LEST WE FORGET - speech by Ojo Maduekwe - September 30, 2004
Two scores and four years by exactly midnight tonight, Africa’s most populous nation attained statehood as the baton of power and authority passed on from the successors of Lord Frederick Lugard, whose wife had earlier named the place Nigeria, to a colourful band of pragmatic nationalists, whose labour had neither been marred by violence, nor ambushed by ethnic hegemony.
Theirs was the challenge to make a nation out of a country, and evolve a modern state out of the flag ceremony of statehood. Upon the success or failure of the venture they had embarked upon, might well rest the future of Africa. As we begin today to honour in sombre reflection, the anniversary of the birth of this nation, in the new capital city of Abuja, the symbol of our continuing quest for unity, the verdict on our journey from statehood to stateness will appear to be a mixed one of success and blunder – success principally in the area of still remaining one nation inspite of the disintegration of other African federations, and blunder in our seasonal disposition to often perch on the edge of the precipice.
To every generation, in every nation, history offers a guide which if followed, the past could be redeemed, the present confronted, and the future navigated. Those who ignore the lessons of history, are inevitably sentenced to a repeat class. I believe the opportunity provided by this Public Lecture to mark the 44th Anniversary of our nation’s Independence, can signify the beginning of a fresh resolution, to collectively join hands to steer the Nigerian ship of state to harbours of safety, unity, peace, security, and prosperity. We need to do so, not only for our sake as Nigerians, but for the sake of Africa and indeed the world. If I am critical, I am only taking a line of precaution and caution to prevent us from falling again as our experience has shown that to fall is very easy.
This address is therefore about our yesterday, about our today, and about our future.
I proceed with my CONCLUSION – which is that when President Olusegun Obasanjo, emerged, through the mandate of heaven from prison to Presidency in 1999, he met a failing Nigerian State.
His arrival and bold political and economic initiatives shortly thereafter, nudged Nigeria from the category of failing State in the global matrix, to the slightly better category of weak State, and now moving to a strong State but, not yet there. The aim of this address is to inspire us to move forward and to prevent us from backsliding; to invite us to look over the abyss of failed States, and hopefully, walk away from it very fast.
Recent events such as the eruption in Plateau and Kano, and the new assertiveness of well-armed militias in Niger-Delta, coupled with fiscal irresponsibility of some elected officials who also terrorise those who elected them with new structures of authoritarianism, coupled again with the visionless and highly divisive debate about 2007, against the background of incendiary calls for a sovereign national conference (a prescription normally reserved for collapsed States) - all these strongly suggest that unless crucial strategic moves both within the polity and economy are undertaken in the months ahead, the nation is at risk of slipping back around 2007 to a failing State or even a failed State status with severe consequences, not only for all our people, but for the whole sub-region.
A global perception of this possibility is already beginning to impact negatively on the flow of foreign direct investment. This is a wake-up call informed largely by the evidence that the lessons of history confirm that nations die by suicide, a condition facilitated by indifference to facts. The urgency of the situation is illustrated by events that are bursting onto our consciousness almost on a daily basis, and nearly to the threshold of numbness. Those images include, but are not limited to -
- The killings in Plateau and Kano States that led to the necessary declaration of emergency rule in Plateau in the 5th year of our Democracy Scorecard.
- The earlier unrest and killings in Kaduna, Benue, Taraba, and Niger Delta States.
- Flashpoints in Abia, Anambra, Lagos and Zamfara.
- The moving story in faraway America of the little girl from Benue State who dialled the US Police to arrest those killing her relatives in Kwande Local Government Area of Benue State.
- The brazen display of militia power in broad daylight by Asari Dokubo & Co. in Rivers State.
- The unresolved riddle of the assassination of the nation’s Chief Law Officer – former Minister of Justice and Attorney – General, Chief Bola Ige.
- The revenue hemorrhage on our coastal waters arising from daylight stealing of crude and petroleum products.
- The systematic vandalization of NEPA and NNPC lines.
- Unrefuted allegations of looting of State and Local Government treasuries by elected and appointed officials.
- Capital flight.
- Tardiness in foreign investment
- MASSOB declaration of BIAFRA DAY and a sickening sense of de’ javu promoted by not a few reckless comments from quarters that should have been more inclined to sombre reflection.
- Northern Senators Forum threat that it is a President from the North in 2007, or nothing.
- In Borno State, the emergence of self-styled TALIBANS who have sacked police stations and other public buildings leading to loss of lives and substantial damage to property.
All these constitute telling evidence in support of the
thesis that –
“State failure usually results from the prolonged interaction of a number of powerful corrosive factors including economic stagnation, political and ethnic factionalism, pervasive corruption, decaying national infrastructure, and environmental degradation. Typically, these factors operate over a long period of time, eroding civil institutions, and undermining the authority of the state. At an early or intermediate stage of decay, it is still possible for an effective leader or leadership to reverse the process and avert full state collapse….” (Michael Klare: 2004)
Obviously, such a leader did emerge in our country in 1999. We even elected him for a second term. So, what is the problem?
But before I deal with the problem, we may agree that the facts that these things are reported is also a good sign of open, dynamic, free, democratic society which by itself is something to cherish.
Gains which have been made by this administration since its inception should be acknowledged. We must not forget how things were before we came into power. And there is much to celebrate for the past 5 years. Even the disturbing kaleidoscope of communal violence was a predictable manifestation of the pressure cooker syndrome whereby the removal of the lid of repression in most transition democracies is invariably marked by spasms of violence. The 44th Independence Anniversary offers us a unique opportunity to look at every piece of evidence in order to appreciate better the enormity of the work still awaiting us and accordingly increase our strides to victory.
