Monday, February 15, 2010

Now Is The Time!

Written by E.C. Ejiogu

Anyone who studied basic West African history would know how what exists today as the Nigerian supra-national state came into existence—it is an arbitrary imposition on the diverse nationalities that inhabit the parts of the Niger basin that the British called Nigeria. In the many years that I have researched and studied political evolution in and amongst these diverse nationalities, I’m yet to find or been shown a document that bears witness to a voluntary declaration made by their truly elected representatives that they surrendered their general will and allegiance to the supra-national state.

Elsewhere, including parts of Africa such as Tanzania, Botswana, and South Africa, the afore-stated scenario was the case. That, is one of the several reasons political stability prevails in them. Instead, in the case of the parts of the Niger basin in question, the archives are littered with all manner of documents under the label of “constitution” written by groups of actors who claim that they represent their distinct inhabitants. The latest of those documents was dated 1999. Its provisions proclaim the “legitimacy” that gave birth to the contraption that Mr. Umaru Yar’Ardua presided over in Abuja since 2007 until he voluntarily abdicated to an unknown destination since more than forty-five days ago.

I’m not a lawyer. But I’m sufficiently educated to infer from my research and studies to argue that there is logically no legitimate grounds for any of the nationalities that inhabit the Niger basin that finds itself capable, to waste another day before it disentangles itself from the Nigerian supra-national state. Politics is the act of the possible. Mr. Yar’Ardua’s abdication should be taken for what it truly is—a legitimate indicator of the ruse that has been used to frustrate genuine political development amongst the inhabitants of the parts of the Niger basin that were called Nigeria. If the latest inheritor of the ruse could take the liberty to violate vital
provisions of the instrument from which he claimed the “legitimacy” to wield power and authority over the nationalities, by way of abdication, it’s in deed rational and legitimate to argue that now is the time for the nationalities, any one of them that wants and is capable of to summon the nerves and walk!

●E.C. Ejiogu, PhD is a political sociologist.

(culled from

Monday, February 8, 2010

Nigeria, the unimagined nation-state

Written by Ogaga Ifowodo

THE current issue of the BBC's Focus on Africa magazine features the debate, "Is Nigeria well on its way to being a failed state?" When contacted to argue the "aye," my willingness to do so belied my own "prickly nationalism," a condition that afflicts almost every fellow citizen I know. But the contrary view that sees Nigeria "far from being a failed state" was argued by my far more optimistic co-debater. Events of the last few weeks, headlined by the controversy over the relocation of the proposed University of Petroleum Technology from Effurun-Warri to Kaduna and Boko Haram's bloody jihad for illiteracy have heightened the failed state debate. Concerning the former, President Yar'Adua has sought to reassure the long-suffering people of the Niger Delta and the nation as a whole that nothing is amiss.

What will be sited in Kaduna is a College of Petroleum Studies to train, according to Alhaji Rilwanu Lukman, Minister of Petroleum Resources, "senior management personnel who are transiting to general management in NNPC." And it will be the exclusive privilege of the petroleum university in Warri to continue to train "middle level manpower for the oil and gas industry." These constitute "the right manpower" that our oil industry needs, according to Lukman, as opposed to the "higher level technical and senior management personnel" universities produce but whom "we don't need." President Yar'Adua himself endorsed this curious logic before hurriedly jetting off to Brazil, fleeing the burning streets and corpses that trailed Boko Haram's mayhem and the incandescent rage of the Niger Delta.

What neither Yar'Adua nor Lukman would admit is that the Kaduna college effectively supplants the Warri university, or that if we follow the logic then the college is a massive waste of scarce (oil) resources. Worse, by this display of naked power, Yar'Adua and Lukman, acting on behalf of the northern oligarchy, stick a finger in the eye of the Niger Delta. It is an act of provocation and belittlement by which power spitefully mocks the expropriated: "Amnesty, what amnesty? Do your worst! We will continue to take your oil and relocate every infrastructure save the very oil wells themselves from the Delta." Unfortunately, it is "a son of the soil" who articulated the cold calculation behind this ideology of blood-curdling dispossession. In a public lecture given twenty-nine years ago, Chief Philip Asiodu, no stranger to unaccountable power as a former super permanent secretary, paid the customary lip service to the predicament of the Niger Delta then thus: "Given, however, the small size and population of the oil-producing area, it is not cynical to observe that even if the resentments ... continue, they cannot threaten nor affect continued economic development." This view was echoed only two months ago by Bala Ibn N'Allah, honourable member of the House of Representatives, who called for the extermination of the 20 million inhabitants of the Niger Delta. There is only one snag, though.

