Political Economy and Political Stability in Nigeria in the Early 21st Century*

 

by

 

Yusufu Bala Usman,

CEDDERT, Hanwa,

Zaria, Nigeria.

Being

A contribution to the Workshop on the Survival of Democracy

in Nigeria, Royal Tropicana Hotel, Kano, Wednesday,

27th September, 2000.

 

 

The little contribution I am  going to attempt to make to this workshop is on the subject of, Political Economy and Political Stability in Nigeria in the Early 21st Century. This takes care of what was in the provisional title, as set out in this workshop’s programme, and even goes beyond it. Political economy covers education, employment, and much more, including political stability, whose nature, forms, root causes and pattern, cannot be properly understood with the outlook which imposes an arbitrary distinction between politics and economics; a distinction which, as you all very well know, does not exist in real life.

          The central theme of this workshop, according to its programme, is the survival of democracy. And, since the country is now operating under a democratic constitution, the main issue before us is, the growth and stabilisation of this  democracy in it.  

 

A democratic form of government is being established in this country over the last fifteen months, after  fifteen long years of military dictatorship. Like everything else in natures and society, this form of government has to grow in order to stabilise and survive. A cardinal requirement for this is that those who have taken on their shoulders the responsibility for operating this term of government have to be clear-headed as to what this growth and stabilisation involves. They have to understand, and make their followers understand, what the establishment of democracy means beyond winning elections by hook-or-by-crook, and sharing the legal and illegal spoils of office.

 

This contribution is aimed at drawing the attention of the participants at this workshop to some of the realities of the Nigerian political economy which will determine whether this democracy grows and survives or whether it breaks down and is overthrown. Some of these realities, even the organisers of this workshop, from the way they have formulated its theme, seem to want to evade.

 

But, before going into all these we need to seek to clarify what political stability, in general, and the stabilisation of democracy, in particular, means in the context of our country in Africa and the world in these early years of the 21st century.

 

Political Stability

The political stability of any form of government has to involve  the stable realisation of the political essence of that form of government. The political stability of a communal gerontocracy in villages and small towns headed by elders under an age grade system, means the continuation of the exercise of power by those who have reached the appropriate age at various levels of the system. The political stability of a feudal monarchy means the continuation of the exercise of power by the heirs of the dynasty or dynasties who produce the monarch. The political stability of the type of democracy provided for in our constitution means the continuation of the exercise of power by those freely elected by the people of this country for specific periods with definite mandates which conform with the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy clearly defined in chapter II of the Constitution. The opening sections of this chapter makes this very explicit, providing that:

13.     It shall be the duty and responsibility of all organs of government , and of all authorities and persons exercising legislative executive or judicial powers, to conform to, observe and apply the provisions of this chapters of the Constitution.

 

14(i) The Federal Republic of Nigeria shall be a state based on the principles of democracy and social justice

   (2) If is hereby accordingly declared that-

        (a)    sovereignty belongs to the people of Nigeria from whom government through this Constitution derives all its powers and authority

(b)    the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government.

Therefore, the political stability of our democracy does not mean the stability of the power of any civilian elected to rule any way they want. There can only be political stability for our type of democracy if those freely elected rule in accordant with the fundamental objectives and Directive Principles of state policy and in words and decide make the security and welfare of the people the primary purpose of government.

 

Most of you elected to hold office under this Constitution who have taken solemn oaths on the Holy Koran or the Holy Bible to carry out your duties in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution like to behave as if these Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles do not exist, or if they do they are merely words intended to decorate a document whose only use is to get the soldiers out and get you into official and give you the keys to the public treasury.

 

This is why even before this democratic form of government has taken-off it is threatened with political instability. But instead of facing up to your clear constitutional responsibilities you used all sorts devices to evade them in order to rule the country, as if that is all you were elected to do.

 

Compartmentalisation

 

One of these devices is the compartmentalisation of the country into the so-called six geo-political zones, which?? This outlook has now become so pervasive that the organisers of this workshop can conceive of a serious discussion of democracy surviving, or not surviving, in six States in a federation of thirty-seven states, without any consideration of the fact that if democracy does not survive at the level of the Federal Government where sovereign power lies, it cannot survive in any part of the territory under this government.

 

This retrogressive outlook which squeezes the complex geographical, cultural, economic and political diversity of the country’s thirty-six States and seven hundred and seventy four local government areas, into six so-called geopolitical zones arose from the divide-and-rule agenda of the military dictatorship led by the late General Sani Abacha, and of its NADECO rivals, both sides of which shared an interest in reducing the political crises arising from the annulment of the June 12th presidential elections to an ethnic and regional conflict between the Yorubas and the Hausa-Fulani and between the North and the South.

