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The ‘failed state’ and the ‘wasted generation’ theory

Adisa Adeleye
WITHIN the last decade, some strange words seem to have sneaked surreptitiously into the dictionary of social science or political philosophy.

However words bandied by literary giants could have different meanings or given different interpretations by different interest groups, depending on the prevailing social and political environment of the moment.

It is inconceivable, howbeit unbelievable, to have a thought that a country well endowed with material and human resources, a country abundantly blessed by God of Africa to lead the continent of Africa could ever falter to the extent of it being noted as a failing or a failed state or its proud citizens becoming wasted.

To a layman, a ‘failed country’ would carry embarrassing characteristics of political and economic instability and social disorder – a sort of modern Hobbesian ‘state of nature.

Looking back in pleasure or justified anger, one could envisaged a beautiful country created out of many tribes and cultures by the colonial maters about a century ago, to walk and run and create an enviable, impression on the globe.

Unfortunately, the child of circumstances has refused to grow, walk and run.  It is still crawling since 1914and still being spoon-fed since 1960.  Unlike some other nations of the world, it has refused to disintegrate even after a disastrous civil war and the insurgence of vocal but dangerous militant youths.

What about the present political situation in such a beloved country?  There are political parties without a political system, lacking in discipline and bereft of political ideology.  Political parties differ in names but agree on cardinal policies which are hardly followed.  All parties preach full employment, comprehensive health services, good roads, potable water for drinking, improved agriculture for cash and food crops and economic policy that would ensure macro-economic stability.

In politics we are remiss and amiss in our civic duties.  Federal, State and Local Governments are run on party basis with winners capturing everything – posts, honour and money.  And since the packages are juicy enough, no sacrifice is counted too much to win the political prize.  Democracy suffers terrible knocks during party primary contests and general elections proper.  Various forms of malpractices are employed from stealing of ballot boxes to maiming and killing of opponents.  The result often is the appearance of fraudsters at the corridors of power not by the votes of the people.

True Nigerians over the decades have not been keeping mute over the glaring assaults on their political rights to have their votes count and effective.  A recent attempt at democratization of the electoral system is the Justice Uwais Report which is being handled with amazing levity by the ruling class.  The introduction of Independent Candidate would weaken party dictatorship and also, the possible adoption of proportional voting system could to some extent, affect the ‘winners-take-all syndrome.

It is a pity that multi-party system which is an important ingredient of democracy is gradually being decimated by the awful force of the ruling class.  The opposition is divided and weakened by capricious acts of the ruling party which embarks on embracing the chameleonic traits of some governors and legislators.

Nigeria which started on its political journey with British flexible parliamentary system now operates the US Federal system without the American famed tolerance and resilience.  Ours is a very costly political experiment bringing into focus the extravagant living and pompous attitude of the ruling elites.

Nigeria of today is a massive structure of 36 States with a strong centre and weak and poor States.  Though a ‘federation’, it appears that the country is being run like a unitary State with each State going to the capital city of Abuja to collect its monthly allowance, which could amount to about 80per cent of its budgeted revenue.  The size of monthly takings would depend on the volatility of oil price in the world market.

On the economic scene, Nigeria before and at independence relied on agriculture and its products for survival.  There was healthy rivalry among the regions leading to bouts of social and economic developments.  Then came the mighty Oil in the 1970s and the dreadful decades after, with the destructive impact on agriculture and honest living of ordinary Nigerians.

The profligacy of various governments was matched, if not overmatched, by the conspicuous consumption of public officials and politicians.  The night robbers joined in, and later became daring armed robbers challenging private security officials and the police in broad daylight for their own share of oil money.

The militants of the Niger Delta ruled the creeks before the military intervention of JTF and the subsequent well-deserved amnesty by President Yar’Adua.  However, the kidnapping traits, emanating from the embattled Niger Delta region continue to spread like the Californian wild fire to other areas of the country.  All in search of the oil money, elusive to many, but wantonly flaunted by a privileged few.

Here is a country of opulence of the few and abject poverty of the majority of the populace.  Here is country which is much dependent on imports because of a very weak manufacturing base; a nation which imports oil which it produces abundantly; an amazing country reeling under political and social decadence, widespread rural poverty and urban congestion with attendant filth and disease.

There is evidence of widespread distress under fumbling leadership, and moments of humiliation through defeats in many major events.

On a quiet afternoon reflection, a generation that could produce critical literary giants like Professors Achebe and Soyinka in their seventies; a generation that nurtured Ganni Fawehinmi and recognized his virtues as a dogged fighter for the poor and the masses, and honoured him more at his death, a generation that produces great fighters against corruption in all its phases – certainly, could not wear the toga of a ‘wasted’ one.

However, if the likes of Achebe and Soyinka could still not change the society from social decadence, if Gani Fawehinmi left the country in almost total darkness and masses still in poverty, then something is definitely wrong with a polity which has not ‘failed’ yet, but perching on the precipice of disaster.

Perhaps this generation is greedy like the Green Eagles which led the Carthage Eagles of Tunisia by 2 goals to 1 about ten minutes to the closing time and still wanted to score more goals rather than consolidate their position.  Maybe the leadership of the younger generation is greedy and careless.  To me, our own generation could not by any means by adjudged, ‘failed’.

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