The Federation of Nigeria became a sovereign independent state and ninety-ninth member of the United Nations less than two years ago. Our entrance into the arena of international politics marked an epoch in our history, made even more memorable by the good will and affection with which we were received from all sides. Everyone hailed the appearance of Africa’s largest state. To the leaders and people of Nigeria, however, this event was also a grim reminder of the fact that, for the first time in our history as a single unified state, we now have to fend for ourselves, and to sustain and consolidate our unity and freedom. We have to give real meaning to this freedom by making it an instrument for a better and more prosperous life for our people.

But determined as we were to shoulder our internal responsibilities, it was our added task to demonstrate that democracy could work not only in our own country, but in the other parts of the continent, if there were a will and determination to do so. We have not shrunk from the belief that our greatest contribution to Africa and the world at large would be in the example we show of good sense and reasonableness in our approach to problems, and the projection of those qualities into our conduct of external relations.

National unity is, naturally, uppermost in our minds, as it is self-evident that planning and prosperity can thrive only in conditions of peace and orderliness. It is less than 50 years since Lord Lugard amalgamated into one country what were then the northern and southern protectorates of Nigeria, and it was not until 15 years ago that a constitution was introduced which for the first time brought Nigerians from every part of the country into a common legislature. National unity has made remarkable progress since then; a feeling of common citizenship has developed and has been increasingly sustained by the challenge of independence. However, we have not trusted merely to chance and have ensured that there is an instrument—that is, a written constitution—by which this unity can be supported.

A federal system of government is always full of problems and difficulties, but so is democracy, because the art of persuasion is much more difficult than a dictatorship though in the long run more rewarding and satisfying.

We are also fortunate in having a system of government with freedom of expression to provide a check on executive authority. Above all, we believe in the rule of law, and in an independent judiciary as an arbiter in disputes. The ready acceptance of both our governments and peoples of the decisions of courts of law even when against them is perhaps our greatest claim to maturity and confidence in our institutions and unity.


With a population of at least 40,000,000, growing at a rate of 2 percent a year and living in conditions considerably below those obtaining in the more advanced countries, our greatest task has been to make life more satisfying for our people. Even before independence, we had realized that this was the challenge before us, and at its tenth meeting held in 1959 the National Economic Council laid down that a National Development Plan should be prepared. The objective was to be the “achievement and maintenance of the highest possible rate of increase in the standard of living and the creation of the necessary conditions to this end, including public support and awareness of both the potential that exists and the sacrifices that will be required.” It was to satisfy this aspiration that the first National Development Plan, 1962–68, was drawn up. The Plan was geared for growth—growth not in the sense of achieving spectacular, immediate or even short-term results, but rather in the sense of laying a solid and enduring foundation for future expansion—an essential prerequisite in Nigeria’s evolution toward a self-sustaining economy.

The Development Plan, however, is not only an instrument for improved social conditions, but is also a forceful expression of the nation’s faith in its future and unity. First, the conception and execution of a national plan is such that the program of the Federal Government or any one of the regional governments cannot be judged in isolation or be regarded as complete in itself. In other words, the development program of each of the four governments is an essential part of a composite and coherent whole. Nigeria has a federal constitution in which the Federal Government has exclusive constitutional responsibilities for certain major fields of governmental activities which, apart from the conduct of external relations, include: the defense of the nation and internal security; the development of communications of nationwide significance; the expansion of electric power; certain major aspects of higher education; pure research in the fields of primary production and mineralogy; and, above all, the creation of financial institutions appropriate to a sovereign state and the maintenance of confidence in these institutions. It is, therefore, evident that the Federal Government not only can provide a lead to the regional governments in the achievement of the major objectives of the Plan—it has, for instance, voted £25,000,000 toward the expansion of activities in the field of primary production—but can use its constitutional powers in making the program a means of fostering national unity.

Our Plan has been very carefully prepared; it has been scrutinized by foreign experts and advisers, discussed and agreed to by all the governments of the Federation, widely discussed over the public media of expression, approved by freely elected parliaments, and given general approbation by the people as a means of securing a more abundant and prosperous life for them and future generations in conditions of freedom and unity.

