For Nigeria to progress and for a shared prosperity, we need a developmentalist coalition – Omano Edigheji, PhD


Nigeria is endowed with both human and natural resources. Yet, it remained undeveloped. It is a rich country with poor people, a situation of poverty in the midst of plenty.  Why have some nations developed and others not? Nations developed because nationalistic and patriotic individuals come together to transform their societies. The aim of this paper is to stress that Nigeria’s social, economic and political crises are primarily attributed to the absence of both a coalition of a developmentalist elite and a broad Developmentalist Coalition that presides over the economy and the state since the nation attained independence nearly sixty years ago. In order for Nigeria to develop and to create a shared future, in this paper, I argue for the setting up of a group/coalition of like-minded people who are driven by the ideology of development nationalism. Such a group has to be united mainly by the need to make Nigeria and its people prosper. The objective conditions in the country including insecurity, robbery and kidnapping; the rise of ethnic militias, terrorism, the menace of herdsmen, ethnic and religious conflicts; high levels of poverty, unemployment and inequality; poor management of the economy and the inability of the political leadership to transform its structure; endemic corruption and state capture; mismanagement of public resources; and poor governance and dysfunctional governments are threats to the interests of the elite. Therefore, these are potent reasons for developmentalist elite to form a Developmentalist Coalition in the country. Nigeria is unlikely to survive as a nation in light of the structural injustices in the country if developmental elite, working in concert with citizens, do not come together to rescue the situation.

What is a Developmentalist Coalition?

Throughout history, the ideology of development nationalism has been a major impetus for national development, especially in late developers (such as China, Malaysia, Mauritius, South Korea and Singapore) that wants to “catch-up”. Development is therefore the material base of the ideology of nationalism. Nationalism as ideology serves as both a means of promoting development as well as to cope with development. Developmental nationalism, in this sense, refers to a commitment to making one’s country to progress and prosper, including the development of the capacities of its people to fulfill their potentials and serve as drivers of the desired development.  This ideology is promoted by patriotic and nationalistic individuals. To such individuals, the ideology of nationalism trump other considerations and identities. They love their countries and people, and hence they want their countries to succeed and their people to prosper. Those who are motivated by developmentalism are driven primarily by the need to make their country and people prosper – to overcome underdevelopment and dependence on foreign countries, as well as to improve the living standards of their people. They see underdevelopment, dependence on foreign countries and poverty as threats to not only national survival but also to their enlightened self-interest. Enhancing the productive capacity of their country is the main pre-occupation of a Developmentalist Coalition. They strive to establish inclusive economic and political institutions to actualize their goals; and do not engage in politics of self enrichment.

Reflecting on the developmental states of East Asia, Chalmers Johnson, the man who coined the term developmental state to describe the role of the State in Asian developmental success, observed that the Developmentalist Coalitions in East Asian countries were “generated and came to the fore because of the desire to break out of the stagnation of dependency and underdevelopment; the truly successful ones understand that they need the market to maintain efficiency, motivate the people over the long term, and serve as a check on institutionalised corruption while battling against underdevelopment”. Such elites and Developmental Coalition, “is not committed first and foremost to the enhancement and perpetuation of its elites privileges but to the long-term development of their societies” (Johnson (1987: 140. Emphasis added).

Developmentalist elite have a shared vision for national development – they have similiar perspectives around national development. It is cognizant of the fact that the realization of its vision is dependent on its ability to enhance the productive capacities of their economies and people. Wealth creation, thus production/value addition, rather than consumption and rent-seeking, are the major pre-occupations of a coalition of developmentalist elite, as well as a broad developmentalist coalition. Both are conscious of the fact that private gains are compatible to social objectives. Human capital development is thus one of their main priorities.

A coalition of developmentalist elite knows its onus: it ensures that overtime, the ideology of developmentalism becomes a national culture. Through words and actions, it mobilizes citizens to buy into the developmentalist agenda. More important, it ensures that its developmentalist project/agenda is anchored on a social base, hence the developmental elite identify social groups with which it forms a broad developmentalist coalition. When Developmentalist minded individuals occupy political positions, they use their positions to ensure that all segments of society makes short-term economic sacrifices for the long term shared prosperity. As a consequence, all sectors of society avoid or at least minimise rent-seeking behaviour for the sake of national development. When such a coalition assumed political power, it undertakes necessary governance and policy reforms to give expression to its vision of development for the country. This is how it creates a society in its own image! In all spheres of society, they provide leadership to ensure outcomes that are compatible to their broad vision.

