Friday, October 21, 2016

The wife

       Man is the head of family; woman the neck that turns the head. Chinese Proverb.

In 2007, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at which I was serving as Permanent Secretary organized the usual training of First Ladies on rudiments of protocol, etiquette, security awareness and general management of matters they may encounter as wives of very powerful people. Officials of the Ministry were thoroughbreds at this, so I left matters pretty much to them, resisting their demands that I closed the training by addressing Their Excellencies. I lost the argument and turned up in a room full of First Ladies. Without a piece of paper in my hand or a prepared line of approach in my mind, I decided to go by gut instinct and offer advise that had little to do with the core issues on the training they received.

I spoke to wives whose husbands were about to experience life in very demanding roles as Chief Executives. A few had some experience, or were veterans in managing husbands who managed lives, welfare and security of millions. I told them that their true friends should sympathize, rather than rejoice with them, given the burden they and their spouses will now bear. I told them to be ready to lose many friends and gain an entire legion of hangers-on, cronies, courtiers, assistants, advisers and fair weather friends. They will make new enemies and substantially lose their husbands to aides and new concerns and interests that will keep them away or awake most of the time, and powerful fixers who will virtually take over their lives. They will exercise new powers designed by bureaucrats and aides who will milk the new outfits designed around their egos, and their husbands will now face new threats and dangers, including the temptation to abuse public trust and resources for which they will be held to account later; and as wives, they could bear the brunt of the bitter experiences of accusations, suspicion, trials and avoidable incarcerations.

Wives will be major conduits for those seeking contracts, appointments, employment and sundry favors, many of which will not stand scrutiny as proper, and they will have to stand in line as influence peddlers, even with the advantage of their intimate access. Their relations with their husbands will go through some turbulence, and children will pay a major price with less attention and looser family bonds. I advised them to be prepared to face a life for which there are no models or blueprints, lives that will benefit from a patient and careful management of relations with husbands who bear the burdens of leadership, and resourceful cultivation of the domestic environment and intimate relationships, so that they become real sources of providing relief and comfort to husbands and allowing wives to remain influential and relevant to husbands and mandates. I advised them to be good wives and companions, sources of comfort and confidence, first and last lines of defence, loyal critics, role models and champions of propriety. When I noticed that I was losing them, I decided to tell them the story of a terrible wife. Most of them sat up. This was the story I told.

A very learned Malam with extraordinary powers turned up in a Kingdom, and, as is the custom, he reported to the Emir to be accommodated. The Emir directed him to be taken to the only guest house available. Unknown to the Malam, no one had survived longer than a day in that  house because it was reputed to be possessed by a powerful spirit(Jinn).In the night, the Malam gathered a little pile of firewood to light a fire and keep warm because the night was cold. Every time he lit the fire, it was snuffed out. After the third attempt, he said, "Listen, whoever you are. I know you are putting out my fire and trying to scare me. Stop it. I am cold and I just want to keep warm. I am not scared of you. If you know what chased me away from my home and brought me to this place, you will know that you cannot scare me". He lit his fire again, and immediately a massive and furious Jinn appeared and thundered at the Malam,"You, common human, dare tell me that you have something more frightening than me? What could there be that will scare you more than me"? "Sit down", the Malam, who had the unique power to see Jinn, told him. "It is my wife. I am married to a woman who has made my life so miserable that I had to leave my country entirely for her. I came here after traveling many years. I am confident that she will never find me here".

