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Date Published: 05/21/10

Nigeria: A Nation Trapped in Bad Governance By Idumange John


IT IS NO LONGER ARGUABLE WHETHER NIGERIA IS A FAILED STATE OR NOT. Even a blind man who does not see can feel the hardship sweeping across the land like a hurricane. This is manifested in the high dependency and unemployment rate, the spiralling inflation, decrepit physical and social infrastructure and poverty of governance. What is however still in contention is on the strategies to re-engineer the Nigerian State, its institutional capacities and operations and more importantly to rejuvenate the economy so that the ordinary Nigerian can boast and have confidence in the Nigerian State. Successive administrations had looked for many escape routes, some of them so  tortuous that the malaise is even aggravated. Nigeria is a criminal enterprise, and the general bad governance, which has precipitated acute hardship has created room for the youths and unemployed to go into criminality

Since 2005, I had asserted that Nigeria is a failed State but I surely under-estimated the magnitude of failure. When I saw the workers of Nigerian Telecommunications (NITEL), protesting the non-payment of their workers for 24 months.  In the 1980’s and early 1990’s, NITEL was a thriving company, which was the envy of son many people. When I imagine the trauma the families of the NITEL staff could be going through; some might have died. The over 12, 000 workers that were laid off by the Banks following the Central Bank reforms may be suffering a similar fate. They are victims of an economic system that is subjected to horrendous manipulation and cruel buccaneering. Many Nigerians are victims of anomie and acute frustration. The collective anomie and frustration may be aggravated if there is no genuine national leadership.

Anomie refers to the lack or ineffectiveness of normative regulation in society. The concept was first introduced in sociology by Durkheim (1893) in his study on the social dimensions of the division of labour. Durkheim argued that the division of labour is not problematic as long as it is sufficiently regulated. Durkheim saw such anomic forms inherent in industrial crises, in the conflict between labour and capital, and in the lack of unity and excessive degree of specialization in the sciences. Translated into politics, anomie results from an abrupt transitions in society leading to a loss in the effectiveness of norms to regulate behaviour. When anomie is acute, then society degenerates to a hobessian state of anarchy and ultimately total collapse.

Those who enunciated the concept of Western style democracy did not consider that a peculiar people like Nigerians would be someday spare a thought to practice the system or rather make a mockery of democracy. The world over, democracy is considered to be the best avenue in human history, which enables man to realize the essence of his being. De Tocqueville used the term as a synonym for equality; Herbert Spenser associated it with a free-enterprise society, while Thomas Jefferson saw democracy as both a constitutional and moral imperative based on the concept of equality, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

In Nigeria, democracy implies that the poor have to contribute whatever they have including their blood to sustain a State that does not provide for them, a State where they are not secure, a state where their welfare and human rights are not respected. Since 1960, the nation has witnessed intense cyclic instability. Nigeria has dallied with Westminster style of parliamentary democracy in the First Republic; the Ironsi junta inaugurated something like “Unitary system”; this paved the way for “diarchy” in the turbulent civil war years. After nearly two decades of military dictatorship the nation was gingered to try presidential democracy. The basic pre-occupation has been to erect a truly united Nigeria on the foundations of democratic praxis.

In 1978 Obasanjo conceived a vision to feed the nation hence the introduction of Operation Feed the Nation. Today, OBJ is a super rich Nigerian and even IBB confesses that OBJ made more money in one year than he did in eight years. Shehu Shagari’s Green Revolution was also transformed into a yellow revolution, with an astronomical increase in the importation of rice and other staple food. The Abacha administration initiated the vision 2010. The vision of the bespectacled General was intended to grow the economy through the promotion of Small and Medium scale industries, providing access to information relating to opportunities for credit. The vision was a still born as it was undermined by poverty and inability of government to provide the basic infrastructure for industrial take-off.

Nigeria has never lacked beautiful policies but implementation and policy inconsistency are two challenges the nation is yet to overcome. This is true of many transitional societies that are democratizing. When Obasanjo mounted the saddle, he launched the New Nigerian Economic Policy in the first term of his administration. The fundamental objectives of the new economic thinking were to revive and grow Nigeria’s comatose economy with a view to improving the standard of living of the people. It was also designed for creating job opportunities and to re-position the economy within the context of an overall global economy. Nigeria’s democracy  thrives on deceit, inequality, alienation and delusion. The duplicity of bourgeois democracy is apparent especially in the areas related to welfare rights. While the political class is over-rewarded, other classes of public servants .

