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 Debate: Is Nigeria a failed state?

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Number of posts : 27

PostSubject: Debate: Is Nigeria a failed state?   Wed Jul 22, 2009 5:15 am

Ogaga Ifowodo is a lawyer and a poet whose book, The Oil Lamp, is about the Niger Delta crisis. He is currently completing a PhD at Cornell University in New York.
Most, if not all of the indices of failed states, declare Nigeria well on its way to joining that disreputable club.
Nigeria boasts a government unable to deliver basic social services.
It is plagued by corruption so endemic and monumental it is hard to separate it from state policy.
It lacks the capability or discipline to prevent threats to public safety and national integrity and is assailed by active challenges to its legitimacy.
The latest disaster of a re-run election in Ekiti state, meant to correct the errors of the first, proved an even greater show of shame.
While Nigerians, notoriously prickly in their nationalism, may loudly denounce any suggestions from abroad of the imminent disintegration of their country, they nonetheless admit the unflattering truth of this possibility to themselves and each other

Never having been a nation to start with, the question of a legitimate state to handle her affairs proves redundant.
We must therefore, open the dusty pages of history for the radical cause of Nigeria's state of distress and there we will find that what we have grown accustomed to calling a nation deserving of a state is, to quote one of her "founding fathers", "a mere geographical expression."
Nigeria is not a nation, the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo declared with characteristic forthrightness more than a decade before nominal independence from Britain.

Life remains tough for most Nigerians
For saying the unsaid and for championing constitutional federalism along the lines of Nigeria's multitude of ethnic groups, Mr Awolowo was labelled a tribalist and unjustly maligned until his death in 1987.
The unwillingness to grapple with the trauma of Nigeria's stillbirth as a nation is the great political unconscious - the implacable repressed - that returns at will to haunt and mock the state of denial.
This repressed truth, being political, hides as it were in the open. It can be seen in the headlines and by-lines of our newspapers.
It is volubly declaimed in bars and every public forum where two or more Nigerians are gathered.
It defines the so-called "national question", so cacophonous that the prodigious expense of political and psychological energy needed by Nigeria's self-appointed rulers to repress it produces such frightful spectacles as compel the verdict of a failed or rapidly failing state.
A mere geographical expression indeed, or, as another "founding father" preferred to put it, "the mistake of 1914."
That was the fateful year the British colonial administrator, Lord Frederick Lugard, merged by colonial fiat northern and southern protectorates and the colony of Lagos to form Nigeria.
Meaning, "people of the [lower] Niger area", it was as if the hallowed river possessed the magic to transform disparate denizens within its acceptable radius into nationhood by mere eponymous naming.
This would be deemed superstitious in any other context but the colonial.
Unfortunately, this mistake has yet to be acknowledged, for if nations are "imagined communities" as Professor Benedict Anderson said in his book of the same name, Nigeria was clearly unimagined by its would-be citizens and perhaps unimaginable for very long in its current state of existence.
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