Nigeria attaches the greatest importance to this Six Year Plan. The Federal Government has not, however, allowed itself to be carried away by the temptation to use the Plan to achieve power, and has not lost sight of the major objective, which is to maintain and, if possible, surpass the average annual rate of growth of 4 percent. We are, therefore, thinking of the benefits in real terms—the material prosperity of our people. To achieve our desired rate of growth, it will be necessary to invest approximately 15 percent of the Gross National Product each year and to ensure that as much as possible of this gross investment, whether undertaken by the Government or by private business, is channeled into the directly productive sectors of the economy. Only the achievement of a substantial rate of growth will make it possible to raise the standard of living and to provide the Nigerian people with the means for increased employment and improved education and health. The National Plan, therefore, accords highest priority to agriculture, industry and technical education.

In a country where over four-fifths of the population depend on agriculture, forestry, livestock and fisheries, and more than half of the Gross National Product is derived from these sources, expansion and modernization of agriculture and related production are of crucial importance to the development of the economy. For instance, the proceeds from export products will determine to a large extent the volume of imports which can be made available for economic development in other sectors; the efficient expansion of domestic food production will determine not only whether the people will eat better, but also whether they can effectively reduce their dependence on imported foodstuffs; the increased productivity in these sectors will determine whether the income of the great majority of the people can be effectively raised, and this will in turn determine the size of the domestic market for the new industries which are expected to spring up. Agricultural production, therefore, occupies the prime place in our Plan.


In order to implement our development program and sustain our independence, Nigeria requires the help, sympathy and understanding of other nations. The National Plan we have proposed will cost about £676,500,000, of which we expect to finance about 50 percent from domestic resources, leaving a gap of about £338,800,000. The governments of Nigeria, therefore, recognize the importance of contributions which the private sector of the economy and foreign capital can make toward the nation’s economic growth. Nigerians will themselves make every sacrifice so as to be able to contribute themselves to the program, but it is evident that, with all the will in the world, our effort will be inadequate and have to be supported by help from foreign countries. Hence we welcome aid whether in the form of foreign investment, loan or grant. So long as this assistance is given in a spirit of genuine desire to make life happier for the people, we would gladly accept and welcome it.

We know that there is no assistance without some strings attached, and that those who invest in our country have a right to expect that their investment is secure, or that grants made to us are used in the over-all interest of the people rather than for the benefit of a few privileged persons. This, in fact, accords with our own national policy, and we cannot see a conflict of views or interests in this. We seek assistance, not only because we need it, but also because we think we deserve it. This is a challenge to those advanced nations which really desire to see the new African states stand on their own feet and make their own particular contribution to the peace of the world and the happiness of mankind. They should realize that many of the new African states are indeed potentially rich and could contribute to improving the world but for the fact that they lack the technical knowledge and the financial capital necessary to develop their resources. The best way to assist the underdeveloped countries to reach maturity is by genuinely assisting them to develop their resources, and to educate their human material up to the standards which are necessary for proper development, without fomenting trouble by using aid as an instrument of ideological propaganda.

This leads me to the question as to whether foreign aid or even trade with Western countries can compromise national independence. The answer is, of course, yes and no. Having stated before that it is virtually impossible for the underdeveloped territories to exploit their resources fully without the help of foreign capital and technical knowledge, it goes without saying that aid can be a useful instrument for reaching their goal of development. In our own particular circumstances, we believe that aid fits into its proper place in the national scheme and could never compromise sovereignty. If, however, owing to a lack of planning or through the machinations of self-seeking people, aid is used to bolster up selfish interests, it becomes injurious not only to the body politic but to the national integrity. Also, if those who are in a position to render this assistance use it only as an opportunity to project their own narrow national interest or to propagate their ideologies, rather than seek a normal, fair return on their investment or the satisfaction of being of service to humanity, national independence is bound to be compromised.

However, some countries are not in the fortunate position of possessing the leadership and the resources necessary to ensure that the national will is not perverted by external aid and influences. In their interest, therefore, and in order to resist the temptation of partisans to introduce the cold war into their territories, we consider that aid should normally be channeled through the United Nations organization and its agencies, in preference to bilateral arrangements. This will not only eliminate the possibility of unhealthy competition among the emergent nations, but also reduce the risks of promoting conflicts.

