How then does Nigeria solve a problem like Kanu? Obviously, good governance is essential. So is justice. As Wole Soyinka stated at the end of the civil war, “To keep Nigeria one, justice must be done.” Unity is always an outcome of other variables; never a given. Nigeria’s elites are eloquent preachers of unity and inept practitioners of justice.

A democracy is not an end in itself. It must guarantee social justice and social mobility. People must have a sense that they have a clear path to full creative lives and a fair chance of changing the material circumstances of their birth. They must believe that they can transcend the limitations of their pedigree and become what they choose to be. This is the substance of the hope that sustains democracy. Without the hope that our material conditions are not written in stone and can be changed through effort, society is imperiled. Democracy withers away in the presence of hopelessness. What, after all, is the point of voting when those electoral choices have no impact on one’s quality of life?

When democracy fails to underwrite social justice and social mobility, it fuels hopelessness. In these circumstances, faith in formal politics as a tool of socioeconomic betterment diminishes and demagogues emerge from the margins to contest the legitimacy of the state itself. Demagogues typically emerge in times of socioeconomic upheaval retailing narratives that purport to explain the tribulations of the masses. They also supply scapegoats and help focus public rage on a perceived enemy. They are adept at exploiting the grievances and fury of the masses, articulating their discontent in ways that are pungent, jarringly politically inco