This film is held by the BFI (ID: 19810).


Celebrations, attended by the Princess Royal, to mark the introduction of self-government in Western Nigeria in November 1957.

The film opens with street scenes, highlighting the preparations for the impending celebrations. The new offices of the Ministry of Home Affairs are turned into a hotel for all those visiting, including the 'world press'. The first day of celebrations (15 November 1957) is marked by a service at the central mosque in Kabana, attended by the Governor and Premier, which highlights the 'essential unity of the people of Western Nigeria regardless of their own beliefs and creed'. Both attend a service at St James' Cathedral, Ibadan on Sunday 17th, and are warned that 'true democracy may be unreliable without religion'. Further visitors arrive at Lagos airport, including the Princess Royal (on the 18th) for a three-day trip. She opens a new £200,000 co-operative development, at which she speaks, and on the following morning visits the Ibadan racecourse, where 17000 children - each given a white handkerchief with a picture of the new government building and the words 'self-government' on it - give her a 'tremendous ovation'. Next the Princess plants a tree in the grounds of Government House and then makes an unofficial visit to University College.

A garden party in the grounds of Parliament is filmed extensively, with a speech from the Premier, and then on Wednesday 20th, there is an 'occasion of pageantry and splendour', with a visit to the Legislature. After further lengthy speeches, the Princess opens the new Red Cross headquarters and then visits the barracks of the Fourth Battalion Nigerian Regiment. Local celebrations are also shown - for example a 'native dance contest' - and after the Princess' departure on 20th, these continue at the Ibadan racecourse. A lengthy sequence then shows the presentation of the Mace to the Legislature, as the visiting British MPs make speeches. A cocktail party at the Agricultural Research centre is followed be a football match (a local side draw 1-1 with a team from Ghana) and then the last official celebration, a State Ball on 23 November. Celebrations in England are also briefly shown - at Western Nigerian House in Kensington - as the commentator quotes from the Premier, Chief Awolowo. The commentator concludes, over a shot of celebrating children, that 'the future was in good hands indeed'.



In a 1957 report, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, the Premier of Western Nigeria, outlined the developing role of film within the region. ‘We have carried enlightenment and entertainment to remote areas through the Government Free Cinema Scheme’ he began. ‘Last year, there were 40 cinema vans and six cinema barges. We now have our own Film Production Unit, and one of its outstanding achievements is the 85-minute film in colour, which covers all aspects of our self-government celebrations and visit of Her Royal Highness the Princess Royal’ (Lagos Guardian, 29 August 2001). The annual report of the Western Region Government, in discussing the widespread celebrations and the tour of Princess Royal, also noted in 1957 that ‘a colour film of the occasion was made by the Department of Information Services’ (Western Region, 1957, 27).

The Information Services of Western Nigeria film production unit only came into operation in 1957. Born out of the Nigerian Film Unit – which itself had emerged from the Colonial Film Unit – its primary objective was to produce documentary films ‘for the purpose of publicising the activities of the region’. In addition, it sought to keep people ‘inside and outside the region fully informed of the developmental activities being carried on’ (Government of Western Nigeria, 1961, 14). By 1960, the unit had produced ‘67 newsreels of 10 to 20 minutes duration [and] at least one dozen documentary films’. A government report listed amongst these documentaries ‘Self Government Celebrations in Western Nigeria’ – seemingly an alternative title to this film – and ‘The Last Step to Independence’ (Government of Western Nigeria, 1961, 14). A Federal Report, in noting the work of the Federal Film Unit in 1957, explained that amongst the 13 documentaries released during the year was Tour of H.R.H., the Princess Royal, Another Step Forward (the Constitutional Conference) and Nigeria Hails Her Prime Minister (Colonial Office, 1957, 144). Indeed, while the Units produced a number of health films and others on social welfare and development, there was a noticeable emphasis on ceremonial and political events within their output.

Western and Eastern Nigeria were both awarded self-government in 1957, while the Northern region would follow in 1959. The communal, racial and political rivalries, most clearly manifested in the Kano riots of 1953, had led to increased decentralisation and in 1954 Nigeria received its third constitution in seven years (Brendon, 2007, 534). The British looked to exploit this splintering, most notably between prominent nationalists such as Nnamdi Azikiwe (Zik) and Obafemi Awolowo. Awolowo, who had founded the Action Group to promote Yoruba interests, was a vocal opponent of colonial rule, arguing that British administration had been ‘carried out by incompetent, inferior officials’, and that the British never had ‘the true interests of the country at heart’. In 1955, referring to the government of the Western region, he stated that ‘in fourteen months under the present government, we have done more for Nigeria than the British did in 120 years’ (Gunther, 1955, 775). 



