49 years. Moreover, and of arguably greater concern to its citizens and the international donor community, the country has regressed in certain crucial areas. In fact, since 1960, the year in which the country gained its independence from Britain, the amount of people who are functionally literate has fallen, the electricity output of the country’s power stations has decreased, the percentage of the population living in poverty has increased, and the divide between rich and poor has grown.
Of course, the rate of this decline has been neither steady in tempo nor consistent in its consequences. Rather, it has occurred in fits and starts, sometimes quicker and more profound, at other times slower and less dramatic. Yet, taken over the course of Nigeria’s post-colonial history, it has been unremitting, especial- ly from the mid-1980s onwards. No part of the country has been left unaffected. While some regions and their inhabitants may not have suffered as badly as others— Abuja in particular is a relatively privileged and pro- tected place—none have been spared entirely, let alone bucked the trend of stagnation and degeneration. In fact, nearly all but the wealthiest of Nigeria’s citizens have had to endure growing hardships and falling standards of living.
Yet even so, northern Nigeria has been one of the regions hardest hit. Its decline started as early as Janu- ary 1966 and was triggered by the collapse of the First Republic. For many northerners of an age to remember it, and some who cannot, the First Republic remains the finest incarnation of the post-independence state.36 That they should still hold such a view is hardly sur- prising, given the political dominance of the north throughout its existence. Stretching all the way to the southern borders of what are today the states of Kwara,