Monday, July 12, 2010

Is Nigeria a Failed State?

Next's editorial board seems to think so:

We have now grown used to commentator after commentator expressing fears and concerns about Nigeria. Last year US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton described Nigeria’s situation as “a heartbreaking scene.” Earlier this year former US Ambassador to Nigeria, John Campbell warned of the possibilities of severe crisis as the fallout of the intrigues that accompanied late President Yar’Adua’s illness and subsequent abdication of office.

None of these “foreign concerns” can however match the ones that Nigerians themselves have cried themselves hoarse expressing. The truth is that the average Nigerian does not need a listing by an international organization to convince himself or herself that Nigeria is a failed state. Any citizen who has to provide electricity, water, security and justice (often expressed as jungle justice) for himself knows what state failure is with far greater certitude than the best-equipped international pollster or researcher.

Nigeria is not a country that acts like it is. We have money, but you couldn't tell from the inequality abound. We've got tons of oil in the Delta, yet the people are perhaps the most miserable of all. We beat our chests about how great we are, the giants of Africa and all that, yet we are among the ones who flee from our country the most. As instinctively protective a lot of Nigerians are in defending Nigeria, they would be blind or crazy (or both) to deny that there's something seriously wrong with the country.

Nigeria is not a failed state the way, say, Somalia is a failed state, but I'm still not sure the characterization is wrong. We can quibble with whether or not Failed State is too harsh a characterization -- never mind a no.14 on the list of Failed States -- but we can all agree that the state is failing it's citizens.

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