1945: The Beginning Of Modern African Political Thought?

March 23, 2017 OPINION/NEWS

By

Durodola Tosin

There are several reasons why many regard 1945 as the beginning of Modern African Political Thought. To say, however that Modern African Political Thought started in the year 1945 is a total misconception which will be unfair to history.

It is true that the Manchester Conference of 1945 had immense significance on the political and social situation of Africans and African descent through its programme of action and directly challenging the activities of the colonialists and encouraging its delegates to innate the minds of their people to independence and integration. This was evident in the slogan of Kwame Nkrumah; “Seek ye first the political kingdom and other things shall follow” which later became “Independence now.”

But can historians base the inception of ideas only on the result? Should we say that Nigeria nationalism started in 1960 because she attained independence that year, the same as the beginning of Modern African Political Thought? The success of the Manchester Conference of 1945 and other struggles that followed doesn’t mean that Modern African Political Thought started in 1945.

There were similar ideas arising before 1945. It is on record that the 1920s witnessed various students and intellectuals writing aggressively and advocating ideas of African independence and integration. My point is evident in the publication by Prof. Adeoye in the 1920s titled “The need for West Africa Federalism”. This publication went on to raise the political consciousness of Africans towards the ideas and values of Modern African Political Thought in their society.

Furthermore, the activities of two prominent lawyers – Casley Hayford and Ladipo Solanke in the propagation of values and ideas necessary for African integration, cooperation and independence cannot be overlooked. This is because their activities justify the view that Modern African Political Thought started before 1945.

Casley Hayford organised the National Congress of British West Africa on March 28, 1930. There were delegates from Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Ghana in this Congress. Hayford was able to use this Congress to cement Pan-African Ideas which is an important element in Modern African Political Thought in the mind of the people.

Through this Congress, he was able to call for the promotion of unity and cooperation and integration among Africans. His activities between the 1920s and 1930s went a long way in spreading various ideas that make up Modern African Political Thought in the minds of the people, and also to some extent was integrated in the Pan-African Conference of 1945.

He was also able to present a memo to the Secretary of the State of colonies to the legislature of colonies concerning the increase and participation of Africans in the legislative council. But his presentation was rejected. A few years later he died but his ideas remained alive and useful since then.

Moreover, Ladipo Solanke’s exploits in the formation of the West African Students Union (WASU) back my view that Modern African Political Thought did not begin in 1945. With WASU, Solanke was able to inculcate the values and ideas necessary in the integration, liberation and unity of Africa.

WASU set its objectives to promoting and providing hostels and residential halls to Africans and African Descent, to act as bureau of information, to act as centre of research for all subjects relating to Africa, to foster unity and understanding in other to present a better African image, to raise the political consciousness of Africans and speed up cooperation and integration.

Nevertheless, the activities of intellectuals, students, various Associations and scholars before 1945 justify my view that Modern African Political Thought didn’t start in the year 1945.

Is there any justification for regarding 1945 as the beginning of Modern African Political Thought? No, Considering my extensive historical reading, rare materials and lectures of a renowned Professor of History at the University of Ibadan, Professor Adewoye. Though the 1945 Conference might have had a great impact, that doesn’t mean Modern African Political Thought started that year.

Even, the Father of Pan-Africanism, W.E.B Du Bois was introduced to the ideas of Modern African Political Thought in 1900 at a Conference organised thanks to Sylvester Williams. It was after the Conference that W.E.B Du Bois organised the 1919 Conference which advocated against slave trade and supported the call participation in the government. The 1921 Conference was about the declaration for local self government; the 1923 Conference was about the need for an African voice in the government likewise the 1930 Conference. The 1945 Conference was the outcome of the activities, resolutions and ideas which had played long before 1945.

Moreover, the writings of C.L.R James in the 1930s are evidence that Modern African Political Thought didn’t start in 1945. James was interested in the development of Political consciousness among African people and in their striving towards grasping control over their own lives. During the 1930s when the Western democracies were conspiring to make Ethiopia into an Italian colony, James directed from England an ad-hoc committee of ‘International Friends of Ethiopia’. This later emerged as the ‘International African Service Bureau’ having James as Editor of its Journal, ‘International African Opinion’.

The main platform of this Journal was colonial liberation; and it was against this background that he wrote “A History of Negro Revolt” in 1938. The writings of C.L.R James were a mine of ideas which went a long way to influence the political consciousness of Africans.

His writings might have been a small proportion compared to other writers before his period but it is the quality and significance of his writings and political action that really matter. He was a participant in some of the earliest pressure groups in the metropolis urging African freedom from colonial rule in the 1930s.

Furthermore, the Sierra Leone Hut Tax War of 1898 is another event that justifies my view that Modern African Political Thought started before 1945. This was a reaction by indigenous Sierra Leone people against the imposition of European Colonial rule, symbolized by the enactment of legislation taxing dwelling places.

This war of national resistance and liberation involving the majority of the ethnic groups in Sierra Leone had a lot of effect on the propagation of the ideas of Modern African Political Thought such as political liberation, cooperation, integration and raising their national consciousness earlier before 1945.

Nevertheless, there were also African social movements which took place in the inter-war years and commonly designed as the African independent church movement long before 1945. The works of John Chilembre of Malawi, Simon Kambangu of Congo and Harry Thuku of Kenya in the propagation of the ideas of Modern African Political Thought through their historical writings cannot be understated.

Moreover, there were various industrial strikes before 1945 which raised the national consciousness of the people and also innate Africans certain ideas of Modern African Political Thought. The will to stand for something – to stand against injustice, subjugation and self-liberation from oppression collectively.

For example, the Sierra Leone railway strikes of 1919 and 1926, the Gambian sailor’s strike of 1929, the spontaneous uprising of Nigeria women at Aba in 1929 and the powerful Black Trade Union’s activity of the A.C.U in South Africa.

Though the presence of young African Leaders and the Programme of Action 1945 might have been very significant, it’s not enough to say that Modern African Political Thought started in 1945, nor does it give it any justification.

In conclusion, the industrial actions, earlier activities and values spread by intellectuals prove my point that the ideas of Modern African Political Thought have been coming or have been in existence long before 1945.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Durodola Tosin

Durodola Tosin is an author and writer. He started writing professionally at the age of 12. He was a Columnist in Ekiti Glory Newspaper, Nigeria from 2009-2010. He is the Managing Editor at the Roaring Voice (Online Periodical) and a Freelance Writer for Tuck Magazine.

He has written on several topics like “The Second World War and the economic situation in Africa”, “Africa and the effect of World War II”, “Neo-Colonialism: A Major obstacle to the process of nation-building in Africa”, “Nigeria’s Leadership roles in Africa”, “The Ethnic Setting in the Nigeria Area Before 1800?, ” Terrorism: A New Dimension of War”, “Early African Historians’ Writings Before 1945: Precursors of Modern African Historiography”, “The UN Security Council: Flaws and Obstacles”, “Debt Crisis: A Major Developmental Issue in the Third World Countries”.

Durodola lives in Ekiti State, Nigeria. He holds a Bachelor’s (Hons) Degree in History and International Studies. He is currently writing a book on “Nigeria’s Quest for a Permanent Seat at The UN Security Council” and “Nigeria’s Leadership roles in Africa”.

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