Friday, September 12, 2014

Something in Adamawa's water

“One of the privileges of the great is to witness catastrophes from a terrace.” Jean Giraudoux

If the disastrous collapse of the defences around the civilian populations in much of the north-east is not the tragedy it is, developments in and about Adamawa state will provide a fascinating subject for political discourse. Sadly, the enemy is already taking up residence in many towns and villages in Adamawa State, while it is within striking distance of Maiduguri and Damaturu. Refugres are swelling towns, terrified that they may have to move further, or into Cameroon, Chad or Niger, or prepare to live or die in the hands of terrorists who appear to have the run of a vast territory.

The pitch in developments in Adamawa state are at about the same level as the terror and suffering of its people. A part of Nigeria that should claim pride of place in contributions to nation building by its citizens also captures all the characteristics of a complex nation. No state has the mix of cultural pluralism and depth of passion around primodialism than Adamawa. This does not make it different; only more perfectly Nigerian. It is not something to be apologetic for, but it does provide a problem with unique challenges.

Adamawa State is the home of Vice President Atiku Abubakar whose drafting as Vice President by Obasanjo was celebrated as a political coup de grace, and whose ending has gone down in record as the worst political falling-out. Atiku is set to challenge the yet undeclared ambition of General Muhammadu Buhari for the presidential ticket of the APC, an action that will surprise few, and anger many. He will damage the Buhari mystique, and invite others to throw in their hats into the ring. He will force Buhari to run against him, or yield the ground to a coterie of ambitious politicians who think Jonathan’s spectacular leadership failure alone will give them a key to the Presidency.

Atiku has been at the heart of the rapid chain of events in Adamawa. He is reputed to have designed the submersion of impeached governor Murtala Nyako in the PDP’s plots. This left him as the only force in Adamawa’s APC, certainly powerful enough to see off the rump of Nyako’s former rivals in the APC all the way into the PDP. The remnants of the APC were swept into the PDP for good measure, leaving the only space for Atiku’s platform. This platform had no tolerance for Nuhu Ribadu, a man from whom Atiku had been on the receiving end for a long time.
Atiku’s Adamawa has titans such as Bamanga Tukur, Professor Jibril Aminu and ten PDP giants that will feature in anyone’s PDP Top 100. Their newest recruit is Malam Nuhu Ribadu, who has just been reminded that even Abuja has to defer to the powers firmly lodged in Yola. Ribadu has been told his probation has just been extended, and he will now have to trust the slippery assurances of a PDP which has no record of keeping its words. In an environment where gloves are never in use, Ribadu will have to carry the cross of betrayal of his old party with one hand, and, with the other, fight his way through the murky and treacherous waters of Adamawa politics between now and February 2015.

Just a few months ago, this was the state whose governor alleged a genocidal war against the North by the presidency. The legion of elites from his state, and most of the North was shocked or intimidated into silence. As the PDP federal government, with active connivance of his party worked to impeach him, a rampaging insurgency began to make inroads into Adamawa State. Its political elites scampered after the political fallouts. An untidy scramble for an 8-month governorship just took many casualties and left the state severely exposed. Mubi or Michika towns may have fallen by the time you read this, in a state which vehemently protested an extension of the state of emergency to it on grounds that it was unnecessary and politically-motivated. At the rate the insurgency is taking over Nigerian territories, Malam Nuhu’s ambitions of being a governor in Yola in 2015 may face more than the challenge of local PDP big-wigs who do not trust him; an APC firmly under the armpit of an arch enemy; and the rapidly shifting fortunes of his new and old parties.

Into this vortex of intrigues and fear steps in another distinguished Adamawa citizen, former Inspector-General of Police Gambo Jimeta. A new twist is being added within the small, powerful but volatile elite that had held all the political strings in Adamawa, this time with Alhaji Gambo Jimeta lending his considerable and distinguished weight behind the desperate fight of Vice President Arch Namadi Sambo to enhance his returns to Jonathan’s designs to break the resistance against his re-election. To say that many people even remotely familiar with the life and times of the former I.G.P were shocked that he accepted to be chairman of the presidency-funded and managed contraption called Northern Elders Council will be abusing the word understatement. Perhaps it is a sign of the times, a period when nothing shocks Nigerians anymore, that another Adamawa titan is making great waves in the wrong waters. To be fair to Alhaji Gambo, he does give a reason for his high profile endorsement of the presidency’s record. He said he and his colleagues in the N.E.C realize that “in the last three years, in particular, our country has had to contend with insurgency and terrorism in some parts of the North.” Still, they “recognize the efforts of the Federal Government under the able leadership of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan (GCFR) in managing the complex challenges with firmness and effectiveness.”

