The notion of a state and its essential attributes that constitute it have evolved over several millennia. The history of that evolution has identified the basic attributes constituting a state as the ability to maintain peace, security and welfare of the people, without which a state may be said to have suffered an atrophy and dwindle.
The verdict of history recognizing inability and ineptitude to maintain peace, security and welfare for the people as the index of state failure is affirmed by the Constitution of Nigeria 1999, section 14(2)(b) which avows “the security and welfare of the people to be the primary purpose of government.” The above provision is a shortened statement that leaves a many things to be supplied by purposive interpretation. To begin with, the provision pre-supposes a framework of laws adequate regulation of social life and relations and which is consistently and uniformly enforced in the maintenance of order.
The word “security” is a broad term culminating not only the safety of life and property in a physical sense, but also peace, although peace is not specifically mentioned in the provision. Peace is an essential condition for security, in the sense that there can be no security in a situation of widespread and rampant social discord. In particular, the settlement of disputes between parties according to law by courts with compulsory jurisdiction, instead of by private force or feud vengeance, is an essential element of peace and therefore of security. Security also covers protection of the people against mass death caused by mass hunger and starvation (food security) or caused by mass unemployment (job security). And the word “welfare”, although it is not, in the context of the provision in section 14(2)(b) of the Constitution, intended to refer to the modern notion of the welfare state, embraces prosperity, advancement contentment and happiness of the people.
Generally, based on the verdict of history and on the authority of section 14(2)(b) of the Constitution of Nigeria 1999, as amplified above by purposive interpretation, it may not be asymmetrical to argue that a state which is not able to secure and maintain peace, security and welfare for the people to a reasonably adequate extent is a failed state. It is by this criterion among others to be noted below, that Nigeria is to be judged as a failed state.
More so, Google’s Failed State Index adopts the Crisis States Research Centre’s definition of a failed state as “a condition of ‘state collapse’, i.e. a state that can no longer perform its basic security and development functions and that has no effective control over its territory”. Twelve indicators are used to measure a state’s vulnerability to collapse – four social, two economic and six political, viz:
• Social indicators:
(a) Demographic pressures resulting from drought, crop failure, et al (b) Incidence of massive movement of refugees and internally displaced persons; (c) civil disorders caused by ethnic, racial or religious conflicts; (d) chronic and sustained human flight.
• Economic indicators:
(a) Uneven economic development along group lines as manifested in group-based inequality in opportunities for education, jobs, and economic advancement, and as measured by group-based poverty levels, infant mortality rates; (b) sharp and/or severe economic decline as measured by a progressive economic decline of the society as a whole (using per capita income, GNP, debt, child mortality rate, poverty levels, business failures) etc.
• Political indicators:
(a) Endemic corruption or profiteering by ruling elites and resistance to transparency, accountability and free election; widespread loss of popular confidence in state institutions and processes; (b) progressive deterioration of public services particularly basic state functions that serve the people, including failure to protect citizens from terrorism and violence and to provide essential services, such as health, education, sanitation, public transportation et al; (c) widespread violation of human rights et al; (d) private security apparatuses and “praetorian” guards operating with impunity more or less as a “state within a state”; (e) state-sponsored or state-supported private militias, operating as an “army” outside the regular army of the state, which terrorize political opponents, suspected “enemies”, or civilians seen to be sympathetic to the opposition in furtherance of the interests of the dominant political clique; (f) factionalisation of the ruling elite and state institutions along group lines, et al (g) incursion of other states or external factors into the national territory.
Homogeneously, Google categorises Nigeria as a failed state, and ranks it as the 15th(having moved from its previous ranking of 18th) “out of the 15 most failed nations surveyed, ten of which were African nations. These include Somalia (1st), Zimbabwe (2nd), Sudan (3rd), Chad (4th), Democratic Republic of Congo (5th), Central African Republic (8th), Guinea (9th), Ivory Coast (11th), Kenya (14th), and Nigeria (15th).
The best five nations, which were described as having the most sustainable state include Norway (177), Finland (176), Sweden (175), Switzerland (174), and Ireland (173). Ghana emerged the best state in Africa, ranked 124 and classified as moderate state, while USA was 159th and UK 161 on the survey list.” In a speech at the special convocation ceremony of the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, on March 2, 2013, T.Y Danjuma, was reported in the Sunday Vanguard of March 3, 2013 to have said that “the nation (Nigeria) is today in total anarchy. Human life is very cheap and impunity has become the norm….. We are in the middle of a civil war in Northern Nigeria. There is no defined frontier in this particular war and, worse still, the enemy is faceless and unknown. There is no immunity for anyone.”
What better way could one have captured the deterioration of conditions in the northern part of the country Nigeria where groups of terrorists and government forces are locked in bloody tussle and scuffle for territorial control? How else could one have described a situation where a group of terrorists attempted an invasion of a well-fortified military barracks as was the case recently at Monguno in Borno State. Boko Haram members have attacked prisons and released hundreds of gang inmates. They have bombed churches and invaded police stations, with an eye on boosting their arsenal. Genocide, pogroms and suicide bombings, hitherto are the egregious happenings in the Nigerian state, forebodingly leading to ethnic cleansing and another Shoah.
It is gratifying that the Boko Haram insurgents have been dislodged from the areas over which they took control, but it is equally sardonic and lugubriously insalubrious that they still continue to kill, maim and brutalise large numbers of people and to destroy properties, resulting in the displacement of thousands from their homes and national disruption and retardation.