The political and economic affairs of most developed nations are dominated by Developmentalist Coalitions of one form or the other. In some instances, the developmentalist elite might form their own political parties (such as the People’s Action Party formed by the first prime minister of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew and his colleagues) to contest for political power. In some others, individuals among them might join different political parties. However, in the context where developmentalists are the dominant political elite, whatever party is in power  – it ensures that it maintains some minimum standards that are the core principles on which the country is founded.  A good example in this regard is the Scandinavian countries where the ideology of social democracy was foisted on their societies mainly by trade unions with the support of small farmers. As a result, this ideology has taken root in Scandinavian. One outcome of this is that irrespective of the political party in power – whether of left or right political leanings – it ensures that the core elements of the principles of social democracy are not compromised. As a consequence, there is predictability in governance, including the rule of law, and the provision of basic public goods to citizens.  In the US, the Fourth Amendment (which protects against unreasonable search and seizure) and free markets are foundational and uncompromising principles irrespective of which of the two political parties, Democratic or Republican, is in power. This unity was due to external threats, that is, antagonism to King George (UK) and British mercantilism). This is not to suggest that only external threats give rise to a Developmentalist Coalition. As the Malaysian example shows, the May 1969 protests gave birth to a Developmentalist Coalition in the country to make UMNO the dominant political party for more than forty years now. Without the protests which threatened the political survival of the Bumiputra elite, they would not have bonded together as a dominant political force; and subsequently become important economic actors.  To be sure, developmentalist elite articulate values that subsequently bind and define their nations. They provide both moral and political leadership such as Nelson Mandela of South Africa. At the same time, most developmental elite tend to favour the establishment of inclusive economic and political institutions that enables them to achieve their development objectives.

Pursuant of this goal, a Developmentalist Coalition elite reaches an informal consensus on the type of society they want among themselves. Overtime, they foist the developmental ideology on citizens, which becomes a national ideology or values that is embraced by all/or most citizens irrespective of other considerations – class, gender, religion, ethnicity, and so on.

In most cases, developmentalism is driven by the need to transform the structures of the economy and to industrialise as well as build human capacity. Developmentalist Coalitions, especially those that are in control of government – in both elected and administrative positions – have used their positions, by undertaking necessary institutional and policy reforms, as well as mobilise citizens – to ensure that developmentalism becomes the hegemonic ideology in state and society. These are transformative leaders with strong desire to effect positive change in their society. To do this, however, requires, that development nationalism as an ideology is embedded in specific social groups, e.g, trade unions, entrepreneurs, professional groups, the unemployed, and so on. The specific social group with which a coalition of developmentalist elite forms an alliance is however informed by contextual conditions. The objectives remain the same: enhancement of the productive capacity and promotion of shared prosperity.

The Need for a Nigerian Developmentalist Coalition

The social, economic and political challenges facing Nigeria can largely be attributed to the absence of a Developmentalist Coalition that is highly patriotic, nationalistic and committed to the transformation of the structure of the Nigerian economy, and to overcome underdevelopment. In most of post-independent Nigeria, public affairs, especially politics and the economy, have been dominated by groups that lack a vision on how to transform the country, to industrialize it, to build common values that unite the people, to address poverty and overcome underdevelopment, as well as to overcome ethnic and religious divisions. The Nigerian crisis is that of lack of transformative leadership and the resultant weak institutions and governance failure. In fact, public affairs have been dominated largely by parasitic and consuming elite whose modus operandus is transactional. With few exceptions such as Aliko Dangote who is now engaged in the real sector, the elite lack the vision and the will to galvanise the productive capacity of the economy and society. It can safely be argued that most people that have presided over the political and economic affairs of Nigeria since independence have not been nationalistic and patriotic. Instead they have captured the Nigerian State for their selfish interests.

If they were patriotic, how else can one explain the fact that they do not invest in nation’s health and education systems (even destroyed them) and have recklessly looted our commonwealth which they store in foreign countries? Political office holders and civil servants turn billionaires overnight without owning a factory or a farm. The children of most rich Nigerians study overseas. Currently, it is unlikely that there is any Governor, Senator, Member of the House of Representatives and member of States’ Assemblies whose children are in a Nigerian university.  The poverty of the Nigerian elite is further exemplified by poor physical infrastructure in the country as well as the high level of insecurity. In fact, Nigeria has become a killing field due to terrorism, robbery, kidnapping and the killings by herdsmen. This is coupled with the fact that people die from preventive diseases and the poor state of the nation’s healthcare, which is so bad that the elite and their families have to go for treatment abroad whenever they fall sick.  Sad enough, our health institutions have become mere consulting/prescription centres ironically with beautiful fences enclosing dilapidated buildings with obsolete equipment, badly mannered or indecorous staff who are further demotivated by months of unpaid wages. It is this context that we need to understand that of the estimated 72,000 medical doctors who are registered with the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria, less than half, about 35,000 are currently practising in the country.  Of these, over 25,000 Nigerian doctors are in the United States of America.  Leadership failure is thus one of the push factors for the high level of brain drain in the country.

