Nigeria: A Failed State That Works – Japheth J Omojuwa


Milton Friedman argued, “Government has three functions. It should provide for military defence of the nation. It should enforce contracts between individuals. It should protect citizens from crimes against themselves or their property.” This position may be expanded and has indeed been expanded in a glut of literature but the essence of government basically revolves around the spirit of Friedman’s position stated above. Nigeria is a state, it has a government and it has a body of citizens that this government should be ordinarily answerable to. In reality, the Nigerian government only exists for other purposes, certainly not primarily for the purpose of the Nigerian masses. You should not take my words for it, take a pause from reading this text, leave your office if you have a job, step out on the street and randomly ask this question on the street: Of what use has the Nigerian government been to you in the past one year? First of all, note the silence that is bound to follow that question, and then note the difficulty in the average citizen finding an answer to your question. Then finally, note the endless complaints.

Let us in all honesty answer this question: Of what benefit has the Nigerian government been to the average Nigerian? Last Friday, gunmen reportedly killed 11 people in Sabon Garin Yamdula village, in the Madagali area of Adamawa State. The following day, a Zaria-based Islamic scholar, Sheikh Albani, was assassinated. His assailants killed his wife and two of his children to boot. May their souls rest in peace. On Monday, January 27, Associated Press reported that insurgents had already killed about 200 people this year, in the Maiduguri area alone, despite a state of emergency being in place. The UN reported that some 5,000 refugees have since fled to Cameroon and Nigeria this month. Nigeria’s 2014 budget has proposed that N59bn be spent on ex-militants. N23.6bn will go into the payment of stipends for 30,000 ex-militants and a separate N35.4bn was allocated for transformed militants. In comparison, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission was allocated N10.245bn while the Armed Forces and the Police Command collectively had N46bn allocated to them. While the state has bought itself some sort of peace in the Niger Delta, the relative respite has been exchanged for unprecedented oil bunkering. It is so rampant, so lucrative and so daring you would think it was state sanctioned. Those who sanctioned it are obviously more powerful than the state.

The United Nations Commission on Human Rights has projected that 24.4 million Nigerians are expected to be homeless by next year. The Federal Housing Authority, set up by a decree in 1973, has built about 37,000 houses in about 40 years. At the rate of 1, 000 houses per year, how many years will it take them to meet the 16 million houses shortfall? It will take them 16,000 years, if our population doesn’t grow. There is a planned National Distraction agenda on the way as the National Conference is expected to hold this year. How many homeless Nigerians will be represented in the sham talk shop? Granted, the National Conference is a farce, shouldn’t the government have at least farcically added the “Association of Homeless and Unemployed Nigerians” to the midst of organisations expected to have their delegates collect N100,000/delegate/day? The minimum wage is N18, 000/month so it is obvious the government doesn’t expect Nigerians at the level of the minimum wage in attendance. It is a gathering of the elite, by the elite, for the purpose of distracting fellow elite from national issues until the elections come like a thief in the night. The poor have no share in the looting of the land. A gang has cornered the country and it intends to run it as it deems fit.

Nigeria accounts for almost 20 per cent of the global number of children out of school. At 10.5 million children, there are more Nigerian children out of school than there are people living in some countries. While the Nigerian government continues to build big gates and some buildings on lands it wants to be called new universities, Nigerians continue to troop to Rwanda, Kenya, Uganda, Ghana and the likes to acquire university education. Those who have the means opt for American, British, and Middle Eastern universities. While they pay huge sums of money just to get visas, not to talk of the school fees, they are able to plan their lives around their years of graduation. On Monday, a Lagos State University, student mentioned that he had spent six years in the university for a five-year course and he was still nowhere near his fifth year. It would be interesting to know what the “progressive” Governor Babatunde Fashola thinks of this. The legacy the governor leaves in Lagos will not exclude what becomes of LASU after his tenure. One recently read that the West African Examinations Council introduced 39 new subjects. That is in line with our thinking that more is always better. Excellence, of course, has nothing to do with this; it has everything to do with quality. But then, only people who have at all ask for a better one. You can bet most of the parents of those out of school children will not be asking, “How good is the school?” if you provided their kids with just any school. You see, we are not yet even at that basic level. Giant of Africa indeed!

Nigeria is ranked 16th on the Failed States Index. We beat the likes of Somalia, Sudan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and Congo DR, countries that have been bedevilled by wars in recent years. We are not bedevilled by any war; we are instead cursed by a leadership that’d rather feed its gang and cabal than make the country work. We are shackled by a following that has since got used to living in a failed state that works, despite its apparent failure.

One made a mention of the epidemic issue of rape in Nigeria. Reports of adults raping young girls and even boys have become commonplace. It was not shocking to hear one of the defenders of the current government say, “What do you want Syrian children to say?” which is the new Nigerian way of justifying evil and all forms of mediocrity in today’s Nigeria. The idea is simple enough; if you say Nigeria has failed to school its children, some will throw Pakistan and Afghanistan at you. Where you state that corruption under the current administration had reached alarming heights, you would be reminded that it was nothing new, hence, “get used to it.”

Even scholars do not agree on the issue of state failure. It remains a controversial debate. Most, of course, agree that if state failure were a picture, Nigeria certainly strikes a semblance with it. But then, if you argue that Nigeria is a country that continues to exhibit the features of a failed state, be sure to hear someone say, “Yes, we are a failed state but at least, some things work!” and this is true. The rule of law has become the law according to who rules. Impunity is the new normal. Things are really bad but those running the state say our lives are being transformed with a growing economy that never creates any job for teeming unemployed youths. That they can lie to our faces without consequence shows that patience works in Nigeria. That they want more years to continue these lies shows that they intend to test the barrier of that patience further. Time will tell

Japheth J Omojuwa @omojuwa

Omojuwa chronicles the dysfunctionalities of the Nigerian state