Failed state controversy: Is Nigeria at risk?

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… Economy growing despite challenges – Expert

… It’s been stalled since 2015 – Prof. Utomi

… Political will, sincerity lacking – Ameachi

“… Our concern should be to reverse trend”

 As Nigeria continues to battle with the many challenges of nationhood, the recent editorial by The Financial Times (FT) of London and other happenings in the country have opened a debate on whether Nigeria is a failed state or at risk of becoming a failed state; ABDULRAHMAN ZAKARIYAU writes.

The Financial Times (FT) recently published an article stating that Nigeria was on the brink of becoming a failed state. The London-based publication cited insecurity, stalled economic growth, and weak institutions, as some of the country’s biggest challenges.

In an editorial, the respected international business newspaper said, “Nigeria will become a problem far too big for the world to ignore if urgent and drastic measures are not taken by the Buhari administration.”

It condemned the kidnap of 344 schoolboys in Katsina, an incident that revived the memories of the more than 276 schoolgirls kidnapped in Borno in 2014, some of who are still being held by the Boko Haram insurgents.

It said the incident and similar ones have shown cast down on President Muhammadu Buhari’s ability to crush Boko Haram, a group which has “remained an ever-present threat.”

The publications explained that, “The definition of a failed state is one where the government is no longer in control. By this yardstick, Africa’s most populous country is teetering on the brink.

“If the latest kidnapping turns out to be its work, it would mark the spread of the terrorist group from its north-eastern base. Even if the mass abduction was carried out by “ordinary” bandits, as now looks possible, it underlines the fact of chronic criminality and violence.”

It further stated: “Deadly clashes between herders and settled farmers have spread to most parts of Nigeria. In the oil-rich, but impoverished, Delta region, extortion through the sabotage of pipelines is legendary.”

Financial Times added that in addition to insecurity, Nigeria has been struggling with extreme poverty and out-of-school children mostly girls.

With the country’s population now over 200 million, the newspaper said the living standards of citizens were declining, while the economy has stalled since 2015.

It added that, “Nigeria desperately needs to put its finances, propped up by foreign borrowing, on a sounder footing to survive the shock of its dwindling resources as the elite’s scramble for oil revenue will become a game of diminishing returns.”

The editorial continued, “In its three remaining years, the government of Mr Buhari must seek to draw a line in the sand. It must redouble efforts to get a grip on security.

“It also needs to restore trust in key institutions, among them the judiciary, the security services and the electoral commission, which will preside over the 2023 elections.

“More than that, Nigeria needs a generational shift. The broad coalition that found political expression this year in the EndSARS movement against police brutality provides a shard of optimism.

“At least Nigeria has a relatively stable democracy. Now Nigeria’s youth, creative, entrepreneurial, and less tainted, by the politics of extraction, should use that system to reset the country’s narrative.”


As expected, the editorial generated reactions from several quarters, even as experts continue to use indices that are associated with a failed state to analyse in a bid to establish, for and against, Nigeria being on the brink of becoming a failed state.

PDP, APC disagree

The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have disagreed on the comment by the Financial Times.

As expected the PDP agreed with the editorial while the APC insisted that despite “naysayers and opposition party’s doomsday wishes for Nigeria, our dear country is nowhere close to becoming a failed state.”

The APC, in press statement by the Secretary, Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee, Senator John James Akpanudoedehe, said: “The President Muhammadu Buhari government is not oblivious to the country’s challenges and is visibly and frontally addressing them. From the economy to security, it is easy to sum up Nigeria with some recent recorded security incidents and the economic downturn.

“However, this government has displayed the political will and capacity to contain any criminal/terrorist activity and return the economy to growth.

“President Buhari’s administration which sees the urgent need to have a better policing system for the country and is embarking on sweeping police reforms and supporting community policing, is not governing a country close to becoming a failed state.”

However, the PDP in a press statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, concur with the Financial Times that, “indeed, there is complete leadership failure in Nigeria.”

It read in part, “Indeed, the editorial by FT is only stating the obvious, as our nation under President Buhari has presented all the trappings of a failed state including having a rudderless government with a dysfunctional command structure that cannot guarantee security, manage our economy or even perform very simple tasks of governance.

“Our great nation now tends towards a leaderless society where terrorists, bandits, kidnappers, marauders and vandals have taken the lead, running riotously across our land while those who promised to protect lives and property have gone into hiding in Aso Presidential Villa.

“Under President Buhari, life is fast tilting towards Hobbesian state of nature; driven by the combined negatives of an incompetent and unconcerned Presidency and a reckless, kleptomaniac and dysfunctional ruling party that is more interested in power-grabbing instead of governance.”

Challenges are surmountable

Contrarily, an expert in economics, Yusha’u Aliyu, has said that though there were economic challenges the economy was growing.

In a phone chat with Blueprint Weekend, Aliyu said: “My take on the statement has to do with the reality on the ground. Nigeria is indeed faced with serious economic threats, but that does not qualify Nigeria economy to be on the stalled.

“Recent polls rated Nigeria to be 25 top economies in the world. So, if you take ranking of that nature and you also look at realities on the ground, one will come to realise that it is true that there are economic conditions that are not favourable, but at the same time, there are ways out of the problem. There is no nation without an economic problem.

