Leadership (Abuja)

12 October 2012

Nigeria: World's Most Dangerous Country

analysis

The most horrific stories in the last two weeks make Nigeria one of the most dangerous countries to reside in. The reason is simple: although Nigeria is not at war by definition, human life has become worthless. Anyone can get killed at any time, and since it has happened many times, our reaction to news of hideous crime is that of apathy.

Less than two weeks ago, 45 students of a school in Mubi, Adamawa State, were massacred in cold blood. Although the news sent shock waves throughout the world, Nigerians, as usual, displayed sheer ambivalence. A few days after the massacre, two students of the University of Maiduguri, in a nearby state, were shot dead by unknown gunmen. The government reacted indifferently because, as of today, neither the president nor his deputy has had the courage to physically visit the area.

Less than five days after, another crime involving the murder of four students of the University of Port Harcourt filled BlackBerry BBS nationwide. At my barber's shop, a group of people gathered to watch the video clip of the crime; the reactions exhibited a new chapter in people's behaviour - a sense of hopelessness.

What is most scaring is the fact that, with impunity, anyone, anywhere in the country can get killed by a person or a group of persons. There is no law and order, and no authority in this land to sanction or prevent such mayhems. Most countries rely on the law enforcement agencies -- the police, the military, the state security services, civil defence etc -- to protect everyone living within a polity, but it is the reverse case in Nigeria. Corruption has become the main structure of our society. With stolen funds, the rich erroneously feel they can buy safety and protection.

Has Nigeria become a failed state? Is there any functional government in the country today?

In countries like Somalia, and even Syria, there are obvious signs of war or civil disobedience that mitigate the existence of peace. But Nigeria, with a supposed elected and functional government, has become more unsafe for the residents.

A state could be said to "succeed" if it maintains, according to philosopher Max Weber, a monopoly on the legitimate use of physical force within its borders. When this is broken (e.g. through the dominant presence of warlords, paramilitary groups, or terrorism), the very existence of the state becomes dubious, and the state becomes a failed state. The difficulty of determining whether a government maintains "a monopoly on the legitimate use of force", which includes the problems of the definition of "legitimate", means it is not clear precisely when a state can be said to have "failed".

The problem of legitimacy can be solved by understanding what Weber intended by it. Weber clearly explains that only the state has the means of production necessary for physical violence (politics as vocation). This means that the state does not require legitimacy for achieving monopoly on having the means of violence, but will need one if it needs to use it.

Typically, the term means that the state has been rendered ineffective and is not able to enforce its laws uniformly because of (variously) high crime rates, extreme political corruption, an impenetrable and ineffective bureaucracy, judicial ineffectiveness, military interference in politics, and cultural situations in which traditional leaders wield more power than the state over a certain area. Other factors of perception may be involved.

A derived concept of "failed cities" has also been launched, based on the notion that while a state may function in general, polities at the sub-state level may collapse in terms of infrastructure, economy and social policy. Certain areas or cities may even fall outside state control, becoming a de facto ungoverned part of the state.

On October 5 and 6, Vice-president Namadi Sambo was in his home state of Kaduna. Waff, Independent, and Tafawa Balewa roads, the active and business streets in the government reserved areas of the city were blocked to create security for him. Poor business owners whose stores and places of work happened to fall within the road networks were barred from the area for two days. Police and soldiers in their uniforms of brutality terrorized the residents to protect and secure the vice president, an elected leader.

Obviously, the huge mounted troops for Mallam Sambo signify the state of insecurity in the nation, and a failed leadership.

While those in power fight to remain in government and loot the treasury, they fail to realize that, even with their enormous wealth, they must keep fighting to remain on top to be protected. What a paradox!

If the vice president must displace those who elected him, and deprive them of their daily bread in order to feel secured, then, there is an obvious sign of failure of leadership or a dysfunctional system. The painful situation of Nigeria is that our values are enshrined in the system of corruption we have created. The quality of a man depends on how much looted funds he has in his baggage.

Therefore, everyone, at all cost, must get rich to be idolized or respected in the society, irrespective of the source of wealth. A law enforcement officer would conspicuously abandon his duties and responsibilities to gain some illicit money. This is what makes the whole system dangerous. The level of corruption in Nigeria today has never been attained in the history of this nation.

Derived corruption is manifested in various variants and everyone is caught in the web. A driver must cheat his boss while buying petrol for a car his drives-his job. An okada rider would carry as many as four people on a small Jinchen motorcycle designed for two people, yet standing nearby is a police officer whose duty is to prevent such lawlessness. But he would not act or react because he has been paid by the okada riders' association to look the other way.

With nearly a million school leavers dumped into the unemployment market every year, and a staggering 50 per cent unemployment rate in the country, Nigeria is sitting on a time-bomb.

The search for the characteristics or traits of leaders has been ongoing for centuries. History's greatest philosophical writings from Plato's Republic to Plutarch's Lives have explored the question, "What qualities distinguish an individual as a leader?"

Underlying this search was the early recognition of the importance of leadership and the assumption that leadership is rooted in the characteristics that certain individuals possess. Nigeria is in dire need of a leader that can create a prospective future. What we have now is a bunch of rogues whose ideals lie in how much they can steal to keep us subjugated.

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