OPIN­ION

The Africa Report - - CONTENTS - Cheta Nwanze Head of re­search, SBM In­tel­li­gence, Nige­ria*

Cheta Nwanze, head of re­search, SBM In­tel­li­gence, Nige­ria

There is plenty of noise in Nige­ria: clashes be­tween com­mu­ni­ties in the Mid­dle Belt ; Delta mil­i­tants slow to shoul­der arms in the South; and Is­lamists fight­ing the mil­i­tary in the north-east. Nat­u­rally, at­ten­tion fo­cuses on Nige­ria’s eth­nic and re­li­gious fault lines. But an­other clash looms that could throw shade over all these bat­tles : a gen­er­a­tional po­lit­i­cal clash. One, older, rul­ing class is leav­ing the stage; an­other, ‘mid­dle-aged’ one is tak­ing the reins ; and a younger gen­er­a­tion is dis­put­ing that power as the pres­i­den­tial elec­tions of 2019 hover into view. The gen­er­a­tion of young Nige­ri­ans un­der 40 is slowly com­ing to terms with the nu­anced na­ture of the coun­try’s pol­i­tics, with fewer eth­nic and re­gional fil­ters. Gen­er­a­tions can cre­ate pow­er­ful waves that drive change across coun­tries. The US gen­er­a­tion born in the 20 years fol­low­ing World War II, known as the Baby Boomers, have been a defin­ing force in the 20th and 21st cen­turies. Com­ing of age in the 1960s and 1970s, they were on the fore­front of so­cial change, in­clud­ing the later stages of the civil rights move­ment, protests against the Viet­nam war, and the sec­ond wave of the fem­i­nist move­ment. To the ‘first gen­er­a­tion’ of post-in­de­pen­dence politi­cians in Nige­ria, the sud­den and vi­o­lent emer­gence of a mil­i­tary-led po­lit­i­cal class in 1966 was a shock. What prompted the young sol­diers to seize power were rifts be­tween politi­cians, and a se­ries of in­creas­ingly vi­o­lent elec­tions.

When the mil­i­tary took power, the hopes of the sec­ond gen­er­a­tion of politi­cians were trun­cated. Power did not tran­sit from the first gen­er­a­tion of politi­cians to a sec­ond gen­er­a­tion, but to a gen­er­a­tion of sol­diers who have held power un­der var­i­ous guises ever since. The mil­i­tary ruled for the next 13 years di­rectly, and then in­di­rectly af­ter Oluse­gun Obasanjo handed over to Shehu Sha­gari, a cabi­net mem­ber in Nige­ria’s First Repub­lic, fol­low­ing his vic­tory over Obafemi Awolowo in the 1979 elec­tions. Both Sha­gari and Awolowo be­longed to the First Gen­er­a­tion, hence 1979 was still a con­test within the s et of lead­ers that broadly led the countr y to its in­de­pen­dence. Then fol­lowed a slew of coups, as the mil­i­tary tight­ened their grip. Sha­gari was de­posed in 1983, bring­ing Muham­madu Buhari to power. Buhari, hav­ing par­tic­i­pated in one of the 1966 coups, was also a mem­ber of that First Gen­er­a­tion of po­lit­i­cally awake mil­i­tary of­fi­cers. Buhari was de­posed by Ibrahim Ba­bangida in 1985. Ba­bangida ruled un­til 1993, when he was

forced out. Sani Abacha, who had also taken part in the 1966 coups, took power for him­self. Abacha then died in 1998, and Ab­dul­salami Abubakar over­saw a swift re­turn to civil­ian rule, hand­ing over to erst­while dictator Obasanjo in May 1999. Obasanjo handed over to Umaru Yar’adua in 2007, and fol­low­ing Yar’adua’s death in 2009 Good­luck Jonathan took of­fice. Jonathan was ul­ti­mately de­feated by Buhari in 2015.

