Skip to main content

The Flying Newspapermen and the Time-Space of Late Colonial Nigeria

  • Leslie James (a1)

Recent scholarship on Indian, African, and Caribbean political thinkers and leaders emphasizes the era leading up to and immediately after decolonization as one saturated with awareness of time and history. While much of this scholarship focuses on temporalities that open up the future, this article instead foregrounds imaginings of the present in the currency of news reports. By examining newspaper reports, we can attend in a different way to renderings of time and freedom. This article applies theoretical work on genre and addressivity to analyze how location, space, and time were simultaneously grounded and overcome by Nigerian newspaper columnists, and how this dynamic of bounded transcendence facilitated an array of social and political projects in the time-space of 1930s and 1940s colonial Nigeria. The pseudonymous writers examined in this article applied the trope of flying to exist in an alternate reality. Each “reporter” outstripped the normal logic of time and space through their ability to “jump” from place to place, and even to be in more than one place at once. By existing, as they claimed, “everywhere and nowhere” they literally and figuratively rose above the material reality of the everyday, thus ordaining an exclusive capacity for revelation.

  • View HTML
    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      The Flying Newspapermen and the Time-Space of Late Colonial Nigeria
      Available formats
      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      The Flying Newspapermen and the Time-Space of Late Colonial Nigeria
      Available formats
      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      The Flying Newspapermen and the Time-Space of Late Colonial Nigeria
      Available formats
Corresponding author
Hide All

1 Tinkle, Tom, “Here, There, and Yonder,” West African Pilot, 1 Oct. 1938: 7.

2 Ibid., 3 Aug. 1938: 7.

3 Ibid., 19 Aug. 1938: 7.

4 Goswami, Manu, “Imaginary Futures and Colonial Internationalisms,” American Historical Review 117, 5 (Dec. 2012): 1461–85, 1463.

5 Purushotham, Sunil, “World History in the Atomic Age,” Modern Intellectual History (2016): 1–31, 3 (accessed 1 Apr. 2016), doi 10.1017/S1479244316000093.

6 Wilder, Gary, Freedom Time: Negritude, Decolonisation, and the Future of the World (Durham: Duke University Press, 2015), 3740.

7 Jordheim, Helge, “Against Periodization: Koselleck's Theory of Multiple Temporalities,” History and Theory 51 (May 2012): 151–71.

8 Engerman, David C., “Introduction: Histories of the Future and the Futures of History,” American Historical Review 117, 5 (Dec. 2012): 1402–10; Goswami, “Imaginary Futures,” 1461–85.

9 Younis, Musab, “Against Independence,” London Review of Books 39, mp/ 13 (29 June 2017): 2728; Moyn, Samuel, “Fantasies of Federalism,” Dissent (Winter 2015), (accessed 28 Jan. 2015).

10 Cooper, Frederick, Colonialism in Question (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005), 234.

11 Hunter, Emma, Political Thought and the Public Sphere in Tanzania (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015), 3564.

12 Englund, Harri, “Anti Anti-Colonialism: Vernacular Press and Emergent Possibilities in Colonial Zambia,” Comparative Studies in Society and History 57, 1 (2015): 221–47.

13 Lazier, Benjamin, “Earthrise; or, The Globalisation of the World Picture,” American Historical Review 116, 3 (June 2011): 602–30.

14 Kelley, Robin, Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination (Boston: Beacon Press, 2002); Dery, Mark, “Black to the Future: Interviews with Samuel R. Delany, Greg Tate, and Tricia Rose,” in Dery, Mark, ed., Flame Wars: The Discourse of Cyberculture (Durham: Duke University Press, 1994), 179222; Rosemont, Franklin and Kelley, Robin, eds. Black Brown, and Beige: Surrealist Writings from Africa and the Diaspora (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2009); Du Bois, W.E.B., “The Princess Steel,” introduction by Brown, Adrienne and Rusert, Britt, PMLA 13, 3 (May 2015): 819–29.

