|Birth||1 January 1893|
|Death||1 January 1960
(aged 67 years)
Ernest Sissei Ikoli (1893–1960) was a Nigerian politician, nationalist and pioneering journalist. He was the president of the Nigerian Youth Movement and in 1942, represented Lagos in the Legislative Council.
Early life and career
Ikoli was born in Nembe in present-day Bayelsa State and educated at Bonny Government School, Rivers State and King’s College, Lagos. After completing his studies at King’s College, he became a tutor at the school – a post which he left to pursue a career in journalism. Ikoli is remembered today as one of the pacesetters of Nigerian journalism and the independence struggle. For a period he worked at the Lagos Weekly Record, a paper that has since disappeared. He was the first editor of the Daily Times of Nigeria, which was launched in June 1926 with Adeyemo Alakija as Chairman of the Board.
He later became publisher of the now defunct African Messenger. In the 1930s he was one of the founders of the Nigerian Youth Movement and was once the movement’s president. During this period, the movement was engaged in an intense power struggle with Herbert Macaulay’s NNDP.
Nigerian Youth Movement
Ernest Ikoli started the Nigerian Youth Movement with other prominent Nigerians like Hezekiah Oladipo Davies, James Churchill Vaughan and Oba Samuel Akisanya (aka General Saki). The movement originally started as the Lagos youth movement, it was partly formed to voice concerns about the lackluster colonial higher education policy. The movement was largely Lagos based but as varied members entered the organization, it metamorphosed to become the Nigerian Youth Movement; a political action group with a nationalistic flavor and outlook. Nnamdi Azikiwe, an important political personality joined the group in 1936 and brought in a large followership.
In 1941 Kofo Abayomi, a Lagos leader of the movement, resigned his position at the Legislative Council, forcing a by-election. A primary election was held among NYM members to select a candidate to contest the seat, in which Samuel Akisanya collated the most votes, with Ikoli in second place. However, with the support of H.O. Davis, Obafemi Awolowo, Akintola and a few others, the party’s central committee, which had the right to review the results, chose Ikoli as the movement’s candidate. Although Akisanya immediately congratulated Ikoli, he later reneged and contested the seat as an independent candidate with the support of his primary backer, Nnamdi Azikiwe, although he lost to Ikoli. The loss of Akisanya in the election led to his exit from the movement, Azikiwe also left the movement, both took away most of their supporters. The resulting feud is seen by some analysts as a contributing catalyst to the enmity that exist between some ethnic groups in the country and also as a major focal point of electoral disputes and the ominous role they played in destabilizing the country.
Although Ikoli lost his seat in another by-election in 1946, the result was overturned following a lawsuit and Ikoli regained his membership of the Legislative Council. He ran in the general elections the following year, but withdrew his candidacy shortly before the elections.