Since the respected former IGP and his colleagues all live in the same North with leaders of the Arewa Consultative Forum and Northern Elders Forum(and millions of simple Northerners on the recieving end of a weak and indifferent leadership), and they are all living witnesses to the serial and undignified collapse of our territorial integrity and the unimaginable consequences to which millions of Northerners are being exposed, it may be reasonable to ask if they intend to be taken seriously when they commend President Jonathan’s firmness and effectiveness. How much will they praise him if, God forbid, Maiduguri and Damaturu and many more towns and villages fall to the terrorists? Will they say he is the best President the nation ever had when terror takes over most of the North and prevents its citizens from deciding who their next leaders will be in February 2015?

The enlisting of Alhaji Gambo Jimeta into the whitewashing project is not a coup against the North, as the Tanko Yakasai group is trumpeting. It is a reminder that even the best and most committed can be a victim of the vicious combination of unpardonable incompetence and unlimited resources in the hands of leaders who must retain power even if they lose the nation. The elites of Adamawa have just reminded the nation that Nigeria breathes through them. One of them has entered the fray in a most unexpected manner. Perhaps, like most human communities, they are also made up of the best and the worst. There is something in the water in Adamawa State that makes its politicians run the extra mile in all directions.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

A place for elders

“If a snake does not act like a snake, children will tie firewood with it.” Igbo Proverb

I got to know the late Alhaji Magaji Danbatta personally only in the last one year of his accomplished life. Of course, it is impossible not to have been aware of a rare titan who from a very young age, began a life that was entirely dedicated to God and his community. His towering intellect, striking presence and remarkable humility and the fire that burned in him to change the circumstance of northerners and Nigerians until his death should earn him a place in a Northern Hall of Fame. The Arewa Consultative Forum which he led at a stage in his life put out befitting comments on his life. A newspaper photograph of a blind and elderly Danmasanin Kano, Yusuf Maitama Sule in the front row during the funeral prayers of Alhaji Magaji was profoundly symbolic. The North was losing its precious elders assets at a moment when it desperately needs to rely on them to stand up for it and guide it through its unprecedented challenges.

The brief but intense encounters I had with Alhaji Magaji Dambatta were in fora which involved deep searches for the sources, nature and solutions of many of the problems which afflict the northern part of Nigeria. As someone who had seen it all, and had remained at the heart of all major developments for more than six decades, his insights were profound; his articulation of issues was unpararelled; and his commitment to interests which affect the North was unquestionable. He was a living encydopedia on the alarming regression of a region that had always had some structural disadvantages, but had found a way to remain the backbone of the nation. He could reel out frightening statistics on how the economy of the North is being destroyed; how its sons and daughters are being squeezed out of key institutions; how its children are not going to school and how its natural assets are being deliberately wasted.

You got the impression of an angry, if controlled and disciplined elder in Alhaji Magaji. A small group of us thrown together by fate and the foresight of some northern leaders agonized over the provocative composition of the National Conference, and came close to suggesting that northerners should not participate in it unless the obvious unfairness in representations were redressed. When it became obvious that the dominant opinions in many northern circles tilted towards attending the conference and fighting from within, a few of us from the outside went through the list of delegates to see if there was sufficient clout and integrity from the disadvanged North to put up a fight. The name of Alhaji Magaji Dambatta gave us some comfort.

The predominant perception in much of the North today is that it did not lose a war it was forced it fight, although it cannot be sure it had won it. The National Conference in which Alhaji Magaji and the cream of Northern establishment (and its permanent trail of fifth columnists) participated is seen in the North as a successful campaign against an anti-Northern (and, some say, anti-Nigerian) agenda. Many in the North believe that the defeat of a suspected plan to extend President Jonathan’s tenure; to tilt the determinants of economic production and allocation even further away from the North; to restructure the Nigerian federation so that some sections will acquire an unfair advantage; to re-write the constitution without the mandate of the people of Nigeria, and a whole host of other goals, all of them inimical to the interests of the North, is to be celebrated by Northerners.

It is conceivable that elites from other regions are also involved in serious stock-taking, although many of the losses and victories have already been tallied. The North appears content that it went with the sole agenda of shooting down other agendas, and it succeeded. Elites from the South East failed to get additional state(s), or a brand new constitution written by their brightest. South South elites saw the dream of more of the cake crumble, and the idea of a new constitution shot down on the ground. South West elites were half-hearted about the Conference anyway, but they gave it their best shot. They failed to get the nation restructured along their ideal federation, and have gone back to the drawing board to understand whether the south west is today more or less influential in the manner the nation is run.