But as age catches up with them, the 1966 crowd is leav­ing the stage. The gen­er­a­tion that hopes to take its place came up un­der dic­ta­tor­ships. This sec­ond gen­er­a­tion in­cludes for­mer vice-pres­i­dent Atiku Abubakar, for­mer La­gos State gover­nor Bola Tin­ubu, and Kaduna State gover­nor Nasir el-ru­fai. Atiku was once head of cus­toms and fi­nanced the first cam­paign of Oluse­gun Obasanjo, and was later his vice-pres­i­dent. Tin­ubu is a key king­maker in the gov­ern­ing All Pro­gres­sives Con­gress (APC). El-ru­fai is a lead­ing north­erner in the cur­rent administration, also from the APC. These men, all in their 60s or close, have never known the ex­er­cise of po­lit­i­cal power other than via some sort of mil­i­tary-civil­ian par­a­digm in a sub­servient role to the 1966 gen­er­a­tion. They ex­pect to ex­er­cise power, hav­ing paid their dues. It re­mains to be seen how they can han­dle the tran­si­tion. Fo r th i s se c o n d ge n e r a t i o n o f po l i t i c i a n s faces a chal­lenge from a younger gen­er­a­tion. My gen­er­a­tion. We are in our 30s and 40s. My gen­er­a­tion in­cludes names such as lawyer and Choco­late City En­ter tain­ment founder Audu Maikori, busi­ness pro­fes­sor Kay­ode Odu­sanya, head of the All Pro­gres­sives Youth Fo­rum Is­mail Ahmed, mem­ber of the house of rep­re­sen­ta­tives Dapo Lam Adesina, Ijaw Youth Coun­cil pres­i­dent Udengs Eradiri, busi­ness­man and young pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Ahmed Buhari, ex­ec­u­tive sec­re­tar y of the La­gos State Em­ploy­ment Trust Fund Akin Oye­bode, head of new me­dia for the Peo­ple’s Demo­cratic Party Deji Adeyanju, head

My gen­er­a­tion blames our elders for the state of the coun­try. We are less rev­er­ent

of dig­i­tal com­mu­ni­ca­tions for the pres­i­denc y To l u Ogunl es i , sp e c i a l as s i s t a nt t o t he Abi a State gover­nor Sam Hart, cor­po­rate con­sul­tant Humphrey Ak a n a z u , Po l l Wat c h NG fo u n d e r Muyiwa Gbade­gesin, and yes, even Indige­nous Peo­ple of Bi­afra ac­tivist Nnamdi Kanu.

These peo­ple are ea­ger to take up po­lit­i­cal power, and, for the most part, are un­will­ing to be sub­servient. Some of them are al­ready in the process of ac­quir­ing that power. My gen­er­a­tion has dif­fer­ent at­ti­tudes and as­pi­ra­tions from those who are in their 60s, and cru­cially, blames the state of the coun­try, es­pe­cially the gap­ing dis­par­ity in the spread of na­tional wealth and in­flu­ence, on our elders. We are, there­fore, less rev­er­ent. My gen­er­a­tion of po­lit­i­cally con­scious Nige­ri­ans have fed on nearly two decades of a mostly demo­cratic par­a­digm. The sec­ond gen­er­a­tion that be­lieves it to be its turn to take over will not sim­ply step aside for us to take over af­ter hav­ing waited in line for 51 years. Those peo­ple also re­alise that their win­dow of op­por­tu­nity to take and hold power is sig­nif­i­cantly smaller than that of their pre­de­ces­sors and is per­haps a max­i­mum of twenty years. So, it is very likely that the next two elec­tion c ycles will wit­ness an epic in­ter-gen­er­a­tional bat­tle for po­lit­i­cal, and by ex­ten­sion, eco­nomic power in Nige­ria. In many ways, this has al­ready started. The best ex­am­ple of this clash right now is Audu Maikori and Kaduna gover­nor El-ru­fai. El-ru­fai has made use of the se­cu­rity ser­vices to ar­rest Maikori – more than once – for "hate speech". Part of the rea­son is that Maikori has a barely con­cealed am­bi­tion to be­come gover­nor. An­other ex­am­ple can be found among the Igbo. As dis­taste­ful as Nnamdi Kanu‘s se­ces­sion­ist ide­ol­ogy is, he is gath­er­ing a lot of young peo­ple to his cause be­cause of the be­lief that the older gen­er­a­tion has failed. The stage is set for a bat­tle over the chang­ing of the guard.

SBM In­tel­li­gence is a Nige­rian geopo­lit­i­cal risk con­sul­tancy. Cheta Nwanze tweets from @chxta

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