But lest we forget, let us go down memory lane briefly as to where we are coming from.
What the Obasanjo Administration met in 1999 was an economy and polity in tatters.- (1)
-A pariah state of gross insecurity and uncertainty about whether the nation could still hold. -Brain Drain of over 2 million people to Europe and United States and the collateral damage of capital flight estimated at $5 billion per annum. -Non – diversified economy in which Oil export accounted for 95% of total export. -Massive waste and corruption, unbridled patronage and rent-seeking, high public expenditure, a reckless budgeting system and very weak private sector. -GDP Growth rate of less than three percent.Over bloated and inefficient public service that was the product of collapse of recruitment standards. -Frequent policy changes and loss of faith in long term strategic planning. -Weakened public service with an ever-expanded public expenditure profile leading to accumulated pension arrears. -Adult literacy at 49%. -Less than 80% of children of primary school age in school. -Average life expectancy at about 54 years. -Capacity utilization of industry at less than 50% -Per capita income of $300, making Nigeria one of the poorest countries in the world. -70% of the population living in poverty. -External and Domestic debts amounting to about 70% of GDP. -Manufacturing size of only 5.7% of GDP making Nigeria one of the least industrialised countries, even in Africa. -Infant mortality at 77 per 1000 and maternal mortality at 704 per 100,000 live births, one of the highest mortality rates in the world.
(1)Figures quoted from National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy NEEDS National
Planning Commission 2004, Abuja Document
-Ten percent only of Nigerians with access to essential drugs. -Less than 30 physicians per 100,000. -Five million adult Nigerians estimated to be living with HIV/AIDS. -30% of children under 5 classified as under weight. -Access to drinking water limited to less than 5%. -High fiscal deficits in all tiers of government. -Hundreds of uncompleted abandoned projects estimated to cost over 100 billion naira to complete. -Recurrent expenditure of over 70% of total revenue of Federal Government and other tiers of government.
The Obasanjo Administration had courageously and creatively proceeded to ameliorate these dismal conditions by- (2)
-Effective leadership under NEPAD and within ECOWAS and the chairing of the Commonwealth of Nations, and now headship of African Union. -Size of the police force has been trebled since 1999. -Completion of many of the abandoned projects. -Electricity generation has more than doubled. -Telecommunication revolution: the number of telephone lines increased from about four hundred thousand (400,000) in 1999 to about three million (3,000,000) in 2003. -Agricultural boom: return of groundnut pyramid in the North; FAO declaring that agriculture in Nigeria grew by an unprecedented 7%.
(2)Figures quoted from National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy NEEDS
National Planning Commission 2004, Abuja
-Industrial capacity utilization has more than doubled (from about 35% in 1999 to more than 65% in 2003), and continues to grow. -Foreign direct investment in the non-oil sector has grown from almost zero in 1999 to no less than $2 million dollars in 2003. Consequently, income level has grown by an average of 3.6% in the period 1999 to 2003 (as against the average of 2.8% with zero per capita income growth in the 1990s). -Rate of unemployment declined from 18% in 1999 to 10.8% in 2003 (with estimated 3.5 million new jobs created during the period). -Real wages have significantly gone up since 1999 thereby reversing the downward spiral in real income of workers that began since 1980’s. This was the consequence of the wage hike in 2000 as well as the effort to moderate inflation. -The establishment of Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (E.I.T.I) and the setting up of the committee for its implementation marks a bold departure from the past. -The saving for the treasury of nearly 100 billion naira through the Due Process Mechanism. -The sale of Government held equity stakes in cement, petroleum marketing and banking companies in 2000 and 2001 through competitive bidding for the first time in history of the country and new wealth creating avenues such as the CABOTAGE ACT. -The implementation of the second and third phases of the privatization and market liberalization programme from 2001 to date with unchallenged record of transparency. -Increasing number of Nigerians in Diaspora are now willing to return and contribute to the economy. -Many of the donor agencies that boycotted Nigeria during the military era are back. -Open and competitive bidding for government contract has become the rule rather than the exception. -The establishment of a “Due Process” mechanism to check and eliminate inflation of government contracts. -An aggressive anti-corruption drive by the President and other government officials. -Public sector reforms to reduce the incentive for corruption and waste through monetisation. -Increased democratic space for the labour movement in accordance with such democratic principles as choice, representation and autonomy with prospect of the emergence of a New Labour that will enhance the members’ capacity for greater productivity and accordingly more real wages for workers. -The establishment of an Anti-Corruption agency, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and other integrity systems. -Increased efficiency of service delivery, with the emergence of NAFDAC (National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control) under Dr. Dora Akunyili and NIPOST (Nigeria Postal Service) under Alhaji Argungu as models worth emulating. -Enhanced access to justice and other judicial reforms. -The overall effect of the various socio-economic measures of the Obasanjo Administration is the visible and robust emergence of a middle class that had virtually disappeared.
Even the worst cynic will agree we have come a long, long way, in a very short time!
Based on evidence that States that have somehow disappeared from the radar of modern societies are fertile grounds for the breeding of suicide bombers and similar kinds of new generation urban guerrillas, the international community, especially North America, Europe and Japan, have become acutely interested in the pathology of nation-States. There is now a consensus that the health of a nation can have serious global implications. Since the early 1990s, wars in, and among failed States, have killed about eight million people, most of them civilians, and displaced another four million. A profile is therefore beginning to emerge as to what are the attributes of strong States and what are the attributes of weak States.
