News and Views
After half a century of self rule, Nigeria is sadly a failing State ‘excessive individualism and illegitimate institutions is the root causes”
As the most populous country in Africa, Nigeria accounts for over half of West Africa's population and gained full independence from the British in October 1960, as a federation under a constitution that provided for a parliamentary form of government.
Nigeria has been long hobbled by political instability, corruption, and poor macroeconomic management despite the country's immense human and natural resources (petroleum-based economy) very little social progress has been made. Two-thirds of a population of more than 150 million live below the poverty line and one-third survive on less than a dollar a day. Over 60 per cent of the adult population is illiterate with Life expectancy below 53 years (a decade below the average for developing nations) and over two thirds of the population has no access to safe water, adequate sanitation and basic health care.
The individualist is more concerned with protecting his own independence from the state than in working to build a virtuous and effective state. Basic public philosophy was based largely on the idea that 'the republic' in this case Nigeria should provide basic guidelines for the conduct of economic affairs, family life and personal morality. However, this idea has been generally forgotten, eclipsed by the military and civilian political leader’s dominant libertarian individualism. In this manner the ruling class willingly abandons the interest of wider society to its own devices. These are visible in the Nigerian industries of Banking, Oil, Airline, and Insurance to mention a few. A notable present case is; Richard Branson’s Virgin Group acquisition of Nigeria’s airspace with Virgin Nigeria and lately Air Nigeria. (a gate way into a country of 150 citizens is placed on the private-free market hands of an individual entrepreneur whose primary interest is to safeguard Virgin Groups)
Individualism is an evil that has lead to the degradation of the social and political order in the Nigerian society, the excessive pursuit of personal independence has undermined democratic participation in the governance of the society. In this framework, one must restrain the powerful and greedy former and serving politician’s en entrepreneur (unconcerned with the common good) and who has used public funds to privatize and later procure many public companies or create competitive organizations against public organizations.
A society with a substantial property-less underclass cannot reasonably be expected to be stable when the resentments of those with nothing can be open to exploitation by any radical association. The consequence of such attitudes is the growing reappearances of impoverished, disadvantaged, hopeless under-classes. However, up until now these under-classes were often subdued and quiet; but lately there has been insurgencies in the name of religion in the Kano & Jos states, institutional corruption, thuggery all over Nigeria and militancy in the South South (Niger-Delta) Nigerians are becoming aware by the day via today’s information technology and are not so easily contented.
Excessive individualism needs to be replaced by a value system where people seek satisfaction more from working together and helping others (including the disadvantage) rather than pursuing private advantages.
In the same vein, we could term the Nigeria “mass” society as composed of citizens within communities of communities. Most people come in social packages and are greatly influenced by the communities of which they are members and by their traditional leaders. These communities are not necessarily residential (the traditional village) but may be religious, ethnic, or based on national origin.
Propelling Nigeria into a self-determined, sustainable community with economic development involves building and legitimizing institutions that are culturally appropriate to the nation as well as effective in addressing the nation’s challenges. The nation of Nigeria today is experiencing the classic problems of unstable human societies, including; how to build effective and sovereign government, how to develop vigorous economic activities that suits the Nigerian circumstances and cultures, how to solve difficult but basic social problems and how to manage Nigeria’s environment and natural resources.
The present state of the Nigerian Institutions is fragile; there is no process of reciprocal relations between the Nigerian state (that is expected to deliver public services for its people) and social and political groups who constructively engage with their state, identifying little or no existence of an inclusive political process to negotiate and manage state-society relations. In simple language there is no relationship between state operated institutions and a common good for the citizens.
In today’s fast changing capitalist (free market) system in which giant multinational corporations has simply taken over the job of nations building by emulating governments, the Nigerian politicians lack the political leadership, trust and will to look after the citizen’s interest against unelected powers which includes international organizations as IMF and World bank whose hidden agenda is to shape and constrain the behavior of independent states. These unelected economic interests base their decisions solely on economic criteria’s thereby ignoring the implications of their decisions which reach far beyond the domain of economics.
A notable case of 2009 is; the new "revolutionary" bill which is busy in the Nigerian senate house, a bill that will compel every company in Nigeria to devote 3.5 per cent of its gross profit to what he terms "corporate social responsibility". In other words, after carrying out their businesses and paying all the taxes that are required of them, companies will also be required by law to build roads, provide electricity, build secondary schools and execute all other such activities under a legally binding scheme.
(government simply passing the bulk of social responsibilities to corporations)
In the absence of forceful political leadership, economic underdevelopment and absent democratic institutions, the Nigerian political elites have clearly proven to be willing to literally sacrifice their citizens and downgrading the role of the state in favor of corporate activism, in the long run societal improvements will irreversibly be dependent on the creation of profit.
The Niger-Delta oil producing area is a victim to this principle; as the largest wetland in Africa the Niger Delta is rich in both renewable and non renewable natural resources such as oil, gas, bitumen, non timber forest products and timber forest products, wildlife, etc. 95 per cent of the total revenue for the Nigerian government is generated from oil and gas exploration. Royal Dutch Shell is the king while the Nigerian National petroleum Company is the subject and the local citizen’s are mere statistics.
It is common knowledge to expect corporations to disregard human interest in their pursuit for of profit and with overwhelming evidence of environmental degradation (including oil spills and gas flaring activities) the Nigerian security agents are beating, detaining and killing people who protest against oil company activities.
Western leaders are willing to re-brand authoritarianism for Democracy as long as their corporations make money in those contexts.
In stable, present-day states, citizens expect certain benefits from the state to be provided on an inclusive basis, including security, justice, enabling conditions for the pursuit of economic livelihoods, as well as public services such as education and health care. People also expect that states respect the free exercise of social, political and economic rights and that of governance which is based on accountability. In return, they have obligations to the state to pay taxes, to accept the state’s monopoly on coercive force and to accept other restrictions to their freedom according to the law. A state does not exist without a minimum of administrative capacity. The key elements of an administrative structure are a reasonably well functioning civil service and public financial management system and the ability to raise funds, particularly through taxation.
Strangely in the midst of this unruliness and poverty there have been significant growth in an unusual sector; the emergence of new religious movement’s born-again evangelicalism and the Christian conservatism. This concern is broadly widening into cultural change leading to the rise in a new form of social movement as solace to a lost citizenry.
Since integrity and effectiveness of the civil service will influence the legitimacy of the state, the Nigerian state should start creating new government (formal) institutions or strengthening existing ones – “institution building”-. A state-building lens draws attention to the fact that functioning institutions not only depend on formal design, but on the social context within which these institutions operate. Formal institutions need to be rooted in society otherwise they risk becoming mere shells or being captured by private or patrimonial interests as the case of Nigeria.
Dr. Paul OVIAWE A Nigerian by Birth & Principal of the International College of commerce based in the Netherlands +31.650492753 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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