Nigeria Faces The Future


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October 3, 2007 - December 2, 2007



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Nigeria Faces The Future



Olusegun Alebiosu




culled from GUARDIAN, May 30, 2006



Singapore's Lee Kwan Yew in 1992 told an audience in Philippines "I do not believe that western democracy leads to development. I believe that what a country needs to develop is discipline more than democracy. The exuberance of democracy leads to indiscipline and disorderly conduct which are inimical to development". This belief transformed Singapore and reinforced the fact that 'late comers' to development will have to adopt new structures to take account of their existing levels of human, social, economic and political capital. The success or failure of economic reform is not pre-ordained. It is a function of the political competence, integrity and accountability of the regime in power.


The idea of development as progressive social change takes the form of demand for social emancipation understood as the universalisation of prosperity. The notion that progress could and should happen therefore dominates political, economic and social life in modern world, because so many people now believe that both individuals and societies have a right to demand a better future.


Liberal developmental project has been driven forward by powerful social forces whose willingness to fight for it has turned it into something much more than a mere aspiration. Responding to the problems posed by neo-patrimonialism requires a sustained long-term reform of the political process. This involves not just trying to reform political parties, but also a political leadership that is willing to engage in difficult political struggle against the elites and the political class.

For democracy to be consolidated in Nigeria, there must be considerable political crafting of democratic norms, practices and institutions. The need to create the skills and value systems required to build new institutions, and difficulties involved in overcoming the resistance of those with vested interest in the patrimonial order will ensure that the process will be a highly protracted and contested one.


The argument for superiority of governance is illustrated by the case of India and the Asian tigers. India, a liberal democratic country, between 1960 and 1987, grew at a rate of 1.9% per capita, whereas the three democratic-authoritarian states of Asia- South Korea, Taiwan and Singapore grew during the same period at a rate of 6.4% per capita. Despite India's highly educated and dedicated leaders, who are committed to the plight of the poor and eradication of poverty, western style democracy has not made radical changes in favour of the poor possible.


Efforts at land reform to benefit the poor were attempted, but western style democratic processes enabled powerful landed elites to ensure that land reform legislation did not radically affect their interests up till today. It took the election of left wing government in Venezuela and Brazil to effect land reform in the 21st century. It is important to note that institutions that sustain western democracy were developed over 400years of political and economic struggles. 'Late comers' to development must adopt home grown institutions that promote good governance to allow for rapid development, if they hope to catch up with the rest of the world.


Those who opposed tenure elongation must appreciate the developmental challenge of Nigeria and produce an alternative to OBJ. The candidate must be detribalised, committed to the state, have enormous external economic, political and social capital, as well as internal political and economic legitimacy to manage complex change and modern institutions. S/He must be EFCC free . S/He must have the ability to avoid 'co-ordination failure' and 'time-inconsistency problem', and also have 'encompassing ' interest in the economy . Nigerians are also expecting the candidate to at least have a University degree. While not limiting the capacity of other members of the economic team as successor to Obasanjo, it is clear that there are many economic, political and social issues that will consume them, including legitimacy and goodwill within the ruling party.


A new government in 2007 will not be able to continue with the speed and commitment of the present government , because of the issue of second term and 'settlement ' of interest groups that might have contributed to its victory. This will increase corruption and policy reversals at the expense of the populace who are to benefit from long term economic policies. Besides, the party might not have majority in National Assembly, and this will make changes much more difficult. Any meaningful reform will therefore wait till 2011 or 2015 as the case may be, provided also that they are not hijacked by the corrupt element in the patrimonial state.


It is also difficult to conceive how Nigeria will be peacefully governed without additional state for the South East geopolitical zone, removal of criminal immunity, the increased derivation issue and the Niger Delta development question, which are all part of the constitutional amendment bill that was defeated by politics of retrogression. Where politicians and elites exploit through the power of the state, constitutional reform must limit it. Constitutional amendment will have to tackle the issue of peoples vanishing benefits through removal of criminal immunity to ensure that funds are not Alameiseghalised or Dariyelised.

Obasanjo has been struggling to overcome those misfits who came to power in 1999 and 2003 respectively, and the difficulty of the process is demonstrated by the political games being played by the political class. This has made it difficult to save Nigeria without a difficult fight. It is important that the bill on criminal immunity, creation of state for the South East geopolitical zone as well as increased derivation for Niger Delta be introduced and passed without delay. This is necessary to avoid singing dirge to third term as well as singing dirge to development, good governance and perhaps Nigeria itself.


Those who advocate "Super na•ve model" of governance seems not to appreciate the fact that leadership is not about commonality of purpose, but advancing the goal of the state; of progressive social change. Power may be more or less legitimate, and it may be used positively as an incentive or negatively as punishment or threat of punishment, to navigate the ship of the state to safety. Political disloyalty brings about disorderliness and will have to be tackled to guarantee disciplined political leadership.


Political parties are institutions for leadership building, and its members and leaders must exhibit leadership qualities including high level of discipline. Political parties that can not discipline their members have no basis governing Nigeria. This is because, the quality of leadership produced in such weak institutions will have implications for the value system of the country. For PDP to remain a respected and trusted political party, the months ahead should demonstrate to the National Assembly members that they won election as PDP and not in their personal capacities, and have lost opportunity to guarantee Nigeria economic transformation, together with a chance to save themselves and their political career.


Poverty and unemployment knows no religion or tribe .Thesis of ethnic and religious frustration has no credence in addressing the issue of poverty and deprivation in Nigeria. The answer to Poverty is not western democracy or religious representation, but good governance. Political stability is a product of economic stability and not ethnic or religious representation. Civil wars occur in poor countries and none in the last 30years in any of the rich countries. The only security against the breakdown of Nigeria now or in the future is economic freedom. That is the more reason why Nigerians should demand accountability from the political class if we all wish to escape poverty and the coming economic anarchy.


The demography of Nigeria coupled with dangerous politics of stagnation played against additional term or better described as 'developmental term' is an invitation to economic and social anarchy. 40% of Nigerians (60million) are aged 15 and below(Using School enrolment as proxy). In the next 20 years, people who are aged 5 and above as at today will be in the labour market looking for job that nobody is thinking of creating except that they want change of government, and power. As at today, criminality has gotten to a level where policemen can no longer confront armed robbers except through armoured cars.

If we fail to take rational decision of sustaining the current economic and social reforms, and secure economic growth that create jobs, then we should be prepared to face the social and economic consequences, with revolution not ruled out. The politicians who played the dangerous game against 'developmental term' should be prepared to organise bullet proof cars and houses, helicopter and perhaps foreign private security men to protect them. They should as well steal enough to buy them armoured cars, as the current police protection might have gone with their transient position. This is because the armed robbers who have overcome police guns, might also acquire armoured cars and visit them in their retirement. The time to avoid the coming anarchy is now and it is not too late to have a rethink.



Alebiosu is with the Development Studies Institute, London School of Economics and Political Science



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