15 Parker, John, “Northern Gothic: Witches, Ghosts and Werewolves in the Savanna Hinterland of the Gold Coast, 1900s–1950s,” Africa 76, 3 (2006): 352–80.

16 Pratten, David, The Man-Leopard Murders: History and Society in Colonial Nigeria (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2007).

17 White, Luise, Speaking with Vampires: Rumor and History in Colonial Africa (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000), 206–7.

18 Karin Barber emphasizes that changes to modes of address are key indicators of social and political change; IntroductionI. B. Thomas and the First Yoruba Novel (Leiden: Brill, 2012), 48.

19 Scott, David, Omens of Adversity: Tragedy, Time, Memory, Justice (Durham: Duke University Press, 2014), 6871.

20 Falola, Toyin, Colonialism and Violence in Nigeria (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2009), 131.

21 Quoted in George, Abosede A., Making Modern Girls: A History of Girlhood, Labor, and Social Development in Colonial Lagos (Athens: Ohio University Press, 2014), 90.

22 Coleman, James S., Nigeria: Background to Nationalism (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1971), 134–35. For the uneven take up of education at various times and between groups, see also Zachernuk, Philip, Colonial Subjects: An African Intelligentsia and Atlantic Ideas (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2000), 5054; 82–84.

23 Zachernuk, Colonial Subjects, 80–94.

24 For an excellent analysis of how these newspapers asserted themselves as an egalitarian outlet for civil society, yet within existing hierarchies, see Newell, Stephanie, The Power to Name: A History of Anonymity in Colonial West Africa (Athens: Ohio University Press, 2013), 2943. For overviews of press history, see Omu, Fred I., Press and Politics in Nigeria, 1880–1937 (London: Longman, 1978); Duyile, Dayo, Makers of Nigerian Press: An Historical Analysis of Newspaper Development, the Pioneer Heroes, the Modern Press Barons and the New Publishers (Nigeria: Gong Communications, 1987).

25 Emma Hunter and Peterson, Derek, “Introduction,” in Newell, Stephanie, Hunter, Emma, and Peterson, Derek, eds., African Print Cultures (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2016), 1418. For the intellectual aspects of a West African cultural network see Falola, Toyin, Nationalism and West African Intellectuals (Rochester: University of Rochester Press, 2001), 6081.

26 Newell, Power to Name, 94.

27 Pratten, Man-Leopard Murders, 178.

28 Zachernuk, Colonial Subjects, 87.

29 Duffield, Ian, “The Business Activities of Duse Mohammed Ali: An Example of the Economic Dimension of Pan-Africanism, 1912–1945,” Journal of the Historical Association of Nigeria 4 (1969): 571600; Ruth Watson, “Empire Loyalism and Pan-Africanism in The African Times and Orient Review,” paper presented at Print Media and the Colonial World Conference, University of Cambridge, 16–17 Apr. 2015.

30 Coleman, Nigeria, 224.

31 Aderinto, Saheed, “Researching Colonial Childhoods: Images and Representations of Children in Nigerian Newspaper Press, 1925–1950,” History in Africa 39 (2012): 241–66, 254.

32 Aderinto, Saheed, When Sex Threatened the State: Illicit Sexuality, Nationalism, and Politics in Colonial Nigeria, 1900–1958 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2015), 3640.

33 Coleman, Nigeria, 214–15.

34 Adebanwi, Wale, “The City, Hegemony and Ethno-Spatial Politics: The Press and the Struggle for Lagos in Colonial Nigeria,” Nationalism and Ethnic Politics 9, 4 (2004): 2551.

35 White, Speaking with Vampires, 57.

36 “Here, There, and Yonder,” 25 Oct. 1939: 6.

37 This combination bears a resemblance to the incorporation of British and Indian print traditions into the Indian diaspora presses in Africa elaborated in Hofmeyr, Gandhi's Printing Press, 34–39.

38 Editorial, “Tom Tinkle,” West African Pilot, 1 Sept. 1938: 4.

39 “Here, There, and Yonder,” 29 July 1938: 7.