Self-Government for Western Nigeria acknowledges and celebrates the impending changes within Nigeria, but it also endorses Britain’s historical role and continuing influence within Nigeria. The film was intended for African audiences, but avoids any references to nationalist demands, unrest or any anti-colonial rhetoric, instead presenting the events largely from a British perspective, as the camera follows the Princess Royal on her tour of the region. In showing the pageantry and formal ceremonies to mark the Royal arrival, it promotes the region’s ‘loyalty and affection to the Queen’. Repeated references are made to the Queen’s own visit a year earlier – itself an attempt to generate loyalty and quell unrest – and the commentary, speeches and the crowd sequences (in which Union Jacks are waved) all serve to promote Nigeria’s reciprocated loyalty to Britain. Speeches note the ‘continued co-operation with Her Majesty’s government and with her dominions’ and note the ‘spirit of devoted service that has helped the region to achieve its present status’.

The emphasis on the British crown and on ceremonial displays highlights the continuation of British traditions. For example, the commentator describes the handing over of the mace as a ‘ritual symbolic of centuries of British parliamentary tradition. A tradition that the Western region has inherited’. Chief Awolowo acknowledges that this act represents a ‘heritage of experience being passed to a young and forthright nation’. The film positions Chief Awolowo within the British establishment throughout – dancing with the governor’s wife, making speeches for the Princess Royal – and there is little evidence of any unrest or anti-British sentiment. Even when the commentator notes that the Princess’ visit to the University at Ibadan was cancelled, he does not explain the source or level of student unrest that forced the closure of the college for over a month.

The film’s representation of Nigerian life is largely consistent with other films produced by Nigerian film units. Film historian Brian Larkin noted the emphasis on modernisation – ‘turning infrastructural projects into representational objects’ – and in particular the important role religion plays within this ‘utopian ideal of a modern, yet still religious’ Nigeria (Larkin, 2008, 101). At the outset, the camera displays the ‘new offices’ of the Ministry of Home Affairs, while the repeated shots of planes and government buildings further emphasise this development. Religion remains integral to this modern society. First, a service at the central mosque in Kabana is said to underline ‘the essential unity of the people of Western Nigeria regardless of their own beliefs and creeds’. When the governor arrives, the commentator remarks that ‘all creeds were combining together at this important stage’ of the country’s development. Next, a lengthy sequence shows a service at St James’ Cathedral in Ibadan at which the Bishop warns that ‘true democracy may be unreliable without religion’. 

While the unit’s productions were intended primarily for ‘domestic consumption at mobile cinema shows’, Larkin noted that, in many respects, they seemed to be aimed at an ‘unfamiliar expatriate audience’ (Larkin, 2008, 101). Certainly the credits reveal a continuing reliance on European personnel, even though the Nigerian film units sought to make films by and for local audiences, and trained and employed African workers. Chief Awolowo claimed in 1957 that ‘of all the governments in Africa, we are the largest film producers, having the largest government cinema audience as well’ (Lagos Guardian, 29 August 2001). Yet, while there were plans to spend £240,000 on a new film studio, the Federal and Regional Governments still had to send their films overseas for processing ‘because there are at present no processing facilities in West Africa’ (Federal Annual Report, 1957, 144). Self-Government for Western Nigeria was presented primarily to local audiences as evidence of regional film production, yet in its focus on British dignitaries, in showing local popular support for the visiting Princess, and in the British voiceover and speeches, the film largely propagates an established colonial rhetoric.

Tom Rice (April 2009)


Works Cited

Brendon, Piers, The Decline and Fall of the British Empire, 1781 – 1997 (London: Jonathan Cape, 2007).

Colonial Office, Federal Nigeria: Annual Report, 1957 (Lagos: H.M.S.O., 1957).

Government of Western Nigeria, Report of the Western Region Government, 1957 (Ibadan, Western Nigeria: Government Printer, 1957).

Government of Western Nigeria, An Appraisal of the Development of Western Nigeria, 1955-1960 (Ibadan, Western Nigeria: Government Printer, 1961).

Gunther, John, Inside Africa (New York: Harper, 1955).

Lagos Guardian, 29 August 2001.

Larkin, Brian, Signal and Noise: Media, Infrastructure, and Urban Culture in Nigeria (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2008).




Technical Data

Film Gauge (Format):
35mm Film
9461 ft

Production Credits

Production Countries:
MORRISON, William P.
Commentary Writer
Commentary Writer
WHALE, Peter
Production Company
Information Services of Western Nigeria







Production Organisations