It’s about time we admitted it: Nigeria has become a failed state. For the past 10 years, the signs of collapse have been visible but the picture has been progressively clearer since 2011. About a third of the country’s land mass has been under emergency rule for the past one year for reasons that are glaring also in at least another third of the country including the Federal Capital Territory: mass murders, kidnapping for ransom, daylight armed robberies, breakdown of law and order, and unrestrained stealing of public funds.
Several authorities identify a failed state as one that can no longer perform its basic duties in such areas as security, power, eradication of poverty, education and job creation. Even the Nigerian constitution recognises that the reason for government’s existence is protection of life and property as well as maintenance of law and order. Events of the past few years indicate that Nigeria has since exceeded the minimum requirements for classification as a failed state.
Currently, the nation is still in grief following the massacre of over 100 people and injuring of more than 200 others by a bomb planted by terrorists in an overcrowded motor park in the nation’s capital city on Monday. On the night of the same Monday, Boko Haram, which has been working together with international terrorist groups al-Shabab and al-Qaeda, seized about 100 female students from a school in Chibok, near the Sambisa Forest in Borno State, after shooting dead a soldier and a policeman guarding them. Meanwhile, scores of young women abducted in the state since February are yet to be found. A few weeks ago, all schools in Borno State were closed; the latest kidnap victims had been recalled to take their senior secondary exams.
No day has passed in the past weeks without a tale of one horrendous atrocity or the other committed by the bloodthirsty hoodlums. Is it the mass murder of students in their sleep? Is it the kidnap of married and unmarried girls for use as sex slaves and cooks? Is it the invasion of military barracks and sack of police stations? Mosques, churches, villages, banks and farms have come under the terrorists’ fire without challenge from those paid to provide security of life and property.
After each act of terror, the Nigerian president, Dr Goodluck Jonathan, has made promises that he has never fulfilled. Time and again, he has set deadlines for ending the terror threat but he has always defaulted. The number of Nigerians killed in the Boko Haram war is inching towards 7, 000, and, with the security situation worsening, more than one million Nigerians have been forced to live in makeshift camps after they have been sacked by insurgents.
And so, we ask again: what is a failed state? In this same country, 6 million university graduates applied for 4, 000 job slots in the Immigration Service. Almost 800, 000 of them were invited for an interview during which 23 of them died as a result of stampedes at some centres. That tragedy of March 15 belies the official figures of the country’s unemployment and poverty rates–24 and 70 per cent respectively. Even though these figures are still very high, it is known that they were the outcome of guess work. Common sense dictates that the joblessness rate is closer to 80 per cent while the poverty rate is closer to 95 per cent. Has a state in which these exist not failed? World Bank president Jim Kim did not mince words in declaring, penultimate week, that Nigeria is one of the countries where extreme poverty exists.
Our country has, in recent years, always featured on the list of the world’s failed or failing states. In its Failed States Index 2013 released recently, for instance, The Fund for Peace (FFP) ranks the country 16th out of 178 countries. It is only a few points looking better than war-torn Somalia that is ranked first. So are DR Congo, the Sudans, Chad and Afghanistan. But, even in these other countries, innocent people and children don’t get killed with the reckless abandon we have seen lately in this country. And school girls don’t get kidnapped in the numbers we have been witnessing in Nigeria. No wonder the country performed poorly on all indicators used by the FFP: mounting demographic pressure, movement of refugees or internally displaced persons, vengeance-seeking group grievance, human flight, uneven economic development, poverty or severe economic decline, legitimacy of the state, progressive deterioration of services, violation of human rights, security apparatus, rise of factionalised elites and intervention of external actors.
As the State of Emergency imposed on the three states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa expires this Saturday, President Jonathan should not attempt to extend it, unless he wishes to extend it to a larger part of the country. The leaders of the three states have made it clear that they won’t welcome an extension. After all, the entire nation is in emergency already, as clearly shown in the war with terrorists in the north, and the failed amnesty programme in the Niger Delta leading to the militants’ resumption of hostilities; armed robbers and kidnappers rule the roost in the south-west and the south-east. No doubt, the theatre of war now covers the entire country.
The Jonathan regime has demonstrated a frightening incompetence in the handling of the state’s affairs. It is now beyond doubt that the regime is incapable of protecting the people. This government cannot even protect Nigerians from the next attack or even the following day’s attacks. Before the latest kidnap of school girls in Chibok, nobody seemed to have been looking for or even as much as discussing those kidnapped earlier. All Nigerians now live in extreme fear.
When a state has failed, it should not be left to be propped up by failed leaders and failed politicians. But nothing is unstoppable. This trajectory can still be reversed before it is too late. That is why statesmen must speak up now!