The Jinn was quiet for a while, then he stretched his hand at the Malam and said, "Shake my hand, my friend. You and I have the same problem. I am also a refugee from my troublesome wife. I have travelled much further than you, and my wife will never find me here". The two then spent the rest of the night comparing notes on how bad their wives were. Every evil mentioned by one was countered by one that was worse. By daybreak when the Jinn had to leave, the two had bonded from their common problems. The Jinn then offered to help the Malam to settle down and be famous and rich in the city. He will cast spells on people and make them sick, and will remove the spell when the Malam intervenes. The Malam was grateful, and the two soon became close friends. One day, the Jinn informed the Malam that he planned to kill the eldest son of the Emir because he was arrogant and cruel to the poor. He asked the Malam not to get involved, or visit the prince even if invited to intervene by the Emir. The Malam tried to appeal against the Jinn's decision, but the Jinn insisted that this matter was not open to appeal. In the end, the Jinn embarked on plans to kill the price. The Emir ordered the Malam, on pain of death, to treat his son. The Malam had the wisdom to rush to the Jinn and warn him that Madam Jinn had just arrived. The Jinn abandoned plans to kill the prince and left town, never to be heard from again.

I got a smattering of claps for my efforts, and months later, a First Husband told me that his wife had said I had said women could be terrible creatures. It turned out that she ignored my exhortations and some parts of the story, and had gone straight to its end. If I spoke to First Ladies today, I will say more or less the same things. There are no templates to apply in designing relations between two powerful people, one elected, the other or others being organically parts of all that affect him. Women married to powerful people in most cases fight for space around their husbands, and not all are equipped to fight battles that do justice to their own perceptions of their worth. Men marry women without ever knowing that someday they will bear a huge part of their burden, particularly public offices which put massive strains on characters and shoulders. Power changes both, but not enough to alter core personality traits. Some wives adjust better than others to power equations. Some exploit weaknesses of husbands they alone understand, and many powerful people learn that the path to some peace lie in allowing a lot of space for spouses to swim around. All marriage involves constant maneuvers and adjustments around partners. What public office does to marriage is to strip it of that layer that shields it from other influences. Now President Buhari and his wife will have to hope that the nation can focus on the feathers they ruffled in public, so that they can recover, in private, lost ground in the most important relationship in their lives.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Arresting the Law.

A flea can trouble a lion more than a lion can trouble a flea. African proverb.

If there are those moments when you are happy you are not a lawyer, a judge or an authority on the fundamentals of human rights, this must be one of them. The lack of a strong legal preparation to judge the current uproar over the arrests of senior judicial officers will give citizens the freedom to express views and preferences regarding the propriety of intelligence agencies arresting judges in the manner they did this week. You could block your ears to shrills of protests from very powerful interests and the political opposition over the arrests and interrogation of senior judges, and take comfort in your uneducated personal opinion. If you open your ears and mind too early, you will be confronted with another emerging controversy over the position of the law regarding the recent attacks and killings of Shiites by mobs in a number of northern cities. In the end, you could be persuaded to pay some attention to legal issues and positions emerging from raging debates on the rule of law and the imperatives of sustaining the fight against corruption and national security.

It is now obvious that the federal government will not turn back from its determination to arrest, interrogate and prosecute very senior judges, including Supreme Court justices for suspected corruption. It's unorthodox approach to the  searches and arrests had met with  a torrent of complaints from Nigeria Bar Association(NBA) and an entire army of other lawyers and human rights activists. The National Judicial Council(NJC),the body with responsibility to sanction judicial officers and generally uphold standards has been restrained in its comments, but you would have read its conclusions on the development by now after a considerable length of time in deliberation. The political opposition found a new hook to hung its complaints that President Buhari's administration puts very little store on respect for the rule of law. The government has made efforts to engage complaints that the Department of State Security(DSS) has no business searching premises of judges suspected of corrupt acts when organizations like EFCC, ICPC, and the Police are still alive and generally around. It has engaged the public with its own complaints of being frustrated and stonewalled by the NJC; with its claims of long, detailed investigations before moving in; on its haul of millions in assorted currencies and even exotic cars, and with its promises that public opinion will applaud it when all is revealed during the trials of the judges.

