Governance, security challenges and Nigeria’s regress into a failed state http://
On the other hand, the more government gets a firm policy hold on governance and infrastructural development, the more conflict will reduce significantly. Throw into this delicate and seriously inflammable situation the incidence of political and bureaucratic corruption, and we have a most dangerous governance and security problem. The reason why corruption is a game changer is essentially because it by its debilitating influence that governance intentions are undercut in ways that prevents good policies from morphing into good infrastructures. Nigerian refineries, small and medium scale enterprises, electricity framework, and many others can become functional because there are several huge elite interests that are willing to sabotage their functionality to service elite egoism. The generator contractors will definitely not want the electricity sector achieve optimal functionality. The same goes for those holding significant oil blocs in Nigeria’s petroleum sector whose interest would keep clashing with the public interest of bringing the refineries to full capacity. Corruption increases to the extent that private interests undercut public interest.
The fundamental question then is: does the Nigerian government’s inability to achieve infrastructural development, as the major objective of good governance; coupled with the increasing security breakdown points to the failure of the Nigerian state?
In other words: Can we therefore deduce that the disequilibrium between good governance, development and security in Nigeria maker the state a failed one? In answering this question, a bit of theoretical caution is asked for. This is because theory must always be matched with reality in arriving at a valid theoretical deduction. There are three cogent indices that point at state failure. The first is the total absence of the state in governance matters. This simply means that everything called governance has totally collapsed, and there is nothing to point at in terms of infrastructural functionality. The second is breakdown of law and order. This immediately follows from the absence of government in infrastructural issues. This implies that such a state has degenerated turned into a state of nature defined by absolute anarchy. The third index also follows from the other two: there is a loss of internal and external sovereignty. When non-state actors begin to challenge the territorial sovereignty of a state, then we can say that such a state has lost its capacity to police its territories.
A failed or failing state is also categorised in terms of social, political and economic characteristics. The social indicators concern demographic issues of employment/unemployment, brain drain and migrational patterns. The economic indicators concern inequality and the decline in economic performances. The political indicators include the decline in the performances of the public services, widespread corruption, abuse of human rights, and so on. On these indicators, several countries can perform in varying degrees. And therefore, it becomes difficult to rate whether a country is failed or failing, except in cases, like Yemen where almost everything has broken down.
It is at this point that we arrive at a fundamental theoretical distinction—between a ‘failed state’ and a ‘failed government’—that enable us to get a good grasp of the statistics and theories around a failed or failing state, domiciled within a holistic assessment of the state’s performance within a timeline, based on established indicators. Nigeria as a project has not collapsed, although some structures and institutions might be showing signs of strains and incapacity that they are at the brink of collapse. Viewpoints such as this are shaped by prevailing realities of kidnappings and insurgency that together reflect a form of regression tending to failure. Indeed, more than ever, Nigeria is portrayed and seen as a theatre of war resulting from occurrences of ethno-religious conflicts, farmers and herdsmen clashes and political conflicts which may have left thousands of people dead. These are unarguably, indicators of weak internal security, defiled law and order, hence a perceived failing state.
Failed/Fragile State Index is not designed to forecast when states might experience collapse, but to measure its vulnerability to collapse. The Fund for Peace through which the Fragile State Index is powered acknowledges the fact that countries move at different paces.
With the existing trend of FSI data, the discourse is more nuanced. The FSI indeed divides states into four categories: ‘sustainable,’ ‘stable,’ ‘warning,’ and ‘alert.’ States are further subdivided as ‘very sustainable,’ ‘very stable,’ ‘more stable,’ ‘warning,’ ‘alert,’ ‘high alert,’ and ‘very high alert.’ According to the FFI (2103), Nigeria under former president Goodluck Jonathan was ranked in the ‘high alert’ category. In the 2019 Fragile States Index, Nigeria is scored 98.5 out of a maximum score of 120. And it is placed on ‘alert’ category, just three steps away from the ‘very high alert’ category that signal utmost fragility and state failure. Nigeria is ranked 14th on the index, out of 178 countries. Yet, the idea of state fragility or failure is more nuanced than a mere ranking exercise could explain.