When a State is unable to arrest the slide from weak to failing to failed to collapsed State status, foreign investments dry up, thereby leading to more poverty, and in a kind of vicious cycle, more violence and terror. It is therefore in the interest of governments of such nation-States and indeed all governments to prevent precisely such a slide.
HIERARCHY OF STATES
Our analysis of the failed State syndrome as it affects Nigeria is within the construct of a hierarchy of States that begins with STRONG STATES, followed by WEAK STATES, then FAILING STATES, unto FAILED STATES, and terminates with COLLAPSED STATES. Between 1993 and 1998, Nigeria like a pin-pong ball had bounced between the nodal points of failed to failing to weak States category. We never quite collapsed, as exemplified by say, SOMALIA, which is the only country without a government.
But before proceeding further, what is understood by the notion of State?
States are “organisations capable of maintaining a monopoly of violence over a defined territory, and of controlling to a significant extent, the interactions between that territory and the world beyond it.” (Christopher Clapham: 2004). This is because “all nation-States have been principally engendered by revolution and by war”, children of coercion, not of consent.
Such a notion of a State as enjoying a monopoly of violence is challenged by the rise of militia groups and killer gangs that have led to so much loss of lives and properties during the last 5 years of this Administration. We may rationalise this unacceptable tragedy by contending that it is the consequence of years of repression giving way to the heady atmosphere of new freedoms. But a process such as this that continues to expand like an epidemic constitutes grave challenge to the legitimacy of both government and the State, since security is the very first justification for both.
THE ANATOMY OF STATES
The diplomatic niceties about the equality of States in international law notwithstanding, history has always recognised the differences between strong and healthy nations, and weak and not-so-healthy nations, between large nations, and small ones. Following the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001 on New York, the international community has been persuaded to take the issue of Failed States more seriously as they tend to be breeding ground for terrorist networks. How are the various states assessed or distinguished in the GLOBAL INDEX of State Failure?
These are states which, without any ambiguity, are in control of their territories. There is no doubt as to the locus of power and authority. Service delivery of various political goods, the chief of which is security, is excellent. Such States make good grades according to indicators like GDP per capita, UNDP Human Development Index, Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index, and FREEDOM HOUSE’S Freedom of the World Report. Whatever may be our reservations about the adequacy or otherwise of these globally famous indicators, they are useful and excellent guides to check ourselves and mend our ways.
Strong States provide quality protection from political, criminal and ethnic violence, facilitate political freedoms and civic liberties, and create an investor-friendly economic environment. The rule of law is apparent, not arbitrariness and the rule of the strong. Court orders are obeyed. The independence of the judiciary receives more than lip service acknowledgement. The police are truly the friends of the citizenry, and their presence is felt everywhere. The highways are not death-traps of epileptic rehabilitation
Telephones are not luxury items. Snail mail and e-mail both arrive on time. Hospitals deserve their names as centres of healing. Strong States unquestionably display harmony, order and prosperity. A feeling of hope and common destiny is palpable. The citizens truly believe in such a state, and just as they are willing to live for it through a seeming capacity for endless hard work, they are also not reluctant to die for its freedoms and honour if the need arises.
These are crises-prone, crises-personified entities. They are habitats of restiveness of ethnic, religious, cultural, and linguistic dimensions that are bubbling to erupt into full scale violence. Crime rates, both urban and rural are continuously on the rise. There is patent infrastructural decay. Health and educational institutions, the very sources of capacity building, are monuments of neglect, especially outside the well-known cities. The clinics might more accurately have on their access routes, Dante’s herald of the Inferno: Abandon hope all ye who enter here. The educational institutions are citadels of ignorance where teachers and students are occupied with just about anything else but learning. Whatever character that is moulded in such environment bears no relationship to the capacity to function in a competitive global economy. GDP per capita in weak States are distinguished by the speed with which they fall. The real face of democracy is a kleptodemocracy in which elections are cash and carry. Rule of law precepts are honoured more in the breach. The governance culture is one of despotism, whether elected or not. Even where electoral democracy is in place, what you find is the hardware of democracy with the software of authoritarianism.
They are States whose weaknesses have so deepened that tendencies towards failure have begun to manifest but do not yet qualify as failed States. The tipping point could be one simple dramatic showdown of elite irresponsibility. A lone shot fired in anger in a venue with unlimited capacity to provoke could be all that is needed. Roll back to the dance of death (800,000 people killed within 100 days in a country of only Eight Million people) that followed the downing of the plane carrying the Rwandan President and the President of Burundi, and the trajectory of collapse for the neighbouring States, and you get what I mean.
A failed State is simply a polity that is no longer capable or disposed to perform the fundamental tasks of a nation – State in the modern world. What are those fundamental tasks? They include -
- (1) The guarantee of security, which is the highest
- (2) Rule of law and law enforcement capacity
- (3) Functional institutions such as independent judiciary,
responsible and responsive bureaucracy, viable military with undiluted loyalty to the nation-State, civil society groups with guaranteed freedoms.
- (4) Peaceful and orderly leadership transitions.
