The National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons[a] was formed in 1944 by Herbert Macaulay. Herbert Macaulay was its first president, while Azikiwe was its first secretary. The NCNC was made up of a rather long list of nationalist parties, cultural associations, and labor movements that joined to form NCNC. The party at the time was the second to take a concerted effort to create a true nationalist party. It embraced different sets of groups from the religious, to tribal and to trade groups with the exception of a few notable ones such as the Egbe Omo Oduduwa and early on the Nigerian Union of Teachers. Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe became its 2nd president and Dr. M.I. Okpara, its 3rd president, when Dr. Azikiwe went on to become the first indegenious President of Nigeria. The party is considered to be the third prominent political party formed in Nigeria after a Lagos-based party, the Nigerian National Democratic Party and the Nigerian Youth Movementformed by Professor Eyo Ita who became the Deputy National President of NCNC before he left the party to form his own political party called the National Independence Party.
The first test of the party came in the 1951 election. The party won majority votes in the Eastern Region of Nigeria's House of Assembly but became the opposition in the western region with Azikiwe as the opposition leader representing Lagos. Although the Action Group (AG) won a plurality of the votes in the election, its prospects were uncertain as the NCNC could have secured a majority if it had been able to persuade the third party, which was an Ibadan community party and which had been viewed by the NCNC as its ally, to support it. This it was not able to achieve and the AG therefore formed the government amid accusations of carpet-crossing by Azikiwe and his NCNC. This event is still viewed by some historiographers as the beginning of ethnic politics in Nigeria.Azikiwe later on became the Premier of Eastern Region, Nigeria in 1954.
During a national conference in 1954, the party opposed a call to include the right of secession – a stance which was later exploited by the North and the West to deny the East the right to secede in the Nigerian Civil War. It had argued that the country was not a league of forced nations and it would be ruinous to include such right. The policies of the party, from its inception favored a countenance of determined expression for self-government and nationalism. The major aims of the party taken on subsequent campaigns at home and abroad were as follows.
Executive members from November 1957 to August 1958 included:
After Nigeria's independence, Azikiwe was Governor-General (1960-1963) and President (1963-1966). In 1966, a military coup ended Azikiwe's term as president, and the NCNC dissolved in the following turmoil. The NCNC was accused by its adversaries of focusing overly on the interests of the Igbo population. By the late 1940s, the remnant of the Nigerian Youth Movement, now effectively a western Nigeria political organization, had decided to support the Action Group accusing the NCNC of ethnic imperialism. However, the western opposition needed to tactically rev up local sentiments as its base was made up of local elites who depended little on nationalistic sentiment but on the local economic and political activity in their various towns and cities. During the Biafran war of secession, Azikiwe became a spokesman for the republic and an adviser to its leader, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, before switching allegiance back to Nigeria and publicly appealing to Ojukwu to end the war. Azikiwe became chairman of the Nigerian People's Party in 1978, making unsuccessful bids for the presidency in 1979 and again in 1983.