“[Following the 1952 election] There was a majority party in the House of Assembly [the Action Group], but the head of government was not a member of the Party; indeed he was the British colonial governor.
A way out was found – which Obafemi Awolowo used to great advantage. He took the name “Leader of Government Business”, in addition to the portfolio of Local Government which he held. Soon, the Sardauna [Ahmadu Bello] and Zik [ Nnamdi Azikiwe] began to bear the same appellation in the North and the East respectively.
Incidentally, it was from that appellation that the word “Leader” began to be used by his men to address Obafemi Awolowo. He has since been called so by millions, but very know how it came to be.
Some mischievous writers have insinuated that he has been called “Leader” because he was “dictatorial”. And it is downright fraudulent to say that he came to be called “Leader” after he was appointed “Leader of the Yorubas” in 1966 at a meeting of Western State leaders of thought in Ibadan.”
Source: Bola Ige, People, Politics and Politicians of Nigeria (1940-1979), Heinemann Educational Books (Nigeria) Plc, Ibadan, 1994.