Nigeria’s democracy  thrives on deceit, inequality, alienation and delusion. The duplicity of bourgeois democracy is apparent especially in the areas related to welfare rights. While the political class is over-rewarded, other classes of public servants . Such a polity is characterized by three basic features 

First is the fact that in bourgeois democracy state resources are appropriated by a handful of persons at the expense of the masses. Thus the same group of persons who appropriate the commonwealth cannot turn out to be poverty alleviators – the poor they help to create. Therefore the utopianism bandied about by miracle workers that by 2020 Nigeria will join the league of the 20 largest economies in the world  can only be grandiose delusion  It is a vision designed to sustain the fate of the down trodden until they are snuffed out of existence.

Secondly, in a bourgeois democracy, those who have power automatically control the mode of production and ensure its supremacy. The bourgeois therefore make laws to guarantee their dominance. The primary role of the State then is to disguise the law of the strong as a law purporting to guarantee the good of all. In Nigeria today, the law enforcement agencies such as the Police and the army are in the hands of the bourgeois class and they are in the forefront of repression and cohesion. The bourgeois class also uses its positions to appropriate the commonwealth also engages in large scale bribery and corruption, and this is very conspicuous in all spheres of the nations life.  

Thirdly, we have the comprador bourgeoisie who serve as cronies and fronts to protect foreign interest even at the expense of the domestic economy. These are the Nigerians who collude with foreign oil companies to steal our oil and cannot give account of how many barrels we are selling and how much money that is accruing to the Nigerian State. Some of them are mandarins who do everything to stifle the implementation of government policies. They work hard to ensure that public policies do not work so they can convince government to privatize everything. They do so at the expense of  the masses, who are compelled to make huge  sacrifices in the form of paying higher prices for petroleum products.

More often, governments genuine efforts at economic rejuvenation have been deliberately sabotaged by the same thieving economic class that have rendered the economy prostate. These Nigerians plunder the economy with buccaneering impunity. They were with Obasanjo and they are still influencing policy directions at the Presidency. And if President Jonathan does not put this class in check, the administration will not make much difference. 

Government also initiated the Poverty Eradication Scheme. Initially, the scheme promised to be successful but the way and manner it was administered reduced it to a routine money sharing business. Some time ago, we also visioned about becoming the greatest palm oil producer in the world. Malaysia came in 1978 and saw the dream, but the reality is that Malaysia is now the greatest palm oil producer in the world while our leaders through their policies killed the lucrative vocation. Today, Nigeria is crude-oil dependent and no mono-product economy can be sustainable.

Nigeria is indeed wrapped in anomie occasioned by bad governance. In Nigeria, the law is used to legitimize the appropriation of the private property of the minority to further widen the gap between the major and minor stakeholders in the Nigerian project. That is why the Land Use Decree and the Petroleum Act will endure in the Nigerian Constitution irrespective of the clandestine injury it has inflicted on the psyche of the people of the Niger Delta Region. Now the youths of the Region eagerly await the implementation of the amnesty programme – a fire-fighting measure that must be sustained if the oil wells must continue to flow. 

There are some Nigerians who are eager to solve the economic problems of the country. These reform-minded Nigerians also appreciate the fact that our economy cannot be resuscitated by quick-fix solutions against the background of the cumulative mismanagement of the economy over the past two decades. They are those who proffer medium and long-term solutions to the economic malaise afflicting the nation. The reformers are those who advocate economic diversification especially in the Agricultural sector rather than depend solely of a mono-product economy. They also advise government against external borrowing and dead weight debt but rather advocate the application of measured doses of World Bank and IMF inspired policies grandiosely designed to put us in a cauldron of perpetual debt peonage.   

The NASS is dragging her feet on the important issue of electoral reform. The Freedom of Information Bill (FOI) is still in the morgue. The white papers on the power probe have been held hostage, even as the Siemens scandal stare us in the face. The PDP led administration is one of unending scandals and unmitigated disaster. As the colony of the despondent, disillusioned and frustrated is mounting and the masses seem to be inching near the limits of human endurance. That is why Nigerians emigrate to China to populate Chinese prisons; the unlucky ones are summarily executed and cremated.

In Libya, Nigerians are tortured daily, and a great many are kept in underground prisons to die slowly- an indication that Nigeria has very little respect for human life. Amidst these gory tales, our foreign policy managers believe that Nigeria is making progress. We are indeed a good people in a great nation. Since we do not even know how many we are in Nigeria, how can we know the number of Nigerians that are killed in Libya, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Gabon, and other countries where Nigerians tend to stay as economic refugees. These are the urgent tasks the Jonathan Presidency should begin to tackle NOW. 

Idumange John is a Fellow of the Institute of Public Management, Nigeria 


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