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Football, mobilization and protest: Nnamdi Azikiwe and the goodwill tours of World War II

Wiebe Boer


Scholars of Africa have largely overlooked football as a historical phenomenon. In the case of Nigeria, football is one of the few positive national unifying forces, and, when studied from a historical perspective, provides an alternative history of Nigeria that offers a refreshing picture of growth, adoption, adaptation, and unity. In this article, football's place in Nigerian history is examined at a particularly poignant period when, in an effort to garner support for the war effort against Nazi Germany, promises were made that could be interpreted to imply impending independence. In the context of this, Nnamdi Azikiwe, a rising anti-colonial political force, organized two football tours between 1941 and 1943 under the guise of supporting the war effort. Azikiwe used the cover of the tours to press his demands for reform and democracy, in spite of the heightened wartime censorship. The use of football as a means for mass mobilization is proof not only of the growing importance of football to Nigerians, but also that using the very cultural forms of the colonial authorities was often the most effective means of protesting against them.

Lagos Historical Review Vol. 6, 2006: 39-61

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eISSN: 1596-5031