Nigeria: A failed state?

What is a failed state?

In an article published on July 27, 2020, by Robert Longley on — he describes a failed state as a government that has become incapable of providing the primary functions and responsibilities of a sovereign nation, such as military defence, law enforcement, justice, education, or economic stability.

Keeping it simple, by sticking to the inability of a government to enforce its laws, Nigeria meets the criteria to be described as a failed state. The situation in the most populous black nation on the planet is dire. Nigeria needs concerted efforts, particularly by foreign intervention.

The situation Nigeria finds itself in calls for self-reflection. Despite the influence of foreign political interests, the Nigerian people cannot exonerate themselves from blame. So, how did a nation once described as the happiest people on earth get to this point?

How nations fail

Give them too much, make them greedy, miserable and sick.

There is plenty of documentation of the downfall of great empires. The public domain is full of different accounts of the destruction of nations without as much as one bullet fired. History shows the promise of plenty by several countries, yet self-imploded under the heavyweight of expectations.

Perhaps, Charles Dickens thought of Nigeria while writing his 1860 publication of Great Expectations. A country that would go into massive social change but nosedive into the deep waters of corruption and poverty.

Atomic bombs are not necessarily needed to destroy a nation. According to John Steinbeck, an American author and 1962 Nobel Prize in Literature winner — destroy a country by giving it too much, making it greedy, miserable and sick.

Al-Nasir Salah al-Din Yusuf ibn Ayyub, better known simply as Saladin, concurs with Steinbeck but takes it further. The first Sultan of Egypt and Syria said making adultery & nudity common in the young generation would destroy the fabric of a country without war.

How Nigeria got to this point

Money is not our problem, but how to spend it — Yakubu Gowon.

Nigeria had cotton, tin, columbite, timber, coal, palm oil, cocoa, gold and groundnut. The nation was on a quick rise and reaching for the realms of self-sustenance, then it experienced a quantum leap. It discovered oil — a gift and a curse.

The first discovery of oil in Nigeria was in Oloibiri in 1956, four years before independence. With the discovery of oil came the building of its first refinery in Alesa Eleme near Port Harcourt in 1965. The refinery had a capacity of 38,000 barrels per day. It was enough to meet the domestic requirements of the over 50 million population.

Nigeria was rich and projected to be a superpower. How could a black nation be a superpower? Nigeria had all the ingredients to arrive on the world stage like a king. It had greatness thrust upon it. With the gift came a curse — a curse more devastating than the ten plagues of Egypt.

Nigeria had on its young shoulders the yoke of myopic and ineffectual leadership. It was leadership the Nigerian people did not choose for themselves but imposed on it by concerns whose interests precede those of the people.

In a statement to the world, General Yakubu Gowon claimed — Money is not our problem, but how to spend it. Those words rankle and reverberate through the course of history. It smacked the thoughts of John Steinbeck.

Give them too much, make them greedy, miserable and sick. The cat was loose among the pigeons.

Coup after coup. Greed, myopia, religious and tribal sentiments took their course. The cancer of mediocrity ate deep into the fabric of the nation. Mediocrity bared its fangs, dripping with the blood of those who truly cared. Except a miracle happens, Nigeria hangs on the precipice of destruction.

Nigeria as a failed state

If we take the indices set by Robert Longley for an appraisal of the Nigerian state, perhaps, we might disprove the idea of Nigeria as a failed state. Available data would need to be twisted, which is an arduous task. The stats fail an eye test, and deeper digging only exposes the depth of the rot.

Nigeria is a self-acclaimed giant of Africa but totters on one foot like a blind, one-legged soldier tired of plodding through terrain even a full-bodied platoon would tread with fear.

Nigeria has actively engaged in reverse gear. Nigerians let their desires for a better life, the quest to improve their status and be better than the next man, take over their senses.

It robbed us of our humanity and instilled greed that blinded us to the reality we are better with little. Our communality is gone and shorn of our childlike innocence.

What are the indices to check? Security, law enforcement, justice, education, economy and infrastructure.

Security, law enforcement and justice

On March 27, 2022, social media was awash with the news of an attack by bandits on an Abuja bound train. The bandits bombed a train headed from Abuja for Kaduna, a city less than 150 miles away. They shot many people and kidnapped several more.

The grim news hardly made the mainstream media as they have made it a habit to play down incidents that paint the government poorly.

A young doctor on the train tweeted on Twitter and called for prayers. She desperately needed emotional, medical and spiritual support. She was in pain as life ebbed out of her, mowed down by bandit bullets. The response she got was mockery by government supporters. She was labelled a liar only to recant after she was confirmed dead.

It is how far the security situation of the country has fallen. Who can claim to be safe if bandits can strike within a few miles of the nation’s capital? The residence of the chief security officer of the country was a few miles away, yet no word from the president.

Bandits have run amok unchecked in the north, as the security apparatus seems overwhelmed. The pro-Islamic terrorist group Boko Haram once held sway in the north but has lost the monopoly of violence perpetrated against the Nigerian state.

The South East is under siege by a pro-separatist group, the Independent People Of Biafra (IPOB). They have reduced business in the flourishing region to three days of the week.

