In a report credited to Robert I. Rotberg, the founding Director of the Harvard Kennedy School’s Program on Intrastate Conflict and President Emeritus of the World Peace Foundation, and John Campbell, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and former U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria – recently published in a publication called China Watch, the writers opined that:
Nigeria has long teetered on the precipice of failure. But now, unable to keep its citizens safe and secure, Nigeria has become a fully failed state of critical geopolitical concern. Its failure matters because the peace and prosperity of Africa and preventing the spread of disorder and militancy around the globe depend on a stronger Nigeria.
Its economy is usually estimated to be Africa’s largest or second largest, after South Africa. Long West Africa’s hegemon, Nigeria played a positive role in promoting African peace and security. With state failure, it can no longer sustain that vocation, and no replacement is in sight. Its security challenges are already destabilizing the West African region in the face of resurgent jihadism, making the battles of the Sahel that much more difficult to contain. And spillover from Nigeria’s failures ultimately affect the security of Europe and the United States.
The writers concluded that, “Indeed, few parts of Nigeria are today fully safe. In 2020 and so far in 2021, according to weekly tracking reports by the Council on Foreign Relations, about 1,400 Nigerians have lost their lives to Islamist insurgents in northeastern Borno State and neighboring areas.”
Of course, these conclusions are opinions, which the writers are entitled to – and is another contribution to the debate over whether Nigeria is a strong, weak, failed or collapsed state that has been raging since 2005 when the United States Independent Research Organization, the Fund for Peace, first published its measurements of the vulnerability of countries to collapse or enmeshed in conflicts under what it called “Failed Index”. The indexes are not foolproof but provide indicators about the social health of a country and its capacity to manage its security challenges and maintain internal cohesion.
A failed State has no universal definition; but some indicators justify the designation of a state as a failed state. A state that cannot secure its territory and unable to assert authority over its territory and peoples can be said to be a failed state. The capacity of a country’s Government to perform its basic functions and to provide the people with security, peace, justice, freedom, economic stability and to generally secure the lives and properties of the citizenry and give confidence to them that all is well despite all challenges is key to the characterization of a country as strong, weak, failed or collapsed. The status of a country’s public institutions also matters. Their ability to function independently and optimally underlines the ability of the individual in the state to enjoy his freedoms and optimize his or her talents and abilities.
As Robert I. Rotberg and John Campbell stated, Nigeria has long been on the road to failure. In 2006, I stated in an article titled “Somalia at our Corridor” that: “Somalia may be kilometres away but it is reality just next door. Nigeria is fast heading for its own Somalia. The state structures are getting weaker by the day and the disconnect between the government and the citizenry is widening.”
I also stated in that article that: “I see anarchy creeping into the polity and I am fearful that the reality of the past undemocratic years is starring us in the face. We need to be vigilant and recruit real political armies against those bent on having their way at all costs. Nigeria cannot afford to shatter in the manner of Somalia. The implications are too grave and I do not want to imagine them.”
In another article I titled the “Boko Haram Challenge”, I stated in 2014 that:
Philosophers have a very caustic way of presenting truths. Because they tell their stories with no emotions, they sometimes scare the majority of us from listening to them and perhaps take necessary cues from them. Take, for instance, Thomas Hobbes and his Leviathan postulations. Standing on his thesis that nothing could be worse than life without state protection, Hobbes expended a lot of energy on rationalizing people’s behaviour. According to him, just like ‘an object will eternally be in motion unless somewhat stays it’ so is human behaviour. And like a warning against the over-reliance on state power to respond to internal petty threats or distractions, Hobbes said that, ‘The weakest has strength enough to kill the strongest, either by secret machination or by confederacy with others.’
Nigeria was rated in 2013 as the 14thmost failed state in the world and having a better security record in Africa only to Somalia, Zimbabwe, Sudan, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, Guinea, Ivory Coast and Kenya. As of 2020, Nigeria has slipped downwards to 15thposition. Ivory Coast has since doubled down on its security efforts and is now sitting at 32nd position from its 11th position in 2013. Guinea has also moved up to 15th from its 9th position. Sierra Leone, which survived just recently one of the most horrendous and infernal civil wars in recorded history, is sitting at the 42nd position. Senegal is sitting pretty well at the 71st position while Benin next door is at the 77th position. The strongest states in Africa are Ghana (108th), Cape Verde (106th), Namibia (105th), Tunisia (95th), Gabon(90th) and South Africa (85th). Although the United States has the most murderous streets in the world, it is still holding the 149th position out of the 178 countries accessed because of its strong public institutions and the ability of its Government to provide the citizens and nationals with the basics of life. The strongest countries have consistently been Finland, Norway, Switzerland, Denmark, Iceland, New Zealand, Sweden, Canada, Luxembourg and Australia. It is no coincidence that the Scandinavian countries will for a long time remain models even in the Human Development Indexes. They are known to have good political and economic institutions: they are stable, democratic, peaceful, prosperous, inclusive, and have extremely low levels of corruption. With the spate of killing and the near-collapse of law and order in certain states across the country, Nigeria will slide drastically in the 2021 Report.
What is most concerning is the fact that the security agencies are being stretched to the extreme by pervasive lawlessness across the country. If the Government does not give the necessary response to arrest the drift, the current spate of lawlessness may be an accelerant for anarchy and a conflagration of the Nigerian State. It is not healthy that non-state actors are parading the sort of arms with which they are deploying against innocent citizens and government institutions and properties across the land. If the mild or cautious response of the Federal Government is a strategy, then it is time to adopt another one because this one is not working and it is encouraging and egging anarchy.
It is also my hope that leaders of thought across the country would put out themselves to address the state of lawlessness in their respective states. There is the parable that a group of children captured a cub, and when they were taking it away, the cub cried out to the mother who seemed unconcerned. The response of its mother, who did not seem to be bothered, was for them to enjoy the adventure, because, as she reasoned, the parents of the children who knew the implication of what they were doing would surely return the cub. I entertain no doubt that every State and Local Government of Nigeria has a leadership that is capable of calming the nerves of irate youths who are apparently blinded by anger and anguish and may, therefore, not be able to weigh and give their actions serious thought.