 

This outlook has no basis in the actual geographical, cultural, social economic and political realities of the country. Let us take the so-called North-West Zone for example. At what level of the physical and human geography of Nigeria, does Kano, Jigawa, and Kaduna States belong to the same zone with Kebbi, Sokoto and Zamfara, and not with Yobe and Borno, in the case of Jigawa; Bauchi, and Gombe in the case of Kano; and Niger in the case of Kaduna and Kebbi? At what level of political culture, political activity and political behaviour do the inhabitants of these States belong together, more then with others? What  is the empirical evidence for this geo-political cohesion? Linguistic? Is it that these are the states where the Hausa language is predominant? Then why not call them linguistic zones and not pretend that they have some geo-political unity, separate from the others? But then can you call the North-East Zone, or the North-Central Zone or the South-South linguistic zones?

 

 

This creeping separatist mentality may be a convenient cover to promote tribalistic politics with which you can evade your Constitutional responsibilities of ensuring the security and welfare of the people because not only at the level of politics, but even at the level of the climate, the hydrology, the demography and the economy the states of the so-called North-West Zone, like those of the other zones, are so interdependent with one another and with parts of the neighbouring countries of Benin, Niger, Chad and Cameroon, that they cannot do without one another.

 

All I want to do here is to draw your attention of how wittingly or unwittingly we get our minds imprisoned by conceptions which have no basis in the realities of our existence and in the Constitution  and yet which makes  assume that we can meaningfully discuss  the survival democracy in some states of a federation and not in others and not at the level of the Federal Government.

         

Misrepresentation

Besides promoting a narrow and tribalistic political outlook this compartmentalisation allows for misleading characterisations which also allow you the elected public officers to run away from your Constitutional responsibilities. One of there characterisations, is the one found in the them of this workshop referring to these seven states as “economically weak

 

The reality on the ground is that these states are not economically weak in the context of the Nigerian Federation and of West Africa and, in fact, of  the whole of Africa. This misrepresentation arises from the myth that the Nigeria  has an oil-based economy, and the states which have no oil wells and no significant proportion of the plants of the manufacturing sector are economically weak.

 

But almost everybody knows that the states in the so-called North-West Zone are not only well endowed with vas natural and human resources for agriculture, livestock-rearing and fresh-water fisheries and a wide range of domestic crafts, extensive commercial activity.

 

The facts as is brought in Table 1, are that minerals, including petroleum have never exceeds more then 14% of Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product. Agriculture, including livestock, and fisheries in the last two decades accounts for around 40% of the GDP.  If you consider the serious limitations of the Federal Office of Statistics, the Central Bank, and the other organisation computing Nigerian economic statistics, particularly in relation to the rural economy and the vast so-called “informal sector,” in both the rural and urban economy,  the agricultural sector is likely to account for more then 50% of the country’s GDP. Out of this a significant portion comes from the states of the north-west. So how can they be “economically weak”?

 

Let us take one basic determinant of the strength of an economy  which is the capacity for the production of food. Amongst the foodstuff essential for human nutrition are proteins, derived from legumes and livestock. The states of the north-west produce over 70% of the beans produced in this country in the period 1992-1995 as Table 2, illustrate. These states have for the years 1991-1995 produced up to over 50% of the cattle , goats, and sheep,  inspected and slaughtered in the country, as Tables, 3,4, and 5 respectively bring out. These states is properly governed can double and treble this output in the next few years.

 

These states are not economically weak” therefore. They are economically backward, because even in the sub-sectors of agriculture where they are leading, like in the production of some of the most basic protein-rich, foodstuff, this strength is not reflected in the living conditions of the people of these states. And since an economy is  basically the utilisation of natural resources with  human capacity for human needs, when the living condition of a people incapacitate them that economy is backward, it is retarded, not weak.

 

Malnutrition

The gap between the resource endowment of the economy of these seven states and the living condition of their people is clearly brought out in the fact regarding the under-nourishment of children  in these states. The nutrition  health and the general welfare of the children in any society is one of the best indicators of the general living conditions of the people in that society. Here you have states which lead the rest of the country in the production of foodstuff, particularly protein-rich beans and meat, but the children of these states are much more under nourished then children in other states who are not so well-endowed. As Table 7 bring out 43.1% of children under five in Nigeria are stunted largely due to poor nutrition but the figure for the north-west is 50.4% while that of the south-east is 36.6%  and 35.6% in the south-west!

