Decolonizing Nigeria, 1945-1960: Politics, Power, and Personalities

By Fisher, James J. | Journal of Global South Studies, Spring 2018 | Go to article overview

Decolonizing Nigeria, 1945-1960: Politics, Power, and Personalities


Fisher, James J., Journal of Global South Studies


Falola, Toyin, and Bola Dauda. Decolonizing Nigeria, 1945-1960: Politics, Power, and Personalities. Austin, TX: Pan-African University Press, 2017.

In recent years, the published historiography on Nigeria has increased rapidly, focusing on topics ranging from precolonial empires to postcolonial Sufi orders. In their recent book on the history of Nigeria's decolonization, Toyin Falola and Bola Dauda ask, "What else is there about Nigeria that has not been written or said?" (p. 1) Quite a bit, it turns out. Falola and Dauda's research seeks to fill in some of the significant gaps in the historiography of Nigeria, particularly the lack of scholarship on the colonial legacy of regionalism in Nigeria, and to discuss how these legacies may have affected independent Nigeria.

While this study may seem intimidating because of its length, it is clearly written for both a popular and an academic audience. Falola and Dauda attempted "to transcend academic jargon by presenting our arguments in an accessible manner without sacrificing academic rigor" (p. 9). The result is a highly accessible history and an extremely valuable addition to the historiography on decolonization processes in Africa. While a casual reader of Nigerian history would understand the context, it can also be used in an academic setting. This blend of popular and academic writing is attributable in part to the authors' backgrounds. Falola is an eminent historian of Africa who has written extensively on African history and culture, particularly on Nigeria, in both academic and popular settings. Dauda, a respected social scientist who was a public administrator at the University of Liverpool, has written on Nigeria's bureaucracy and politics. One could hardly find a better pair of scholars to craft an interdisciplinary approach to the history of Nigeria's decolonization.

Falola and Dauda argue that the late years of colonialism, specifically 1945-1960, constitute a "living history" in Nigeria because of the many effects the colonial legacy has had on the nation (p. 4). This argument departs from the way many historians have written on colonialism in Nigeria: the authors argue that colonial legacies are part of an ongoing historical process. This concept can be seen clearly in Falola and Dauda's main argument: that the deliberate separation between north and south in terms of development during the colonial era has resulted in "consequences of unimaginable magnitude" for postcolonial Nigeria (p. 15). While the effects of colonialism in Nigeria have been examined before, Decolonizing Nigeria departs from these studies in that Falola and Dauda are examining the developmental regionalism designed by the United Kingdom in the context of the colonial administrators' personalities alongside those of the Nigerian nationalist actors who would occupy key positions in the postcolonial government. …

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