“The problem we are facing is mostly associated with the mono-product aspect of Nigeria economy. That is crude sales, which has not been favourable during President Buhari’s administration. But, the fact that we have witness growth in our GPD, even greater than West Africa, shows that some of President Buhari’s economic policies are working, though not working as expected.

“When you check the agricultural policy of this administration and the manufacturing index, despite the fact there is no much, you will realise that the economy is responding. So Nigeria is not becoming a failed Nation based on facts on the ground.

“In my opinion, we’re not effectively utilizing our alternative resources to make the economy grow better. When you check the inflation rate, the unemployment rate and even the consequences of this Covid-19 you will that Nigeria is faced with serious economic challenges that are surmountable. So Nigeria is not a failed state. It is a state with many economic challenges and prospects.”

Need to rethink, restructure Nigeria

Also commenting on the publication, the Director, Public Policy and Research, Dr Sam Amadi, said: “You don’t need Financial Times to tell you Nigeria is sorely distressed. You don’t need FT to tell you that we are at best a failing state with significant part of the country lost to banditry and terrorism.

“You can’t travel from the capital to 120 miles on road even with police and military security. So, what are you in that context?

“Our concern should not be to contradict the Financial Times. But to work hard to reverse what is clearly a distressed state of affairs in the country.

On way forward

“The nation is structured wrongly. You have to be serious to confront the challenges by reviewing the history. That is diagnosis. Don’t assume the solution. “Let the solution arise from the problem. For me the country was designed not to be stable by the inefficient way we mixed feudalism and democracy; we mixed religion and politics and mixed privilege and prerogatives with equalitarianism. We need to rethink and restructure Nigeria.”

 It’s been stalled Since 2015 – Utomi

Similarly, political economy and management expert, Professor Pat Utomi agreed with the editorial, arguing that Nigeria’s economy has been stalled since 2014.

Utomi in a chat with our correspondent said: “I am not surprised; Nigeria economy has been stalled since 2015 that is the truth of the matter. It can only get worse. “The over-dependent on crude oil proceeds and for year’s we have been talking about diversification, but we have done nothing about it because the Nigeria political elites are essentially lazy and are a realm seeking elites which as a result of state capture want to profit itself from the little income that comes from oil, without giving a thought to what will develop the whole country. That is what has held Nigeria down.”

He explained that, “The things that make a failing state is a little more than economy. Though the economy contributes significantly, values which have experienced a collapse, also contributes and there is a collapse of culture in Nigeria.

“The kind of wanton corruption, everywhere you look corruption. The system is systematically corrupted, that is systemic corruption defines things.

“It has got to a point where we are now; the state does not enjoy monopoly of the use of the instrument of violence. That is what defines a state normally. The conception of a state normally is a function of people surrendering some of their freedom and right to defend themselves to a leviathan, state which they defend their security and property.

“What has happened in Nigeria is that for some significant period that monopoly does not exist anymore. All kinds of armed groups have been sharing that use of violence with the state. And if you look at countries that have become a failed state, like Somalia, that is a classic example of what happened when a state loses the monopoly of the legitimate use of violence.”

Speaking further he said: “This is the Nigerian problem that we have walked into, because of the selfishness of the political class. The politicians don’t have the will to build a nation; they just have the disposition to accumulate whatever for self-interest from the Commonwealth.

“Just take a look at how far down the country has travelled in terms of economic activities and how much political actors are see taken out of the system. The motorcade has not reduced; the allowances and so many things have not changed to reflect our economic situation. This is a conscienceless political class.”

On the way forward Utomi said: “The only thing that can stop all these is the people saying no, this is not democracy. You need people power to save the country from the politicians.”

Fractured security architecture

On his part, an Intelligence and Security Consultant,  Nwokolo Amaechi, has said that the insecurity situation and other problems persist in Nigeria because political will and sincerity was lacking among the leaders.

Speaking to Blueprint Weekend Amaechi said, “In the past five years I have told many people that Nigeria is on the brink of becoming a failed state. We have passed the nomenclature of a failing state. We are sliding into the grip of a failed state. The only thing that is stopping us from making that pronouncement is that there is still one central government. But the way things are, if we look at the perfect description of a failed state, we are at the junction of a failed state.

“In a failed state government does not have control over the security of the nation, it cannot provide safety, infrastructure, medical care and all that. So, they are very right that Nigeria is becoming a failed state.

“This issue of insecurity has been up for a long time, but because of the kinds of politics that we play in this country, that is how we got where we are today. Many failed to tell truth to power because of what they are benefiting. The truth of the matter is that Nigeria is on the stretch of becoming a failed state.

“Our national security architecture is much fractured. We need to do a very thorough review of our national security because national security architecture that is not people based.

“Our security does not have an interface with the people; it is just securitisation without involvement of the people.

“There is no way security of any country can ever be successful without the involvement of the people, community, and stakeholders. The people don’t even have trust in the security agencies. So, those are the things that affect us. Our politicians know, but the question is: Do they want things to work well?

“Political will and political sincerity is what is lacking in Nigeria. So, except we can be sincere with ourselves, be sincere to the nation in all that we do, Nigeria may become a failed nation.

“Another thing that is lacking is good governance. We need to go back to the drawing board and plan how to deliver good governance to our people. How can we make Nigeria a better place,” he queried.

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