The West African Sudents’ Union (WASU) was founded on August 7 1925, in London, by a group of twenty one law students led by Ladipo Solanke and Herbert Bankole Bright.
WASU was an association of London-based students from West African countries with the purpose of promoting political research and uniting West Africans overseas. The main aims of WASU were to fight for the independence of West African countries and to put an end to racial discrimination which as at then was at its peak.
The West African Students’ Union came into existence from the activities of earlier student organizations such as the Union of Students of African Descent, Gold Coast Students’ Association and the Nigerian Progressive Union founded by Ladipo Solanke and Amy Ashwood Garvey in July 1924 in London.
Ladipo Solanke was the founder and secretary-general of the union while J.B. Danquah served as its first president. Joseph Ephraim Casley Hayford, the pioneer of the National Congress of British West Africa (NCBWA), was made the patron, and with the influence of his post, he promoted African nationalism among West Africans.
In 1926, WASU began the publication of a journal known as WASU Magazine which circulated round Europe and Africa as well. The union also published a lot of other pamphlets which had great influence on West Africans abroad and at home.
In 1929, with the support of the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB), the union was able to successfully stop the project of an African village exhibition in Newcastle on the ground that it will lead to the exploitation of some African communities.
Ladipo Solanke established more than 25 branches of WASU in Nigeria, Gold Coast (Ghana), Sierra Leone and other West African Countries. The West African Students’ Union also succeeded in given birth to some unions and movements in Africa, such as, The Gold Coast Youth Conference and the National Union of Nigerian Students and so on. Some members of WASU were also prominent members and administrators of The Nigerian Youth Movement (NYM), a political party founded in 1935.
In 1949, Ladipo Solanke stepped down as the secretary general of WASU due to some misunderstandings that erupted among the members of the union. The union however existed and remained active till the 1960s.
Contributions/achievements of West African Sudents’ Union (WASU)
- WASU strived hard to promote racial equality and self determination among the people.
- It served as an intermediary or a link between the parliament in Britain and West African leaders.
- The union succeeded in uniting West Africans in the United Kingdom.
- The West African Students’ Union arouse nationalism among West Africans.
- It proved itself to be a training ground for West African leaders and intellectuals. E.g. Kwame Nkruma of Ghana.
A WASU project is currently going on which includes the production of a film documenting the history of West Africans in Britain.