Citizens with huge appetite for victories against corruption have followed the high drama with intense interest, unimpressed by arguments that boundaries of responsibilities are being breached, the judiciary is being humiliated, or that the fight against corruption has assumed a life of its own, and is likely to bring the entire house down. The tactic of making public huge amounts recovered from homes of suspected judges right down to a handful of Rupees and Gambian Dollares was clearly intended to whip up public sentiment against suspects. Judges will not be found among the top ten of the most popular professional groups in Nigeria, and this may have counted in the calculations of the media outings of the DSS and government as it battled a wealthy and well connected adversary in the leadership of the legal professional and the judiciary.

The government may have won a few battles in these opening skirmishes to pry open a notoriously closed system, and address corruption in the judiciary. It lost a few as well, as its choices of agencies involved in searches and interrogations raised more than a few eyebrows and alarmed citizens over the possibility that national security is now threatened by corruption in the judiciary. It lost a few as well, as the fabled intimacy between the top brackets of the legal profession and the media swung into action to accuse it of crass impunity, desecration of hallowed boundaries and offices, sundry illegalities and setting the nation on a course of descent into anarchy. For now, both sides are severely bruised. Government has created additional substance to support its repeated claims that the Nigerian judiciary is so corrupt that it cannot be counted as a reliable partner to support the all-important fight against corruption. The snag for the government could be that this could be limited to a moral victory, and the only one it would win. It will now have to submit its case before the very judiciary and the intimidating hostility of the top brass of the legal profession for validation. It will have to hope that it would have split the ranks of the NJC and put fears in the hearts of other senior judges, and good, fearless lawyers could be found to make cases that very senior judges should go to jail. It will have to hope that the judiciary does not close ranks as rumours of more arrests spread, and judges begin to see their image on the faces of arraigned colleagues. It will have to hope that it had crossed t's and dotted i's on the technicalities which could be used to bomb its case before it takes off.

Public opinion will influence the response of the judiciary and the senior levels of the legal profession to the trials of suspected corrupt judges, but public opinion has always been too weak to keep the justice system(or any other critical  public institution in Nigeria, either) in check. Politicians are sharply divided between those with bitter stories to tell on their experiences with judges who robbed them of victories, and those who will only whisper how they induced judges with huge amounts to hand over undeserved electoral victories. Stories of rampant corruption at all levels of the judiciary litter the entire nation. The few occasions when disciplinary action was taken against a few judges suggested that regulations dealing with discipline or maintaining standards of integrity were either ineffective, or leaders in the judiciary lacked the moral authority to sanction erring judges because they are, themselves, compromised. There is also, for fairness, the possibility that corruption on the scale it is rumored does not exist, and if it does, it is more difficult to prove than the allegation that politicians, including many who exercise power today, are largely responsible for corrupting judges. The truth, however is that most Nigerians have made up their minds that it is difficult to get justice from judges without engaging in action that corrupts you and the judge.

The trials of judges will be conducted around those delicate boundaries that challenge governance under the rule of law. A more challenging threat to the rule of law emerged a few days ago when mobs attacked and reportedly killed some Shia members congregating to celebrate a religious day in towns and cities in the north. A week earlier, Governor of Kaduna State, Malam Nasir el-Rufai had signed an Executive Order banning the unregistered umbrella body of the Shiites, Islamic Movement of Nigeria on the grounds that it engaged in illegal activities and represented a threat to national security. The members of the Shia sect had intensified their protests over the continued detention of their leader, grabbing public attention and challenging law and order agencies who chase them around the country. The attacks and killing of the Shia by members of the public in apparently spontaneous reaction to a group which insists on conduct that suggests it has no respect for laws of the land has now opened a new and dangerous dimension in the management of the laws of the land. Are attacks on Shia crimes? Are citizens now going to do the job of the state, to wit, enforce the law against Shia who break the laws of the land? Is anyone paying attention to the dangers of tolerating unbridled breaches by citizens and the certainty that while they deliver short term goals, they ultimately undermine the authority and capacity of the state to enforce the law and mediate conflicts between groups?

