Nigeria’s ranking as the 13th least stable country in the world on the Fragile States Index (FSI) is not surprising. In a report released recently by the Washington-based think-tank, Fund for Peace (FFP), Nigeria was ranked alongside countries like South Sudan, Somalia, Central African Republic, Sudan, DR Congo, Guinea and Zimbabwe. Nigeria tied with Zimbabwe in the 13th position from the rear, while Ethiopia is 14th.
The Fragile States Index, which was formerly called the Failed States Index, is an annual ranking of 178 countries which highlights not only the normal pressures that all countries face, but also helps to identify when those pressures are pushing a country to the brink of failure. It is based on a set of social, economic and political indicators, and about 100 sub-indicators, among which are uneven economic development, demographic pressures, group grievance, poverty and economic decline, state legitimacy and the state of public services.
If the truth must be told, Nigeria’s unflattering ranking at the bottom rungs of this index is a sad refection of the state of affairs in the country. It is the result of our failure to use our vast human and natural endowments to attain socio-economic/ political stability and strength. For too long after attaining flag independence from Britain, we have squandered our diverse resources to global odium and our own damnation.
How can a country famed for its human and material resources find itself on the wrong side of socio–economic advancement? How can a country that is the 8th largest producer and exporter of oil in the world, which has the second largest reserves of gas, one of the most expansive and diverse collection of minerals, and the 5th largest population, with over 50 per cent of its people in their youthful years, be in such dire straits?
It is a puzzle that may confound the world, but which Nigerians are very familiar with. All honest Nigerians know that our precarious situation resulted from failure of leadership, buoyed by an unprincipled and pliant followership.
So, it is not time to mourn. It is time to wake up. Nigeria today and for many past decades has been beset by many internal contradictions and self-imposed frictions. While socio-political problems like armed robbery, thuggery, violence and arson associated with elections have been with us since independence, we have managed to add militancy, kidnapping and now, insurgency, to our list of self-inflicted troubles. None of these problems would have reared their ugly heads on the scale that they have, and persisted, if the nation’s successive leaderships had been visionary, selfless and patriotic.
Taking a look at the countries which were poorly ranked on this index, it is obvious that one common strain runs through them all: They have all been plagued by infantile wars, ethnic and religious conflicts, ruthless and despotic leaderships, and corruption. They are also mostly sub-Saharan African nations. Is there something inherently wrong with African, therefore?
We think not. We only have to realise our mistakes and resolve to do things differently. After all, there is subsisting wisdom in the saying that a problem realised, is a problem half-solved. The political leadership in our country has to rise up to this challenge. All efforts must be made to put an end to the present internal conflicts arising from a wicked manipulation of the people for cheap political ends by some Nigerian leaders. Whether it is Niger Delta militancy, Boko-Haram insurgency or kidnapping for ransom and rituals, all of these ills can be traced back to our political elite. Why can’t our political elite borrow a leaf from the world’s most developed countries? We talk often of the United States, Germany, United Kingdom, Singapore and, lately in Africa, Botswana. Have we considered how the sacrifices and visions of their leaders, especially their founding fathers, brought about their pre-eminence today?
For Nigeria, what needs to be done is straightforward, if we must reverse our dismal ranking on the Fragile States Index. First, there must be a positive and progressive restructuring of the nation, including its politics and economy. The centre, as we have it today, is unwieldy and ineffective. It has become a drawback to all genuine efforts at rapid socio-economic development and must be reworked.
The country must de-emphasise religion and ethnicity. We need to recall that the First Amendment of the US Constitution, which we very much like to ape, was on this point. No nation, least of all one like ours, with its multifarious and diverse tribes, tongues and religions, can survive playing politics with them. It is just that simple.
The country must address unemployment, poverty and socio-economic inequality. Our huge population is a potential advantage. When it is not properly harnessed, it becomes a liability, the features of which we are very familiar with in the country.
We can only change this adverse report with a new vision birthed through rigorous thinking, and backed with hard work and disciplined execution. This is what we require if we ever hope to be in the league of the world’s stable countries.