Following on the heels of the Boko Haram atrocities is the Fulani herdsmen menace. It started in the form of farmers-herdsmen clash but has now skyrocketed into a scaring conundrum known to be as bloody, murderous and atrocious as Boko Haram insurgency. Particularly, in Benue State, according to an AIT news commentary report, “it has been a long chain of killings dating back to 2013.” In that year alone Benue recorded 8 attacks in villages resulting in deaths. There were 16 attacks in 2014, 8 in 2015, the same number in 2016, and 5 in 2017. The number of deaths is put at about 3,000 across the country.
Their habitual sui generis techniques of attack, which is not any different from that of Boko Haram insurgents, includes cutting open the stomach, beheading, slitting the throat, suicide bombing, surrounding villages and opening fire on them while asleep, et al. The method of attack is so barbaric, ferocious and sadistically remorseless to the unimaginable sense of every compos mentis in Nigeria and the world at large. What is reprehensible is the lethargic posture of some respected clergy, the Federal Government, especially as the perpetrators of the dastardly and loathsome acts are identifiable. Some States like Ekiti, Abia and even Borno have taken their fate and destiny in their own hands by enacting domestic laws. In resolute posture the herdsmen have defied the laws particularly in Benue . On January 11, 2018, 73 victims of Fulani herdsmen killings in Benue were given mass burial and it triggered emotional outcries, whoop of ululations and condemnations across the country”.
Lamenting the killing of 73 people in Benue State between the 1st and 9th of January, 2018, the Speaker of House of Representatives, Hon Yakubu Dogara, said the incident has “painted Nigeria red with blood”. Also lamenting the killings, Simon Lalong, the current Governor of Plateau State, has put the number of persons killed in Fulani herdsmen attacks throughout the country in the past couple of years at 14,500.
The character of the killings and destruction by the Fulani herdsmen militia as an insurgency comparable to the Boko Haram insurgency means that Nigeria is at war on two fronts. As Wole Soyinka has said, the Fulani herdsmen killings and destructions which have now engulfed most of the States of the Federation, both in the North and South, amount to a declaration of war on the country. The killings, maiming, carnages, vandalization and displacement of myriads of people by the Boko Haram and Fulani herdsmen insurgents are not the only elements of the security challenges gnawing at the fabric of the Nigerian society. There is the widespread and rampart incidence of kidnapping, armed robbery and other acts of criminality involving the use of armed violence.
There is also the incidence of mass death caused by hunger or starvation (food insecurity) and mass death caused by mass unemployment (job insecurity), which have forced thousands of people to leave the country since the inception of the Buhari led Administration. These people left, not in search of greener pastures abroad, but because they found life in Nigeria as much fraught with the prospects of death by hunger and starvation as life walking across the Sahara Desert, not to mention the peril of the Mediterranean crossing. For them, death looms on both sides; leaving offered a better prospect of survival – they must have so reasoned. Only the deepest depth of frustration, disillusion and despair could have driven them to embark on such hazardous journey, which is like defying the almighty death to a combat, an encounter requiring the grace of God Himself for survival. This may also be said of people who chose to end the unbearable hardship and suffering by committing suicide.
The various ordeals of life in Nigeria under President Buhari – the Boko Haram insurgency, the Fulani herdsmen attacks, the incidence of kidnapping, armed robbery and other acts of criminality involving armed violence, the incidence of mass death caused by hunger or starvation (food insecurity) and the incidence of mass death caused by mass unemployment (job insecurity), have given rise to a situation described as general insecurity by Chief Emeka Anyaoku, former Secretary-General of the Commonwealth.
One other aspect of the matter remains to be considered, viz the lethargic posture of the Federal Government in regard to the killings and destruction of farms and properties by Fulani herdsmen across the country. This raises the important question as to whether the Government is fully alive to its constitutional obligation not to discriminate unfairly between its citizens in the provision of security for their lives and properties. The Federal Government lethargic posture in the matter goes beyond just lethargy, defined shortly as inaction; its lethargy is pregnant with many connotations and interpretations beside inaction. It connotes, at the very least, connivance, acquiescence and concordance; it may also connote something positive, such as the endorsement, encouragement and back-up of the atrocious actions.
Failure to arrest and prosecute any of the persons involved in the heinous acts, either as direct perpetrators, masterminds, accessories or in any other way, despite calls by individuals and groups for enforcement actions, seems clearly to suggest one or the other of these things. What especially is the relationship between the Federal Government and the cattle breeders Association, the Miyetti Allah (the Association has just publicly announced its endorsement of President Buhari for a second term in office, and its legal adviser, Mohammed Bello Tukur, is the person appointed by the President as the Secretary of the Federal Character Commission)? Is the Federal Government patronizing the Association by way of special protection from arrest and prosecution, thus making its directors and managers sacred cows? The public deserves to be told.
Conclusively, by all internationally relevant and accepted indices and catalogue and judged by the reality on the ground, as analyzed above, Nigeria is justifiably categorized as a failed state, now ranked 15th among the “worst failed” states in the world. I believe, however, that the country can be made to work again, as it was doing before, and to become a great Nation it is destined to be, and a leading star in the affairs of the African Continent and indeed the world. But for that to happen, president Buhari must be stopped before he pushes Nigeria further down to the rank of “the worst” failed State to which Zaire under Mobutu had been reduced. More so, there has to be a positive change of mindsets as regards the understanding of Politics, Religion and Philosophy in general!