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Hakeem's Remark At The Recent Northern Elders' Forum Meeting

One year after the Kano Assembly organized by Northern Elders Forum with other northern groups,Nigerians trooped out to offer a verdict over their future in the 2015 elections. It is no exaggeration to say that the year 2014 represented the high point in activities that laid the foundations of the collapse of that citadel of poor governance, indifference, insensitivity and unprecedented plunder that was the Jonathan presidency. Northern political elites and people,Christians and Muslims closed the ethno-religious divide, awakened by the burden of the shared legacy of the Jonathan administration in the bombs and bullets of Boko Haram, and the deteriorating standards of living as politicians fleeced the poor of resources.From Borno to Ilorin, Sokoto to Yola, the poor, the young and northern women  chose to install a leadership that will make them more secure and provide their children with a productive future. 
The elections of 2015 were pre-eminently a victory for the people of Nigeria. For the first time northern votes overwhelmingly  combined with those from other parts of the nation to comprehensively reject an administration and a party that had run its course. Our jubilations in the North were not just over the victory of popular will over desperate attempts to subvert it.  They went beyond the relief that our nation did not go up in flames over disputed elections. They were about the possibility that we could look to a future without Boko Haram; that our young will get good education, acquire skills and get jobs; that corruption will be arrested, contained and eliminated. We celebrated an end to poor governance; to leadership that run away from threats, and to leaders who remembered the people only when they needed voters. 
In 2015,  majority ofNigerian voters trusted General Buhari who is from the North, but we did not expect that he will run an administration that will give to the North what it does not deserve. When he said he belonged to everyone and to no one, we believed him. Those that did not vote for him were Nigerians too,people who deserve to be treated with respect and fairness.This was perfectly within the highest tradition of northern leadership as our history and culture have taught us. It was also the best position to adopt for a leader who had spent a large part of his life asking all Nigerians to trust him to lead a nation that is threatened by leaders who fail to lead with honesty,fairness and sensitivity to its plural nature,and an awareness of the limitations of our political process. 
More than one year since that historic election in which northern elders and voters mobilized a people desperate for credible and accountable leadership, we meet again in this unique place in northern history, whose symbolism in profound. It is impossible not to recall the millions of young people who followed President Buhari on his campaign trails, pledging to him their unquestioning support and loyalty with full faith that his leadership will address their hopes and aspirations. It is impossible to forget the picture of hundreds of thousands who turned up for him in Maiduguri defying the threats of bombs and bullets. It is not possible to forget adolescents and children who defied parents and security agents to catch a glimpse of a man they had been brought up to believe had the solution to Nigeria’s problems. It is impossible to ignore the unprecedented responses of communities in Benue, Plateau, Taraba, Nassarawa to the Buhari appeal,responses which defied decades of entrenched sentiments that had fed the fiction that there are two Norths, the North of the Birom, and the North of the Hausa; the North of Muslims and the North of Christian. It is impossible not to remember the patently transparent and credible election which raised the bar Nigerians will never allow to be lowered. The world now credits Jonathan with the merit of conceding an election he conceded, but they should count among  the heroes of 2015 millions of voters who insisted their votes must count; a handful of Nigerians which include many northerners who played heroic roles in heading- off any attempt to set the nation aflame, and a global community that stood by our nation.