“A central state fails or nears failure because ethnic, racial, ideological or regional divisions result in breakdown of central authority and the emergence of widespread violence. The political community fragments as one or more identifiable groups no longer recognises the legitimacy of the central State. A violent struggle ensues in which different groups contest either control of the central State or the right to secede from it. The State fails in the sense that insurrections prevent it from enforcing its authority and laws over a significant proportion of its territory.” (Robert Rotberg ed: - 2004)
Failed States are highly polarised along lines of ethnic and linguistic divisions with the prospect or reality of ethnic insurgencies. They are dangerous, Hobbesian nightmares where lives are nasty, brutish and short. These are States whose failure to attain a national consensus for togetherness has triggered them into a free-fall. In most failed States, government troops are kept perpetually busy by one or several armed revolts which they have been unable to decisively put down.
One of the most bizarre features of the roller – coaster violence that engulfs failed or failing States is the ease with which people who have lived together for decades in relative harmony suddenly attack and kill each other with so much frequency and ferocity, even among family members.
Such could well have been the object of John Pauker’s lamentation in his BROTHERLY POEM –
We are all Brothers Like Cain And Abel.
In most failed States, service delivery is at abysmal level or is non existent. It is everyman to himself. The nation has died in the minds of its citizens and is merely awaiting funeral.
A failed State is a dysfunctional State where nothing works. All the arms of government in a failed State are citadels of privileges with no known commitment to responsibilities. Basically self-destructive in their hedonistic quest for the trappings of office without the mission thereof, they become a study in institutional chaos, organised incompetence, and drift: the veritable benchmarks of a state in a free fall.
The armed forces, ordinarily perhaps the only remaining institution of minimum integrity becomes polarised and degenerates into a mob in uniform.
Failed States are distinguished by collapsed infrastructures. It has been suggested that metaphorically, the more potholes, the more a State will exemplify failure.
For the criminally enterprising, failed States offer unusual opportunities. Those who hang around the corrupt, usually despotic rulers get richer and richer while the rest of the society becomes a basket – case of flies-in-the-eye children of distended stomachs. Rent seeking and dubious profits made from cronyism and subverted privatisation schemes create an eerie feeling on the part of the kleptocratic oligarchy of a carnival without end. Yet in the midst of all this, during flashes of awareness in between their debaucheries, the thieving ruling elite manage to siphon their illegitimate profits and direct withdrawals from the national till to overseas accounts to hedge against the rainy day.
Finally, a nation – state fails when it can no longer contain the rising tide of challenge to its legitimacy. And the first sign of that is failure to contain the violence of several intra State actors who would have emerged to challenge the regime’s constitutional claim to a monopoly of violence. “Once the State’s capacity to secure itself or to perform in an expected manner recedes, and once what little capacity remains is devoted almost exclusively to the fortunes of a few or to a favoured ethnicity or community, then there is every reason to expect less and less loyalty to the State on the part of the excluded and disenfranchised. When the rulers are perceived to be working for themselves and their kin, and not the State, their legitimacy, and the State’s legitimacy, plummets. The State increasingly comes to be perceived as being owned by an exclusive class or group, with all others pushed aside.” (Rotberg: 2004)
In the acrimonious and inane debate in Nigeria about which ethnic group should produce the next President or else …., I wonder whether this profile of a ruling elite is not what the nation might be slipping into by default!
State failure is often marked by rising levels of violence that begin to assume the proportions of an epidemic. Weapons of various types and grades end in the hands of armed gangs who quite often are better equipped than the regular security forces. In the internecine struggle that follows, illegal trafficking in narcotics, women, children, diamonds, crude oil, anything that can pay for arms and ammunitions of increasing lethality constitute the dominant commerce of the conflicted territory. Recent examples of such failed States are Afghanistan, Burundi, Angola, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the Sudan.
These are States that have finally rested on their knees, or to deploy a more accurate metaphor, they have given up the ghost, awaiting resurrection. It is an extreme situation which explains why only one country enjoys that dubious distinction today – SOMALIA. There is no government there. It is total anarchy. In this rare and extreme version of a failed State, transactions are through ad hoc and completely private means. There is no sound or smell or colour of government. Postal services and Armies are private. So are the courts. Even roads and other infrastructures are private. It is the rule of the strong, pure and simple. “A collapsed State exhibits a vacuum of authority. It is a mere geographical expression, a black hole into which a failed polity has fallen. Sub-State actors take over. These warlords or sub-State actors gain control over regions and sub-regions of what had been a nation-State, build up their own local security apparatuses and mechanisms, sanction markets, and other trading arrangements, and even establish an attenuated form of international relations.” (Rotberg: 2004)
In a collapsed State, the real locus of power is with warlords who head regions or clans and from there assert their authority both for internal control and to test the limits of their claims on neighbouring territories that were once part of a nation-State. After September 11, 2001 attack on New York, there is an emerging consensus, that failed or collapsed States are ideal environments for the exportation of terror.
The characteristics of a collapsed State meet the requirements for a sovereign national conference, because the collapse of every symbol of legitimacy means the centre can no longer hold, and warlords and clan heads have to sit down and talk in the context of the balance of terror. A sovereign national conference is the realisation that the ding-dong of casualties from all sides of various fiefdoms that do not possess the infrastructure of time-honoured civilities and chivalry of a traditional army in the absence of any government has to give way to a realistic attempt to negotiate. The elite in Nigeria who are calling for the convocation of a sovereign national conference pari passu with a sitting, functional government that continues to enjoy local and international legitimacy should bear this in mind if only from point of view of intellectual honesty.
