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 Published November 28th, 2011

Is Nigeria a failed State? This is the big question which many people and keen observers who have been following recent happenings in Nigeria have asked severally, in view of the Palpable fear that has gripped and pervaded the nation, due to the high state of insecurity in the country. Although, Nigeria may not have reached the unenviable status of Somalia, regrettably, the present state of things in the country seems to be pointing steadily towards the direction of a failed state. What with the worsening economic fortunes characterized by widespread hunger and poverty in the land, coupled with the rising rate of insecurity of lives and property, including the sporadic and incessant riots and killings in Jos and other parts of Northern Nigeria, the Boko Haram debacle; acts of terrorism and violence, bombings, killings, arms proliferations, murders, assassinations, kidnappings, robberies and other forms of violent crimes and social vices; and to crown it all, the Government flouting or skirting around the constitution and duly enacted laws of the land! All these are symptoms of a failed state and symptomatic of a leadership failure. What further proofs do we need that we are gradually degenerating and heading towards a failed state?

In simple terms, a failed state is a state of chaos and lawlessness: a “jungle society” where anything and everything goes, and in which citizens live in fear almost on a daily basis, as crimes and other violent acts are constantly committed, perpetrated and perpetuated with impunity and there seems to be no bonafide Government in control or the Government seems to be helpless in arresting the situation.

The first and primary duty of any responsible and responsive Government to its citizens is that of ensuring the security of lives and property. Where this is lacking, such a Government has evidently failed in its primary role and constitutional duty. Therefore, a Government that cannot protect its citizens and guarantee adequate security of lives and property is a failed Government. Concomitantly, a failed Government or leadership can only lead to a failed state.

In a normal clime, citizens should be able to go about their legitimate pursuits without fear or hindrance. According to a former American president, Franklin Deleno Roosevelt, “there are four essential freedoms: The First is freedom of speech and expression. The Second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way. The Third is freedom from want. The Fourth is freedom from fear”. However, in Nigeria today, there is palpable fear in the land due to the high spate of violent crimes and terrorist activities and the attendant insecurity to lives and property.

The recent spate of terrorist attacks and bomb blasts by the sectarian sect called Boko Haram in the Northern part of the country and more especially the bomb attack on the United Nations office building complex in Abuja has further heightened and exacerbated the state of insecurity in the land which, to all intents and purposes, is a failure of leadership on the part of the Government as well as the security agencies. It must be said, however, that in real terms, security is not just about intelligence gathering, crime prevention and eradication. It is much more than that. I am of the school of thought that there are three basic fundamentals and central pillars which are sinequanon and pre-requisites for attaining effective security, namely the provision of food, education and job creation (employment) without which security, peace and harmony cannot be meaningfully guaranteed. Accordingly, unless and until the Government effectively address and tackle the basic and fundamental issues of hunger and poverty, ignorance and illiteracy as well as the high level of unemployment, particularly youth unemployment, (all of which are the root causes of violent crimes and insecurity), the goal of ensuring security in the land will only be a pipe dream and an ideal that will never be attained.

According to the legendary philosopher, Aristotle poverty is the parent of revolution and crime. Where some people are very wealthy and others have nothing, the result will be either extreme democracy or absolute oligarchy, or despotism will come from either of those excesses”. In the words of William Cowper Brown “No man can be a patriot on an empty stomach”. And according to the popular maxim “The idle hand is the devil’s workshop”. The situation whereby majority of the people are poor and hungry and a lot of the youths are jobless and unemployed, will definitely result in high rate of crime and criminalities. It has been established, especially in the recent case of the London Riots, that most violent crimes are usually perpetrated majorly by those who are jobless or with little or no education. People without jobs or with little or no education tend  to have little or no hope about the future and are, therefore, ready to jeopardize their future by getting involved in many untoward and criminal tendencies. And because they are ignorant, jobless and hopeless, they are easily teleguided, misguided, manipulated and lured into all sorts of mischief and violent crimes by some self-serving elites and leaders in the society for their own myopic selfish interests and personal ambitions. Theses elites and leaders could be political leaders, religious leaders, community leaders, business leaders and some other powerful interest groups who may have one grievance, grouse or grudge against the authorities in power.

Let me, however, say that the problem of security cannot be effectively address or tackled by the Government or the political leadership alone, neither can it be resolved by police or military action. It is a collective responsibility of the society which requires concerted efforts by all stakeholders. We all, as a people, have to be security conscious and volunteer and provide relevant and necessary information to the authorities in order to curb and combat the spate of violent crimes.

Therefore, when we talk about failure of leadership, we are not just referring to the Government or political leadership alone. It’s all encompassing. It refers to leadership at all levels. For example, it is the failure of religious leaders to effectively control their worshippers and adherents that will cause some misguided elements under the toga or guise of religion to perpetrate all sorts of evil, barbaric and dastardly acts including terrorist attacks all in the name of religion. Also, it is the failure of intelligence gathering on the part of the security, police and military leadership that they cannot be pro-active enough to effectively address the problem of insecurity to the extent that various violent crimes including bomb blasts, killings and assassinations have continued unabated without being nipped in the bud, detected or the culprits and perpetrators apprehended and brought to book. Similarly, it is the failure of the leadership in the Judiciary that suspected criminals are not prosecuted and brought to justice speedily to serve as deterrent to others with criminal intents.

The main and fundamental problem with Nigeria (and indeed Africa) which has been the country’s albatross rests squarely with bad or poor leadership which cuts across political, religious, traditional, community, ethnic/tribal, labour/union, market and business leaders, as well as other leaders at various levels, (military, police and other Para-military security agencies) who in most cases are always self-serving and self-centred in their approach to handling national issues. Most people in leadership positions – either in Government or out of Government – are usually economical with the truth either because of selfish interests or due to corruptive influences or a combination of both. It is therefore, my considered submission that inept and failed leadership at all levels, more than anything else is the bane of our National development and progress.

The progress and development of any Nation depends more on the character of its leadership (good governance) and not mere statements of intents (vision this, vision that), emotional sentiments or good intentions of the leadership. A leadership without a clear vision backed by action is an illusion. So, where you have a visionless leadership, no meaningful progress can be made by such a Nation. Our leaders have to learn and start taking decisions on what is best for the country rather than their self-serving interests.

Against this backdrop, I believe and wish to submit that if and when we get the issue of leadership right (by having round pegs in round holes), every other thing – including the issue of security and the much touted issue of restructuring the federation – will automatically and naturally fall into place. This is because it takes a visionary, bold and courageous leadership with a strong political will to identify the problems – including issues like structural imbalances/restructuring (and the need for a sovereign national conference), corruption, nepotism as well as other socio-economic and political challenges confronting  the nation – and forge ahead to tackle them head long without fear or favour. But, when you have a lame duck in the saddle of leadership, you cannot expect any meaningful progress in terms of development. Therefore, unless and until we successfully address the challenge of leadership, the country – and this is not a curse, but the bitter truth – can never move forward.

Kayode Oluwa is the President, Academy for Leadership and Change Management. He wrote in from 4C Femi Okunu Estate, Phase 2, Lekki Lagos. He can be reached on 08033233844 and

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