OPINION: Is Nigeria Becoming A Failed State?, By Michael Onjewu

OPINION: Is Nigeria Becoming A Failed State?, By Michael Onjewu

Today, Nigeria marks 60 years of independence from Great Britain. Amidst the fanfare and celebrations, issues bothering on the sustainability of this union still subsists.

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo while delivering a speech titled, ‘Moving Nigeria Away from Tipping Over’ at a consultative dialogue in September stated that Nigeria is fast drifting into a failed and badly divided state, with the country grappling with extreme poverty and insecurity.

His words, “I do appreciate that you all feel sad and embarrassed as most of us feel as Nigerians with the situation we find ourselves in. Today, Nigeria is fast drifting to a failed and badly divided state; economically our country is becoming a basket case and poverty capital of the world, and socially, we are firming up as an unwholesome and insecure country.

“And these manifestations are the products of recent mismanagement of diversity and socio-economic development of our country. Old fault lines that were disappearing have opened up in greater fissures and with drums of hatred, disintegration and separation and accompanying choruses being heard loud and clear almost everywhere.”

Expectedly, the Presidency replied Obasanjo calling him an alarmist and a 'Divider in Chief.'

But is Nigeria gradually becoming a failed state?. To answer this question, it's important we take a look at the concept and features of a failed state.

According to Robert Rotberg, “nation-states fail because they can no longer deliver positive political goods to their people”, and he listed these political goods to include education, healthcare, security, social infrastructure, employment opportunities, and the legal framework for law and order. As a result of this, the government loses its legitimacy in the eyes of its citizens. The state is therefore characterized by intense and enduring violence, which is usually directed against the existing government (Rotberg 2002:85, 87).

Fund for Peace, an American non-governmental organization, lists the features of a failing state to include: weak/ineffective federal government, inability of a country to control much of its territory, and the failure to provide public services. When this happens, widespread corruption and criminality, the intervention of state and non-state actors, the appearance of refugees, sharp economic decline, and foreign military intervention can occur.

Does Nigeria fit into these classifications? Lets look at the indicators.

1. Security/Territorial Integrity:

Nigeria's territorial integrity has been constantly threatened no thanks to the activities of the Boko Haram insurgents in the North East and the activities of armed bandits in the North West. Citizens have been rendered homeless in parts of Borno, Katsina, Kaduna, Zamfara, and Sokoto due to criminal activities in these areas.

Despite assurances given by the Buhari administration that Boko Haram has been technically defeated, the terror group has continued to launch attacks against innocent civilians in Borno, leaving behind tales of bloodshed and destruction. Our gallant soldiers and Borno State Governor, Babagana Zulum have not been spared from attacks. Communities have been displaced and attempts to return them to their communities have failed due to the volatile nature of the area.

In the North West, armed bandits and kidnappers have tormented communities in Katsina, Zamfara, and Sokoto. Residents including the elderly, women, and children have been killed by the bloodthirsty demons with little or no resistance from security forces. Communities no longer have access to their homes and farmlands and are resigned to live in internally displaced camps.

Southern Kaduna has seen renewed hostilities in recent months between militia herdsmen and indigenous farming communities. Gory footage has emerged of innocent citizens being butchered in their sleep. The elderly, women, and children are among the casualties. The people of the area have been abandoned to their fate by the government and security forces. The militia herdsmen according to reports have taken over some farming communities in the area as spoils of war.

Kidnappers are also having a filled day along our highways especially along the Abuja-Kaduna, Loko-Abuja axis abducting people at will in exchange for Ransom. In most cases, the victims are killed by their abductors after ransoms are paid. Our security forces appear helpless in ensuring that our roads are free of criminal elements.

The 2019 Global Terrorism Index ranks Nigeria third deadliest country with a score of 8.597 points. According to the index, Nigerians have felt the impact of terrorism more than war-torn Syria, Somalia, Yemen, and Libya. Also, a report by the Nigerian research group SBM Intelligence, says 2,732 people were killed in 33 states and the federal capital Abuja between April and June 2020. These figures are going to keep rising unless something drastic is done to reverse the trend.

2. Economic Decline & Provision Of Public Goods:

Nigeria is grappling with dwindling economic fortunes as available statistics have shown. Despite being the largest producer of crude oil in Africa, Nigeria is currently the poverty capital of the world with over 86.9 million people living in extreme poverty. The poverty status of Nigeria lends credence to many years of corruption and mismanagement from our leaders. The current inflation rate of 13.22% as published by the Nigeria Bureau of Statistics (NBS) is an indication that the misery and hardship will linger due to a decrease in the value of money.

The unemployment rate currently put at 27.1% for the first quarter of 2020 will likely continue no thanks to the coronavirus pandemic which has crippled economic activities in the country leading to loss of jobs and massive pay cuts. Farmers have also been rendered jobless due to the activities of bandits and kidnappers.

In terms of the provision of basic infrastructure, Nigeria has not fared well either. Ouf hospitals are ill-equipped, the roads are death trap while our educational institutions are poorly funded. Not much can be said about electricity and industrialization. It is instructive to note that the Buhari administration has made moderate achievements in the transport sector, especially in rail construction and airport renovation.

3. Widespread Corruption:

Nigeria is still grappling with monumental corruption in the public and private space. According to the latest report released by Transparency International, Nigeria is now ranked 146 out of the 180 countries considered. The data ranked Nigeria behind Botswana (34), Rwanda (51), and Mauritius (56) among other African nations. Corruption in Nigeria took a new dimension when Ibrahim Magu, former chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) was suspended by President Buhari over allegations of corruption. We cannot also forget the gross multi-billion naira corruption that rocked the Niger-Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and recent revelations by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) that moneys meant for school feeding ended up in private pockets during the lockdown period.

4. National Unity:

Nigeria as a nation has always been divided along ethnoreligious frontlines. This division has become more pronounced now with regional warlords calling for a breakup of the country. The Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) have always times clamored for a separate republic for the South-East. Most recently, groups from the South-West have called for the creation of Oduduwa Republic. The Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), Arewa Consultative, and Middle Belt Forums have in separate times championed regional interests above and beyond the interest of the nation. Recent political appointments by the Buhari administration and perceived favoritism towards a particular ethnic group has increases agitations for a breakup of the nation.


A Nigerian poet, Chinua Achebe wrote that Nigeria “is an example of a country that has fallen down; it has collapsed” (Achebe, 1983:1). Whereas the Nigerian project has continued and has not really collapsed, Achebe's postulations made decades ago should not be treated with levity. From the analysis above, Nigeria typifies a perfect example of a failing and a weak state that is fast gravitating towards a failed or collapsed state like Somalia and others.

The 2020 Fragile States Index (FSI) which ranks countries according to their level of stability placed Nigeria in the alert category with a score of 97.3. The ranking shows Nigeria occupying the 14th spot out of 178 countries evaluated. From the ranking, Nigeria has more tendency of becoming a failed state than war-prone countries like Iraq, Mali, and Iran. This should give any serious nation a cause for concern.

As Nigeria celebrates 60 years of nationhood, our leaders across the political spectrum must begin to chart the course for a united and prosperous Nigeria.

A stitch in time saves nine!.

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