THE TRAJECTORY OF FAILURE
State failure or collapse is not inevitable. It is principally a leadership failure, the abdication of responsibilities by an elite who grossly favour privilege over responsibilities. It arises mainly by acts of omission and commission. It is often the aggregation of the roads not taken. It is the terminal stage of legitimacy haemorrhage. Even in those States with grave institutional weaknesses, failure is not automatic. Countries like Botswana, land locked with very few national resources, defied the logic of projections and became not only stable, but prosperous, while countries with more human and natural endowments fell apart. It is about leadership.
Depending on leadership, nation-States have flourished or foundered on the accidental discovery of abundant mineral resources. Backed by elite manipulation of ethnicity, this has led to civil wars and with the attendant consequences for the strength profile of the State, especially if it is a multi-ethnic one. Thus State failure is largely man-made, and not an inexorable law of nature. And because it is man-made, it is preventable. Yet the evidence of history is clear that the presence of abundance of natural resources such as petroleum and diamonds can exacerbate and prolong the conflicts as all sides eye these resources to finance their armies.
“Wherever there has been State failure or collapse, human agency has engineered the slide from strength to weakness and wilfully presided over profound and destabilizing resource shifts from the State to the ruling few. As those resource transfers accelerated, and human rights abuses mounted, countervailing violence signified the extent, to which States in question had broken fundamental social contracts and become hollow receptacles of personalist privilege, private rule, and national impoverishment.” (Rotberg ed. 2004)
Other features of failed States include closed economic systems that do not allow the invigorating competitiveness of international trade; high rates of infant mortality; and absence of meaningful democratic culture.
When these conditions are met, the road to State failure becomes irreversible. “State failure means that public authority collapses completely and that social norms do not fill the gap successfully.” (Rotberg ed. 2004)
There is a sense in which the Social Contract is perceived to have been broken. “The State (to all intents and purposes) would have lost its meaning. Various sets of citizens cease trusting the State. Citizens then naturally turn more and more to the kinds of sectional and community loyalties that are their main recourse in times of insecurity, and their main default source of economic opportunity. They transfer their allegiances to clan and group leaders, some of whom become warlords. These warlords or other local strongmen can derive support from external as well as indigenous supporters.” (Rotberg ed. 2004)
NATURE OF FAILURE: THE PERFORMANCE CRITERIA
The basis of distinguishing strong States from weak States, and weak ones from failed or collapsed ones is primarily one of performance criteria. Thus it is theoretically possible to formulate a measurement index that can be used to highlight the elements that would lead to State failure and that which can lead to strong State. Such a MEASUREMENT INDEX, could in the case of Nigeria, be established around SERVICOM – the profile of goals, measures, processes and means by which the Obasanjo Administration intends to deliver to Nigerians an identifiable, measurable list of political and socio-economic goods.
There is a hierarchy of political goods. None is as essential and fundamental as the provision of security, particularly security of life. That is the most important function of the State. Its legitimacy tumbles in direct proportion to the perception of its failure to do precisely that, for the essence of the social contract is that the individual surrenders some of his freedoms to the sovereign authority in exchange for security. Such security encompasses the territorial integrity of the State as it shields citizens away from attacks and infiltrations from across borders. It also includes the elimination of internal threats to the national order and structures of society; a clear capacity to combat crime effectively and any other danger to personal security; and access to justice such that citizens can resolve their differences without any serious temptation to resort to extrajudicial means and self-help.
All other political goods are only possible when these non-tangible, non-quantifiable good of security has been provided.
RECONSTRUCTION STRATEGIES AND PREVENTION OF STATE FAILURE
Failed States are usually failed economies, and in developing nations, it is often a case of poverty crisis that has become unmanageable. The struggle for who will have maximum access to the shrinking pie becomes the context for the gods of ethnicity to take over and unleash the dogs of war. So the first thing to look out for is the economy. If it is growing, and the nation’s workforce are productively engaged, the scenario of a failed or failing State will be rather remote. Where like the polity itself, it is becoming comatose, the priority should be in jump-starting the economy. And this implies a firm, and focused grip on those economic fundamentals that will lead to fiscal and macroeconomic stability. They include control of money supply; fostering an environment friendly to economic growth through such measures as removal of investor - unfriendly statutes and regulations; pressing inflation to single digits; reducing government deficits; providing clear leadership on monetary policy; regular payment of salaries to civil servants, police officers and judicial officers; creation of new jobs; re-establishment of the Rule of Law; re-awakening Civil Society.
Weak or failing States who embark on reasonable macroeconomic and fiscal policies that are pro-growth do have an excellent chance of recovery. Balanced policies lead to higher levels of growth and accordingly, greater revenue which in turn fuel further growth. Bad policies eventually lead to the failure of the State, until it becomes too exhausted and fragmented to provide any political good, with the eventual overrun of the State by predatory members of a prebendal elite.
In rescuing the Nigerian State from potential failure, we must rediscover a new faith and meaning in the whole concept of the State as a modern Leviathan. I have no quarrel with the set of economic reform initiatives and prescriptions globally known as the Washington Consensus. Indeed they were long overdue against the background of our missed opportunities. If they have worked elsewhere, there is no reason they cannot work here, although we have been sagacious enough to say, that we are carrying out our own vision, and not WORLD BANK or IMF dictation. Be that as it may, since we are not likely to reinvent the wheel here, it is safe to presume that our current economic programme has met the criteria which the global elite group of economists of the market economy persuasion can claim some vindication for having regard to random examples of growth success stories in several parts of the world, especially South-East Asia. Yet in the Nigerian situation where neither the State nor the market is strong enough, we need to evolve a more conceptually relevant position that takes into cognisance the weak structures of both our state and our market. There is no substitute for the role of a developmental State in the Third World, especially in Africa. It is indeed the historic burden of African States to even create the market that is worth the attention of serious economists. It has to be the primacy of political economy over economics starved of politics.