The North made new enemies and found a few sources of strength. It discovered the values of working hard to limit the breaches inherent in its cultural and political pluralism, as well as the fact that no part of the North can be taken for granted anymore. It rediscovered a North whose vulnerability to political predators from the South can only be managed successfully by building bridges to, and within all its communities, and constantly reminding its people that Birom, Kanuri, Atyap and Fulani are all Northerners (or Hausa) in Bayelsa, or in Abia. The North is defined today by its relative and deepening poverty; creeping threats from an insurgency the government appears unable to contain; multiple assaults on villagers who are victims today and villains tomorrow; and a region hamstrung from asserting itself politically out of fear that it will be accused of wanting to rule for ever.

The National Conference has produced a key unintended consequence: it has revealed that no part of this nation can hijack it from others. The fear of being hijacked is real, and it is the most damaging psychological impetus behind all the bitterness which tends to characterise inter-group relations. It should, however, also provide the biggest motive for elders who know what it took to build this nation; to pull it out of many of its problems and limitations; to submit to new and fresh developments and initiatives in spite of many misgivings; and, above all, to note that their life’s work is now being shot at by the day, and a nation which had all the promise to be great economically, united politically and a peaceful home to all, is today falling apart.

This is the time for those elders and leaders to step forward. Now that we know that no section of Nigeria has a unique and exclusive problem, perhaps those elders and leaders who locked horns in the committees and plenary of the conference can reach out to others in their necks of the wood and define more clearly what it is that represents for their regions and for Nigeria, critical matters which need to be discussed with others. Today, a desperately poor and insecure North is a threat to the entire nation and west and central Africa. Its poverty is not just its problems. If every kobo derived from the sale of crude oil and gas is spent on people of the Niger Delta, it will not give them the peace and the space to enjoy it. Igbo leaders need to more clearly define their problems with other Nigerians, and get rid of their damaging persecuted mindset. Yoruba elites need to come to terms with a nation with multiple sources of loyalties, influence and motivations, and that the best arrangements are those made through genuine collaboration and cooperation with all groups, from the simplest to the most intellectually-persuasive; from the wealthiest to poorest. Minority ethnic groups need to come to terms with the reality that numbers count, but the biggest groups cannot win any battles without them.

The case being made for an initiative of elders and leaders will be frustrated by partisan political leaders who feed and grow on the very divisions which keep this country weak and floundering. As it stands, the political process will not solve the most desperate of Nigeria’s problems. From all appearances, the escalating terrorist assault on our nation will be a major issue in the elections of 2015. While politicians trade blames, it will dig in and take over more and more of our lives. Politics will drive a wedge between much of the North and most parts of the South and between Muslims and Christians. It will pitch citizens against each other, unleash unprecedented levels of violence and threaten an end to the democratic system. These will make post-election 2015 even worse of a nightmare than the pre-election period. It is very doubtful if the nation can heal and move beyond the damage it will go through in the next one year.

There is a place for elders in our lives, today more than any other time in the history of our nation. Because they are elders, they do not need to wait for anyone’s invitations to act. And they should, unless they want to be the last real elders the nation had. God forbid.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Nuhu Ribadu, m.n.i.

“How long shall they kill our prophets,
While we stand aside and look.”    
Bob Marley Song.