Some of the death in the country could have been prevented if there were good hospitals locally to get immediate treatment once they fall ill. Former Governor of Bayelsa State, Diepreye Alameiyeseigha, died few hours before planned evacuation for overseas treatment. The fate befell hundreds of Nigerians every year. To most elite, Nigeria is a cemetery where they are buried after they die in hospitals overseas. Imagine the numbers of Nigerians who have occupied leadership positions, including former Vice President Alex Ekwueme, who died in foreign hospitals in the recent past!  The situation is so bad that even President Muhammadu Buhari, spent several months in 2017 in London for medical treatment. Similiarly, former President Musa Yarardua returned to the country virtually died from Saudi Arabia where he had gone for treatment. Currently, former Petroleum Minister, Mrs Diezani Alison-Madueke, who allegedly stole millions of dollars and bought choice-properties within and outside the country, is in London on medical treatment. Had such funds been invested in the Nigerian health sector, she could have received treatment here in Nigeria and such facilities would serve other fellow Nigerians. It should be noted that because of the absence of shared values by the Nigerian elite, they do not pay their taxes, which could be used for provision of public goods.

In the absence of a dominant Coalition of Developmentalists with a shared national vision and consensus, distribution of rents has become the primary purpose of politics. In turn, rent-seeking and its associated patronages emphasize what divides rather than what unite us as a nation and people. It is in this context that we need to understand the resort to religion, ethnicity, state of origin, zoning, and the call for restructuring as defining characteristics of politics in the country.  It is therefore not surprising that successive governments had little value-addition to Nigeria’s economic, social and political development. What is clear is that there is an absence of both a coalition of developmentalist elite and a broad Developmentalist Coalition with a common national vision and consensus about Nigeria’s development and unity.  As a result, every section of Nigeria society feels marginalized. Worse still, the rent-seeking, retrogressive and consuming elite have had a field day in raping the nation of its resources – both human and natural resources.  The call for restructuring of the nation has some merits. Most of the states are not viable economically and are unable to pay salaries of civil servants and political office holders in the absence of federal allocation. Thus the argument for a return to regional governments has some merits. This notwithstanding, not much will change if there is no Developmentalist Coalition, with an enlightened self-interest, that steer the ship of governance even at regional level. Perhaps, we need look at people like the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo in terms of development outlook and Lagos State governments since 1999 to see if there are some useful lessons that we can draw respectively from attributes of a developmentalist individual (Awolowo) and how to recruit and assemble developmentalist orientated individuals to run a State which Bola Tinubu undertook in Lagos State (he appointed some progressives into his administration, some of whom were not even Lagosians). Even how President Olusegun Obasanjo assembled some of the best minds in the country in his second term might offer some useful lessons.

The absence of a coalition of developmentalist elite in Nigeria has meant that rapacious consuming elite have presided over the affairs of the state in most of our independence period. The poor management of the country by this inept group is common knowledge to every Nigerian. One outcome of the poor management of the country is poor governance. Another is dependence on crude oil: the rapacious elite do not even have the capacity to refine oil; and are unable to create incentives for generation and distribution of electricity to our people.  However, the poor management of the Nigerian economy by successive governments is not surprising because it has not been in the interest of the rent-seeking elites and tenderpreneurs – the latter depends mainly on government contracts – to manage oil resources for shared prosperity and to lay a foundation for a post-oil Nigerian economy. It is therefore not by accident that the economy is not diversified: it has a small and declining manufacturing sector! It is therefore not by accident that the economy went into recession in 2016 following the fall in global oil prices. Yes, the President Buhari administration is making efforts to diversify the economy but this remained minimal and the pace is too slow.

In the absence of a coalition of developmentalist-orientated leadership to superintend over political and administrative positions in the Nigerian state (at all levels), successive governments have not be able to manage the oil wealth and could not provide regular fuel to citizens (Nigeria is the only oil producing country where citizens experienced fuel scarcity). Similarly, they have not been able to create conditions for the diversification of the economy. Unfortunately, while this narrow production base (the formal sector) accounts for a substantial share of GDP, it has low labour absorption rate, and have very little downstream and upstream linkages to the rest of the economy. It caters for the interests of very few people while majority of Nigerians eke out a living in the non-formal and subsistence sector. The Nigerian economy is therefore an enclave economy as the formal sector (oil and gas sector) has little positive development impact on the rest of the economy. This sector has imposed the resource curse on the country.  High levels of poverty (about 70% Nigerians live on less than three hundred naira a day) and inequality, underemployment and unemployment (with youth unemployment, including university graduate unemployment among the highest in the world), and corruption are some of the by-products of the poor management of oil rents.