This Summit is not intended to whitewash or smear the Buhari administration. We have established a standard of judgment as a Forum which we will not compromise, and its hallmarks are to be respectful to leaders at all levels, and to speak truth to power. We will not lower the bar where the interests of the North, the unity and security of Nigeria, or the welfare of all citizens are involved. We will engage all leaders and fellow Nigerians as we have always done as northerners: with respect and the certainty that leaders who cannot be advised or criticized are a liability, and fellow Nigerians are deserving of respect in the same manner we demand to be respected.
When we held the Kano Assembly in 2014, virtually the entire North was a battlefront, and the nation was a hostage of Boko Haram. Today we meet in Kaduna in a vastly-improved security atmosphere, with Boko Haram pinned to enclaves. Some will reluctantly acknowledge the leadership of President Buhari in this major development. We will say to him, you have delivered on one of your promises, which was to improve our security. Fellow Nigerians living far away from the effects of Boko Haram may be tolerated if they downplay the significance of the successes against this murderous insurgency. We from the North, however, understand what it means, and we daily thank God that we had a change of administration in 2015, because, without a doubt, a Jonathan administration would have been routed completely by an insurgency that understood that weak political will and corruption had weakened our national resolve to fight it.We commend the gallantry of our armed forces,and we join other Nigerians who caution that it will be counter-productive if we lose sight of the possibility that we need to sustain the fight against this insurgency through all strategies that could end it comprehensively.

