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Overriding Nigeria’s development impasse: The enclave paradigm

By Sylvester Odion Akhaine
03 March 2020   |   3:40 am
There is a renewed consensus among a broad section of the Nigerian population that Nigeria is not working. To be sure, the statistics are alarming.


The truly helpless society is not one threatened by revolution but one incapable of it—Samuel Huntington.

There is a renewed consensus among a broad section of the Nigerian population that Nigeria is not working. To be sure, the statistics are alarming. The World Poverty Clock ranked Nigeria as the global headquarter of poverty. About 152 million people live on less than $2 per day. About 60 million of the population are illiterate and out-of-school children is put at about 10.5 million. Electricity supply is deficient and endemic to the detriment of industrial production and flow of investment capital. According to National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), 2598 Nigerians were consumed in road mishap in 2018, a yearly average of 6000. Apart from other human limitations, the fatalities are largely a result of poor state of roads across the country. Macro-economic indicators are equally frightening.

The country runs a deficit budget in the last couple of years. The leakages in the economy are amazing. Recently, the country was again ranked as the global headquarter of oil theft. An estimated 400, 000 barrels worth N1 trillion are stolen every year. Between 2011 and 2014 alone, the country lost about $10 billion annually through oil theft. A recent holistic analysis of our overall national indebtedness of N25 trillion by Prof. Anya O. Anya reveals that the country has borrowed more in three years than it did in 30 years before. This is mind-boggling. After an escape from debt peonage in 2006, Nigerian is back in the loop with a staggering external indebtedness of $27.1 billion as at June 30 this year. Former President Obasanjo who celebrated the debt redemption as second independence will likely qualify the new situation as third colonization. Of late, the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar, urged soul-searching over the country’s social problems: As his eminence puts it, “We should search ourselves where we are right now. Are we in the Nigerian nation of our dream? Can 200 million people say ‘yes’ this is the country which we desire? It is a question for which I don’t have answers”.

Since the end of the civil war and the plunge of commodity price in the global market and exploitation of crude oil, Nigeria is hooked to the export of the product which has fanned the venality of state elite. In 2008, Nigeria was reported to have made a staggering $400 billion since the inception of oil exploitation with nothing to show in terms of development spanning wellbeing of the citizens and the expansion of the real sector of the national economy. The Nigerian condition is compounded by the lowgrade insurgency in the North-east of the country and widespread insecurity in the country. Besides, there is pervasive human rights violation. In a report on the state of human rights in Nigeria in 2011-2012, the state and its apparatus, especially the security forces, came up as the worst violator of human rights in Nigeria.

This trend is continuing and even journalists are now being arrested at the instance of state governors reminiscent of the Amakiri’s case, a journalist who had his hair shaved with a broken bottle on the orders of Diete Spiff, Governor of Rivers State in the 1970s, for reporting a looming strike in the Nigerian Observer on the governor’s birthday. The reality of state failure has spawned centrifugal social forces held down by sheer force of the state. The country appears locked in some sort of motion without movement and exhibits all symptoms of a failed state covering social, economic and political matters indexed by Fund for Peace.

To sum up the taxonomy of woes besetting us, the country is run by feudal elite that is nepotistic in nature and anti-development. Baba Omojola once described the governance output as a macabre order in which reward is for indolence and reproduction is about “looting of future credit”. And more recently, President Olusegun Obasanjo captured it as clannish and nepotistic. Also, Prof Anya characterized the elite by its “repudiation of the principles of merit, competitiveness and the pursuit of excellence in the public sector despite constitutional provisions and the federal character principle.” The state of the country has implication for the country’s unity and those who are unable to comprehend this national tragedy wish for restructuring of the country while those who benefits from the national malaise, veritable standpatters and leeches, wish for a continuation of the status quo.

A significant section of our population is hemmed by what Paulo Freire, in his Pedagogy of the Oppressed, calls “subjectivist immobility”, a situation in which the oppressed is aware that he is oppressed but unable to break the bonds of his subjugation. To rephrase Freire’s thought process differently; poverty has a way of undermining measures design for the redemption of conditions of poverty. The most optimistic Nigerians have given up. The low in society have been seeking escapist routes out of their condition of abjection: Tade Ipadeola’s Sahara Testament writ large of the gory images of those who chose the Sahara and Mediterranean routes. The most optimistic about the possibility of redeeming the country have given up. It has been a harvest of so many wasted generations (apologies to Wole Soyinka). I recall also that Ken Saro-Wiwa was killed by the Nigerian state for seeking autonomy for the Ogoni people within a Nigerian generation.

The foregoing is the context and backdrop of my talk. Make no mistake, it is a conversation and the objective of this conversation is to challenge you and simultaneously reason with you on the best way forward. I will flirt with the idea spawned by your invitation for this conversation—the Enclave Paradigm. The state of the country today is a manifestation of earlier predictions of our future. As far back as 1966 from the walls of Calabar prison, Chief Obafemi Awolowo reflected on Nigeria’s statehood and argued strenuously for the inevitability of a federal constitutional arrangement for Nigeria. With prophetic precision, he warned of dire consequence for the country’s unity should we deviate from a federal constitution. In a pros and cons argument on unitarianism or federalism, Awolowo warned against a unitary state system. He noted that “…we will be attempting an impossible proposition which might appear rosy and promising in the short term, but is doomed to catastrophe in the long run. In this connexion, we should be reminded that of all the cultural equipments of a people, language is the most formidable, the most irrepressible, and the most resistant to diffusion, not to talk of fusion. It is at the base of all human divisions and divergences. And historical evidences of an irrefutable nature have shown firstly, that YOU CAN UNITE BUT CAN NEVER SUCCEED IN UNIFYING A PEOPLE WHOM LANGUAGE HAS SET DISTINCTLY APART FROM ONE ANOTHER; and secondly, that the more educated a linguistic group becomes, the stronger it waxes in its bid for political self-determination and autonomy, unless it happens to be the dominant group”. Aside from Awolowo, Robert Kaplan also warned in his The Coming Anarchy of the danger which lurks in the future. The essay, global in scope, had this to say of the West Africa sub-region: “West Africa is becoming the symbol of worldwide demographic, environmental, and societal stress, in which criminal anarchy emerges as the real “strategic” danger. Disease, overpopulation, unprovoked crime, scarcity of resources, refugee migrations, the increasing erosion of nation-states and international borders, and the empowerment of private armies, security firms, and international drug cartels are now most tellingly demonstrated through a West African prism. West Africa provides an appropriate introduction to the issues, often extremely unpleasant to discuss, that will soon confront our civilization”.

As I have observed elsewhere, Kaplan’s “strategic danger” “meant the absence of rule of law, responsible and legitimate governments, and the subversion of the democratic method, i.e., free and fair elections”.

All eyes are on the sub-region, more riveted on Nigeria which many, after the ill-fortune of Turkey in the 19th century, now regard as the silk man of Africa.

To be continued tomorrow.
Akhaine, a Professor of Political Science, Lagos State University delivered this lecture at the instance of Oriwu Club of Ikorodu, Lagos.