We can state categorically that Nigeria is not doing well in terms of democratic governance and the management of its political and economic stability. Nigeria seems to have lost control over insurgents and bandits, particularly the Boko Haram group which has its own structure, organisation, laws, security apparatus and flag, even within the Nigerian territory. Even though government efforts at suppressing these insurgencies have been relentless and significant, it is a dangerous signal for non-state actors like the Niger Delta militants and the Boko Haram insurgents, to have the structural and organisational capacities that solidly challenge state power. Nevertheless, it would definitely be a conceptual overkill to conclude that by that fact, the Nigerian state has failed. Out of the six geopolitical zones in Nigeria, violent conflicts, especially related to Boko Haram insurgency and banditry, are limited to just three zones. And fatalities due to crime have the highest statistics. These are bad in themselves, but they do not signal a country that has failed. It only provides adequate insight into the urgent actions required to put Nigeria back on a stable trajectory. This implies that critical labels like ‘fragile,’ ‘failing’ or ‘failed’ state must be theorised with care since they often stifle measures to understand better what are in essence complex social phenomena, some of which are rooted in global and regional, rather than in state-based processes of collapse (Berger, 2006).
There is therefore the need for a more advanced theorisation of state dynamics than what is projected in fragile state literature.
And the solution is simple: Nigeria requires a more determined reform focus that will first attend to the governance indecisiveness of the Nigerian state as the sole avenue of arresting the crumbling security framework that ultimately transition a state from stability to fragility. It should be pointed out that there is no absence of reform guidelines, programmes and documents in Nigeria. What has not happened yet is the marshalling of the political and the bureaucratic will to push this blueprint into radical implementation that will offset Nigeria’s infrastructural deficit, and consequently bring social empowerment to Nigerians. It is therefore to that extent that we can say that Nigeria is toying with state failure. This possibility of regression into state failure is a tragic one for a state like Nigeria.
Nigeria’s present circumstances, and status on the Fragile State Index can then serve as a clarion call for Nigeria to put its house in order. The notion of failed state becomes tenuous if state failure could be halted with the proper policy dynamics, together with targeted international assistance and intervention (Rotberg, 2004). This would be achieved through deep-seated reforms to rebuild institutions, and ensure their capacitation through value-based parameters, as well as a firm re-professionalisation effort that put more weight on competency-based human resource management practices even in the context of diversity management. This general reform necessity would now be inserted into the significant security and governance architecture of the Nigerian state. This is because as we have earlier noted, governance and security are directly proportional.
Part of the urgent institutional reform required is the reassessment of the security dynamics of Nigeria. One of the uncanny experiences Nigerians have is their daily confrontations with security personnel who have no idea of what ‘law enforcement’ connotes in a democratic society. Security agents are not only mobilised arbitrarily by politicians and the elites, they also arbitrarily shoot and arrest with impunity. The security agencies therefore need to be not only better equipped to deliver their mandates effectively, but also adequately re-professionalised in ways that hammer the democratic mandate of law and order into their professional consciousness. Reform is also required in the criminal justice system which, to state it mildly, is anachronistic. More creativity is therefore required in tackling and dispelling the criminogenic social conditions and the prosecution of offenders, among others, without compromise.
Furthermore, extant realities draw attention to the imperative of community policing. This is justified by problem of insurgency in the North-East where the criminals live within the local communities and, in some cases, operate from within the same community. This will need to be complemented by a wide-ranging reform of the criminal judicial system. Nigeria’s extensive and porous borders covering over 4000 kilometers with illegal entry points and routes totalling 1500 points, through which criminal gangs and insurgents easily smuggle weapons into the country should be checked.
Prof Olaopa is a retired permanent secretary