It is not easy finding anything new or profound to say over the defection of Malam Nuhu Ribadu from the APC to the PDP in search of a governorship position of his state, Adamawa. I know how deeply personal that decision has been for him. As someone I closely observed and admired for fighting many odds to remain consistent and loyal to values that were very dear to him, I know some of the more scathing criticisms cannot fail to hurt him. But he has been an opposition politician since his return from exile, so he knows better than to wear thin skins to battles.
The most charitable of his critics say a good rider chose a poor horse in an important race. Such is the uniqueness of Nuhu in the political firmament, it will be unfair of him to expect anyone to cut him an inch of slack. He will, for the next few months, have to swim in waters with crocks and sharks, shepherded by bigger fish who may be preserving him for dinner. His singular motivation for this ground- breaking action will be tough to achieve, but not impossible. The big question is whether, win or lose, Nuhu will ever be the same man after October. Many will ask if it really matters to Nuhu anymore.
Some people have said there has never really been the same, one Nuhu Ribadu. They point to his remarkable achievements in the fight against corruption, much of it sending many of his current compatriots in the PDP to courts or prisons, or getting them to disgorge massive amounts of stolen wealth. Then they point at the cynical manipulation of the Nuhu Ribadu/EFCC franchise by Obasanjo, and blame Nuhu for unpardonable naivety, or active collaboration, in the deployment of the awesome powers of the EFCC in pruning political enemies of Obasanjo. Many political careers were torpedoed by Nuhu’s list, including many in the opposition. Nuhu’s list helped the Yar’Adua/Jonathan ticket fly against Odili’s billions and other contenders who could have survived closer scrutiny and done better for the nation. Nuhu’s list placed prominent politicians such as Tinubu on the public’s bad guys list, and reinforced earlier reports of massive corruption against mostly PDP governors. Without being tested in a judicial context, Nuhu’s list helped Obasanjo exercise life-and-death stranglehold over post-2007 developments.
No Nigerian had made as many powerful and wealthy enemies as Nuhu. The long list included Vice President Atiku Abubakar, governors and prominent businessmen. Most succeeded in stalling the process of concluding investigations and prosecutions which left Nuhu exposed to backlash and revenge from people who wielded frightening powers. The world and millions of Nigerians who saw in him a glimmer of hope could not protect him when corruption fought back.
The new leadership he unwittingly facilitated to power felt uncomfortable with a man who knew too much and who stepped on toes that had grown even bigger. The Yar’Adua/Jonathan leadership soon turned on him, hounding him out of office, out of his new rank, out of a NIPPS graduating ceremony and eventually out of the country into exile. His record was smeared and rubbished in his absence. He fought gallantly from exile, but it was obvious that too much of the EFCC zeal and cutting edge was the person of Nuhu. Many of the people he investigated and accused are more powerful today, and some are directly involved in the fight to get him to become governor.
The same people who sent him into exile attempted to make some political capital out of him by allowing him back. The Jonathan administration wanted to look good in the rule of law department and it thought welcoming Nuhu Ribadu and Malam Nasir el-Rufai back will earn it a few browie points, or perhaps, even more naively, a couple of high profile new recruits. President Jonathan miscalculated. They both went straight to the opposition, becoming some of his worst critics. Nuhu was convinced to run against President Jonathan and General Buhari on the platform of the ACN, a personal outfit of Tinubu, a man whose corruption Nuhu may have forgotten he had described using a few choice words. ACN fielded Nuhu, then its leaders promptly turned and instructed its multitudes not to vote for him, but for Jonathan. Nuhu’s profile earned one additional entry: a former presidential contender.
With the merger of ACN, CPC and ANPP, Nuhu became a smaller fish in a larger pond. He had the potential to become bigger, but the pond had massive sharks who determined who ate and who starved. Everyone tip-toed around them, carefully concealing personal ambitions and waiting for the slightest signs that they had any future in a merger that promised a lot, but leaked very badly. The bottom appeared to fall out when the desire to oust Jonathan in 2015 was identified as an absolute priority, but strategic mistakes were being made. The floodgates were opened to PDP’s legion of disgruntled to move into a party that promised to be everything the PDP was not. They did, and were handed over large chunks of the party to do as they wished. Massive territory of the APC were taken over by former PDP bigwigs, and in the specific case of Nuhu, they included the liability inherent in impeached governor Murtala Nyako. Prominent APC founders and members who complained were told to go and sit down. PDP money and members took over and built new structures within APC. APC leaders began to leave in droves, which suited the new defectors from the PDP. Nyako obliterated the APC he met in Adamawa, without putting anything in its place, because he lacked anything to put back.
Then PDP goes and impeaches Nyako, and a whole new vista was opened in Adamawa politics. The people who convinced Nuhu to dump his party and move to PDP must have used very powerful arguments: he, more than anyone else, is qualified to pull his state out of its dangerous levels of despair. He cannot become a governor unless he runs on a PDP ticket, because his party, APC, is either incapable or unwilling to give him the ticket. Atiku, the only game in town will rather die politically than give Nuhu the APC ticket. Every trace of APC has been wiped off through defections after Nyako was impeached. Without money of his own, and even less of a structure, he cannot re-invent APC in a few weeks and win on its platform. They must have assured him that the presidency will blast his way through massive resistance from old Adamawa PDP warhorses and newly-defecteds who left the APC for Nyako. Perhaps they made the case that his own party had elevated defections to an art form, evidence of which is that Atiku, Nuhu, Saraki, Sylva, Amaechi and Kwankwaso are now roommates; and Shekarau, Bafarawa, Sheriff, Marwa and Belgore are now Saulmates. Perhaps someone had reminded him that Nigerian politics has no room for principles, ideologies or values, only powerful people. They may have assured him of the existence of a warchest to treat local injuries, and massive resources to create a local presence to mitigate the limitations of an Abuja politician.
Whatever it was they told him, it worked. Or, to be fair to Nuhu, he accepted to engage in the biggest gamble of his political life. He has been told that he has done incalculable damage to his image and standing as a principled politician in the eyes of millions particularly younger Nigerians; that he is today just another politician whose respect for party loyalty is zero. He is trading this off against scary intangibles: that he will scale all the odds and win; that he will so dramatically transform the fortunes of Adamawa State in such a short time that all will be forgiven; that the PDP will trust a man who was its enemy yesterday not to turn his back on it once he gets to power on its back; that the crises that will attend his attempt to get the ticket will not bring the whole PDP house down in Adamawa; that he would bring to an end the awesome powers of Atiku in Adamawa and in APC.
For now, Nuhu has made his choice. Few will grant him the concession that he means no harm to his former party, his fellow rivals, or the democratic process. He is likely to be reminded that he may soon share a plate with one of the administration’s multi-tasking muscles, Steve Oransaye who attempted to rubbish the work he did in the fuel subsidy probe panel. He will have to mount the podium a few months from now to appeal to the people of Adamawa to vote for President Jonathan in 2015. He will need to convince many sceptics that he will not become the reincarnation of Nyako, a politician who knows that his ambitions were made real in Abuja, not Adamawa. Above all, Nuhu should worry that he does not become part of a history that will record that his party the PDP is so desperate to put him in power that it has to violate every rule known to the party and the electoral process.

