Action Group (Nigeria)

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Action Group
Chairman Obafemi Awolowo
Secretary-General Anthony Enahoro / Bola Ige
Founded 1951 (1951)
Dissolved January 16, 1966 (1966-01-16)
Headquarters Ibadan
Ideology Social democracy, Democratic socialism, Awoism

The Action Group (AG) was a Nigerian political party established in Ibadan on March 21, 1951 by Chief Obafemi Awolowo. The party was founded to serve as the platform for realizing his preliminary objective of mobilising Western Nigerians to forestall the NCNC control of the Western Region and the subsequent aim of cooperating with other nationalist parties to win independence for Nigeria. It benefitted immensely from the relationships developed in the Egbe Omo Oduduwa formed in Awolowo's days in London as a student.

The Action Group was a liberal and, later, left-leaning political party which was supported largely by the peoples of the then Western Region of Nigeria. It also had appeal in the later South-South and Middle Belt regions of the country. The party won regional power in Western Nigeria while Nigeria was still under British colonial rule. It took part in the national elections on the eve of Nigerian independence in 1960 but was able to garner little support outside the Western Region and the Nigerian federal capital city of Lagos. A conservative coalition was formed between the northern Muslim-dominated Northern People's Congress and the Igbo National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons, excluding the Action Group from national power.

Consequently, Chief Awolowo led the party as Leader of the Opposition in the First Republic and the party was renowned for in-depth policy analysis and intense debates on the floor of the Federal Parliament in Lagos. Although pro-socialist, the party was regarded in some establishment circles as supporting communism, and was viewed with suspicion by the West, even though the leadership denied this claim. The leaders' sagacity, popular appeal and pragmatic approach to politics were, however, indisputable.

In the Western Region, the Action Group had launched free primary education and other advances.However, its exclusion from national power, and what some of its less principled members considered a fair share of the national revenue for the Western region, led to internal tensions. Awolowo was arrested on what many considered trumped-up charges of treason, and plotting the overthrow of the federal government. Meanwhile, a pro-government party, the NNDP, was established in power by various manoeuvres in the Western Region by Chief Samuel Akintola who left the AG to forge an alliance with the NPC at the centre. These tensions and the manipulation of the elections of 1965 were among those that led to the 1966 military coups, and the subsequent Nigerian Civil War.

The Unity Party of Nigeria in the Second Republic.

It is important at this point to put some misconceptions and deliberate untruths about the Action Group to rest.First, it is often claimed that it was the Egbe Omo Oduduwa that was converted to the Action Group.This is an exaggeration of the connection between the Egbe and the Group.The simple truth is that the Egbe continued to exist after the formation of the Action Group as a separate organisation, just as the Ibo State Union was at first separate from the largely Ibo NCNC. Secondly,it is not true that the NCNC "initially" won a majority in the election that brought the AG to power in the West.The situation at the end of the critical election in the West was similar to the one that brought the NPC to power at the national level on the eve of Nigerian independence.Three major parties participated in the election,including an Ibadan communal party.By the end of the election,the AG had won a plurality just like the NPC at the national level.To obtain a majority,the AG entered into negotiations with the Ibadan local party, some of whose members thereafter defected to the AG.It is mischievous to claim, as some do,that there was "cross-carpeting" from the NCNC to the AG.The Ibadan party was a separate and independent political organisation,although it had been viewed by the NCNC as its ally.To the extent that there was "cross-carpeting",it was from the Ibadan party to the AG.