Trade, like private investment, is in a slightly different category from aid since it is largely a transaction between buyers and sellers where the profit motive dominates. Consequently primary producers in the newly emergent countries have found that, whereas their prices are subject to sharp fluctuations determined by consumer demand and other factors, the prices of the manufactured goods of the wealthier industrialized nations continue to rise at rates determined by the producer countries. This is not all. It is now clear that there is a long-term downward trend in the prices of most primary commodities on which the primary producing countries depend for their very existence. The gap in real income between the consumers and the producers is, therefore, ever widening at the expense of the primary producers. Our view, therefore, is that long-term trade arrangements should be considered at governmental and international levels, in order to ensure some price stability without which many underdeveloped countries cannot even plan in advance.

We appreciate the necessity for some countries to form themselves into the European Economic Community, and we understand Britain’s desire to join this Community. But we are also interested in ensuring that the European Common Market does not impair traditional trade patterns to the great disadvantage of the primary producers, or create conditions of rivalry and unhealthy competition amongst them. As an African country, we consider that the Common Market is essentially a European affair and has political overtones which cannot appeal to Africans. We are, therefore, naturally distrustful of any institutions which may cause our future industrial goods to be discriminated against either outside or within the Continent, and which operate in a way to keep Africans perpetually as primary producers. This sense of dependence is itself an unstable basis for relations between the former metropolitan countries and the newly independent countries. We are also anxious to expand our trade outside traditional markets, for so long as the trade and industry of Africa are conducted with only one area of the world, so long will a feeling of dependency persist. In other words, having secured political independence, we are determined to see that this is also expressed in economic terms.


We belong to Africa and Africa must claim first attention in our external affairs. Our policy has always been a pragmatic one, and even though we have been attracted by plausible expressions of Pan Africanism, we have thought it sensible to distinguish between ideals and reality. We appreciate the advantages which the size of our country and its population will give us even in an intercontinental organization, but we are determined to treat every African country—big or small—as our equal, because we sincerely believe that only on a basis of equality can peace be maintained in our continent.

The colonizing powers of the last century partitioned Africa in a haphazard and artificial manner, and drew boundaries which often cut right across former ethnic groupings. Yet, however artificial those boundaries were at first, the countries they have created have come to regard themselves as units independent of one another, seeking admission to the United Nations as separate states. Therefore, we shall discourage any attempt to influence such communities by force or through undue pressure to change, since such interference can only result in unrest and harm to us all.

In an atmosphere free of distrust and suspicion, African states can find ways to coöperate in those matters in which common interests compel them to do so. By this coöperation and willing pooling of resources, the smaller African states especially will find their guarantee of freedom and independence.

At present, I cannot speak by telephone with my brother Prime Ministers in most African capitals without going through London or Paris. Whereas I can talk directly with someone in New York, it is quite often impossible to call someone in a neighboring country 200 miles away. And even if telephone communications were adequate, it would probably be impossible for us to conduct a conversation except through an interpreter. The first task of true statesmanship appears to us to remove the practical barriers, and to create the conditions for coöperation and a climate of understanding without which no effective political organization can be established.

Fortunately, most African statesmen now realize that we must proceed from the known to the unknown. In this way the differences between the various African groupings are being narrowed down. It is a matter of historical interest, however, that when Nigeria attained her independence in 1960, there were then the so-called “Brazzaville” and “Casablanca” groups of states. It was in order to bridge the gulf between them that it was agreed that unaligned countries like Nigeria and Liberia and two members of the Brazzaville and Casablanca states respectively should summon a conference in Monrovia to resolve the differences. Unfortunately, some African states who were co-sponsors of this conference withdrew at the last moment, leading to a process by which the mediating group has now been labelled as partisan under the appellation of the “Monrovia-Lagos” group. We in Nigeria, however, still thought that it was possible to bring all Africans together, and issued invitations to all to attend a conference in Lagos this year. But unfortunately the rift continues. There are signs, however, that African leaders are beginning to realize the futility of this artificial division and are now doing all in their power to close ranks.