Furthermore, the political leadership do not invest enough on the country’s greatest assets – its people. As an example, successive administrations in the 4th Republic have allocated to the education sector less than what UNESCO recommended that 26% of national budget be spent on the sector. Only 7% of the 2018 national budget was allocated by the President Buhari’s administration to education. Because of inadequate investment in education and lack of incentives for its young people to thrive (acquire skills and engage in startups), Nigeria is unable to take advantage of the youth bulge that could drive its development (about half of Nigeria’s population of 180 million people are less than 30 years old). In the same vein, while Nigerian youth are considerably entrepreneurial, the political leaders have not created the enabling environment for them to realise their full potentials.

The Nigerian situation is unlike other oil rich countries such as Norway. One factor that sets Norway apart from Nigeria is that in the former, there is a Developmentalist Coalition that foisted its vision of development, namely social democracy, on the Norwegian state and society. Because of this orientation, successive Norwegian governments since the discovery of oil in 1969 have ensured that they managed oil wealth to cater for the well-being of present and future generations of their people (and consequently ranked first on all major human development indicators). The Norwegian political leaders do not pillage the country’s wealth rather they save and invest massively on their people, including provision of free education and healthcare to all citizens. Norway’s Sovereign wealth fund is estimated at one trillion United States Dollars ($1 trillion). This translates to the fact that each of the five million Norwegian will receive $200000 if the savings from oil is divided among its citizens. Furthermore, the elite in Norway have used rents from oil to diversify their economy.  Therefore, the importance of both a coalition of developmentalist elite and a broad Developmentalist Coalition to a country’s development cannot be underestimated.  The coalition will essentially endear itself to the people by harping on the values that unites us rather than strengthen the ignoble course that divides us. Religion must not be given ethno geographic colouration so as to fan the embers of war instead of liberty. The coalition must strive to institutionalize achievable goals, and focus value reorientation, beginning with the elites in a manner crystal clear and transparent.

In Nigeria, the problem per say is not the absence of developmentalist oriented individuals in the country.  Such individuals can be found in all segments of the Nigerian society – in government (in elective positions and the bureaucracy), the private sector, the media, the academy, in communities, CSOs and even political parties.  The problem is the absence of a Coalition of developmentalist elite, who in turn would forge a broad Developmentalist alliance with social groups that shares its vision of development. As a consequence, they are unable to act in a collective and cohesive manner to prioritise investments in Nigeria’s greatest asset – its people.

In the absence of such a Coalition to serve as a platform for developmentalist elite to regularly interacts, shares ideas and garners support in their various professional callings, as well as to coordinate activities among themselves, developmentalists in the country have hardly make significant contribution to change the course  of Nigeria’s development. Partly because of the non-existence of an informal platform for developmentalist elite, the few developmentalists that found themselves in positions of authorities have been confronted with numerous challenges: they could not sustain institutional and policy reforms.  Similarly, in the absence of an informal platform of developmentalist-minded individuals for mutual support and reinforcement of the importance of the need to overcome national underdevelopment, some who find themselves in authorities have been consumed by the rent-seeking and pervasive corruption in the political system, while others have been frustrated and have given up.  Those who managed to bring about some positive developmental changes when in leadership positions have seen such gains reversed by their successors. The frequent policy somersault in Nigeria and the non-institutionalization of reforms are partly the consequences of the absence a Developmentalist Coalition. This trend will continue unless developmentalist elite, for their enlightened self-interest, come together to forge a common vision and to take practical steps to realize it.   The poor leadership in all sectors in the country – political, economic and social- partly reflects the absence of a Developmentalist Coalition that could foist a productivist, ethical and patriotic ethos as the defining values of Nigeria.  This sadly is a product of politics bereft of ideology, resulting in the random cross-carpeting by politicians for financial gains rather in pursuit of a tangible national goal. The ultimate outcome of this is a system of gang-raping of the commonwealth with impunity by the political class and their collaborators in the private sector. It is therefore imperative that a Developmentalist Coalition must work tirelessly to change the political landscape for Nigeria and its people to prosper.