The week after

            "A week is a long time in politics"(Harold Wilson,1964).

        This time last week, the nation held its breath in anticipation of the final episode in the four months old saga that was the National Conference. The key actors themselves did not have the final pages of the script. Or, to put it another way, there were many versions of the final scenes of a melodrama that   threatened to either tear the nation apart, or facilitate massive distortions in political power and resource mobilization and allocation. Few thought the Conference was going the leave the nation pretty much as it was before the President became an overnight convert to the idea that it was the key to the nation’s survival. The audience had primed the key actors to the hilt on how the Conference was to end. You could say that for all its lack of popular mandate  and multitudes of shortfalls in inclusiveness, this Conference was the most representative in terms of the plurality of burdens and demands placed on its leadership and delegates.

        This time last week, regional and ethnic gladiators had assembled for the final battle. Most of the positions of the opposing forces were known to each other. All that was needed was a verdict over the winner in this long, expensive and bruising battle, although a few final skirmishes were being sorted  to provide the indicators of victory or defeat. The melodrama came to an end with a lot of cheering and backslapping by delegates. They told each other they had done well, or parted as mortal enemies to fight other battles. The nation is left without billions and a pile of documents to further decorate us as a nation of good ideas and little action.

Did the good guys win at the end of this melodrama? Is the nation better or worse off now that 500 or so handpicked Nigerians looked at our nation in the rarefied air of Abuja once again and said what they see as wrong with it, and how to fix it? Lets look at a few issues.
The 2014 Constitution misadventure
        The most audacious attempt to hijack  the Conference was the emergence of a draft constitution which by implication, would wipe the slate clean for current political office holders, and provide them with fresh leases to seek new mandates. This is a rather crude paraphrase of a poorly – crafted antic that learnt very badly from history. The defeat of this audacity and its demotion from a Draft 2014 Constitution,  to pieces of advise on constitutional amendments would be claimed by northern delegates; but the victory belonged to all Nigerians. If President Jonathan wants another term, let him convince Nigerians over the legality of that ambition, and convince them that he deserves another four year term.
   Regional and ethnic champions
        A conference intended to provide solutions to seemingly intractable political problems created by a Nigerian state that has failed to dilute narrower loyalties and widen the horizon for the emergence of a Nigerian citizen was promptly hijacked by the very forces it was to fight against. Perhaps this is the most predictable element of the Conference: a conclave designed around regional, ethnic, religious,partisan and personal political considerations could not conceivably rise above them. So the powers of local champions ebbed and flowed, showing them one moment as whips and enforcers of narrow interests, and the next as the enemy of the rank and file. They gave the Conference a character it found difficult to dislodge. Virtually every delegate became a northerner or southerner, sometime only a Muslim or Christian, and every issue had a major ethno-religious stamp on it.

