Eyo Ita (1904) was a Nigerian politician from Cross River State who was the leader of the Eastern Government of Nigerian in 1951. He was one of the earliest Nigerian students who studied in the United States instead of the frequent route of studying in United Kingdom. He was a deputy national president of the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons in the late 1940s and early 1950s.
Early life and education
Eyo Ita attended the Presbyterian Hope Waddell Training School in Calabar before pursuing his tertiary education at London University and Columbia University in New York. He stayed in the U.S. for 8 years.
While in Calabar, he was exposed to the teachings of James Aggrey who pursued academic opportunities for African students in Historical Black Colleges and Universities in America. Calabar became a training ground for some nationalist politicians due to the early site of secondary schools in the city and the influence of people like James Agrrey.
In the 1930s, Eyo Ita was a member of two movements in West Africa, the Youth movement and the Education movement. He was a member of the former with the establishment of the Nigerian Youth League in Calabar and he also campaigned vigorously for education as a tool of freeing the African mind and soul and liberating it from forces of political repression. He later became the proprietor of the West African People's Institute in Calabar. He joined the National Council of Nigerian and the Cameroons in the 1940s and was elected Vice President after the death of Herbert Macaulay, which saw Nnamdi Azikiwe emerging as the new leader of the party
Some of his mentors were W Du Bois and Edward Wilmont Blyden who were notable Pan- Africanists of their eras.
National Independence Party
In 1946, the Richards constitution which advanced a regional political framework for the country to enhance regional political and economic autonomy became law. The constitution was made law without the proper consult of Nigerians, leading to Nnamdi Azikiwe and Eyo Ita opposing the regional political arrangement, while they presented a minority report of a federation of eight states. However, in 1951, the constitution was reviewed with minor changes to the original but opposed by Azikiwe. The major politicians of the time resorted to work within their ethnic and regional base as a foundation to gain political power, this led to regional politics and concentration of power in regional and federal ministers, who were largely nominated by the party and the regional House of Assemblies. In 1951, major elections were held in the Eastern region of Nigeria with Eyo Ita becoming leader of the Eastern government and Azikiwe, leader of opposition in the Western Regional Assembly, a potential obscure position in light of his national repute.
However, a few federal ministers from the N.C.N.C supported a trial run of the Macpherson Constituion of 1951, in contravention of Azikiwe's view of opposition. The ministers had an ally in Eyo Ita. This led to internal wrangling, and a power struggle began, leading to the exit of some of the ministers and Eyo Ita. The new group latter formed the National Independence Party and Eyo Ita later became a member of the movement for the creation of the Calabar, Ogoja and Rivers States. However, he left the movement and re-joined the N.C.N.C in 1956.
- Kalu Ezera. Constitutional Developments in Nigeria: An Analytical Study of Nigeria's Constitution-Making Developments and the Historical and Political Factors That Affected Constitutional Change, 1960. p 46.
- Philip Serge Zachernuk, Colonial Subjects: An African Intelligentsia and Atlantic Ideas, University of Virginia Press, 200. p 107-108. ISBN 0813919088.
- Toyin Falola, Adebayo Oyebade. The Transformation of Nigeria: Essays in Honor of Toyin Falola, Africa World Press, 2002. p 96-97.ISBN 0865439982
- Rosalynde Ainslie, Catherine Hoskyns, Ronald Sega. Political Africa: A Who's Who of Personalities and Parties, Frederick A. Praeger, 1961. p 21-22.