Shortly after the 1945 nationwide general strike in the country, some enthusiastic youths emerged as radicals to confront the colonial government. The men, who were leaders of the Zikist Movement, were tried by a Lagos High Court, and a number of them were jailed. FRANCIS FAMOROTI, Head, Judiciary writes.
The ‘’Zikists Movement’’ was originally conceived in 1945 by four employees of the ‘’Nigerian Advocate ‘’ in Lagos, namely M.C.K Ajuluchukwu, Abiodun Aloba, Kolawole Balogun and Nduka Eze.
Balogun, Ajuluchukwu and Aloba who were enthusiastic followers of the legendary nationalist, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe eventually formed the movement and it became the militant auxiliary of the National Council of Nigeria and Cameroons (NCNC). The trio were associate editors of the Nigerian Advocate, a newspaper owned by a Lebanese businessman.
Balogun was said to have emerged the protem president just as another group was formed by Mallam Aminu Kano in Kano in the same year.
Both groups later merged. But before the merger, renowned labour activist, Pa Michael Imoudu was detained in Auchi, Edo State by the colonial government over the nationwide general strike that paralysed economic and railway services in the country. It suffices that the strike, which took off on June 22, 1945 and lasted for 45 days struck the most devastating blow against colonialism in the country.
Be that as it may, after the merger of the groups, the Zikist movement was formally inaugurated in Lagos on February 16, 1946 by the young and dynamic patriotic Nigerians.
In a review titled: ‘’Radical Politics in Nigeria 1945-50: The Significance of the Zikist Movement, a nationalist historian, Ehiedu Iweriebor defines ‘’ the Zikists as a committed group of pan-Nigerian young men who dedicated themselves to the liberation of Nigeria from colonial rule through ‘’positive action’’. The writer also confirmed that Balogun was the protem president.
Subsequently, Habib Rajih Abdullah later became the president, Osita Agwuna as vice-president while Ajuluchukwu was named the General Secretary.
The men were said to have been motivated by the zeal to create a viable alternative to the conservatism of the older agitators in their demand for self- rule.
The philosophical base of Zikism was anchored on Azikiwe’s earlier thought premised on the theoretical tripod of social irredentism, political resurgence and economic determinism.
The movement took their name from the name, “AZIKIWE’’ which literarily in English means that ‘’the people behind me are my pillars’’.
The youths comprising the movement therefore designed and adopted a programme of ‘’Positive Action’’ believed to have been largely influenced by the ‘’Positive Action’’ programme of Kwame Nkrumah’s Convention People’s Party (CPP) of Ghana.
As it turned out, Ghana became the arrowhead for the total liberation of the entire dependent African countries having secured independence in 1957.
The party’s manifesto was in tune with Azikiwe’s earlier writings in ‘’Renascent Africa’’, where he called for actions to ‘’redeem Africa from social wreckage, political servitude and mental stagnation, economic impotency, psychological immaturity and spiritual complacency’’.
The climax of the Zikists’ movement nationalist agitations was the ‘’Call for Revolution’’ speech delivered by Agwuna at Tom Jones in Central Lagos in November 1948.
Agwuna, in the speech, called for positive action in the form of civil disobedience, refusal to pay taxes to the colonial government and refusal to carry out forced labour.
A number of people, including Agwuna; chairman of the occasion, Anthony Enahoro, and Abdullah were arrested by the colonial authorities. Ten leaders of the movement were eventually tried by the colonial government. Specifically, the colonialists brought charges of sedition and incitement to disobey her Majesty, the Queen against them.
Among those tried were, Abdallah, Agwuna,Fred Anyiam, J.C Taylor, Herbert Macaulay’s son, Oged, S.O Ebby and Ralph Aniedebe. Both Abdallah and Agwuna refused to enter a plea on ground of incompetence of the court to try them.
In the judgement pronounced by trial judge, Horace Francis Baker, he sentenced Agwuna to three years imprisonment. Abdallah bagged two years jail -term and Ebby, who was then an assistant editor with ‘’African Echo’’ was jailed one year for publishing a seditious publication while his editor, J.J Odufuwa was cautioned and discharged.
Enahoro was sentenced to six months jail -term, Macaulay and Anyiam bagged one year each. Aniedebe and O. Dafe were fined 25 pounds for seditious utterances. Ikenna Nzimiro bagged nine months for being in possession of seditious literature at Onitsha, Anambra State.