Now the nation is beginning to wake up to the magnitude of the humanitarian disaster that Boko Haram’s activities have created. About three million of our fellow citizens are internally displaced and hundreds of thousands of orphans, hunger and malnourishment, previously unknown in our land are now becoming alarming features of our existence. Let no one underestimate the magnitude of the challenge the nation is facing in the north east. We recognize that the simultaneous challenges of continuing the fight against Boko Haram, rehabilitating I.D.Ps and rebuilding lives, communities and infrastructure will require the best in leadership capacities and huge amounts of resources. Let us say without any doubt that we believe that President Buhari can meet these challenges, or at least lay solid foundations for their achievement. But we share concerns that the quality of coordination of efforts, management of skills and resources and the capacities and  integrity of government agencies do not do justice to the magnitude of the problem.President Buhari needs to overhaul the existing institutional mechanisms involved in dealing with the management of the humanitarian disaster before the problem becomes much worse than it is. 
The sense of emergency which is needed to be applied to dealing with the scale and nature of the humanitarian disaster also needs to be applied to the management of the national economy. Most Nigerians understand that a combination of past abuses and mismanagement of the economy and the collapse of crude prices and sabotage of oil and gas facilities have created a most challenging environment for the  economy. We will not join those who say President Buhari should stop reminding us of a past that is haunting us today. We will insist that we hear daily what leaders did in the past, so that we can guard against letting people like them back into power. But we will join those who remind him daily that hunger is stalking millions of homes. Inflation is making life difficult by the day. People are losing jobs. Businesses are closing down. Infrastructure is decaying. Young Nigerians are losing hope of being employed. Crimes like abductions and clashes between herders and farmers,and between communities are challenging the image of an administration that promised to make our lives safer.
Moving from where we are to where we need to be will require patience and fortitude. Until we get there, it will be President  Buhari's lot to assemble the Nigerians to advise him and take forward his vision. He needs people who will competently convey his concerns and compassion for citizens,people with proven records in management of the economy and critical institutions,and people who will not compromise his image .He should look around him to be sure that he is being served by the best Nigerians available.
Those who insist that President Buhari’s administration can do much better in managing the recession, in the all-important fight against corruption within the laws of the land, and in rebuilding a nation united around the values of justice and honest enterprise are not his enemies. Most of them are people who voted for him because they shared his belief that we can live secure lives; that leaders do not have to steal our resources and that our children can live in, and work in a nation they can be proud of.
When northerners say they bear the brunt of bad or poor governance more than other Nigerians, they speak from a solid experience of living under leaders who were inept and corrupt . When the Nigerian economy deteriorates, we feel the pain more sharply than other Nigerians. With security, we can feed ourselves and feed the rest of Nigeria. But when cost of inputs become prohibitive, threats to lives limit our  productive capacities, herds are stolen or limited by hostile and damaging political interests, the economy of the North suffers. We recognize that restructuring the Nigerian economy will involve a tremendous boost in productivity of the assets which the North is blessed with. We look forward to a restructuring process that involves our assets and our interests, but we ask the President and our Governors to pay close attention to relieving the hardships and stresses which  critical and strategic transitions will involve. We ask to be involved as genuine partners, not as targets of policies and programmes that are designed in capitals. Our people are hardworking and we have no desire to depend on any section of the country beyond what is made necessary by the law and the  logic of an inter-dependent economy.
We expect our Governors to be in the frontline of the search for credible policies. There are excellent blueprints and suggestions on improving the Northern economy which they can utilize. Please reduce your travels around the world. Real investors will come to you. Spend the money you expend on travels in paying salaries and pensions and expanding employment opportunities for young northerners. Out of the adversity that makes it difficult for you to pay salaries, you must discover opportunities. You asked our people in 2015 to trust you. They did. Now you should trust them.You should trust them to elect those they want to lead Local Government Councils,the same way you were elected.Do not force them to live under unelected leaders,and allow Local Government Councils to spend their own funds.If you do not move beyond lamentations, the people will tally up the days you spend outside the country or in Abuja, or how many months they went without salaries and pensions, and how many young people graduated into crimes and drugs under your administration.They will remember what their Permanent Voters Card and the Card Reader did in 2015, and they will turn their backs to you, the same way they did to your predecessors. We will pray for you and support you to find a way out,but if you cannot have the pristine integrity, tenacity, compassion and faith in the people which President Buhari is known for, you would have let down a man whose momentum got you where you are today.
To our fellow citizens outside the North, we say today, as always, that our faith in the prospects for a strong and united Nigeria is still solid. We hear and understand the clamour to re-visit the philosophy, structures and operations of the Nigerian state, and we join in support of any enquiry and change in the manner we live that will improve our security and the quality of our lives. The North has nothing to fear from any restructuring process, provided we are involved not as a problem but as partners who have a stake in a Nigeria that works for all of us. The North has many issues with the operations of the Nigerian state, but it does not routinely insult and blame elites from other regions for them. On the contrary, we will welcome an opportunity to engage all parts of Nigeria in honest and open-ended discussions on constitutional reforms, the operations of our federal structure and national economy, and all issues which represent major sources of grievance.We want to join others who want to ask why we are paying our legislators so much,whether we need all those in power who take home so much of our resources,why corruption finds it so easy to find space in our judiciary and all critical institutions.Like all Nigerians,we have questions over the manner our nation operates.We want to work with others to establish a basis for identifying what is priority,what is essential,what is fair,what is avoidable and what we need to do as a nation to isolate violence from its central position in our lives.
Until that time when we are able to reach across and speak to each other with deserving respect, the North will continue to share its vision of a nation which has room for all of us in the manner we relate with other Nigerians. We will continue to welcome every Nigerian to live and do business in the North, as evidenced by the existence of many parts of northern cities that are entirely owned by Nigerians from the South. We ask that Governors from states that encourage or condone hostility to lawful herdsmen to desist as these actions threaten the very foundations of a peaceful and united country. We ask Governors in the North to continue to give land to Christians to build their churches without any legal hinderence, the same way we will demand that Muslims in Christian-dominated parts of the country be given land to build mosques and own property as they should under the law. We urge our Governors in the North to pool resources together to establish adequate and safe grazing reserves, as well as engage their colleagues in some states in the South to resist the temptation to endanger the lives of herders or the economy around cattle in which all communities in Nigeria are beneficiaries. 
 Summit will provide a platform for raising issues that should be raised. We are aware that a few politicians have made an entire career out of demonizing and insulting the North and all it stands for. We will not feed these people with more reasons to be important. What the North will do, as it has always done, is to insist that justice is done to it and to everyone else. When people count political appointees and reach conclusions over marginalization from there,we also count. But we also open up budgets and analyze how much money is allocated to projects in the South and the North; how much is spent on salaries and allowances by the federal government whose employees from southern states are in a vast majority. We will demand our fair share of all positions in government,but we see federal character not just in political appointments,we scrutinize quality;we weigh allocations to agriculture, water resources and solid against other sectors;and we ask questions regarding the current condition of roads like the Abuja – Kano dual carriage way. We see federal character in the absence of a single bank owned by a northerner; in the dangerous de-industrialization of the North and in the allocation of electric power to various parts of the north. 
The North does have a voice but we prefer to speak in a manner that makes it heard. So, those who are disposed to listen, please listen. Northern votes were not wasted in electing President Buhari. In 2019, we will also use our votes in a manner consistent with our interests as Northerners. We did not make a mistake in putting up a solid, united front as Northerners in spite of our ethno-religions differences. Those who seek to drive a wedge between us ignore the fact that all Northerners suffered the effects of Boko Haram, poverty and poor governance. All Northerners feel the pains of this recession. We will not walk away from each other into the damaging arms of political and religions merchants who make capital out of our weaknesses. What we did in 2015 we will do again. Any politician interested in Northern votes should work for every Northerner, Muslim or Christian, Kilba or Egbira.
 For us in the North, policing lives and livelihoods of communities is now a major problem. We understand that some Nigerians want the nation to look beyond the agitations for Biafra for the possibility that genuine grievances exist. We appreciate the wisdom of discussing with people blowing up our assets in the Delta, and the possibility that the nation could discover a more permanent solution to recurring violence. We support the demands that the fight against corruption must be isolated from partisan influences.We support demands for painstaking respect for the rule of law in the fight against corruption,but this is a fight that  should not be compromised. 
Your Excellencies, let me say how grateful I am for the opportunity to speak to a gathering of this nature, in a place any Northerner will be proud to even visit. I pray that Allah Subhanahu Wa Ja’ala will bless our nation and our leaders, and bring relief and comfort to all those who suffer under our current circumstances. May Allah have mercy on Sir Ahmadu Bello, Sardaunan Sokoto who was killed along with his wife just a few meters from where we meet  today in 1966. May Allah forgive his compatriots who were also killed in the 1966 misadventure. May Allah forgive those who murdered them as well. May Allah give us the opportunities to rebuild our nation, teach its history to our young, and help them to tell their young that they lived and loved a great country. Thank you. 

