Skip to main content

Human Rights and National Liberation: The Anticolonial Politics of Nnamdi Azikiwe

  • Chapter
Leadership in Colonial Africa

Part of the book series: Palgrave Studies in African Leadership ((PSAL))

  • 246 Accesses

Abstract

Anticolonial struggles for self-determination had significant impact on the development of the idea of universal human rights. In the second half of the twentieth century, colonized people drew on the emergent language of universal human rights in their ideological struggles against European imperialism and to articulate demands for independence. Anticolonial movements in Africa were among the first mass movements to draw on the language of human rights in the post-Second World War era. Yet, some scholars have argued that anticolonialism was not a human rights movement because its primary aim was collective national liberation rather than the reduction of state power over the individual. The anticolonial politics of African nationalist leaders such as Nnamdi Azikiwe provide grounds for challenging this argument. Leaders of anticolonial movements in Africa explicitly sought to link their domestic anticolonial activities with the nascent universal human rights movement. Drawing from Nnamdi Azikiwe’s nationalist activism, this chapter argues that anticolonial struggles for self-determination were driven by both nationalist idealism and human rights impulses. In an age when European imperial powers sought to isolate struggles for independence in the colonies from the discourse of universal human rights, Azikiwe’s anticolonial activism reflected the fundamental interrelatedness of human rights and national liberation.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this chapter

Chapter
USD 29.95
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Available as PDF
  • Read on any device
  • Instant download
  • Own it forever
eBook
USD 84.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Available as EPUB and PDF
  • Read on any device
  • Instant download
  • Own it forever
Softcover Book
USD 109.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Compact, lightweight edition
  • Dispatched in 3 to 5 business days
  • Free shipping worldwide - see info
Hardcover Book
USD 109.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Durable hardcover edition
  • Dispatched in 3 to 5 business days
  • Free shipping worldwide - see info

Tax calculation will be finalised at checkout

Purchases are for personal use only

Institutional subscriptions

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Notes

  1. Moyn, The Last Utopia; in particular, Chapter 3; Samuel Moyn, “Imperialism, Self-Determination, and the Rise of Human Rights” in Iriye et al. (Eds.), The Human Rights Revolution: An International History, New York: Oxford University Press (2012), p. 159–78.

    Google Scholar 

  2. Eckel , “Human Rights and Decolonization: New Perspectives and Open Questions,” Humanity: An International Journal of Human Rights, Humanitarianism, and Development, Vol. 1, No. 1 (2010), p. 115.

    Google Scholar 

  3. Simpson , Human Rights and the End of Empire: Britain and the Genesis of the European Convention, Oxford: Oxford University Press (2004), p. 301.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  4. See Eckel, “Human Rights and Decolonization,” p. 115; Terretta , “We Had Been Fooled into Thinking that the UN Watches over the Entire World: Human Rights, UN Trust Territories, and Africa’s Decolonization,” Human Rights Quarterly, Vol. 34, No. 2 (2012), p. 34.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Patterson , “Freedom, Slavery, and the Modern construction of Rights” in Hufton (Ed.), Historical Change and Human Rights: The Oxford Amnesty Lectures 1994, New York: Basic Books (1995), p. 176.

    Google Scholar 

  6. Donnelly , “Human Rights and Human Dignity: An Analytic Critique of Non-Western Human Rights Conceptions,” American Political Science Review, Vol. 76, No. 2 (1982), p. 303.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Azikiwe also spent some time studying at Storer College, Harvard University, and the University of Pennsylvania. For a discussion of how Azikiwe’s education in the United States shaped his political activism, see Furlong , “Azikiwe and the National Church of Nigeria and the Cameroons: A Case Study of the Political Use of Religion in African Nationalism,” African Affairs, Vol. 91, No. 364 (1992), p. 433–452.

    Google Scholar 

  8. Coleman , Nigeria: Background to Nationalism, Berkeley: University of California Press (1971 [1958]), p. 245.

    Google Scholar 

  9. Idemili , “What the West African Pilot Did in the Movement for Nigerian Nationalism between 1937 and 1957,” Black American Literature Forum, Vol. 12, No. 3 (1978), p. 85.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. For a discussion of the influence of the Garvey Movement on anti-colonialism and African nationalism, see Okonkwo, “The Garvey Movement in British West Africa,” The Journal of African History, Vol. 21, No. 1 (1980), p. 105–117.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Sherwood, Roosevelt and Hopkins: An Intimate History, New York: Enigma Books (2008), p. 363.

    Google Scholar 

  12. The Times, November 11, 1942. Prime Minister Churchill was not alone in seeking a restrictive interpretation of principle of self-determination in the Atlantic Charter. The Soviet leader Josef Stalin who saw the Charter as an “anti-Soviet tract” also asserted that it did not apply to regions of Soviet influence in Eastern Europe. See Plummer , Rising Wind: Black Americans and U.S. Foreign Affairs, 1935–1960, Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press (1996), p. 64.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  13. Azikiwe, Zik: A selection from the Speeches of Nnamdi Azikiwe, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (1961), p. 159 (my emphasis).

    Google Scholar 

  14. Azikiwe, Political Blueprint of Nigeria, Lagos: African Book Company (1945), p. 72 (my emphasis).

    Google Scholar 

  15. Azikiwe, Renascent Africa, London: F. Cass (1968) [1937]), p. 174.

    Google Scholar 

  16. Ita, The Freedom Charter and Richard’s Constitution in the Light of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights signed by the United Nations Assembly, Calabar: WAPI Press (1949), p. 14.

    Google Scholar 

  17. Mandela , Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela, Boston: Little Brown (1995), p. 95–96.

    Google Scholar 

  18. Dibua , Modernization and the Crisis of Development in Africa: The Nigerian Experience, Burlington, VT: Ashgate (2006), p. 67. For a discussion of the Zikist Movement,

    Google Scholar 

  19. see Olusanya , “The Zikist Movement: A Study in Political Radicalism, 1946–50,” The Journal of Modern African Studies, Vol. 4, No. 3 (1966), p. 323–333.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Some scholars have argued that small states played a more prominent role in the drafting of the UDHR than previously assumed. What is not in dispute, however, is that the early debates about the UDHR at the United Nations were shaped by the interest of Western nations. See Waltz , “Universalizing Human Rights: The Role of Small States in the Construction of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” Human Rights Quarterly, Vol. 23, No. 1 (2001), p. 44–72.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. For example, legal scholar Jeremy Sarkin has described the German colonial campaign against the Herero between 1904 and 1908 as the “first genocide of the twentieth century.” See Sarkin , Colonial Genocide and Reparations Claims in the 21st Century: The Socio-Legal Context of Claims under International Law by the Herero against Germany for Genocide in Namibia, 1904–1908, Westport, CT: Praeger (2009).

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Authors

Editor information

Baba G. Jallow

Copyright information

© 2014 Baba G. Jallow

About this chapter

Cite this chapter

Ibhawoh, B. (2014). Human Rights and National Liberation: The Anticolonial Politics of Nnamdi Azikiwe. In: Jallow, B.G. (eds) Leadership in Colonial Africa. Palgrave Studies in African Leadership. Palgrave Macmillan, New York. https://doi.org/10.1057/9781137478092_3

Download citation

Publish with us

Policies and ethics