The unity of Africa presupposes the independence of all African states. Those that are now independent have a responsibility, therefore, to aid their fellows to freedom. We abhor violence because its memories persist and haunt the country long after independence has been won. Also, Nigeria’s position, born of her experience, has been that peaceful and constitutional methods must first be exhausted in the struggle for freedom. In accordance with this belief, we have given, and will continue to give, moral and material support to dependent African states fighting for freedom.

We reject the view that any part of Africa is a province of a metropolitan country in Europe. We have consistently and vigorously condemned the attitude of those countries which persist in this outrageous and anachronistic belief. We are also equally opposed to a system which gives political power and authority to a minority community solely on account of an assumed racial superiority. We shall, therefore, continue to use all the means at our disposal, especially at the United Nations, to ensure that the last vestiges of racialism and colonialism are wiped off the face of Africa.

Our belief in the fundamental rights of all African states to freedom and independence does not imply that independence should be granted without regard to economic, sociological and political factors affecting the state concerned. There are obvious cases in which there is the need for a rapid build-up of administrative machinery and economic institutions to sustain the burden of self-rule. The European communities still have a contribution to make to the over-all development of Africa, and it will be a tragedy if by holding tenaciously to their present privileges they should compromise their future coöperation with the African. So far as Nigeria is concerned, we are committed to assuring independence for the whole of Africa.


In international affairs our position has been that with proper objectivity the policy for each occasion should be selected in Nigeria’s national interest and in that of world peace. Our policy is to follow the path of truth as we conceive it, and we consequently consider it wrong for us to associate ourselves as a matter of routine with any of the power blocs. This freedom of action has been an essential feature of our policies and has been founded on the moral and democratic principle on which our constitution is based. We do not, however, deceive ourselves into thinking that, provided we ourselves are honest and well-intentioned, it will be easy to follow a successful foreign policy. We have therefore not been rigid or inflexible in our diplomacy; whatever foreign policy we have adopted since independence has had to be adapted to the changing circumstances of the world.

We know our true friends and cherish our traditional associations especially with the Commonwealth, but we have refused to inherit the prejudices of anyone and have opened our hands of friendship to all those who respect our sovereignty. Our foreign policy has never been one of neutrality, but rather non-alignment. We have never, for instance, been neutral in African affairs, nor can we be neutral in matters pertaining to world peace. We have demonstrated both in the Congo and at the United Nations that we have the courage of our convictions in supporting what we consider to be in the interest of peace and harmony. And if this has meant supporting the policies of one bloc or the other at the particular time, we have not shrunk from it.

We believe in the United Nations as the only effective machinery for world peace. That is why we are naturally distressed when we see this organization being perverted for purely selfish and national ends. I do not think that it was ever the intention of any of those countries which were responsible for the creation of the United Nations organization to turn it into an arena where party politics would be played at the highest level, and where ideological differences would obscure the main objective of securing peace among the nations and stability in the world at large. Rather, the purpose was to enable all countries together to work out solutions to problems in a friendly atmosphere and to procure the peace and progress of mankind without discrimination as to race, color or country. We therefore hope that the United Nations will not only purify itself of these tendencies, but will also be reconstituted to reflect its present membership.

The history of the organization since the last war shows that the structure was based on a wrong conception—namely, that only the great powers should have the last say in world affairs. But the general movement since the war has been toward a close association of nations from all over the world. What we now want is to reduce the differences between the nations and bring the world together. The United Nations organization appears to me to be the best instrument for this purpose, and it is my hope that African countries will be given effective voice in it.

For these reasons, I would like to see the disappearance of the veto power and a review of the structure and position of the Security Council. It is also unreasonable to disallow the People’s Republic of China and some other countries with great resources from participating fully in the work of the United Nations at all levels. To all independent countries, especially the new and less powerful ones, the United Nations is the one sure guarantee of their freedom, and that is why all true lovers of peace have a stake in ensuring that the United Nations grows from strength to strength in the furtherance of international peace and discipline.

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