What the Nigerian situation requires therefore is firstly, the formation of a Coalition of  Developmentalist elite and a leadership that that has clear development vision and have the political will to develop policy and plans to achieve that vision. Members of the coalition could seek political power either as individuals or as a group; and some others could engage in others forms of citizens actions to strengthen democratic governance. Secondly, a broad-based Developmentalist Coalition that includes other social groups that shares its ideology of developmentalism is required. Criteria for membership have to be determined in the course of consultations and discussions. However, among others, the coalition of developmentalist elite should comprise of few political elite, the top echelon of the bureaucracy and patriotic business elite. Also, it should include the intellingetsia, professionals, CSOs and the media.

Given the diverse ethno-religious composition of Nigeria, efforts should be made to ensure that the coalition of developmentalist elite comprise people from the various ethnic and religious groups. Members have to therefore be highly nationalistic and patriotic. One primary issue that the group has to address is articulation of its vision for Nigeria of their dream and to subsequently build consensus around that vision. Equally important is that the developmentalist project has to be anchored on specific social groups, with which the aforementioned elite will form alliances in other to create a shared future. This could be the basis to build a truly united and prosperous country, as a sure guarantee to overcoming the ethno-religious conflicts that have plagued the country.

Given the critical challenges facing the country as an economy that is dependent on oil with is associated vulnerability to external shocks; the high levels of poverty and inequality; the high levels of underemployment and unemployment; security challenges and the poor social and physical infrastructure, transforming the structure of the Nigerian economy, and consequently, enhancing its productive capacity should constitute primary objectives of the group. In addition, job creation, reducing poverty, expanding social and physical infrastructures to all Nigerians, and promotion and entrenchment of good development governance should constitute other important objectives of the group. Equally importantly is the need for such a coalition to build and promote the requisite inclusive political and economic institutions that will enable Nigeria to prosper, and for its people to fulfill their potentials.

In addition, given that the task of nation-building that was the main pre-occupation of the immediate post-colonial leaders is still uncompleted fifty eight years after independence, nation-building should constitute a central pillar of the activities of the coalition. Towards this end, the unity of the country needs to become a cardinal and uncompromising objective of the coalition. Again, part of the developmentalist ideology should be the creation of a Nigerian dream, that all Nigerians, based on merit can achieve their full potential.

In summary, the Developmentalist Coalition could be founded on the following vision, principles and agenda; as the foundational social contract  among developmentalist and between then and the Nigerian people:

  • Transforming the structure of the Nigerian economy into an industrialised, post-oil economy.
    •Equitable development
  • Human capital development, including women and youth empowerment
  • Infrastructural development
  • Anti-corruption
    •National unity and cohesion
  • Democracy
  • Governance based on merit
  • Security
  • Social justice and equal opportunities for all irrespective of religion, ethnicity and gender.

Furthermore, the platform should serve as:

  • Debating and articulating a common vision for Nigeria’s development
  • An informal forum for discussion of national issues
  • Sharing of experiences
  • Provision of mutual supports to members
  • Setting and shaping national discourses and debates

Other roles that the platform can play should be determined in the course of consultations and subsequent meetings of the group.  One of the implications of this is the need for the creation of a national platform as opposed to regional, ethnic and religious platforms. This pan-Nigerian platform should cut across the existing political parties, including the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).


In conclusion, I have argued for the creation of an informal, non-partisan platform of patriotic and highly nationalistic Nigerians – a Coalition of Developmentalist elite, and subsequently a broad developmentalist coalition.  This platform should primarily serve to share information about the state of the nation not propaganda or incisive rumour mongering but to forge a consensus about the type of society that developmentalists want. Through the praxis of individuals in the coalition in their everyday life – in government, business, trade unions, civil society and academia; and through engagements in national discourses, a developmentalist ethos can take root in the Nigerian state and society. This is necessary to create a shared future. Its members should be encouraged to engage in the political arena, including seeking elective positions. As such the coalition would become agent of transformational change – of a truly united Nigeria, with its productive capacity enhanced for the benefits of present and future generations. The formation of a Developmentalist Coalition is one way to end the endemic corruption in the country.  This coalition should transform democracy in the country from the ritual of elections every four years to one where political parties and their elected representatives seek to serve the Nigeria people and create a shared future. Citizens must be at the heart of democracy for it to succeed. This is why it is imperative to forge a Developmentalist Coalition. History beacons on developmentalists to provide both moral and political leadership to change the development trajectory of Nigeria.


  • Omano Edigheji is Founder and CEO of Zeezi Oasis Leadership Inspiration Ltd based in Abuja. Contacts:, @OmanoE