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Drifting Generations

A person is a person because of other persons. African proverb.
If majority of Nigerians born in the 1970s sat through our 56th Independence celebrations with registered bitterness or pronounced indifference, others who experienced a different set of emotions should be careful how they judge them. Those who felt a sense of pride in being citizens of Nigeria and in its accomplishment since political independence would have been severely challenged to justify their sentiments to a lot of their fellow citizens, notably younger Nigerians, the poor and others burdened by uncertainty regarding the future. They would have met an increasingly popular sentiment that surviving intact after coming through major challenges to its survival as one nation is not one that many Nigerians will applaud as a major achievement. Reminding the younger Nigerian that this nation once met the challenges of development by providing better opportunities to all classes and encouraging service, particularly to the poor, just makes them more bitter that the party ended before they arrived. Independence anniversaries sadly remind the nation of the distances between its rich and poor; between a generation weaned on a solid history of a proud African people and one which has read no history at all; and between a fading generation that feels it owes the nation a lot and those who feel they owe it nothing. Nigeria's generations are drifting apart, and some are drifting around because they have not been anchored to its history, its strengths and its values.

These are not days that can spare most citizens a moment from the drudgery of scraping an existence or making ends meet to celebrate a historic milestone. Leaders read speeches intended to shore up sagging morale and assure citizens that they can see lights at ends of tunnels, even if they are invisible to the people and political oppositions. Parades that used to excite school children and others who can afford to watch on television have long been lost to insecurity in most parts of the nation. Debates and discussions in the media on significance of our political independence have become veritable quicksands for the nation's achievements, unless they are carefully choreographed to keep out the champions of the negative. There are circles where it is foolhardy to say anything good about the nation these days. Other Nigerians outside these circles are daily bombarded by demands from some quarters to exit the union, re-visit its basic foundations or alter its character because it is unjust, inefficient or downright fraudulent.

