For long, Nigeria wavered precariously between weakness and total failure. With Jonathan leading the party of lootocrats and do nothings, the report card is in; Nigeria is a failed state. It hasn’t collapsed yet but its collapse is a matter of time if the current trends are sustained.
A failed state is generally perceived as a nation that has failed at fulfilling the basic conditions and responsibilities of a sovereign government; and are characterized by social, political, and economic failure. Nigeria is a state consumed by anomie and internal violence, it can no longer deliver positive political goods to Nigerians. The government of Goodluck Jonathan has lost legitimacy among a growing plurality of Nigerians, and the country is facing severe infrastructural deficit and economic stagnation.
The Fund for Peace, in their landmark initiative, outlined several social, economic and political indicators that characterize a failed state. No doubt Nigeria is one. The country is in a maelstrom of internal conflict and power games as orchestrated by the home-grown terror network of Boko Haram
According to Robert I. Rotberg in his book – When States Fail: Causes and Consequences; “There is a hierarchy of political goods. None is as critical as the supply of security, especially human security.” Nigeria as a nation today cannot provide security for its citizens. The military has been politicized, corrupted and decimated by cronyism. A once proud military with acclaimed exploits in international peace keeping efforts is now a camp of deserters and cowards. No one should blame the troops. A fish they say decays from the head.
The problem with the Nigerian military is with the ranking leaders not the troops. It is a country where citizens are expected to make their private security arrangements, groups in housing estates, offices and communities are purchasing goods and services that maximize their sense of security. Thugs are emerging as parallel security agents people go to to enforce their rights, collect debts and adjudicate contentious matters. The full spectrum of public security has been left to God – only God can protect fully, they say. Nigeria is under siege from cross-border invasions and infiltrations especially from Chad – a tiny impoverished state that would not have dared Nigeria 20 years ago.
Under Goodluck Jonathan, the essential freedoms of association, respect for the courts, the right to compete for office, the right to vote, tolerance of dissent are being taken away in calculated instalments. The right to participate freely, openly, and fully in politics and in the political process is getting abrogated by the day.
There can be no better indicator of a failed state than the loss of territory and the loss of monopoly on the legitimate use of physical force within a nation. The Federal government is weak and ineffective; it has no control over much of the Northeast. Historic towns are getting captured, renamed and run by the Islamic Caliphate in the manner of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. A huge swath of Nigerians are in dire straits as refugees in Cameroon and as internally displaced persons in adjoining states.
Nigeria is mired in this situational crisis because it has failed to address its fundamental geographical, physical and economic constraints. These constraints have given birth to internal antagonisms, mediocrity, corruption, greed and despotism. The Middle Belt is increasingly battling inter-communal tensions between indigenous farmers and Fulani herdsmen as exemplified by the Ombatse clashes.
The rulers can continue to deceive themselves but indicators are jarring. Where are Nigeria’s public institutions? In what state is public education and public health? Public facilities, where available, are decrepit and neglected. Nigerians have slowly realized the state has abandoned them to their own devices and to the forces of nature. The country’s brightest and best continues to find safe havens abroad using their talents to develop their host countries.
With Mr. Jonathan at the helm, a privileged few is enjoying unparalleled economic opportunity, never witnessed in the history of Nigeria. The subsidy cabal are buying private jets and living large on the backs of the poor. The security mafia are profiting from terror. The militants are happy one of their own is milking the cow. Oil thieves are richer than the government. Everyone around the Jonathan oligarchy grow richer while the less fortunate Nigerians starve.
Subsisting energy and power generation deficits have shown that the wellbeing and personal prosperity of Nigerians is never considered. Instead, the government ensures immense profits for its cronies by granting regulatory advantages and the privilege of making real money when everything else is falling apart is confined to friends of government.
Without a shred of doubt, venal corruption is now on a destructive scale as opposed to the lubricating corruption we have come to accept as normal. Twenty billion dollars disappeared without consequence. Kickbacks are a given on anything that can be put to tender. Project contracts are awarded not as a necessity but arranged to maximize the rent they generate.
As a capstone, we are seeing the emergence of state-sanctioned extortion – examples are the sham immigration recruitment exercise and the NYSC N4,000 pay-as-you-deploy Ponzi scheme. As expected, none of these “gains” are ever invested in Nigeria, making the economic failure of the country much more acute. This year, Nigerians have spent billions buying up the choicest properties lining the famed streets of London. To the “connected”, the Boko Haram scourge is another opportunity. Millions of dollars have exchanged hands from the inflated security budgets with no tangible improvement in security. The monies have gone into paying for lavish homes, extensive overseas travel with bloated entourage, and privileges and perquisites that feeds their greed. The rot has enveloped the top military hierarchy. It is so bad that American military consultants could not work with them, share intelligence or provide munitions. Top military brass are now emergency defence contractors purchasing substandard military wares and pocketing money meant for welfare packages for their troops.
The prevailing situation and agitation for autonomous control at the National Conference can only show us that Nigeria has lost the “mandate of heaven.” It is a shame that under a minority Ijaw, whose land drives Nigerias’ fortune, the country lost its capacity to secure itself. More effort is spent by Jonathan and his minions on crippling states governed by opposition political parties than on real governance.
Nigeria has earned the distinction as a textbook case of how a nation-state can move from a strong one to a weak one, then to a collapsing entity and eventually to a failed nation. At independence, Nigeria had promise and it was strong. It became weak after the political crisis in the Western region and moved progressively south until the civil war turned it into a collapsed state. Due to robust determination and committed intervention, Nigeria recovered and became a weak state. Even though the country has the resources to be strong, its extractive rulers kept it weak until external and internal forces exploited the fault lines.
Nigeria has shown that failure is preventable. The country failed because human agency did not address at root the nation’s structural flaws and institutional insufficiencies. The combined factors of increasing demographic pressures, group grievance, severe brain drain, escalating rate of internally displaced persons, uneven economic development, poverty and economic decline, state delegitimization, bad public services, lack of respect for human rights and the rule of law, compromised security apparatuses and factionalized elites do not bode well for Nigeria.
Will Nigeria collapse? I don’t know! I have hope that this country can be rescued. Obligate parasites must know they die with their host. If they kill Nigeria, they won’t be alive to tell the story.
Bamidele maintains a weekly column on Politics and Socioeconomic issues every Tuesday. She is a member of Premium Times Editorial Board.