Buffeted by economic ill-fortune, terrorism, illiteracy, poverty, banditry, and kidnapping, Nigeria is teetering on the brink and risks becoming a failed state if things don’t take a drastic turn.
This was the view of the London Financial Times yesterday in its editorial entitled “Nigeria is at risk of becoming a failed state.”
Expressing concern over kidnapping and insecurity in the country, the newspaper wondered why insurgency has continued to thrive in Nigeria after“President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015 pronounced Boko Haram “technically defeated.”
It observed that Buhari’s claim has “proved fanciful,” just as it noted that “Boko Haram has remained an ever-present threat.”
It said the recent kidnapping of over 300 school boys revived memories of the Chibok schoolgirls kidnapped in 2014.
Citing the case of the Kankara schoolboys, the editorial raised alarm over the extension of the operations of Boko Haram to other parts of the country.
“If the latest kidnapping turns out to be its work, it would mark the spread of the terrorist group from its north-eastern base. Even if the mass abduction was carried out by “ordinary” bandits as now looks possible it underlines the fact of chronic criminality and violence.”
The newspaper wants the Federal Government to know that “even if the mass abduction was carried out by “ordinary” bandits as now looks possible, it underlines the fact of chronic criminality and violence.”
It also expressed worry over clashes between herders and farmers as well as the unrest in the Niger Delta region. “Deadly clashes between herders and settled farmers have spread to most parts of Nigeria. In the oil-rich, but impoverished, Delta region, extortion through the sabotage of pipelines is legendary.”
It described extortion as one of the indicators that Nigeria is becoming a failed state. “Extortion is a potent symbol for a state whose modus operandi is the extraction of oil revenue from central coffers to pay for a bloated, ruinously inefficient, political elite. Security is not the only area where the state is failing.”
Apparently for the avoidance of doubt over its position, the newspaper defined a failed state as “one where the government is no longer in control. By this yardstick, Africa’s most populous country is teetering on the brink.”
It further said “security is not the only area where the state is failing. Nigeria has more poor people, defined as those living on less than $1.90 a day, than any other country, including India. In non-COVID-19 years, one of every five children in the world out of school lives in Nigeria, many of them girls.
“The population, already above 200m, is growing at a breakneck 3.2 per cent a year. The economy has stalled since 2015 and real living standards are declining. This year, the economy will shrink 4 per cent after COVID-19 dealt a further blow to oil prices. In any case, as the world turns greener, the elite’s scramble for oil revenue will become a game of diminishing returns. The country desperately needs to put its finances, propped up by foreign borrowing, on a sounder footing.”
But it was not a complete loss of hope in Nigeria. The newspaper believes the situation could improve if the Buhari administration takes concrete but positive measures to address the current state of insecurity.
“In its three remaining years, the government of Mr Buhari must seek to draw a line in the sand. It must redouble efforts to get a grip on security. It also needs to restore trust in key institutions, among them the judiciary, the security services and the electoral commission, which will preside over the 2023 elections.
“More than that, Nigeria needs a generational shift. The broad coalition that found political expression this year in the EndSARS movement against police brutality provides a shard of optimism. At least Nigeria has a relatively stable democracy. Now Nigeria’s youth, creative, entrepreneurial and less tainted by the politics of extraction should use that system to reset the country’s narrative.
“A new, slimmed-down state ideally one with fewer, bankrupt regional assemblies must concentrate on the basics: security, health, education, power and roads. With those public goods in place, Nigeria’s young people are more than capable of turning the country round. At the present trajectory, the population will double to 400 million by 2050. If nothing is done, long before then, Nigeria will become a problem far too big for the world to ignore.”