Is Nigeria a Failed State?

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By Melvin Umunna

The argument of a failed state has resurfaced strongly in recent times; the concept of a failed state has always been married along Nigeria since over the last decade. The wide spread of corruption, judicial ineffectiveness, insurgency, religious and tribal clashes, break down of law and order in some parts of the country, economic instability have led to questions about Nigeria regarded as a failed or failing state. However it is important to understand the concept of a failed state vis-à-vis the Nigerian State. Severally, there have been predictions by international organizations and national institutions about the country degenerating into a failed state. Let’s take a critical look at this concept bearing in mind if Nigeria fits into the terms of a failed state.
Since the end of the Cold War, the international community has become increasingly preoccupied with the phenomenon known as ‘’State failure’’, because state failure generates a wide range of humanitarian and security issues. Due to the importance gained by this issue, several international organizations and national institutions performed several surveys and analysis in this regard.

There is no real consensus to the definition of a ‘failed state’; subjective nature of indicators is therefore employed to this end. However, based on several schools of thought we can agree that a failed state is a political body that has disintegrated to a point where basic conditions, responsibilities of a sovereign government no longer function properly and the presence of a weak legitimacy. The Fund for Peace characterize succinctly a failed state as one with; loss of its territory, erosion of legitimate authority to make collective decisions, inability to provide public services and inability to interact with other state as a full member of the international community.

These pitfalls that generally characterize the Nigerian State have welcomed the constant idea of state failure. In a more pragmatic approach, Fragile State Index a yearly report by Funds for Peace uses 12 main indicators to judge if a state is failing; security apparatus, factionalized elites, group grievances, economic decline, uneven economic development, human flight and brain drain, state legitimacy, public services, human rights and rule of law, demographic pressures, refugees and IDPs and external intervention. In 2017 Nigeria was ranked 13th out of 178 countries with a score of 101.6 out of a possible 120. Despite the worrying statistics, the Nigerian government is still in the business of ensuring growth in Agricultural sector, healthcare, education, transportation and industrialization though at slow pace but some of these institutions still serve the basic needs and interest of the common man. A pragmatic example of this is the economic policy of the current government which is the (Economic Recovery and Growth Plan) a medium term all round developmental initiative focused on restoring growth, investing in people and building a globally competitive economy. This economic plan has been able to block the loopholes in taxes through VAIDS, sustained recovery from recession and growth in GDP, grow the foreign reserves to a significant high, and also revitalizing the agricultural sector through schemes such as anchors borrowers’ scheme.

With the question of legitimacy as it regards to a failed state, it is evident that with the conduct of the General Elections throughout the country though with misfits, Nigerians generally accept the outcome of elections and consequently the leadership of the government. Legitimacy comes with the ability to enforce its will upon its citizens through the instrument of law and the monopoly of the use of force when needed. The constant crackdown of IPOB, Boko Haram, and Niger Delta it portrays the ability of the Nigerian Government to enforce its will and bring sanity within its territory when threatened.

The use of ‘failed state’ label is inherently political and based primarily based on Western perception of Western security and interest. The ability of the Nigerian government to lay claim to its territory, crackdown any form of insurgency, provide social policies, participate actively in the international organization such as EOWAS and UN, control its economic resources would elucidate that Nigeria does not exist in state of mere abstraction but in its totality. We must realize that ‘minimal efficiency’ in governance does not equate to ‘zero efficiency’ which a failed state represents. Nigeria may exist in a state of state fragility but she cannot be regarded as a failed state.

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