8th December, 2010
Nigeria is an emerging nation and the proverbial growing pains are a part of theÂ process. Granted, we have been undergoing this pain for longer than usual orÂ permitted. Such phrase defines the nation properly. Lately, there have been a lot ofÂ ramifications over whether this country is a failed state or otherwise. While allÂ those who joined the bandwagon in terming Nigeria as a failed state, none hasÂ defined what constitutes a failed state. Being thus removed from a proper definitionÂ based on certain inalienable criteria, one can safely assume that those who like toÂ call Nigeria a failed state are merely verbalizing their opinion. Opinions are veryÂ subjective and thus often fail the litmus test of truth. This is not to say thatÂ opinions have no value.
To say the truth; Political violence has by and large been a part of the nationâ€™sÂ political lexicon for a very long time. In a sense, therefore, one could say that itÂ is all part of the process, that indeed in our effort towards creating a fullyÂ functioning system of democracy, it is quite natural for us to come to terms withÂ such realities. And yet there is the very logical feeling among people, as indeedÂ there is among the various political quarters side our Nigeria that the prevalenceÂ of violence has been responsible in a big way for the continuing slide we haveÂ noticed in our striving for a democratic order.
One cannot overlook the fact that lately there have been a plethora ofÂ pseudo-intellectuals, sophists, paralegals and theorists who venture into areasÂ where even an Irish elf fears to tread. They are armed with academic degrees,Â dressed in a mortarboard but lack sense and propriety. They love to jump toÂ conclusions without checking or re-checking their first or second premises, ignoreÂ reasoning from particular cases but arrive at a faulty conclusion, at best. TheyÂ love to court the sensational and present their views which in most cases are ofÂ questionable veracity.
Is Nigeria a failed state? Depends who you ask. There are those who will nod theirÂ heads in affirmation without giving it a studied thought. They are obviouslyÂ opinionated and are led by their political ideology. There are others who willÂ vehemently ascertain that Nigeria is not. They too are prompted by their politicalÂ ideology. In comes the country director of WB, Christine Wallich, who seems to haveÂ remembered the Aristotelian/Ovidian â€˜golden mean;â€™ the meden agan or the middleÂ path; â€˜thou wilst go safest in the middle.â€™ She seems to have struck a compromiseÂ within herself when she said that Nigeria may be â€˜fragileâ€™ but not â€˜failedâ€™. She wasÂ speaking at the monthly luncheon meeting of the Foreign Investorsâ€™ Chamber ofÂ Commerce and Industry. Her comments may not be acceptable across the board, but itsÂ is perhaps closest to reality..
Be that as it may, an objective scrutiny is perhaps necessary to project bothÂ sides of the argument [vis-Ã -vis failed or not] to those who care and leave it up toÂ them to come to their own conclusions. A cursory definition of statehood willÂ include that the criteria of statehood is met when there is a definite geographicalÂ territory for the people to live, a language, common heritage and traditions, aÂ government and administration. Nigeria has come a long way in its struggle toÂ re-establish a democratic form of government. The economic development has beenÂ optimistic. Efforts at poverty reduction and increasing the standard of living haveÂ been commendable. The annual growth rate of five and six percent is reason for hope.Â The infrastructure development is strikingly visible.
Population growth has been brought under reasonable control, macro-economic growthÂ has been satisfactory, social indicators have been on the rise, incidence of povertyÂ alleviation has been quite remarkable. These are some of the positive indications toÂ nullify the argument of a failed state; and these observations are coming from theÂ donor countries, including the World Bank and Asian Development Bank. Before someoneÂ ascribes this as a rosy picture painted by a partisan, let us also say that theseÂ achievements did not happen overnight or during the present governmentâ€™s tenureÂ only.
The previous governments also had their contributions. It is a fallacy to believeÂ that during one governmentâ€™s tenure, Nigeria could not be a failed state but withÂ the change of government, it becomes a failed state overnight, so to speak. TheÂ logorrhoea of those who claim that Nigeria is a failed state base their argumentÂ solely on the failure of the administration in controlling the anti-social elementsÂ in the country, in failing to stem the tide of corruption, in failing to provideÂ safety and security to its people, etc. These are all facts. True, the governmentÂ has failed to do its job in these and other areas. But do these alone justifyÂ crucifixion? Let us look at similar conditions in other countries which hadnâ€™tÂ earned the disrepute of being called a failed state.
