A Brief Comment on the Nigerian Condition


“…we are among the most underdeveloped and backward countries in the world. All of our economic, social, political and human development indices are among the worst…” – Avant-gardeEditorial, “Nigeria’s 56,000 Abandoned Projects”, November 28, 2021.

“Any government that is deaf, dumb and blind is a government that will not last. As a government, you have to listen to the people…” – Former President O. Obasanjo PunchOctober 30, 2021.

I belong to the tribe of public intellectuals whose contributions to public opinion focused on how to redress the country’s backward development have been both loudly and silently ignored by successive post-1999 governments. cause worry, sadness and anger include the following:

The situation in Nigeria at the end of 2020 was summed up by the country’s fourth largest citizen, the Speaker of the House of Representatives: “This year (2020), we have seen the structural inadequacies of our economy and health systems. Our internal architecture of security and justice exposes us dangerously to risk of a total and irreversible loss of confidence in the Nigerian project by a large part of our citizens(bold and italics added) – Quoted in PunchEditorial, “Restoring faith in the Nigerian project”, 6 January 2021.

“The definition of a failed state is one where the government no longer has control. In this regard, Africa’s most populous country is on the brink…Nigeria has more poor people, defined as those living on less than $1.90 a day, than any other country, including India …one in five children in the world is out of school lives in Nigeria, many of them girls… The economy has stalled since 2015 and the real standard of living is falling. – FinancialTimesEditorial, “Nigeria at risk of becoming a failed state”, 22 December 2020.

In the Ibrahim Index of African Governance (IIAG) which was released annually between 2007 and 2018 and released every two years from 2020 onwards, Nigeria recorded nearly constant low scores. In the latest IIAG report (2020), below are Nigeria’s scores and rankings out of 54 countries: (i) Participation, Rights, Inclusion and Equality, and Gender, 43.6%, 32n/a; (ii) Safety and security, rule of law, accountability and transparency, and anti-corruption, 44.3%, 34th; (iii) Human development (health, education, social protection and sustainable environment), 46.5%, 37e; and (iv) Economic Opportunity Foundations (public administration, business environment, infrastructure and rural sector), 47.8%, 28th. Overall, Nigeria recorded an “increasing deterioration” in governance in 2020 with a score of 45.5%, and was ranked 34e out of 54 countries. – Compiled by the author.

“…organized crime and political violence have become so intense and widespread that much of the country is sliding toward ungovernability. In the first nine months of 2021, nearly 8,000 people were directly killed in various conflicts…some 2,200 people were kidnapped for ransom, more than double the roughly 1,000 abducted in 2020…Economic unrest is compounded by an incompetent and authoritarian government… Without urgent action, Nigeria could sink into a downward spiral from which it will be difficult to emerge. – The Economist (London)Editorial, “Nigeria – The Crime Scene in the Heart of Africa”, October 23, 2021.

“From a potentially prosperous haven, Nigeria is becoming a place of excruciating misery. Further attestation of the country’s steady descent into a land of woes comes from Hanke’s Annual Misery Index, a global economic survey of countries in which Africa’s most populous nation has plunged four places, from 15th in 2020 at the 11th. [out of 156] most miserable territory in 2021. Undoubtedly, inequality, poverty, unemployment and economic hardship are rapidly confounding to make Nigeria an unlivable contraption – PunchEditorial, “Global Misery Index reflects woes of Nigerians”, May 16e 2022.

What is there to do?

The following answer is provided in my monograph: Doing politics well is the sine qua non to make Nigeria work. Three essential ingredients for good politics are discussed: a decentralized federation; good democratic practice; and administrative competence. And I include a recommendation on the need for development-oriented political leadership.

Firstly, one of the main reasons why Nigeria is not functioning is that we have maintained an oxymoron of unitary federalism inherited from the army when civilian rule was established in 1999. To improve our chances of maintaining the unity of Nigeria, consolidating democracy, effectively combating insecurity and accelerating socio-economic progress , Nigeria must urgently adopt and function as a decentralized federal system. This political system will have the following characteristics: six federating units; distribution of functions between the central government and the federated units based on the principle of subsidiarity similar, to a large extent, to the distribution of functions in the country’s 1963 Constitution; and an allocation of resources that is consistent with both the imperative of fiscal federalism and the increased functions proposed for subnational governments.

Second, Nigeria’s current low scores on key measures of good democratic practice need to be reversed. Specifically, improvements are needed regarding electoral legitimacy (ensuring free, fair and transparent elections), the functioning of the party system, the scope of political participation, respect for the rule of law, protection of rights rights and freedom of expression and association. The aim should be to ensure the legitimacy of governments and a functioning rule of law that would help promote accountable governance.

Third, the country’s lack of administrative competence, which has been largely responsible for the poor delivery of services to citizens since 1999, was recently acknowledged by incumbent President Buhari in his Independence Day speech on October 1.st 2021. He said, “For too long we have overlooked the centrality of the public service as the engine of governance and this has manifested itself in inefficient service delivery. There is widespread dissatisfaction and disillusionment with the efficiency and probity of our public service. It is for this reason that we are refocusing the Nigerian civil service to provide world-class service to lead our country. To address this lack of administrative competence, there should be a rapid update and comprehensive implementation of the largely neglected National Civil Service Reform Strategy (2009), which has the following vision: excellence and passion to ensure sustainable national development.

Finally, Nigeria needs a development-oriented political leader, under whose leadership the country can begin to make steady progress in economic growth, poverty reduction, security and prosperity for all. the citizens. This would be a leader who, at the end of their term, would compete for the Mo Ibrahim Africa Leadership Award established in 2007. The Award “recognizes and celebrates African leaders who have developed their countries, brought people out of poverty and paved the way for sustainable and equitable prosperity. To the imperative of development orientation, I would add four leadership attributes essential to the characteristics of political leaders who would make Nigeria work: integrity, intelligence, competence and vision.

While the continued good practice of producing political leaders through the ballot box must be maintained, political parties should now commit to not adopting former military leaders as party leaders or presidential candidates. /to the post of governor. The two retrained military leaders who served as presidents in the post-1999 era have clearly demonstrated that military culture trumps democratic culture; a “civilized” Nigerian military leader cannot be a democrat.

Last word

The three possible future scenarios that I had envisioned for the country in Where is Nigeria going? Directions for future development (2012) remain relevant today.

1. Maintaining the status quo: manage until the country settles for B or C below.

2. Optimistic scenario: the country finds a viable path to federal democracy and economic prosperity.

3. Pessimistic scenario: the dreaded “D” word – disintegration of the federation.

To achieve the “optimistic scenario” that I want for our young people in the next quarter century or before, it is important that political leaders at central and sub-national levels adopt and implement a decentralized federal system and commit, in terms and in fact, to good democratic practices, combined with administrative competence.

Professor Adamolekun made the remarks on his 80th birthday on July 20, 2022.


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