Report Reveals How Nigeria Has Failed

1025 views | Francis Azuka | May 29, 2021

A report by Robert I. Rotberg, the founding director of the Harvard Kennedy School’s Program on Intrastate Conflict and president emeritus of the World Peace Foundation, and John Campbell, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and a former U.S. ambassador to Nigeria, published on Foreign Policy has shown how Africa giants, Nigeria has failed.

This is coming in the heels of the multifaceted issues rocking the nation. According to the report, Nigeria has long teetered on the precipice of failure; and now, unable to keep its citizens safe and secure, “Nigeria has become a fully failed state of critical geopolitical concern”. Its failure matters because the peace and prosperity of Africa and preventing the spread of disorder and militancy around the globe depend on a stronger Nigeria.

It is important to note that the nation’s economy is usually estimated to be Africa’s largest or second largest, after South Africa. It would be recalled that Nigeria played a positive role in promoting African peace and security but with internal failure, it can no longer sustain that vocation, and no replacement is in sight.

“Its security challenges are already destabilizing the West African region in the face of resurgent jihadism, making the battles of the Sahel that much more difficult to contain. And spillover from Nigeria’s failures ultimately affect the security of Europe and the United States.

“This designation of repeated failure is not a knee-jerk, casual labeling using emotive and pejorative words. Instead, it is a designation informed by a body of political theory developed at the turn of this century and elaborated upon, case by case, ever since. Indeed, thoughtful Nigerians over the past decade have debated, often fervently, whether their state has failed. Increasingly, their consensus is that it has.

“There are four kinds of nations: the strong, the weak, the failed, and the collapsed. According to previously published research estimates, of the 193 members of the United Nations, 60 or 70 are strong—the nations that rank highest in the listings of Freedom House, the human rights reports of the U. S. State Department, the anticorruption perception indices of Transparency International, and so on. There are three places that should be considered collapsed: Somalia, South Sudan, and Yemen.

“Eighty or 90 U.N. members are weak. Weakness consists of providing many, but not all, of essential public goods, the most important of which are security and safety. If citizens are not secure from harm within national borders, governments cannot deliver good governance (the essential services that citizens expect) to their constituents.

“Nigeria now confronts six or more internal insurrections and the inability of the Nigerian state to provide peace and stability to its people has tipped a hitherto very weak state into failure”.

The report stated that in “2020 and so far in 2021, according to weekly tracking reports by the Council on Foreign Relations, about 1,400 Nigerians have lost their lives to Islamist insurgents in northeastern Borno state and neighboring areas.

“Boko Haram, a fundamentalist-inspired militia of possibly 5,000 attackers, also raids neighboring Chad and northern Cameroon, and is believed to shelter in the Sambisa forest along Borno’s mountainous border with Cameroon. Exactly why a Nigerian Armed Forces of 300,000 troops and a $2 billion budget has failed to extirpate Boko Haram is not clear; corruption in the military is allegedly a major factor, as well as inconsistent leadership from officers and politicians. (And, like Afghanistan’s Taliban, Boko Haram seems to have some limited local support.)

The researchers noted that according to political theory, the government’s inability to thwart the Boko Haram insurgency is enough to diagnose Nigeria as a failed state. But there are many more symptoms.

It stated that in the “western areas of the Muslim north, particularly in the large and populous Kaduna, Katsina, and Yobe states, gangs of kidnappers have preyed upon schoolchildren in their boarding schools. Ransom has been the motive, and payments (rarely acknowledged) have indeed been provided  to return as many as 600 children to their parents after forcibly taking large groups of pupils from their dormitories, often marching them barefoot to distant holding pens. Federal and state security forces seem so far to have been mostly perfunctory in their attempts to secure schools in the northern states and generally unable to protect their trusting citizens”.

“In these same northern states, and farther south in Nigeria’s Middle Belt, Muslim Fulani herders have for several years been clashing with settled agriculturalists over access to land and water. These contests are often violent and recurrent. Neither central nor state government security brigades have secured these areas.

“In the south, where Fulani incursions now also worry settled farmers, Igbo-speaking insurgents have recently resurrected the Biafran secessionist movement that sought to take that southeastern region out of Nigeria in 1967-1970. Now the Indigenous People of Biafra, a separatist movement that reflects and facilitates popular discontent, is gaining support among the Igbo, Nigeria’s third-largest language group.

“Nearby, there remains festering discontent against the central government among the Ijaw and Ogoni peoples of the Niger Delta, who feel deprived of the oil wealth that comes from their waters but largely ends up in the hands of political and economic elites connected to the government of President Muhammadu Buhari and its predecessors. In 2006, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta began to assert the rights and claims of its followers, but it is now less formidable as an insurgent force. Nevertheless, bombings, assassinations, and kidnappings in the Delta region, including the major city of Port Harcourt, continue, further destabilizing the region.

“Corruption, always a problem in Nigeria, has remained endemic. Buhari’s administration came to power in 2015 and won reelection in 2019 with promises to clean up corruption. But Nigeria is as corrupt at every jurisdictional level as it has been for decades, which greatly hinders the continuing struggle against insecurity. Transparency International’s latest Corruption Perceptions Index ranks Nigeria toward the bottom—at 149th of 180 countries.

The report noted that “In foreign capitals, an honest acknowledgment that Nigeria has failed ought to generate further assistance from the African Union and foreign donors, such as the United States and European Union. In the recent past, U.S. and British surveillance flights have helped target insurgents and locate kidnappers. If the Nigerian government asks for renewed help and can use it effectively, some of the results of failure can be ameliorated. But acknowledging state failure will help and could marshal military as well as policing support focused in the future on Boko Haram and the country’s other zones of conflict”.


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