Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Nigeria: a failed state?


It's a question that's been on the minds of many people. The editors of Leadership ("Nigeria's most influential newspaper") now make their case. Do they cover all the bases described in your textbook? (The editors are not political scientists, so forgive them if they use "state," "government," and "regime" in less than precise ways.)

Can you tell if this editorial is more than just a statement of political opposition to the government of President Jonathan? What resolution is suggested?

Our Stand: This State Has Failed
It’s about time we admitted it: Nigeria has become a failed state… About a third of the country’s land mass has been under emergency rule for the past one year… at least another third of the country including the Federal Capital Territory: mass murders, kidnapping for ransom, daylight armed robberies, breakdown of law and order, and unrestrained stealing of public funds.

Several authorities identify a failed state as one that can no longer perform its basic duties in such areas as security, power, eradication of poverty, education and job creation. Even the Nigerian constitution recognises that the reason for government’s existence is protection of life and property as well as maintenance of law and order. Events of the past few years indicate that Nigeria has since exceeded the minimum requirements for classification as a failed state.

Currently, the nation is still in grief following the massacre of over 100 people and injuring of more than 200 others by a bomb… On the night of the same Monday, Boko Haram, which has been working together with international terrorist groups al-Shabab and al-Qaeda, seized about 100 female students from a school in Chibok…

No day has passed in the past weeks without a tale of one horrendous atrocity or the other committed by the bloodthirsty hoodlums…

After each act of terror, the Nigerian president, Dr Goodluck Jonathan, has made promises that he has never fulfilled…

And so, we ask again: what is a failed state? In this same country, 6 million university graduates applied for 4, 000 job slots in the Immigration Service. Almost 800, 000 of them were invited for an interview during which 23 of them died as a result of stampedes at some centres…

Our country has, in recent years, always featured on the list of the world’s failed or failing states. In its Failed States Index 2013 released recently, for instance, The Fund for Peace (FFP) ranks the country 16th out of 178 countries. It is only a few points looking better than war-torn Somalia that is ranked first… No wonder the country performed poorly on all indicators used by the FFP: mounting demographic pressure, movement of refugees or internally displaced persons, vengeance-seeking group grievance, human flight, uneven economic development, poverty or severe economic decline, legitimacy of the state, progressive deterioration of services, violation of human rights, security apparatus, rise of factionalised elites and intervention of external actors.

As the State of Emergency imposed on the three states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa expires this Saturday, President Jonathan should not attempt to extend it, unless he wishes to extend it to a larger part of the country. The leaders of the three states have made it clear that they won’t welcome an extension. After all, the entire nation is in emergency already, as clearly shown in the war with terrorists in the north, and the failed amnesty programme in the Niger Delta leading to the militants’ resumption of hostilities; armed robbers and kidnappers rule the roost in the south-west and the south-east. No doubt, the theatre of war now covers the entire country.

The Jonathan regime has demonstrated a frightening incompetence in the handling of the state’s affairs. It is now beyond doubt that the regime is incapable of protecting the people. This government cannot even protect Nigerians from the next attack or even the following day’s attacks. Before the latest kidnap of school girls in Chibok, nobody seemed to have been looking for or even as much as discussing those kidnapped earlier. All Nigerians now live in extreme fear.

When a state has failed, it should not be left to be propped up by failed leaders and failed politicians. But nothing is unstoppable. This trajectory can still be reversed before it is too late. That is why statesmen must speak up now!

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