The main variable in Nigeria’s future that will determine if the country succeeds as a democracy or fails as a state is the government’s ability to provide good governance.
If Nigeria uses its national treasures and oil wealth properly, its people and institutions may yet prosper. Yet reduced oil prices and the global recession will likely delay universal prosperity in the difficult years ahead.
Nigeria’s future will be shaped by the ability and willingness of elected officials and their supporters to provide professional governance and security to Nigeria’s people while building solid infrastructure and diversifying the economy.
Nigeria’s political success could be a model for all future democracies desiring to leave their corrupt civil-military dictatorships behind. Political success creates conditions for economic progress. In Nigeria’s case, its failure could affect the entire world.
Nigeria must leverage its lucrative oil economy to diversify a very narrow economy rather than merely reap monetary benefits from a finite, nonrenewable resource.
Nigeria’s Flawed Revenue Sharing Formula
With limited industrial development and oil production con-signed mainly to the southern states, 90 percent of funding to the states and localities is provided by the Nigerian federal government, largely from oil export revenues.
Much of this funding is provided through a complex federal oil wealth-sharing program in which each of the 36 states has calculated shares.
These shares are based on a formula which includes population, level of development, and sources of oil revenues.
However, the state governors are given the budgeting and distributing powers for this money, and as a result, much of the oil wealth has flowed to the members of the predominant political party. Thus, defections from one political party to the one currently in power are not uncommon.
By the time the money flows through the political system, there is normally little left for the local governments to provide required basic human services.
The US Agency for International Development (USAID) posts several disturbing statistics for Nigeria:
• Half of the country is comprised of youths under the age of 15.
• A large population and high fertility have led to over five million births a year.
• Underweight and under-age-five mortality rates are worse than the average in both developing countries and sub-Saharan Africa.
• Infant and maternal mortality rates are 90 percent higher than in developing countries.
The preponderance of these infant and maternal deaths occurs in Nigeria’s predominantly Muslim northern states.
This persistent rift between north and south is a potential driver for future conflict between Nigeria’s “haves” and “have-nots.”
This disproportionate population growth combined with social and economic disparity is a potential danger to stability in Nigeria and the surrounding region.
Nigeria: nearly every regime in the country’s history has been corrupt. Money is siphoned from major industries by those in power, sometimes at the rate of hundreds of millions of dollars per year.
The inability of the Nigerian government to agree on a census for over 40 years undermines the legitimacy of the electoral process and thus the legitimacy of Nigerian governance.
In short, Nigeria is a country that has been governmentally unstable.
Ruled by corrupt elites who have shown an enormous reluctance to relinquish power, sometimes unto death, it has no history of majority governance or even national agreement on any major issue.
Analogous to a plate of china, Nigeria remains crisscrossed by a myriad of stress cracks and fissures that are the result of the ethnic and religious cleavages spanning the country. If sufficiently stressed, this china plate will split or even shatter.
What is frightening is that, stressed in the wrong manner, Nigeria is a nation-state which could conceivably splinter into dozens or even hundreds of independent pieces.
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