While Asiodu, three decades ago could not foresee any threat to continued economic development, peaceful and armed insurgencies from MOSOP to MEND have since proved otherwise. What Yar'Adua, Lukman, N'Allah and their small-minded ilk of power-mongers must now devise as the final solution is the relocation of the Niger Delta land from the Atlantic shore to the edge of the Sahara, complete with the necessary population transfers. Nothing else will answer the sworn determination to set the nation ablaze in order to perpetuate the daylight robbery. It is clear to every patriotic Nigerian that the Niger Delta crisis is by now the National Question and tops the reasons why Nigeria seems set on becoming a failed state. I will conclude this piece then with my contribution to the BBC debate.

Most of the indices of failed states declare Nigeria well on its way to joining that disreputable league of nations. For a start, Nigeria boasts a government unable to deliver basic social services; is plagued by corruption so endemic and monumental it is hard to separate it from state policy; lacks the capability or discipline or both to prevent threats to public safety and national integrity; and is assailed by active challenges to its legitimacy. Besides, what passes for the Nigerian state simply cannot manage to conduct a credible election, whether into a local government seat or the presidency. The latest disaster of a gubernatorial re-run election in Ekiti state, meant to correct the errors of the first, proved an even greater show of shame. While Nigerians, notoriously prickly in their nationalism, may loudly denounce any suggestions from abroad of the imminent disintegration of their country, they nonetheless admit the unflattering truth of its possibility to themselves and each other. The inflammable Niger Delta, for long the booty of successive bands of political pirates and now also a seething swamp of untameable angst, points clearly to the dangerously frayed social fabric.

Anyone who may not have been paying attention and would need "objective" evidence might do worse than consult the Brookings Institution's Index of State Weakness in which Nigeria ranks 28 out of 141 developing countries. Co-authored by Susan Rice, Barack Obama's top diplomat at the United Nations, it places the self-styled Giant of Africa in the honoured company of Somalia, Afghanistan and the Democratic Republic of Congo. As if to assert her unparalleled gift of settling for the worst even when the tolerable is within grasp, Nigeria sits happily in the cut-off position for countries termed "critically weak" as opposed to the merely weak states. But if the Brookings Institution takes a kind view of Nigeria, not so the Fund for Peace in whose 2008 Index of Failed States Nigeria is only two short rungs away from where she might, at the very least, have enjoyed the consolation of dissociation from Somalia and Zimbabwe. The irony is unmistakable that Nigeria has to look up the ladder at Sierra Leone and Liberia, two countries she spared no expense of life, limb and hard currency to bring out of civil wars and restore to democracy.

Yet none of this goes to the heart of the problem. For, to speak of Nigeria as a failed state is, in a sense, to put the cart before the horse. Never having been a nation to start with, the question of a legitimate state to handle her affairs proves redundant. We must, therefore, open the dusty archives for the radical cause of Nigeria's state of distress. And there we will find that what we have grown accustomed to calling a nation deserving of a state, what we take for granted as a nation-state, is - to quote one of her founding fathers - "a mere geographical expression." Nigeria is not a nation, the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, with characteristic forthrightness, declared more than a decade before nominal independence from Britain. For saying the unsayable, and for championing constitutional federalism along the lines of Nigeria's multitude of ethnic groups, Awolowo was labelled a tribalist and unjustly maligned till his death in 1987. But events have more than vindicated him since, not least the spectre of dismemberment raised by the abortive Orkar coup of 1990.