 

This is very revealing about the political economy of the states of this zone, where the children of those who produce a significant amount of the protein-rich beans and meat for the country are under-nourished and suffer from being under-weight wasting and stunting, with long-term consequences damage to their capacity education, training and for mental and manual labour in adulthood.

 

But it is not only on the area of nutrition that these states are backward, severely damaged, but also in almost all other areas of child welfare, as Table 7 illustrates with regards to prenatal care, delivery, vaccination, infant mortality under-five mortality and the occurrence of diarrhoea. Thus, the people of these states who are damaged by malnutrition, although they are major producers of food also suffer in other areas of their welfare, in spite of the fact that in terms of the revenue allocated to their local and state governments, they have not being at a disadvantage, as Tables 8, 9, and 10 bring out clearly and which you are more then familiar with.

 

Lack of Infrastructure

In the period June, 1999 to May 2000, in your first one year in office, the local and state governments of the seven states of the north-west received a total of 92.5 billion naira from the Federation Account. The local governments receiving N22.5 billion and the seven state governments receiving N30.0 billion with a total population of about 30 million this means for every single men, women, child and infant you received a total of N1,733.3 which you have solely sworn to use for their security and welfare. There are no indications in terms of their living conditions that you have used these billions of naira as you have sworn to do.

 

The fact is that far from the state of north-west being economically weak, their economy is actually well-endowed but it is very  oppressive and exploitative of the producers of the wealth.  A ruling class made up of local, states and federal government bureaucrats, military officers politicians, traditional rulers, businessmen and religious leaders has established a strangle-hold on the lives of the peasant farmers, pastoralist, traders, craftsmen, workers and artisans in these states.

 

The areas of health, water supply and education as the tables here illustrate are ones in which the rapacious role of this elite is most clearly illustrated. While as Table 11 bring out the national percentage of household with water supply from pipes and boreholes in 1993-1994 was 31/7%, it was only 26.3% in the states here. That was seven years ago. The situation is much worse now, even for our households in the most favoured areas of the GRAs. The pipe-borne water supply system has virtually collapsed in most of the major urban centres, in spite of the hundreds of billion of naira local state, and federal government funds and foreign loans allocated to waters projects now and over the years. The water situation of the majority of the people in the rural areas and the high-density urban areas is a disaster.

 

If we turn to electricity supply we find on Table 12 that while the national average of households having access to electricity in 1993/94 was 33.63% it is below half of that at 16.5% in the seven states of the north-west.

 

This economic backwardness of the state on this major economic infrastructure is not just because somebody in charge of NEPA at the parastatal, or ministerial level, from another region  has deprived  the area of electricity. For most of the last decade the top executives at the parastatal and the ministerial level and some of the biggest contractors of NEPA were from the states in the north-west! They are morally and politically responsible, together with other local government and state government top officers for this serious retardation. There is no held to go around looking for 9 Yorubaman, an Iboman or a Christian to blame!

 

Crippling Manufacturing

The backwardness of the states of the north-west is a result of the highly exploitative and parasitical activities of the section of the Nigerian ruling class dominant in these states. Their capacity and parasitism is brought out over how they have not only undermined the major industries established here like the Sokoto Cement Factory, the Kaduna Refinery, the Katsina Steel Rolling Mill and the Fiat Vehicle Assembly Plant in Kano, but they rose in arms against the P.R.P Government of Kaduna State, when in 1979-1983 it set out to establish fourteen industries in Kaduna State, some of which were agro-allied, in order to build up on the states leading role in the production of agricultural inputs into the food beverages and related industries.

 

As a result of their rapacity of the seven states of the north-west, as Table 13 reveals, had only 53 out of the 330 food and beverages industries in the whole country in 1994, which is about half of the 104 located in Lagos and Ogun states many of which rely directly on food inputs from the states of the north-west.

 

Plundering Education

The level of parasitism on the part of the rulers of this parts of Nigeria is far-reaching. For, the local, State and federal government funds allocated to this part of the country and formally assigned for educational development are systematically stolen by a highly organised education industry mafia, to the extent that the peoples of the area are some of the most educationally backward in the country.

