H. O. Davies

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Hezekiah Oladipo Davies in wig and gown

Oloye Hezekiah Oladipo Davies (April 5, 1905- November 22, 1989) was a leading Nigerian nationalist, lawyer, journalist, trade unionist, thought leader, international statesman and politician during the nation's movement towards independence in 1960 and immediately afterwards.

Family History and Early Days[edit]

Chief Davies was born in the southern city of Lagos, Nigeria. His maternal Great Grandfather was the Oba of Effon-Alaiye. His maternal Great Grand Mother was the Owa (Queen regnant) of Ilesha. His grandmother was Princess Haastrup, the daughter of the Ijesha monarch, and his paternal Grand-Father, Prince Ogunmade-Davies of the Ogunmade Ruling House of Lagos, was the son of King Docemo. His father, known as “Spiritual Moses”, was one of the founders of the Cherubim and Seraphim Church of Nigeria.

1911-17, attended the Wesley School, Olowogbowo, Lagos
1917-20, attended the Methodist Boy's High School, Lagos
1921-23, attended the King's College, Lagos
1924- Assistant Master at King's College, Lagos

Notable amongst his childhood friends were Nigeria’s first President Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe from the Methodist Boys High School and Nigeria’s first indigenous Chief Justice of the Federation, Sir Adetokunbo Ademola and Nigeria’s first indigenous Surgeon Dr Oni Akerele, both from King's College.

Formal Education[edit]

H.O. Davies was one of the earliest Nigerians to utilize the University of London's distance learning program where he made friends with the likes of Lord Denning, passing the London Matriculation Examination in 1925 along with Eyo Ita.[1] He also attended the London School of Economics in 1935 where he was a pupil of Harold Laski, graduating with a B. Comm (Hons). In the same year, he was elected President of the Cosmopolitan Club of the School. While in the United Kingdom, he was President of the West African Student Union and was also a representative of the University of London on the Executive Committee on British Universities. He later returned to London in 1944 where he studied Law and was called to the English Bar at the Middle Temple Inns of Court, London in 1946. In 1959, Davies spent a year as a Fellow of the Center for International Studies at Harvard University

Political career[edit]

Davies was a founding member of the Lagos Youth Movement in 1934 along with James Churchill Vaughan, Kofo Abayomi, Ernest Sissei Ikoli, and Samuel Akisanya. He was made Secretary-General. The Youth Movement was one of the earliest political associations to encourage active participation by Nigerians in the political and socio-economic development of the country. After returning from studies abroad along with Nnamdi Azikiwe, Davies spearheaded the efforts that led to renaming the Lagos Youth Movement the Nigerian Youth Movement (NYM) when both individuals became prominent members, contributors and national leaders with large followings. Davies was the founding Secretary-General of the NYM.

Davies left the movement in 1951 and founded his own party, the Nigerian People's Congress. He later joined the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons after negotiations for a formidable alliance with Nnamdi Azikiwe was unsuccessful. Davies was a Federal Minister of State in the Ministry of Industries from 1963-1966.[2] during the Nigerian First Republic.

Legal and Other Professional Life'[edit]

Davies was a very successful lawyer, being one of the first two Nigerians (along with Chief Frederick Rotimi Williams) that were honored with the distinction of Queen's Counsel in 1959. Among his many legal accomplishments, he was the only African lawyer among the legal team that helped defend Jomo Kenyatta who later became the President of Kenya during the famous Mau Mau Uprising case along with Mr. DN Pritt, QC from Britain, Mr. Diwan Chawaanlal from India; and De Sousa and Kapilla, both Indians resident in Kenya. That same year he left for the United States where he attended the Research Center for International Affairs at Harvard University and wrote the visionary book "Prospects for Democracy". During his time at Harvard, he met with and became friends with future US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and future US National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski. He led a Nigerian delegation to the Economic Council at the United Nations in 1964, and in September 1974 Chief H.O. Davies was knighted by the French Government Chevelier de l' Ordre national du Mérite (Industrial) for his significant contributions in energizing Total Fina Oil and the Elf Petroleum companies of which he was a Director and for promoting French-Nigerian relations.

In 1937, Davies became the Manager of a leading daily newspaper, the Daily Service and in 1960 he was made the founding Chairman and Managing Director of the then Nigerian National Press, Printers of the Nigerian Morning Post and Sunday Post by the Prime Minister, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa.

Among his several accomplishments, Chief HO Davies was:

a) A National President of the World Peace Through Law
b) President of the United Nations Organization in Nigeria
c) Chairman of the Rotary Club of Nigeria
d) Founder and Inaugural President of the Nigerian-France Friendship Association

Prior to his death in 1989, Davies published an autobiographical book titled "Memoirs"[3]

Staunch Christian[edit]

Davies was a Wesleyan and a strong believer that the church should be "militant" in its practicality towards society, not only speaking out in support of the poor, but being actively engaged in ministries involving the poor and actively seeking cooperation among all Christian denominations to effect positive change. He was a key mediator during a fractious period in the history of the Methodist Church of Nigeria helping to unite disparate factions within the church.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Terhemba Nom AMBE-UVA. NATIONAL OPEN UNIVERSITY OF NIGERIA (NOUN): A HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE AND CHALLENGES, Turkish Online Journal of Distance Education-TOJDE January 2007 ISSN 1302–6488, Volume: 8 Number: 1 Article: 6. p 6.". Retrieved 2007-07-03. 
  2. ^ Richard L. Sklar. Nigerian Political Parties: Power in an Emergent African Nation, Africa World Press, 2004. p 115. ISBN 1-59221-209-3
  3. ^ Memoirs. Chief HO Davies, QC, Kt. Evans Brothers Nigeria Publishers Limited, Ibadan, 1989