The Conference redesigned Nigeria into a nation of two regions and religions, something even the British could never do. Many delegates must have developed symptoms of split personalities: some northern Christians fraternized with South South in the night, strategized with ‘core’ North in the morning, and asked what exactly was in it for them in the evening. Yoruba Muslims found common ground with Igbo more-states champions against the north on  devolution; elders and leaders agreed on state police and abused each other over resource allocation. Bright and younger Nigerians found voices in committees, but were drowned by orchestrated, behind-the-scene positions designed either out of fear, or desperate gambles that oppositions can be whittled down or deceived. Eminent names and records were trampled upon on the slightest suspicion that they pandered to the opposition. There were booby traps everywhere, a situation that perfectly mirrowed the conception and birth of the Conference: when you are unsure of the plans of the man sitting next to you, the best option is to prevent both of you from moving anywhere. In the end everyone retreated to the safe comfort of the clan, and a few millions in Naira richer, all have returned home with their own tales to tell.

Elite cohesion
        Instead of improving  concensus on national priorities, the conference has left a gaping hole in the beleaguered cohesion of Nigeria’s elite.  Igbo leaders are fuming that northerners and their legion of other enemies have frustrated their single-item agenda of additional state(s). They will wait for the right time to revenge. South South activists saw their hopes for improved take-home-pay scuttled by delegates whose roles as parasites are becoming intolerable. They will wait to see if, in addition to this insult, the nation also sends President Goodluck Jonathan out of the Villa next year. Delegates from the South West packed up all the polished grammar on devolution of power, true federalism and a new constitution in the face of the stubborn refusal of mostly delegates from the North to understand what it all meant. They will ask where new grounds for a north/south-west alliance will be found in future, and some of the damage done may find a new life in a party that has substantial north/south-west constituency.
  Delegates from the lower fringes of the North, and other minorities were enticed by the prospect of a few states here and there, until they realized that they were all substantially pawns. Their abject poverty in influencing how the big boys play the game reminded many of them that their status as appendages will take a while to remove. They will wait for other opportunities to see if they can improve in the art of exploiting the greed and gullibility of the larger groups.
   Delegates from the north, particularly the far north ran from pillar to post saying no to everything that even remotely seemed like a play for advantage by the others. Their flanks were exposed very badly on many occasions in a war in which they started as crippled underdogs. They found the perfect strategy in opposing everything which has not been said ten or twenty times before, or which will substantially alter the status quo. They discussed good ideas in committees and agreed to them, then fought hard to leave the conference with just that: ideas and suggestions on improving policy, processes and governance. They went to the conference to defend the north against what they saw as a conspiracy. They left believing that there is indeed a conspiracy against the north; and while they think they have successfully fought it  this time, they are more convinced that the danger is still lurking. All in all, many delegates who should be building bridges as we move towards the stormy waters of 2015 will now be building barricades and fortifications, and they will have the scars from skirmishes at the conference to justify their positions.

The nation
        While the delegates met the world went round. The nation’s security situation got a lot worse. The insurgency grew in leaps and bounds, took away school girls, burnt whole villages and now takes and holds entire towns. Nigerians do not know what the delegates said about national security, but we can assume that the conference recommendations have not fed the fight against the insurgency. Northerners were being profiled by security agencies in southern states and detained; state governments in the south were telling them to get registered; northern youths were threatening to relaliate. The governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria who said tens of billions of dollars were missing was called a liar and suspended, and then appointed Emir of Kano. This matter is likely to await another administration for a verdict over who is right. An opposition governor was impeached over offences he committed while he was with the PDP; another opposition governor narrowly escaped being impeached; the opposition lost a state to the PDP and clung to another. A minister was sacked for apparent gross abuse of office, but she is walking  free as air today. While our delegates discussed foreign policy, our President was summoned to Paris and Washington to discuss our security situation. Government doctors went on strike and prepared to treat Ebola in their private clinics.The president sacked all of them. Wives of soldiers blocked gates of the barracks to stop their men from going to war; and our politicians rolled over from one party to the next without the slightest shame or qualms.

        This time last week delegates to the national conference were mostly congratulating themselves for concluding a conference many people predicted will break up,or break the country up. The operative words here are concluding a conference. It will take the best part of many years to decide whether any good will come out of what is said to be the best national conference. By this time last week, few people really cared whether the conference broke up or was concluded successfully. A week after, we can all look ahead to even more frightening prospects: the insurgency digging in, and an election which terrifies us in its implications.