If you are under forty, you have grown up to the refrain that our nation is the most corrupt in the world. You would have learnt from direct personal experience that there are more than ten ways to get what you want. Nine of them are illegal, immoral or sinful, but they get you there faster than following the one approved by the God you worship, the law of the land or the rules designed to give you and everyone else a fair chance in a nation of aggressive achievers. If you are over forty, you would have despaired many times over younger generations living under the rubble of collapsed, inspiring and positive value systems, far from the redeeming influence of caring communities and times when things worked, lives were more secure, and hard work paid. There are few meeting points between the great gulf that separates our generations. We created an economy that produced a few billionaires through legitimate means, as well as a legion of corrupt politicians, public servants and business people who stole billions from the public. We have never had so much wealth concentrated in a few hands, while the poor grows in numbers and desperation. We created a political system which creates a super class of powerful people who use the electoral process to create the impression that citizens control the democratic process and the leadership.

If you are among the few that will successfully challenge what you have just read, you represent that element in our system that believes that we always think we are worse than we really are. If you can find a younger Nigerian to engage over recent developments, even if you have to discuss in the language of the social media, you will find energy, intelligence and irreverence in the manner they take you up on all fronts. If you put forward the case that the elections of 2015 represent a massive leap forward for our democratic system, they will point you to the sickening revelations regarding the systemic plunder in the legislature as evidence that a peaceful election does not necessarily create a higher quality of democratic process or quality of governance. If you make the argument that the nation's unity has deep roots, they will lol at you and refer you to any version of the Biafra agitations, the barriers being erected over herdsmen or the damaging activities of Delta militants and Boko Haram. If you argue that corruption is being fought with some seriousness for a change, they will mscheweeeee you and remind you that former governor of Delta State Silva received back his 40 houses the same week Godsday Orubebe was jailed for failing to declare a property in 2007.

You could both be right or wrong in your assessments of the state of the polity and the economy. The failure of agree over what the nation could achieve some consensus around is as much a function of the disarray at elite level over the fundamentals of our existence, as it is a failure to accord history the place it deserves in building a nation that had seen all the highs and the lows in its life. The quiet but determined character of Balewa which saw him lead the first republic through many difficult political moments, the  visionary ambition of Awolowo, the strong and intimidating political will of the Sardauna and the searing intelligence of Azikiwe all of which propelled the nation towards rapid development  in a political context that was used by military elements  to bring the democratic process to a halt in 1966 remains among the most contested issue in our history. Our history casts our military as both villain and hero. It completed the construction of a renter state, enthroning corruption as the key driver of the political economy, while drawing lines in the nation here, there and everywhere to create federating units that simply reinforced the imperatives of political control by the center. It caused a war and fought in it, then claimed credit for keeping the country united.

Economic adversity  has a tendency to generate quarrels over causes and responsibilities. Many of the new challenges we face these days are products of tensions and stresses arising from the challenges to the economy. This is why attention and energy need to be focused around mitigating the effects of the recession. Political problems will not, however, wait until leaders fix the economy. Those who make the case that the nation has little utility value for them or their communities will draw inspiration from the difficulties of the day, ignoring historical contexts or the possibilities that opportunities are embedded in challenges. The older generations of Nigerians have the experience of living in a nation that grew out of many difficulties because they made sacrifices to see it through. They are having to share space with generations that are neither anchored by the nation's history nor structured in its future. It does not help the cause of building a nation with great potential when even those who milked its glory days  or bear scars for its limitations tear down its history because they want a new order. By all means, let the nation sustain the search for an arrangement without dangerous and unjust economic disparities between classes and regions. The fight against the stranglehold of corruption on the nation must not be compromised. Younger Nigerians should be taught the history of their nation without any embellishment. They are bound to find in it a nation they can love and work for, not because it is perfect(no nation is), but because it can be improved.