Beyond a claim to greatness firmly tied to its population size and the vastness of its oil fields, Nigeria’s socio-political developmental progress remains unflattering. This scenario is hardly helped by the latest annual rating of US-based non-profit organisation, Fund for Peace (FFP) in collaboration with Foreign Policy magazine which ranked the country 14th among 177 countries on the failed states index. LOUIS ACHI examines the substance of this rating
Mulling the human crisis that defined his era, former French president, Giscard D’Estaing once proclaimed that “history is tragic”. Born during the First World War, he fought in the second global conflagration. Perhaps, from insight shaped by being both a participant and witness to the triumph of the human spirit over unimaginable odds, he counseled statesmen and world leaders that, “There can be no response to history without effort.”
This pungent observation by a soldier-statesman captures the development dilemma of Nigeria as she attempts to evolve into a nation-state built on justice and equity. Arguably, as a result of the inability or unwillingness of Nigeria’s political leadership to make the necessary effort to respond to the challenges encapsulated in the peculiar history of its nationhood, socio-political and economic regression have become the defining features of Africa’s most populous state and the world’s fifth largest federation. This scenario has spawned considerable loss of faith among her citizens, as well as gave birth to the subsisting debate: Is Nigeria a failed or failing state?
In the recent report compiled and released by the U.S.-based non-profit organisation, Fund for Peace in collaboration with the Foreign Policy magazine, Nigeria was ranked 14th among 177 countries evaluated by the organisation, trailing states like Somalia, Sudan, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti, Zimbabwe, Central African Republic, Afghanistan, Iraq, Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea, Pakistan, and Yemen.
It is worth recalling that Nigeria has occupied an unenviable position in the ranking of this organisation since 2005. The country was ranked 54th in that year; 22nd in 2006; 17th in 2007; 18th in 2008 and 15th in 2009.
Today, confronted with a perplexing mosaic of lawlessness, violence, disease, pernicious corruption, weak institutions and massive divestment from Nigeria by notable entrepreneurial concerns, many Nigerians have enlisted dark metaphors to attempt to describe what seem to be the terminal symptoms of their statehood.
In the North, amidst seething poverty, injustice, puzzling elite conspiracy and ignorance, the loss of faith in the state is expressed in often virulent ethno-religious violence. The most recent platform of expressing this revolt is the bloody depredations of the ‘Boko Haram’.
In the South, depraved criminality mirrored in kidnappings, armed robbery and human trafficking, and militancy in the Niger Delta region represent outer expressions of inner contradictions of the state. Today, the nation’s education system is in a quandary as the federal government battles distraught lecturers, teachers and workers in the system.
Clearly visible is an increasingly degraded economic and socio-political environment. In the West African and sub-Saharan region, there is an increasing, strategic shift of attention to Accra, as Abuja takes a back seat.
It could be recalled that visiting US Secretary of State, Senator Hillary Clinton captured something of this dilemma when she noted that “Lack of transparency and accountability has eroded the legitimacy of the government and contributed to the rise of groups that embrace violence and reject the authority of the state... The most immediate source of the disconnect between Nigeria’s wealth and its poverty...(is) a failure of governance at the federal, state and local levels.”
Clearly evident are all the signs of a state heading for failure - where a constitutional authority increasingly shows an inability to provide basic services like guaranteeing security to life and property, maintenance of economic and social services, infrastructure and food security and the likes are not manifest.
Twelve years after the ruling Peoples Democratic Party ‘seized’ political power, considerable hope has been betrayed. Instead of strengthening democracy and promoting good governance, the party has been bedeviled by extreme cluelessness, indiscipline and a compelling failure to exercise power to the benefit of Nigerians. Whereas it was expected to mirror the ideals of the progressives who were its founding mentors, the party rather curiously chose a pathway totally opposite to the deepening of democracy.
Freshly elected, President Goodluck Jonathan promises a transformational administration and sings an alluring song of change. But Nigerians, short-changed for too long, are cautious and carefully watching. Yesterday, a month after his presidential inauguration, Jonathan swore in some ministers that will be part of his new cabinet to drive his agenda. Will the Jonathan presidency provide fundamental change that Nigerians crave? Big question.
As it were, the weight of hope vested on the ruling party previously and currently by Nigerians to transform their lot has been seared by a trajectory bordering on infamy. The emerging consensus is that a puzzling failure of the imagination and the political will to act with clarity has rail-roaded Nigeria to the edge of the precipice. Significantly, what remains of the opposition parties have cloned these regressive traits in their disparate domains. Spokesman of the Conference of Nigerian Political Parties (CNPP), Osita Okechukwu labels this development as “elite factionalisation.”
According to two leading American political institutions, the influential Foreign Policy magazine and the Fund for Peace, a failing has several attributes. One of the most common is the “loss of physical control of its territory or a monopoly on the legitimate use of force”.
Other attributes of state failure, according to the institutions, include the erosion of legitimate authority to make collective decisions, an inability to provide reasonable public services, and the inability to interact with other states as a full member of the international community.
The 12 indicators cover a wide range of elements of the risk of state failure, such as extensive corruption and criminal behaviour, inability to collect taxes or otherwise draw on citizen support, large-scale involuntary dislocation of the population, sharp economic decline, group-based inequality, institutionalised persecution or discrimination, severe demographic pressures, brain drain, and environmental decay.
They said states could fail at varying rates through explosion, implosion, erosion, or invasion over different time periods.
On its part, the Crisis States Research Centre defines a “failed state” as a condition of “state collapse” - i.e, a state that can no longer perform its basic security and development functions and that has no effective control over its territory and borders.
A failed state is one that can no longer reproduce the conditions for its own existence. But contradictions enter the fray in the policy community when making distinctions concerning failed states.
For instance, there is a tendency to label a “poorly performing” state as “failed” - a tendency the Crisis States Research Centre rejects. The opposite of a “failed state” is an “enduring state” and the absolute dividing line between these two conditions is often blurred. Even in a failed state, some elements of the state, such as local state organisations, might continue to exist.
In a telling summary, American scientist, linguist and political expert, Noam Chomsky articulated some characteristics of a failed state: first, the disability or unwillingness of the state to protect its citizens from violence and death. Second, it is inclination of authorities to see them above the law - both national and international. Third, such a state suffers a serious deficit of democracy which “deprives formal democratic institutes of their real content”.
According to the on-line wikipedia, political indicators of a failed state include criminalisation and/or delegitimisation of the state, as expressed in endemic corruption or profiteering by the ruling elite and resistance to transparency, accountability and political representation, and widespread loss of popular confidence in state institutions and processes.
Then there is the progressive deterioration of public services mirrored in the disappearance of basic state functions that serve the people, including failure to protect citizens from terrorism and violence, and to provide essential services like health, education, sanitation, public transportation. Others include widespread violation of human rights, rise of a factionalised elite and using the security agencies with impunity, like praetorian guards.
Will the nation’s political leadership wake to the glaring danger and pull back from the edge of the precipice to save Nigeria from incipient disintegration? Which failure niche does Nigeria occupy? Has she failed? Is she failing? Is she navigating the straits of “explosion, implosion, erosion or invasion”?