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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Discourse 323. A Day With Fukuyama

Discourse 323
By Dr. Aliyu U. Tilde

A Day With Fukuyama

Nigeria is today counted among failed states. Early in his tenure, President Obama was said to privately dismiss the country as a failed state, an assessment that prompted his preference for Ghana as the venue to declare his short but eloquent prescription for the largely failed African continent: “Africa needs strong institutions, not strong leaders.”

On a more impersonal level, the Failed States Index published by Foreign Relations of the United State Department of State has been listing Nigeria among failed states since its debut in 2005. In 2011, Nigeria maintained its 14th position as in 2010 largely as a result of its whopping deficit in provision of basic public services that a state should deliver to its citizens.

However, our notorious position is beginning to be hailed even in academic circles, beyond the political environs of foreign offices. Nowhere was I alerted to this fact than in the latest publication of the renowned American political scientist, Francis Fukuyama, The Origins of Political Order (2011). In the early pages of the book, the reader finds Fukuyama listing Nigeria along with Somalia, Haiti, Iraq, Afghanistan, as failed nations that “everyone would like to figure out how to transform…into ‘Denmark’… stable, democratic, peaceful, prosperous, inclusive and has extremely low level of political corruption.” (Pg. 14).

Only two paragraphs earlier, Fukuyama has described sub-Saharan African countries as libertarian paradise, “the kinds of minimal or no-government societies envisioned by dreamers of the Left and Right.” The region as a whole region, generalized the author,

“is a low tax utopia, with governments often unable to collect more than about 10 percent of GDP in taxes compared to more than 30 percent in the United states and 50 percent in parts of Europe…basic public services, like health, education, and pothole filling are starved of funding…”

The two best illustrations of those “kinds of minimal or no-government societies that Fukuyama could find among the failed states in the region were Somalia and – again – Nigeria.

Fukuyama’s voluminous The Origins is a must read. From his thesis, one understands that Nigerians’ retrogression into primordial cleavages of tribe and religion is a standard reaction of humanity wherever political decay has set in as the society gets stuck in “dysfunctional institutional equilibrium.” Our preference to members of our tribes and families than to the wider interest of the Nigerian nation is precisely the expected response of people living where higher social institutions fail:

“Inclusive fitness (kin selection) and reciprocal fitness…may be regarded as default form of social organization. The tendency to favor family and friends can be overridden by new rules and incentives that mandate, for example, hiring a qualified individual rather than a family member. But the higher-level institutions are in some sense quite unnatural, and when they break down, humans revert to the earlier form of sociability.”

Nigeria has inarguably returned to that primitive level of sociability. I doubt in the near future the good old days of merit would return. Our preference today is clearly for the family or tribe member (nepotism), a person we are indebted to in one way or another (reciprocal altruism) or a member of our religion.

The retrogression plague has eaten deep into our psyche. Today, not a single issue would be raised without beneficiaries of our state of decay infusing it with those primordial sentiments. We fail even to see crimes against Nigerians as crimes so long as they do not touch our own. When the military evidently stepped beyond their bounds and carried out atrocities that resulted in the depopulation of Maiduguri early last week, many people sounded not only indifferent but were eager to ridicule the rationale of any protest against the atrocities. The debate over Islamic Banking also smacks of the same depressed psyche. An American friend whomisman expert on Nigeria told me that his heart sunk after reading the press release against the interest-free banking by leaders of the Christian Association of Nigeria. Also, it was not quite a while when we saw during the last presidential election how the country was sharply divided along ethnic and religious lines. Credibility was thrown away in favour of religion and ethnicity. This sad trend, unless checked, is likely to remain for generations to come.

We daily lament on our decay but evidently we deliberately work to entrench it. We may continue on this road but we cannot avoid its consequences. Under such circumstances, violence in form of ethnic and religious crises – including Boko Haram – will continue to be commonplace. It represents the symptoms of our accelerating decomposition. At the same time it is the manifestation for the need for institutional change. Fukuyama:

“Politics emerges as a mechanism for controlling violence, yet violence constantly remains as a background condition for certain types of political change. Societies can get stuck in a dysfunctional institutional equilibrium in which existing stakeholders can veto necessary institutional change. Sometimes violence or the threat of violence is necessary to break out of the equilibrium.” (Pg. 45)

Toeing this line, many concerned Nigerians have at various times expressed the desire for structural change. They see the diminishing return in governance to be as a result of the tragedy of the commons. If only the Nigeria is disbanded into new nations based identities of tribe or religion, its people would be better governed.