Even the current thinking in World Bank literature is more in favour of better governance as distinct from less government simplicita. In emerging markets, the State is an indispensable engine for economic growth, for if the trumpet is uncertain, who will follow?
At the end of the day, what is the purpose of governments, especially in societies like Nigeria, stranded between the ethic of a strong State and the ethic of a strong market, if not to govern? It is not simply about deregulation; it is about appropriate deregulation; deregulation that will energise the Nigerian State away from being a weak one to becoming a strong State. Thatcherite laissez-fairism has become as much an expired drug as the tax-and-spend economics of Old Labour and Old Democrats. Such considerations must have weighed on the mind of Peruvian diplomat and Ambassador to the United Nations Oswaldo De Rivero when he argued in THE MYTH OF DEVELOPMENT:
“In practice the only countries that have managed to escape from underdevelopment have been countries in which the State by becoming the entrepreneur has given support to the efficient capitalists with potential comparative advantages for exporting, as happened in South Korea, Taiwan and Singapore.”
“…. It has become increasingly evident that merely liberalising, deregulating and privatising does not guarantee the formation of a critical mass of investment capable of modernising technologically the primary, backward economies. No one who knows the history of the modernisation of the United States, Europe, and Japan or of the Asian NICs can believe that technological modernization can be achieved without promotion by the State. The United States itself presents the most persuasive example of promoting “industrial policy” in the area of defence procurement by which for more than half a century it secretly subsidised its industrial growth and ultramodern technological development….”
And he added: “The neoliberal shocks that are applied to the underdeveloped countries in order to turn them into modern capitalist economies overnight are a new experiment. They were never applied to the capitalist development of Europe, the United States, or Japan, or to the Asian NICs. All these countries grew as modern capitalist economies by protecting and helping their national capitalism”
THE RULE OF LAW AND CONSTITUTIONAL IMPERATIVE
A failed State is the ultimate proof of the failure of the rule of law. A State is the muscular expression of the law in its final form. In modern times, it has come to represent the supreme expression of the will of the people. When it collapses, the entire legal ligaments are torn into shreds and in their place is a no-man’s land that celebrates arbitrariness and brute force. The prevention of State failure and indeed the reconstruction of a failed State must look closely in the direction of restoring the rule of law. The essential attributes of such a Rule of Law regime must include –
(1)An enforceable code of law that is simple and adequately embedded in the sociology of the people. (2)A court system that is respected because it is efficient, truly independent and is constantly improving itself to meet modern needs for access to justice. (3)Crime Control, Crime prevention, optimum police visibility embedded on modern infrastructure, are indispensable factors for regime stability. (4)A bureaucracy that is attuned to the demands of a modern state in a global economy. (5)A proactive capacity to investigate and fight corruption, economic and financial crimes through the reinforcement of agencies such as Anti-Corruption Commission. This requires simple and effective methods for bringing complaints against state officials. (6)Well – defined property rights are absolutely necessary for economic growth and political stability. Rights that have not been well-defined provoke dispute over ownership and that can not only be a disincentive to investment, but could also facilitate violence and self-help. (7) An adequate feedback and citizens’ complaints mechanism. (8)Simplification of Rules of Procedure and removal of judicial bottlenecks. (9)Judicial integrity and independence. (10)Availability of non-corrupt, efficient commercial dispute settlement mechanism.
Whatever arrangements that are put in place will be an exercise in futility if they do not possess an intrinsic quality in them that facilitates and encourages compliance.
The public should also be encouraged to exercise their constitutional responsibilities of providing a check on the possible arbitrary exercise of power by government, for all governments as repositories and managers of power have a natural tendency to exceed the limits allowed them in Constitutions.
Central to the enhanced capacity of the state to function is the imperative of Civil society demand for good governance. It is a sad commentary on our current democratic dispensation that our nascent civil society groups became so exhausted with the necessary fight against military rule that they showed no stomach for the more difficult and less glamorous fight for good governance and grassroot ownership of democratic norms, political accountability, and transparency. Yet governance globally, is beginning to assume the features of customer-driven facility. That a people deserve the government they get is no longer the observation of wicked cynics; it has become a truism of politics. Thus in our quest for a strong state in our Nigerian experience, much depends on the willingness of civil society groups to drop their relative comforts and join reform-minded politicians in the trench of social change in order to make a difference.
A new civic culture of openness and accountability is crucial to bring a State back from the brink of failure, or to rehabilitate it if it has already gone under. Such openness could well include Government publication of accounts as is currently being done with Federal allocations to States and Local Governments. It should now include a restoration of the former practice of publishing the Annual Budget, data on Government Revenue, and the proceedings of legislative bodies.
The Obasanjo Administration’s effort in setting up the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative should be seen in this context. Legal and Judicial reforms are also crucial to the re-establishment of investor confidence in the capacity of the system to adjudicate on disputes.