The unwillingness to grapple with the trauma of Nigeria's stillbirth as a nation is the great political unconscious, the implacable repressed, that returns at will to haunt and mock the state-of-denial. This repressed truth, being political, hides as it were in the open. It can be seen in the headlines and by-lines of the newspapers. It is volubly declaimed in bars and every public forum where two or more Nigerians are gathered. It defines the so-called "national question," so cacophonous that the prodigious expense of political and psychological energy needed by Nigeria's self-appointed rulers to repress it produces such frightful spectacles as compel the verdict of a failed or rapidly failing state.

A mere geographical expression. Or, as another founding father from the former Northern Protectorate preferred to put it, "the mistake of 1914." That was the fateful year Lord Lugard merged by colonial fiat northern and southern protectorates and the colony of Lagos to enact Nigeria. The word, unknown to the "tribes and tongues" it purportedly described until colonialism, proclaims the malevolent mapping of imperial design. Meaning simply, people of the (lower) Niger area, it was as if the hallowed river possessed the magic to transform disparate denizens within its acceptable radius into nationhood by mere eponymous naming. This would be deemed superstition in any other context but the colonial. Unfortunately, this mistake has yet to be acknowledged despite repeated and increasingly strident calls for a sovereign national conference or some such other credible conclave of political re-engineering. For, if nations are imagined communities, as Benedict Anderson has shown in a book of the same title, Nigeria was clearly unimagined by its would-be citizens. And, perhaps, Nigeria is unimaginable for very long in her current state of existence.

(culled from the Nigerian Guardian of  Wednesday, Dec.8, 2009)

Monday, February 1, 2010

Exploring the failed state

Written by Edwin Madunagu

NIGER Delta rebellion, Boko Haram insurrection, mass poverty and alienation, armed robbery and kidnapping, state robbery and corruption, high-profile election rigging, institutionalised anarchy, industrial unrest, violent cultism, state delinquency, etc, etc. All these maladies - and many more - have led some people to suggest that Nigeria has become a "failed state", or a "failing state".

An essay I have just obtained from the internet defines a failed state as a state "that can no longer perform its basic security and development functions and that has no effective control over its territory and borders"; it is a state "that can no longer reproduce the conditions for its own existence". The essay then provides a number of explanatory notes: the opposite of a "failed state" is an "enduring state", but the absolute dividing line between these two conditions is difficult to ascertain at the margins - for "even in a failed state, some elements of the state, such as local state organisations, might continue to exist". The essay avoids defining the state - an exercise that can be very contentious. Rather, it provides some assistance to those who may be interested in the exercise. The essay's main concern is the exploration of a state that has failed, or is failing.

Still avoiding a technical definition of the state, we may however go around the problem by considering the central element of the definition of a failed state, namely, the "functions" of the state. This exercise has been performed several times in this column, but it is obligatory to repeat it here. The functions of the state can be separated into three broad groups, namely: coercive functions, ideological functions and social-economic functions. The group of coercive functions is what has been described in the essay under review as "security" functions. But we prefer to call a spade a spade: "security", as employed in the definition, is the use of force.

Let me quickly add here that we, the citizens, all need security and the state claims that it is concerned with security and is, in fact, often seen providing it, or trying to provide it. But there is an "optical illusion" here. The point I wish to make is that the security functions of the state are designed and carried out in a manner that shows very clearly that the main concern of the state is not the citizens but the social order and the classes and blocs that are ruling. The state provides security for the citizens only for the same reason that it provides means of livelihood, or permits or supports the provision of means of livelihood, for the citizens: the citizens must survive for the state to continue to exist.

Put differently, the state provides security to the social order and the ruling social classes and blocs for the status-quo to remain and be strengthened, while it provides security for the citizens at large (the "common" people) so that the latter can continue to serve the social order and the ruling classes and blocs. The former concern is maximum, while the latter is minimal. The coercive functions of the state - which the essay under review calls "security" - are primarily aimed at preventing or discouraging any threat to the social order. That is why - as some analysts have already observed - the Nigerian state confronted the Boko Haram insurrection with maximum ferocity.

