The Nigerian Youth Movement was the first authentic nationalist organisation founded to promote politics outside of the capital, Lagos. Founded as the Lagos Youth Movement, it was later renamed the Nigerian Youth Movement in 1936.
With early members such as J.C. Vaughn, Ernest Ikoli, Eyo Ita, H.O. Davies, and Samuel Akinsanya, constituting a mix of Igbo and Yoruba, the Nigerian Youth Movement (NYM) laid the earliest foundation since 1933 for what would later be an independent Nigeria. The NYM also moved to stress national unity over ethnic divisions, which was a teeming subject between the Igbo and Yoruba ethnic groups of the time.
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According to its charter, the primary aim of the NYM was the development of a united nation out of its confluence of people who inhabited Nigeria. It also aimed to promote complete understanding among the diverse groups in the country while having a sense of common nationalism.
Politically, the NYM protested the discriminatory status of the Yaba Higher College (now Yaba College of Technology) created by the British colonial government in 1934 and also sought to increase the inclusion of native Nigerians in civil service – with the ultimate goal of self-government.
Upon the return to Nigeria of Nnamdi Azikiwe and H.O. Davies in 1937 and 1938 respectively, dressed in the toga of newfound Pan-Africanism, the NYM naturally acquired a more nationalist and radical outlook.
In October of 1938, the NYM contested and won elections for the Lagos Town Council, ending the dominance of Herbert Macaulay and his party, the Nigerian National Democratic Party (NNDP). The newly self-confident members of the Nigerian Youth Movement objected to the system of indirect rule through traditional ethnic leaders as stated in the Youth Charter published in 1938. The Charter which also set goals of unifying the ethnic groups in Nigeria to work towards a common ideal began to mould public opinion to develop the national consciousness needed to reach that ideal.
As an early nationalist himself, Herbert Macaulay had stayed away from the NYM since its inception. It has been said that it is for the possibility that the Nigerian Youth Movement rivals the national ideals of the NNDP. Others would say it was because it appeared to be a volatile bed of strange bed-fellows who would soon part ways. Rancour eventually broke out between members of the Nigerian Youth Movement – which was caused by factors toeing ethnic lines and political infighting.
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Around the time that the Nigerian Youth Movement was breaking into factions in crisis, Herbert Macaulay, who had already founded the first political party in Nigeria called NNDP, seized the opportunity of the fractioning to form a new political party with the members of the breakaway NYM. Some of the prominent members of the Nigerian Youth Movement who left and formed the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC) with Herbert Macaulay in 1944 include, Nnamdi Azikwe, Eyo Ita. Other factions, which comprised mainly Yoruba natives, also broke away from the NYM to strengthen the Action Group, headed by Obafemi Awolowo.
Though the Nigerian Youth Movement fizzled away in little time, its legacy kept on as its fruit went on to successfully fight for the actualisation of Nigeria’s independence from the British colonisation.
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