Herbert Samuel Heelas Macaulay (November 14, 1864—May 7, 1946) was a Nigerian nationalist, politician, engineer, journalist, and musician and considered by many Nigerians as the founder of Nigerian nationalism.
Macaulay was born in Lagos on November 14, 1864 to Sierra Leone Creole parents. He was the grandson of bishop Samuel Ajayi Crowther and the son of the founder of the first secondary school in Nigeria. After going to a Christian missionary school, he took a job as a clerk at the Lagos Department of Public Works. From 1891 to 1894 he studied civil engineering in Plymouth, England. On his return, he worked for the Crown as a land inspector. He left his position in 1898 due to growing distaste for Nigeria’s position as a British colony.
As an opponent of British rule
Herbert Macaulay was an unlikely champion of the masses. A grandson of Ajayi Crowther, the first African bishop of the Niger Territory, he was born into a Lagos that was divided politically into groups arranged in a convenient pecking order – the British rulers who lived in the posh Marina district, the Saros and other slave descendants who lived to the west, and the Brazilians who lived behind the whites in the Portuguese Town. Behind all three lived the real Lagosians, the masses of indigenous Yoruba people, disliked and generally ignored by their privileged neighbours. It was not until Macaulay’s generation that the Saros and Brazilians even began to contemplate making common cause with the masses.
Macaulay was one of the first Nigerian nationalists and for most of his life a strong opponent of British rule in Nigeria. As a reaction to claims by the British that they were governing with “the true interests of the natives at heart”, Macaulay wrote: “The dimensions of “the true interests of the natives at heart” are algebraically equal to the length, breadth and depth of the whiteman’s pocket.” In 1908 he exposed European corruption in the handling of railway finances and in 1919 he argued successfully for the Chiefs whose land had been taken by the British in front of the Privy Council in London. As a result, the colonial government was forced to pay compensation to the chiefs. In retaliation for this and other activities of his, Macauley got jailed twice by the British.
Macaulay became very popular and on June 24, 1923, he founded the Nigerian National Democratic Party (NNDP), the first Nigerian political party. The party won all the seats in the elections of 1923, 1928 and 1933.
As a supporter of the British
In 1931 relations between Macaulay and the British began to improve up to the point that the governor even held conferences with Macaulay.
Towards the end
In 1944 Macaulay founded the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC) together with Nnamdi Azikiwe  and became its secretary general. The NCNC was a patriotic organization designed to bring together Nigerians of all stripes to demand independence. In 1946 Macaulay fell ill in Kano and later died in Lagos. The leadership of the NCNC went to Azikiwe, who later became the first president of Nigeria.