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The problems of the National Congress of British West Africa

The national Congress of British West Africa was formed in 1917 through the initiatives of Mr. J.E. Casely Hayford of the Gold Coast. Another founding member was Dr. Akinwade Savege, a Nigerian then resident in the Gold Coast.

Financial problems
One of the major problems that was faced by the National Congress of British West Africa was financial. The administrative set up needed to be funded, to send a delegation to London needed money to execute. Since the financial base was not too strong to shoulder these expenses, the Congress could not be as effective as it should have been.

Isolation of the leaders
The leadership of the Congress was isolated. One of the reasons was that the chiefs did not support them and their activities. Another reason was that the ordinary man in the street could not be convinced that their activities could inure to their benefit.

Absence of radicalism
The methods adopted by the Congress to pursue their goals did not help them much. The Congress did not adopt the radical approach in their dealings with the British. They tried to solve their problems by using the constitutional and legal means which were available to them under colonial rule. This did not help them much.

Failure to involve the masses
Another problem of the National Congress of British West Africa was that they could not bring along the mass of the people to support them in their efforts. This robbed the Congress of the force that the Congress would otherwise have generated in opposing the British.

The existence of rival groups
The Congress was faced with rivalry from similar groups in the colony, one of which was the Aborigines’ Rights Protection Society. The society worked tirelessly against the success of the National Congress of British West Africa. For example, the Society indicated in a cable to a Secretary of State for the colonies that the Congress had not been given the mandate of the Gold Coasters to represent them in London.

Activities of the colonial governors
The activities of the National Congress of British West Africa were a threat to the smooth administration of the colonial territories. Therefore the governors in the respective colonies in West Africa did everything they could to frustrate them. This included the non-recognition of the delegation that the Congress sent to London in 1930 to present a petition to the then Secretary of State for the colonies.

Jostling for positions
The leadership of the Congress in the various colonies was so busy jostling for positions in the Legislative and Executive Councils in their respective colonies. This took their minds a little off the main reason for the formation of the Congress and affected the unity of purpose that was needed to execute their aims and objectives.

Communication affected co-ordination
Another problem was that there were no effective means of communicating among themselves at the time. In those days, it was not possible to communicate in real time among the leaders as is the case today. For this reason, they resorted to the use of the snail mail available to them. This did not allow for effective co-ordination of the activities of the congress and therefore affected effectiveness.

1. What six problems did the National Congress of British West Africa face in their operations in British West Africa?

2. a. What is the National Congress of British West Africa?
    b. Highlight five of their failures.

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