For Nigeria, the priority of legal reforms should be to address-
(1)Crimes against persons and property (2)The inadequacy of the law to provide a clear and coherent framework for private economic and social activity. (3)Any weakness in the legal rules and public institutions including the judiciary that may impede the culture of accountability. (4)Some re-appraisal of the 1999 Constitution to establish if the content of Federalism is adequate for the multi-ethnic character of the Nigerian State against the background of the actual substance of the agitation for a restructuring of the Federation. (5)How to improve on the credibility of the electoral process.
Law, in isolation has its obvious limitations as a tool of social engineering but in conjunction with other reforms it is a potent recipe for harmony, progress and regime stability that rejects violence and exploitation, tendencies that promotes State failure.
Ultimately, the efficacy of the Rule of Law imperative depends on the extent there is a disposition to heed the wise counsel of Yale University Professor of Jurisprudence Susan Rose Ackerman: “The essence of the rule of law is not just the ability to assert power over others but also the ability to justify the exercise of power to those who feel its weight.”
A concept of political economy as opposed to preoccupation with just the economy or polity will readily admit that economic reforms , so vital in state rejuvenation, will be dead on arrival without supporting political reforms. And this has profound constitutional implications.
One issue that refuses to go away is the continuous suggestion by critics that Nigeria is not a true federalism. Yet the vehement proclamation of the problem is hardly matched by a clarity of what they have in mind. How loose is a federation supposed to be before it qualifies to be true federalism without slipping through into confederation? If Professor Wheare’s classic test is applied, namely – that “the fundamental and distinguishing characteristic of a federal system is that neither the central nor the regional governments are sub-ordinate to each other but rather, the two are co-ordinate and independent,” fingers tend to be pointed to the period before the Civil War as when Nigerians “enjoyed” true federalism and the reason was simple: the four regions of North, East, West and Mid-Western Regions were viable receptacles of the powers and responsibilities of federalism. Where the rain apparently started to beat us was a process of proliferation of states following the outbreak of the Civil War that had neither rhyme nor rhythm. What was officially described to be a Federal Military Government response to the legitimate quest for self – determination by various ethno-linguistic groups, was perceived by not a few, especially on the other side of the conflict as a weapon of war.
By the time the genie had left the bottle and states creation moved from the wartime figure of 12 to post-conflict number of 19 and then 21, and then 30 before we reached 36, the thing had progressed from being a weapon to neutralise your opponents to an advantage for yourself. Thus the history of state creation in Nigeria, with the exception of the former Mid-Western Region, has not been distinguished by objective criteria of political and economic imperatives of constitutional federalism. And if the process was flawed, the products were bound to have problems. The current 36 state structure seems to no longer serve the ends of national unity and national integration nor has it satisfactorily cured the fever of self-determination. It has in some cases, become breeding grounds for rabid ethno-nationalism. Nigeria was obviously a more integrated society in the days of the so-called powerful regions because they were powerful enough to exercise federating responsibilities. The sense of alienation of the various ethno-linguistic groups inspite of the proliferation of states from 4 to 36 has obviously predisposed the Nigerian state to tendencies of a failing state. When that is added to the recurring problem of the lack of clarity, or perhaps, more accurately, lack of enforcement culture of citizenship rights, the gravity of the problem becomes clearer.
A Nigerian citizen should enjoy in Nigeria the same rights of citizenship that are usual for such status elsewhere in the world. Thus there should be no doubt as to whether an Igbo originally from Abia State who elects to settle in Kano can aspire to be Governor of Kano State and vice versa. Until we are able to enforce constitutional provisions germane to this, we shall remain stranded between country and nation.
The effect of this unsystematic proliferation of states is that it was at the expense of regional autonomy since the disposition of the Federal Government to donate states to sundry interest groups was matched by its appetite to take over those functions which the now weakened federating units could no longer perform. What emerged in this unique Nigerian experience was revenue-dependency units of federalism, rather than revenue – generating, fiscally responsible units. With diminished capacity to perform the responsibilities of fiscal federalism added to the unitarist culture of military rule, it was only a matter of time before the lopsidedness in the federal structure would become the rallying cry of those calling for a sovereign national conference, another panic response. As Professor Iste Sagay (SAN) explains in a recent lecture:
“The regional constitutions in the 1960 and 1963 Nigerian Constitutions described each region as “a self-governing Region of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.” To buttress the self-governing status of each Region adequate provisions were made to guarantee their economic independence thus avoiding the hollowness of a declaration of self-governing status totally undermined by economic dependence.”
The learned Professor proceeded to suggest: “As a direct consequence of the concentration of powers and resources in the Federal Government under the 1999 Constitution, Nigeria has been plunged into an unending series of crises since the commencement of the so-called 4th Republic on 29th May 1999”. Among the problems he mentions are: (1) “Fierce competition for the capture of power at the centre leading to tension and instability of the polity. (2) Mutual suspicion and fears of domination and marginalisation between ethnic nationalities leading to the rise of ethnic militias and violent conflicts.”
It is so easy to blame all our problems on a distorted federalism, and in a rather simplistic manner believe, once we re-write the constitution to pre-Civil War regional autonomy, all will be well! Memories are short, and such over simplification masks the real threat to national unity which the former powerful regions as hegemonic blocs were perceived to pose. Whatever may have been the attraction of political expediency in the state creation exercise, there was a genuine problem of what to do with those powerful regions that were threatening the centre. A principal reason for the crisis that led to the overthrow of the Balewa Government and the unfortunate incursion of the military into our political space was this spectre of very powerful regions baiting the centre and making it so weak and dangerously ineffective. Maybe the pendulum has swung too far to the other side, leading again to political instability and fiscal clumsiness, some will say, recklessness on the part of the states. Proliferation of states has led to the decentralisation of both corruption and poverty. The costs of governance are now far in excess of the goods of governance since many state governments are nothing more than glorified salary payment centres.