The South West is struggling to contain the high rate of kidnappers and ritualists. In all these, the security agencies look powerless as they are preoccupied with extorting the people. The security agencies have positioned themselves as a menace. Their activities came to a head and led to the uprising that took social media by storm. The uprising tagged ENDSARS in protest of a section of the Nigeria Police that had gone rogue and became a law unto itself.

Security is at an all-time low. Every case of a missing person is assumed either to be by bandits, ritualists or the police.

Walking out of your home is a high-risk manoeuvre without an assurance of returning.

In all this, where is the president? Where is the minister of defence? Where is the Inspector General of Police? A country where the Inspector General can not have his orders obeyed has lost the right to be called a country.

The justice system has become a subject of mockery.

Politicians and highly placed individuals in society can buy favourable judgments in the courts, while ordinary citizens face the full wrath of the law.

The Hisbah police hold sway in the north.

They are religious police concerned with keeping societal operations within the ambits of Islamic dictates. It is prohibited to consume alcohol in Kano state. Mannequins are not allowed, amongst other prohibitions.

The Hisbah hold more powers than the Nigeria Police, who constitutionally have the responsibility of maintaining law and order.


In 2015, the inflation rate in Nigeria was 9.01%. It rose to 15.7% by 2016 and reached an all-time high of 16.5% in 2017. The trajectory took a nosedive in 2018 to 12.09% but has continued a steady rise since, with projections of 13.6% expected in 2022. Food price has more than doubled with increasing hunger in the land. Fuel costs increased by almost 100%, with the latest scarcity shooting it up by around 200 to 300%.

The effects of the rise in costs have been terrible. It has made life unbearable. Income is not commensurate with the increase in commodities.

It is cheaper to bring goods from China or the United States to Lagos than to move them out of Lagos ports.

Nigeria is riddled with crippling debt and is barely functioning. The country is on life support, bogged down by loans expected to rejuvenate it, but choked by its stranglehold. Policies of the Central Bank of Nigeria have done little to boost the economy, and the ease of doing business is nothing but a mantra.

Infrastructure and a failed civil service

In Nigeria, corruption has become the new culture. Nothing works without a grease of the palms. Decaying and substandard infrastructure dots the country. More painful is the available infrastructure is substandard, built for two times the original cost and twice or thrice the length of time it should have taken.

A walk into a government hospital is like making a bet with death. The hospitals are merely ill-equipped buildings with doctors buried in local politics. The best in the country are trooping out in droves. You are more likely to die than make it out alive in a government hospital. They are poorly equipped death traps, and the doctors are badly enumerated.

The roads are an eyesore. Billions allocated to fixing them and building new roads ended up in the pockets of influential politicians. Nigeria’s rail system ranks as one of the poorest in the world.

The power infrastructure is decayed, and for over 60 years, the country has battled to overcome darkness. The people are crushed by the weight of energy bills not consumed. The corruption within the power generating and distribution companies are jaw-dropping, with the entire structure in the hands of a powerful cabal.

The water pipes have since run dry, with rusted pipes a reminder of days when things worked. The citizens have to resort to self-help. They source water by digging boreholes, wells and streams in the rural area. It is little wonder they are rife with different waterborne diseases.

A culture destroyed

The Nigerian education system has been destroyed, with successive governments laying less emphasis on it. The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has made industrial actions a part of the curriculum as the government has neglected its role in education.

The effect of this is young minds see half-educated and the barely educated running the nation. They flaunt illicit wealth without repercussions. It helps them conclude that education is not worth it — after all, a serving senator earns more than three times a professor.

They educate themselves by studying different scams. They engage in internet fraud, trendily known as “yahoo yahoo.” Who is to tell them it is wrong? The same leaders who stuff their pockets full in front of cameras without consequences? No. Greed has replaced the culture of contentment. Fake it till you make it is a general phrase among the youth. They work the crime market to get rich or die trying.

The values once held high by a communal society have been eroded by western cultures. The idea of moderation, reverence and respect has been replaced by selfish interests, with no regard for humanity. Like Saladin postulates, adultery & nudity have overtaken society, with relevance given to base inordinate desires. Divorce is high, and communication is poor. Nigeria has raised a high population of degenerates.

An admittance of failure

The country has been polarized and divided along ethnic and religious lines. Despite claims of a pious society, Nigeria has lost its soul. Nigeria is on its knees, and how far you go is determined by who you know, where you’re from or what/who you worship.

When a government asks its people to pray to every known deity to make things right, it is an admission of failure and confession of a lack of capacity to address the situation.

The Nigerian government has failed in its social contract with the people.

Despite their glaring failures, the politicians live ostentatiously and refuse to step down. They continue to acquire illicit wealth and wield their filthy lucre before the impoverished populace who dreams of better days. The fruits of their ill-gotten wealth are all over Europe and the middle east. The system has replaced the desire for basic needs with a wanton appetite for ostentatious living. Greed is manifested in the leadership, its people and fed by corruption.

The system has failed, and only the people can fix the rot. Nigeria has to go back to the basics and resurrect the spirit of contentment, brotherhood and communal living. It has to adopt the philosophy of one for all, all for one, without which it would continue going in circles, chasing its tail.



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Chooka izu

Chooka izu


Writer, Graphic Artist, Journalist. I love nature, culture, and sports.