nigeria’ in the Definition Clause of the Laws of Nigeria, as well as in the Interpretation Ordinance, included the ‘Cameroons’ within the meaning of ‘Nigeria’. Mr P. M. Kale pleaded that Cameroonians would deem it an honour if the word ‘Cameroons’ appeared in the name of such a great organization as the one just being formed. I withdrew my opposition and the name National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons was adopted.

After the constitution of the organisation has been approved at a general meeting, the eight of us who were members of the Constitution Drafting Committee were elected to form the first Executive Committee of the N.C.N.C. Mr. Herbert Macaulay became its first National President, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, National Secretary and Dr. I. L. Olorun – Nimbe, the National Treasurer. I was chosen to assist Dr. Azikiwe as Assistant Secretary, and the remaining four members were elected to be unofficial members of the Executive Committee.

SOURCE: BUILDING A NATION (AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY) BY CHIEF DENNIS C OSADEBEY, LEADER OF OPPOSITION IN THE WESTERN REGION (1958 – 1960), SENATE PRESIDENT (NOVEMBER 1960 – FEBRUARY 1964), ACTING GOVERNOR GENERAL ( JUNE 1961 – SEPT 1961).

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