The solution may not be to wind up the states, since, in the manner of expensive toys, they mean a lot to those who clamoured for them. Yet, as the states have in the main, proved to be ineffective units of federating powers, might the answer be in the 6 zone structure becoming the new federating units? That will have the advantage of the viability of the old 4 regions as centres of federal power that not only receives revenue but possesses the economies of scale advantage to produce wealth and run governments that meet with federal requirements of truly autonomous units that in solidarity with Federal Government mobilises for national greatness. Accordingly, some constitutional re-engineering will have to take place that may include the following -
(1)A Parliament for the Zone (preferably bi-cameral as in the centre) Such a legislature will consist of Lower House that will initiate and promulgate laws for good governance in accordance with new schedules of Legislative List in the National Constitution, and an Upper House in which all the ethnic groups in the zone will enjoy equality of representation and appropriate roles designed to enable them give expression to the legitimate aspirations of all the ethno-linguistic nationalities within the zone in order to foster unity and sense of belonging. (2)An Executive Arm of the Zonal Government. (3)A Zonal Judiciary
There will also be need to strengthen the Local Government system in the constitution in order to protect it from the implications of the disturbing stories of what happens to Federal revenue allocations intended for grassroots development.
In the interim the laudable initiative of the Federal Government to restore sanity in this area through The Fiscal Responsibility Bill should receive every support.
But let me conclude on this issue of political reforms by warning that whether our new democracy survives, or becomes the context for a failed State of ancient grudges and modern demons, will depend largely to what extent we are able to evolve credible electoral process that meets with universally acclaimed norms, as there is always a dangerous crisis of legitimacy erosion if the perception persists that elections were not free and fair. Much of this again depends on the credibility and viability of the internal democracy that governs party primaries. One can also venture to say that the litmus test for democratic arrival is the perception that a ruling Party can theoretically preside over its own defeat. This needs not become a death wish. It is merely an acceptance that to have helped in nurturing lasting democracy is a far bigger achievement than forming governments.
Yet no matter the difficulties we have had to face, the truth of the matter is that we have firmly, and irreversibly, established democracy. And that democracy is its own real dividend.
I acknowledge that the democratic space needs to be widened; that the democratic culture itself needs to be deepened and internalised. But here we must avoid two serious dangers – one, the danger of thinking nothing substantial has been achieved in five years; and secondly, the danger of thinking enough has been achieved. We in Government, especially in the absence of a credible and organised, loyal opposition ready and capable to engage us on issues, have turned the searchlight on ourselves for self-criticism and self-improvement. That is even the justification for this Public Lecture whose content, context, and presentation by a senior Government official would have been impossible in any other regime of recent memory.
Government has shown no lack of capacity to objectively identify the problems and even the mistakes of the past, including our own. Rather than pass on the buck, or wring our hands in helplessness, we have proceeded to express a can-do ethic of tackling the problems head-on, not minding whose ox is gored, and taking those tough, and dangerous decisions sometimes often amounting to creative destruction without which no nation is able to cross over from mediocrity to greatness. The pains of those decisions, especially on those who elected us, we deeply care about, but as our two great religions teach us, nothing great ever came to be without sacrifice. A sacrifice here and there today to make Nigeria what it ought to be tomorrow should not meet the resistance of any true patriot. We have for instance come to terms that no nation ever moved from poverty to wealth creation without being able to feed its population. Any excuse not to do so even becomes less impressive if such a country is endowed with good weather, good soil and a hardworking population. Accordingly, we made Agriculture such a major focus of our policy that we quickly moved into unprecedented 7% growth margin, enough to have made The UNITED NATIONS Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) to award the 2003 prestigious AGRICOLA AWARD to our President for outstanding leadership in agriculture.
It is in the same context that the quick returns on our Service Delivery (public sector reforms) should be seen. In a definitive sense, a strong state is a state with a strong service delivery system.
All such measures as we have taken are meant to strengthen our internal fabric and the sinews of our polity and economy, and have generally been accepted by the international community whose goodwill, understanding and cooperation we need in our march to national prosperity and greatness. This was evidenced only last week by the overwhelming goodwill which President Obasanjo’s visit to the United States elicited, whether it was about his presentation and appearance before the General Assembly of the United Nations; or the Security Council; or address at Georgetown University; or that at the Board of Corporate Council on Africa; or at the Council on Foreign Relations; or at the African-American Institute; or in his meeting twice with the UN Secretary-General; or as he was sought out in his hotel suite by large numbers of heads of Government of key nations for consultations.
Rather than hover on the brink of the League of Failed or Failing States, we must see oneselves as a new can-do nation ready to modernise and lead; a people with faith in ourselves as having the historic responsibility for the premier Black Success story of the Ages. It means restoring faith in the institutions of the State as enablers rather than manipulating them for ethnic advantage. It means nurturing a Policy Elite and a robust Reform Coalition that is committed to an Ethic of Responsibility.
MR. PRESIDENT, Distinguished Guests, Fellow compatriots, it is about a generational determination to make an important statement on the canvass of time; one that has never been made before in Black History. That is our challenge; that is our responsibility – to create an Opportunity Society. If we fail, no other group is better qualified than us to deliver. If we succeed, we join the immortals!