We may introduce the ideological functions of the state with a passage which I took from Ernest Mandel's Late Capitalism. Here, Mandel remarks that "it was Napoleon, an expert in the matter, who coined the adage that one can do anything with bayonets except sit on them". What Napolepon, a military genius, meant here was that force could not achieve everything. Another author remarked that if the ruling classes used only coercive methods to maintain their power, then society would be perpetually in tumult. The state needs ideological weapons as well as coercive (or repressive) weapons to maintain and reproduce its power. By ideological weapons or apparatuses I mean ideas and the institutions that systematically disseminate them: schools, religious doctrines and institutions, political parties and social movements, cultural and traditional institutions and practices etc, etc.

Just as the state is not repression alone, it is also not (repression plus ideology) alone. The third group of functions (of the state) is social-economic. The state has to provide "those general conditions of production which cannot be assured by the private activities of the members of the dominant class", as Mandel put it. Even the fanatical "apostles" of privatisation in our country would agree that the ruling classes and blocs cannot privatise everything: roads, telecommunications, electricity, schools, industries, air transportations, etc., and still remain in power. The competition between the various fractions and individuals, and the extreme selfishness of most of them, will tear the state apart or grind it to a halt.

Even if you theoretically construct a state that divests itself of all social-economic undertakings you will need a state institution - a big and powerful one - to coordinate the activities of the most strategic of them or act as their "overlord" - in the interest of the ruling classes and blocs as a whole. The current global financial crisis and recession and the interventionist responses of various governments attest to this. We are then back to the starting point, namely, that the state provides those social and economic "conditions" of production that the members of the ruling classes and blocs cannot, acting as individuals, provide.

The internet essay under review recognises that if there is the concept of "failed state" and the concept of "enduring state", then there ought to be the concept of "failing state", that is, a state that is "becoming" failed, or a state that is neither a filed state nor an enduring one. This last concept, "neither failed nor enduring" state, happens to be the most important. If we dismiss tautological definitions such as "a failing state is a state that is failing", it becomes necessary to construct a scale for determining the location of any state in the advance to failure.

The internet essay does exactly this. Twelve indicators are provided to determine the location of any state. Four of the indicators are social, two economic, and six political. The social indicators are given as: demographic pressures; massive movement of refugees and internally displaced peoples; legacy of vengeance-seeking group grievance; and chronic and sustained human flight. The economic indicators are: uneven economic development along group lines; and sharp and /or severe economic decline. The six political indicators are: criminalisation and/delegitimisation of the state; progressive deterioration of public services; widespread violation of human rights; security apparatus as "state within a state"; rise of factionalised elite; and intervention of other states or external factors. The indicators are elastic enough to cover all known state maladies.

Employing these indicators, one may ask: Is Nigeria a failed state? I shall preface the answer to this question with further comments and observations on the essay under review. First, I think that "failed" is being confused with "delinquent" where "delinquency" is measured by the degree to which the state does not satisfy the ordinary (basic) existential needs of the people. When the "delinquency" element is removed from the definition of a "failed state" what we have left in that definition is a state's inability to be a de facto effective ruler of the whole polity - by coercive means, however concealed or mediated. The connection between the two categories - "delinquent" and "failed" - is that a delinquent state usually tends to a failed state because a delinquent state ultimately invites rebellions, insurrections, anarchy, "states within a state", revolutions, etc.

Secondly, the state is always a class state. There is no "state of the whole people". A state that is becoming a state of the whole people would have started to transform its character as a state; it would have started shedding some features of the state. Strictly speaking, it is illogical to use such terms as "the state is expected to..." or "the state ought to...", because the state is, and has always been essentially, a class weapon. The basic function of the state is not the satisfaction of people's needs. No. The state meets the basic existential needs of the people only to the extent that this allows it to continue to rule and protect the social order and the dominant classes and blocs, or because it is compelled to do so by the dominated classes and groups - through struggle, of course.

The last point can be put differently. The "performance" of the state is a statement about the state of class and popular struggles. In all these we should remember that there are inter-class and intra-class struggles, as well as struggles within the state itself. So, is Nigeria a failed state? My answer is that, with the distinction that we have made between a failed state and a delinquent state, and if we dismiss all illusion concerning the functions of the state, then Nigeria is not a failed state - even with MEND, Boko Haram, OPC, etc. At least not yet. The Nigerian state is still in full control. But Nigerian state is a delinquent state.

(culled from Nigerian Guardian, Thursday 3 September 2009)