40 Ibid., 10 Sept. 1938: 7.

41 Ibid.

42 Jones, Rebecca, “The Sociability of Print: 1920s and 30s Lagos Newspaper Travel Writing,” in Newell, Stephanie, Hunter, Emma, and Peterson, Derek, eds., African Print Cultures (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2016), 102–24; Remington, Janet, “Solomon Plaatje's Decade of Creative Mobility, 1912–1922: The Politics of Travel and Writing in and beyond South Africa,” Journal of Southern African Studies 39, 2 (2013): 425–46.

43 Quoted in Jones-Quartey, K.A.B., History, Politics and Early Press in Ghana: The Fictions and the Facts (Accra/Tema: Ghana Publishing Corporation, 1975), 8687.

44 Stephanie Bosch Santana, “From Harlem To Lusaka: Mapping the Township Tale,” paper presented at African Print Cultures Workshop, Magaliesburg, South Africa, 20–23 June 2016. Whether or not Hughes was inspired by the character of Tom Tinkle requires further research. Although Hughes and Azikiwe knew each other, I have found no concrete evidence in the Langston Hughes Papers at the Yale Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Collection to suggest that Hughes read the West African Pilot at the time. On Hughes and Azikiwe, see Obiwu, , “The Pan-African Brotherhood of Langston Hughes and Nnamdi Azikiwe,” Dialectical Anthropology 31, 1/3 (2007): 143–65.

45 Barber, Karin, The Anthropology of Texts, Persons and Publics: Oral and Written Culture in Africa and Beyond (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 171.

46 “Here, There, and Yonder,” 14 Jan. 1939: 9.

47 Barber, “Introduction,” 5–6.

48 “Here, There, and Yonder,” 22 Aug. 1938, 7.

49 Ibid., 29 July 1938: 7.

50 Barber, Anthropology of Texts, 155.

51 For the layered scales of pan-African address in the Nigerian press, see also Barber, “Introduction,” 47.

52 “Here, There, and Yonder,” 5 Dec. 1938: 7.

53 George, Making Modern Girls, 211–12.

54 Azikiwe, Renascent Africa, 8–10.

55 S. D. Opuyo, “Public Opinion,” West African Pilot, 16 Sept. 1938: 2.

56 “Here, There, and Yonder,” 20 May 1939: 7; 1 May 1939: 7. Abosede George shows how the salvationist approach of Lagos society ladies often conflated street hawking, street-walking, and prostitution in their anxieties about sexual deviance in urbanizing Lagos; Making Modern Girls, ch. 4.

57 Aderinto, When Sex Threatened the State, 143–48.

58 Quoted in Coleman, Nigeria, 219.

59 For WASU's influence in Nigerian politics see Coleman, Nigeria, 204–10. See also Adi, Hakim, West Africans in Britain: Nationalism, Pan-Africanism, and Communism (London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1998).

60 Zachernuk, Colonial Subjects, 108–10.

61 Coleman, Nigeria, 227.

62 “Here, There, and Yonder,” 31 Mar. 1939: 7.

63 Ibid., 15 Dec. 1938: 7.

64 Aderinto, When Sex Threatened the State, 43.

65 Pratten, Man-Leopard Murders, 173–77; Zachernuk, Colonial Subjects, 108–10.

66 “Here, There, and Yonder,” 2 Mar. 1939: 7.

67 Ibid., 3 Jan. 1939: 7.

68 Zachernuk, Colonial Subjects, 123.

69 Editorial, “Comptometer Machines,” West African Pilot, 17 Aug. 1938: 4; L. N. Okogwu, “Public Opinion: Customs Calculating Machine,” West African Pilot, 18 Aug. 1938: 6.

70 Adi, West Africans; Matera, Marc, Black London: The Imperial Metropolis and Decolonisation in the Twentieth Century (Oakland: University of California Press, 2015).

71 Aderinto, When Sex Threatened the State, 28.

72 Zik, “Inside Stuff: Interpellations (9),” West African Pilot, 16 Dec. 1938: 4.

73 “Here, There, and Yonder,” 5 Jan. 1939: 9.