We have read about Indiaâ€™s failure to address communal issues which only recentlyÂ resulted in the murders of thousands of innocent Muslims in Gujrat. We read aboutÂ her failure to control Kashmiri â€˜insurgentsâ€™ and many stories of human rightsÂ violation, including death in custody in the area. Insurgency and fighting forÂ independen
A great country like the USA, is beset with racial and ethnic problems. TeenageÂ pregnancy and unwed mothers are problems that the USA has been unable to find anÂ answer for. There have been murders over the issue of abortion; clinics whichÂ perform abortion have been torched, bombed and people injured and dead.Â Discrimination and bigotry did not go away with the signing of the Civil Rights Act.Â Murder still ranks as one of the serious crimes. War against drug is all but won.Â Pakistan has her own problems of Shias and Sunnis, of Talibans and al-Qaedas. TheÂ frontier states are all but independent. But the USA and Pakistan are never calledÂ failed states. These are just a few examples that need to be cited to show thatÂ terming a state as a failed state is motivated, ill conceived. At worst, theÂ so-called failed states have failed in certain areas of their capacity to manage andÂ control.
There is a term in educational psychology called the Pygmalion Effect. It comesÂ from Shawâ€™s play of the same name. In Shawâ€™s play, Professor Higgins takes up theÂ challenge on himself about transforming an uneducated, uncouth street urchin namedÂ Eliza into a socialite. He succeeds after spending with her hours and days teachingÂ her to read, write, sing, dance and be a lady. Psychologists borrowed thisÂ transformation concept and applied it to the theory that the so calledÂ â€˜unteachablesâ€™ can be taught provided enough motivation and encouragement are given.Â The relevance of bringing this brief subject up is to try to make the malevolent toÂ try not to be opinionated or inflexible.
One of the impediments to good governance for which many label us as a failed stateÂ is the dominant political culture and practices that our political parties follow.Â Once a party is in power, it is perceived by people that the party and its membersÂ come first; the public and the national interest take the back seat. This perceptionÂ is not baseless. The party in power tries to consolidate its power and authorityÂ over every government entity. It tries and becomes successful in politicizing theÂ bureaucrats, the police ands other powerful agencies. By nurturing a set of partyÂ loyalist, it tries to ensure its return to power. The party loyalists, on the otherÂ hand, exemplify the quid pro quo principle.
All these years after the restoration of elected civilian government in the country,Â it becomes important for everyone to evaluate the degree of progress we have so farÂ made in turning ourselves into a tolerant Nigerian society. The evaluation, we mightÂ as well note, will be quite disappointing. And it will be that because we have hadÂ cause to observe in the past fourteen years a gradual rise in the use of politicalÂ invectives by our politicians and their followers across the spectrum.
The culture that has grown of politicians at the national level not communicatingÂ with one another, not playing their due roles in the National Assembly, et al, hasÂ caused serious damage to the political process. The process of democracy is oneÂ where a healthy respect subsists in politicians for one another despite theÂ divergences in opinion among them. Political leaders at the senior levels areÂ expected, as part of transparency, to socialize with one another and thereby impressÂ upon the country that they are capable of handling matters of state when they are inÂ power and keeping tabs on conditions when they lapse into opposition. That degree ofÂ mutual respect and tolerance has unfortunately not been inculcated in our politicalÂ classes. There is then little surprise that the nation is left wondering, always,Â about the long-term future of the country.
Politicians in this country are yet to convince themselves that denigrating oneÂ another, through calling one another names of the most disturbing kind can onlyÂ undermine their own position in the eyes of the nation. We are not about to pointÂ fingers as a way of suggesting which personalities or parties have been responsibleÂ for the growth of such a situation.
Suffice it to say that everyone, or almost everyone, in the political arena mustÂ bear responsibility for what has not gone right with national politics. IncendiaryÂ language and insinuations have been part of the pattern, all of which have againÂ gone into causing an enhanced degree of divisiveness in society. It is time for theÂ politicians and the parties they swear fealty to reconsider their attitudes toÂ democracy. And democracy is a whole lot more than a holding of elections and theÂ swearing in of a new government. It means a slow but sure inculcating of civilityÂ and etiquette among the political classes, towards one another and towards theÂ country.
In most cases, these loyalists getting political support of the ruling party indulgeÂ in unlawful and even sometimes illegal practices. This entente between the rulingÂ party and the loyalists is almost akin to a Faustian agreement. There are many otherÂ such misdeeds of the ruling party of the day that earn us the unenviable epithet ofÂ a failed state.
Nigeria is an emerging nation and the proverbial growing pains are a part of theÂ process. Granted, we have been undergoing this pain for longer than usual orÂ permitted, one should remember Professor Higgins and Eliza. Changes do happen whenÂ everyone wants to change. Instead of calling this a failed state, if we only workedÂ together to make it a successful one, those malefic critics would not have anyÂ chance to write anything about. We have to clean up our act first; otherwise, weÂ have to live with such criticism until we truly become a failed state.
â€¢Arizona-Ogwu writes from Oyigbo, Rivers State, Nigeria.