 

The level of backwardness cannot be covered-up with the evasive tactic of calling these “educationally disadvantaged-states.” There is no question of any disadvantage as the budget of these states in educational sector makes clear. When billions of naira are allocated to education and yet the percentage of unqualified primary school teachers in 1995/96 in Katsina State was 76.31%; in Sokoto and Zamfara States it was 72.54%; 59.55% in Kebbi States; 59.18% in Jigawa States; 58.00% in Kano State and 31.02% in Kaduna State. The national average of unqualified primary school teachers is 24.05% giving Katsina, Sokoto and Zamfara States the distinction having 300% more unqualified primary school teachers then the national average. Anambra, Ogun, Osun and Oyo record on 2% of their primary teachers being unqualified!

 

These states of the north-west are clearly just backward educationally because of the rapacity, of their ruling elites, because in these states there are the institutional provisions and the funds available to train the hundreds of thousands of secondary school-leavers and College of Education drop-outs to become qualified primary school teachers. But this is not done and among the reasons is that the local and state governments and the federal agencies, want to minimise the amount of money they pay teachers and for the running of the schools. They believe these are better taken and put in their own pockets, so that  they can continue run around the country calling their states “educationally dis-advantaged,” while they are actually the most educationally-advantaged section of the Nigerian elite, since they make so much money from education!

 

Even for the Technical Colleges, for the training of bricklayers, plumbers and electricians, and such essential technicians these states which have a very poor system for apprenticeship training in the private, sector have barely 12% of the total enrolment in 1997-98, far below what they need, in terms of population, area and other resource endowments.

 

In the Senior Secondary School Certificate Examination of 1995, 44,2999 student from the seven states sat for the paper on English and only 1,185 passed, that is 2.6% passed. In mathematics the percentage that passed was 5.1% and in Physics it was only 2.5%. Out of the 4,870 who sat for Physics from Katsina State, only thirteen passed, giving it a failure rate 99.8%!

 

It is not surprising therefore, that in the UME admissions to Faculties of Agriculture of Nigerian Universities in 1998, out of 3,069 candidates admitted only 99 came from these seven largely agricultural state, which are not up to the 128 admitted to read agriculture from Lagos State, which barely had any significant agricultural sector in its economy.

 

The 3.2% admission from these states to read agriculture is about the same in engineering and environmental  technology, where out of 11,782 candidates admitted on 3.6%, that is 428 are from these seven states, less then half of the 1,167 admitted to those faculties from Imo State alone.

 

The percentages admitted from these states, into the medical science faculties and into the basic sciences were 3.9% and 2.6% respectively.

 

Table 19 reveals that this backwardness is not just in the physical and natural sciences it extends to admission into the faculties of administration, art, education, law and the social sciences.

 

The situation is equally disastrous if not even more dangerous with regards to admission into the polytechnics as Table 17 reveals. At this crucial of education essential for the training of essential middle level manpower for the economy the percentages admitted from these states for the two years 1996/97 and 1997/98 are 0.02% from Jigawa State; 0.11 from Kadna State; 0.12% from Kaduna State; 0.03% from Kebbi State; 0.005% from Sokoto and 0.004% from Zamfara State. The seven states had only 0.31% of the admissions in that year!

         

Conclusion

The seven states of the north-west are not economically weak and educationally disadvantaged. They are economically exploited and educationally plundered. Their people are held in the grip of an oppressive system which rapidly enriches those in power and authority in the public and private sectors and impoverishes and dispowers the majority of the citizens. This process of the enrichment of the few and the impoverishment of the many generates resentments, insecurity and violence. The attempt to channel the resentments away from the rich and powerful who are actually responsible for it, and direct it to take the form of communal ethnic, religious and regional hatreds and phobias, entrendies a particular type politics, most easily described as the politics of fear. This type of politics seriously retards the growth of civic consciousness and civic responsibility necessary fro democratic political activity to grow and survive, because it turns politics into a jungle with predator and prey and not an activity by citizens contesting and cooperating in working out the best way of running their affairs.

 

This type of politics has to be oiled with vast amount of money largely acquired illegally and is therefore/inherently subversive of the rule of law and the supremacy of the Constitution. It s inimical to any form of stability, particularly democratic stability as provided for in our Constitution.

 

The choice before you, the elected public officer shouldering the responsibility for ensuring the growth and survival of democracy in our country is stark. You either go ahead with this type of politics and see this form of democratic government collapse on top of you with all the dire consequences to your limbs, lives and property, or you change course and follow, in your own interest the difficult path of genuinely democratic politics as provided for in the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of the Constitution. You have solemnly sworn to uphold and defend.


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