74 Ibid., 7 Jan. 1939: 9.

75 Ibid., 22 Mar. 1939: 7.

76 Ibid., 23 July 1938: 7.

77 Editorial, “The Educated African,” West African Pilot, 9 Jan. 1939: 6.

78 “Here, There, and Yonder,” 19 Aug. 1938: 7.

79 Ibid., 3 Jan. 1939: 7.

80 Wilder, Freedom Time, 37, 39.

81 During the general strike in 1945, both the West African Pilot and the Comet were temporarily shut down by the colonial administration. Von Eschen, Penny, Race against Empire: Black Americans and Anti-Colonialism (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1997), 56.

82 For important comment on the state of the National Archives newspaper collection, see Aderinto, “Children,” 263.

83 Roving Hobo, “Sparks and Tiffs,” Comet, 3 July 1949: 3 (my emphasis).

84 “Sparks and Tiffs,” 7 July 1949: 3.

85 “Nigeria in 1947 Full of Corruption and Crime, Says Review Cartoon,” Comet, 3 Jan. 1948: 1.

86 Anderson, Carol, Eyes off the Prize: The United Nations and the African American Struggle for Human Rights, 1944–1955 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003); Horne, Gerald, Black and Red: W.E.B. Du Bois and the Afro-American Response to the Cold War, 1944–1963 (Albany: SUNY Press, 1986); Plummer, Brenda Gayle, Rising Wind: Black Americans and US Foreign Affairs, 1935–1960 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996); Borstelmann, Thomas, The Cold War and the Color Line: American Race Relations in the Global Arena (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2001).

87 Von Eschen, Race against Empire; James, Leslie, George Padmore and Decolonisation from Below: Pan-Africanism, the Cold War, and the End of Empire (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015), 6995.

88 Nation, R. Craig, Black Earth, Red Star: A History of Soviet Security Policy, 1917–1991 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1992), 196.

89 Horne, Black and Red, 122; Anderson, Eyes off the Prize, 161.

90 Du Bois, W.E.B., “Coloured World in Peace Congress,” Comet, 5 July 1949: 2.

91 “Sparks and Tiffs,” 5 July 1949: 3.

92 Goswami, “Imaginary Futures,” 1468.

93 Quoted in Zachernuk, Colonial Subjects, 101.

94 James, Leslie, “Playing the Russian Game,” Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History 43, 3 (2015): 509–34; Chick, John, “Cecil King, the Press, and Politics in West Africa,” Journal of Modern African Studies 34, 3 (1996): 375–93.

95 Editorial, “Daily Times New Policy,” Comet, 12 July 1949: 2.

96 “Sparks and Tiffs,” 3 Sept. 1949.

97 Pratten, Man-Leopard Murders, 24; Cooper, Frederick, Decolonisation and African Society: The Labor Question in French and British Africa (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 16.

98 Zachernuk, Colonial Subjects, 60.

99 Peterson, Derek and Macola, Giacomo, eds., Recasting the Past: History Writing and Political Work in Modern Africa (Athens: Ohio University Press, 2009), 11.

100 Bayly, C. A., Recovering Liberties: Indian Thought in the Age of Liberalism and Empire (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011), 13.

101 Purushotham, “World History,” 10. For historicism and history in India, see especially Chakrabarty, Dipesh, Provincializing Europe (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000).

102 Coleman, Nigeria, 308–28.

103 Ibid.

104 Osughe, G. I., “Readers’ Platform: Who are the Edos?Comet, 25 July 1949: 3.

105 “Sparks and Tiffs,” 9 July 1949: 3.

106 Ibid., 5 July 1949: 3.

107 Editorial, “We All Are Human Beings,” Comet, 3 July 1949: 2.

108 Bakhtin, Mikhail, Speech Genres and other Late Essays (Austin: University of Texas, 1987), 98.

109 Englund, “Anti Anti-Colonialism,” 232.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Comparative Studies in Society and History
  • ISSN: 0010-4175
  • EISSN: 1475-2999
  • URL: /core/journals/comparative-studies-in-society-and-history
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed