At 58, Nigeria still imports oil, Nigerians cannot enjoy one week uninterrupted power supply, our roads remain death traps, elections remain full-blown war

Jonathan Asikason

In order to answer the question “ Why Nations Fail?” The duo of Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson, both professors at US Universities, engaged in a fifteen year research work. The case study was Nogales — a city cut in half by a fence: on the north side is the United States while on the south side is Mexico. The Nogales under the US state of Arizona is highly developed whereas the Nogales under the Mexican state of Sonora is defined by the word “poverty.”

So the two academics were worried as to how a city can be “So Close and Yet So Different.” “There is no difference in geography, climate or the types of diseases prevalent in the area,” they probed among themselves.

At the end of their study, they discovered the reason behind the difference — which explains why Nations fail, and why Nigeria continue to be a crippling giant. The cause they attributed to the divergence in institutions of state in the two states. While the “inclusive institutions” in the Nogales of US creates virtuous circles of innovation, economic expansion and more widely-held wealth, the “extractive institutions of Nogales of Mexico creates virtuous circle of poverty.

It is this problem of “extractive institution” that is keeping Nigeria where it is today. From 1960, when the flag independence was achieved till date, pragmatic and ideological leadership have eluded us. Leadership therefore becomes a medium for feeding bulimic and primitive acquisition instincts. This explains why every Dick and Harry wants to be in one leadership position or another. They all want to grab their own ‘national cake.’ The mathematics of the whole show is that the struggle for state power is the struggle for oil money!

This explains why at 58, Nigeria still imports oil, Nigerians cannot enjoy one week uninterrupted power supply, our roads remain death traps, elections remain a full-blown war, and we still talk about national integration. Should I remind you about Boko Haram? About farmers-herders conflict? It’s appalling that the list can go on and on.

Why many will argue that the Nigeria of 60s is much better and preferable to Nigeria of today. However, true this argument is, it failed to appreciate the fact that the foundation stones of the problems that Nigerian State faced today were laid in that very period.In the debate on why Nigeria is not working, we should try and keep the colonialists aside and forget about the much alluded amalgamation. If at 58 there is no significant development in terms of nation building and achieving a melting pot. It stands to reason, therefore, that the problem with Nigeria is Nigerians.

This piece is not suggesting that the contributions of the colonialists were not far-reaching but the very fact that we have stayed independently for good 58 years and still maintain the system tacitly separated them from our present day problems. The major flaw of our heroes past was their inability to envisage how Nigeria will be today. Hiding under the façade of ethnicity, they sacrificed national interest in the alter of selfish interest and self-aggrandizement.

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While you can’t compare the likes of Zik, Awo and Sardauna to the present crop of Nigerian leaders, it must be stated that their inability to reconfigure an ideological framework on attainment of self-rule contributed enormously to today’s problems of Nigerian state. Little wonder, Nigeria plunged into a civil war just six years after independence. Just as Nigeria attained self-rule on a platter of gold, it was relatively free, unlike many African countries, to make fundamental changes on its character and structure but nothing was done. Just like today, politics is too much with us.

African leaders like Kwame Nkrumah, Julius Nyerere, Leopold Senghor, Patrice Lumumba etc. understood the divisive nature of the colonial structure that came with their independence and took it upon themselves to change it. They shall remain the sought-after examples of good leadership in the continent. In Nigeria’s case, the colonial structure was retained and presumably, its 58th an- niversary is what we are celebrating today.

The colonial structure is even more extractive than what Acemoglu and Robinson saw in Nogales under the Mexican state of Sonora. This extractive institution is not an abstract object but the meta- phorical rendition of Nigerian leaders.

Unlike the colonialists who were somewhat patriotic by repatriating all the proceeds of colonialism to their country, Nigerian politicians are parasitic. They don’t have faith in this country, so they steal our commonwealth and stashed in foreign banks for their fourth generation.

While the leadership class is usually blamed for dire straits situation our dear country is in, the contributions of the rank and file shouldn’t be under-emphasized. Igbo people used to say that a seller sell when the buyer is willing to buy. Nigerian people have continued to make politicians thrive in the business of misgovernment. For us to get it right Achebe told us before he died that we must go back to the point that the rain started to beat us.

The delegates to the 2015 National Conference traced this point and made many recommendations on the ways through which the country can be brought back on its feet. But it was utterly politicized. Jonathan’s government thought of gaining electoral value through it, Buhari’s government dubbed it ‘jobs for the boys.’ So we are still in the to and fro movement of one step forward, two steps backward.

In the United States of America, leaders often plead their countrymen to do one thing or another for posterity. Nigeria’s recovery will start when it start planning for posterity. However, why we believe that the problems of Nigeria’s state are not insurmountable, we still strain to have faith that Nigeria shall one day rise and claim its bastion as the hope of the Black Man.


Asikason writes from University of Nigeria Nsukka