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The Country Called Nigeria (Part 1) 


Nigeria’s History—Foundations for Failure

Two main facets of Nigeria’s history bear directly on its tenuous status as a functioning nation capable of effective governance—the British colonization of Nigeria and the spread of Islam.

Nigeria has the sixth largest Muslim population in the world. Moreover, it is the largest country in Africa, with an almost equal balance of Muslims and Christians—a balance that will soon reach a tipping point because of the larger population growth in the Islamic north. 

—Failed State 2030, Nigeria – A Case Study. Occasional Paper No.67, Center for Strategy and Technology, Air War College, Alabama, USA – February 2011

Despite its best efforts, Nigeria has a long-term struggle ahead to remain a viable state, much less a top-20 economy. While its vast sweet-crude-oil wealth potentially provides Nigeria with great power and influence, the government’s history of rampant corruption and inability and unwillingness to invest in its human service and industrial infrastructure and the people’s welfare could doom it to failure – USAF

“Although not possessing nuclear weapons, Nigeria has the potential to dramatically affect the United States and the global economy if it fails.

“Africans are fond of saying: “As Nigeria goes, so goes Africa.” 

“Nigeria’s geographic and political position in Africa, its single-commodity and soon-to-be-top-20 oil-rich economy, extraordinarily complex demographics, culture of corruption, poor and failing national and human infrastructure, long history of dangerously destabilizing religious and ethnic violence, repeated and potential for future military coups d’état, endemic disease, and its growing importance to the global and US economy present researchers with a myriad of vexing and intractable problems and challenges”

Failed State 2030, Nigeria – A Case Study. Occasional Paper No.67, Center for Strategy and Technology, Air War College, Alabama, USA – February 2011

“Nation-states can fail for a myriad of reasons: cultural or religious conflict, a broken social contract between the government and the governed, a catastrophic natural disaster, financial collapse, war, and so forth. Nigeria with its vast oil wealth, large population, and strategic position in Africa and the global economy can, if it fails, disproportionately affect the United States and the global economy.

“A nation with more than 350 ethnic groups, 250 languages, and three distinct religious affiliations—Christian, Islamic, and animist, Nigeria’s 135 million people today are anything but homogenous. Of Nigeria’s 36 states, 12 are Islamic and under the strong and growing influence of the Sokoto caliphate. While religious and ethnic violence are commonplace, the federal government has managed to strike a tenuous balance among the disparate religious and ethnic factions. With such demographics, Nigeria’s failure would be akin to a piece of fine china dropped on a tile floor—it would simply shatter into potentially hundreds of pieces.

“The threat that failure poses to a quarter billion Nigerians in terms of livelihood, security, and general way of life could quickly spread and cause a humanitarian disaster of previously unimagined proportions. Regardless of the extent of the humanitarian crisis unfolding in the wake of failure, the hard work to repair the damage could take two generations to make Nigeria viable again,” 

Corruption in Nigeria

Corruption in Nigeria is not just a domestic issue. Transnational crime has germinated in Nigeria over the past four decades. Louise Shelley argues that “the growth of transnational crime is inevitable because of the rise in regional conflicts, decline in border controls, greater international mobility of goods and people, and the growing economic disparities between developed and developing coun-tries.”44 These forces of instability—declining oil production, en¬demic corruption, and rising criminality—plague Nigeria and could define a path to state failure.

The corruption in Nigeria reaches to the highest levels of govern¬ment and has the potential to be a major catalyst in state failure. The Nigerian government initiated efforts to create a perception that it is addressing this corruption. It established the Nigerian Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). The EFCC has the reputation of being the president’s storefront in that it serves to protect his financial exploits and target people of interest.45 This reputation undermines government legitimacy. An Internet poll conducted by The Fund for Peace asked what single factor causes state failure. The overwhelming response was “corruption,” ap¬pearing three times more often than that of the next category, “lack of basic education.”

Corruption challenges any notion of sound governance, effectively undermining public trust and confidence.

Nigeria’s persistent poverty points to a fundamental failure in national and local governance and exposes the corruption that defines Nigerian life. The World Bank lists Nigeria as a less than a 25th percentile nation for government effectiveness, as shown in figure 7.47 Criminality is undoubtedly a critical driver in Nigeria’s poor performance in governance.48.

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