Thus, the nostalgia of reverting to life under the former three regions has dominated the debate. Biafra, representing Igbo interest, was and is still the voice to reckon with in the Southeast. The passion for its reincarnation remains high. The Afenifere cultural group lays claim to a separate government for Yoruba ‘race’ in the Southwest. Recently, the South-south has found a voice in MEND for the control of its resources to the exclusion of the remaining ‘parasites’ in the country. Its intention to secede is widely speculated. From the North is the Middle Belt movement representing the non-Muslim minority groups there who would live happily once emancipated from the dominance of their Muslim Hausa-Fulani neighbours. Finally, the araba sentiment of the 1966 has been rekindled in the Muslim North itself as rising increasing religious influence and feeling of its political alienation from the rest of the country in the aftermath of last elections. The voice of unity and progress from the nationalist that echoed loudly in the 1970s seem to be lost by the cacophony of these agitations.

However, there is no guarantee that even if the new entities that would emerge after the de-amalgamation of the country would be different from the present. If separation is based on the primordial instinct of kinship, further instability as a result of lineal differences is very likely to stage a comeback. In short, Nigerians should not trust kinship. Fukuyama, once more:

“While segments can aggregate at a high level, they are prone to immediate fissioning once the cause of their union (such as external threat) disappears. The possibility of multilevel segmentation is seen in many different tribal societies and is reflected in the Arab saying, “Me against my brother, me and my brother against my cousin, me and my cousin against the stranger.” (Pg. 58)

Learning from the studies of E. E. Evans-Pritchard’s studies of the Nuer people of Southern Sudan which Fukuyama cited to illustrate this point, one can easily see how our present hope is not founded on better basis than the kinship basis that drove our African independence movement. 'Africa for Africans' was the common 'nationalist' dictum throughout the continent against the ‘white’ colonialists.

However, immediately after the departure of the British from Nigeria, for example, as in all other parts of sub-Saharan Africa, the ‘fictive kinship’ of the anthropologist overtook national interest, leading to civil wars in many countries, many of which are still claiming lives unabated. One would need some thinking before counting 15 African countries that have not gone through the hell of civil war. Nepotism became the order of the day, resulting in the gross underdevelopment of the continent to the extent that many people, including many scholars, today lament the departure of the 'white' man. Given our failed state, only an undeserved self-pride would prevent us from welcoming the 'white man' were he to knock on our doors today. Or is he here already in hue name of privatization and aid agencies?

In the same vein, the presence of other regions in today’s Nigeria may serve as a catalyst for de-amalgamation. But it is utopian to think that more stable nations will emerge there from. The risk of failure cannot be ruled put even in the homogenous Southwest and Southeast. "Me against my brother..." As for the Northern part of the country – the Middle Belt and the North – their catalysts cannot be kinship but a compound of different chemistry: religion.

Though Christianity and Islam has helped to forge social cohesion at levels higher than the tribe in Europe and Muslim World respectively, they woefully failed to protect such societies against the primordial instincts once institutional structures they built became dysfunctional. Europe cannot count its inter-faith wars until it decided to shut religion entirely from its politics. The same thing with the Muslim World. No sooner did the initial four caliphs passed away than the Ummah became divided and continued fighting civil wars until the caliphate was abolished by Attaturk in the early 20th Century.

So religious harmony would not guarantee stability among people given to decay due to the strong sectarian nature of religion. Thus Somalia, the consistent gold medalist on the Failed Nation Index, is not only struggling with clannish differences but also, most recently, with sectarian ones between sufis and the Wahabbi al-Shabab. The Muslim North in Nigeria would likely be prone to instability from such differences too. Boko Haram is here as an undeniable example. There will be many similar puritanical organizations in the new North that may launch a ‘Jihad’ against other Muslims whom they already declared infidels. "Somalia", in the words of a contributor in one of the Northern Internet fora, "is not distant from my sight."

The would be emancipated Middle Belt nation will have both factors – tribe and religion – to contend with. There is no end to its diversity. The differences could be an advantage in forming a pluralistic society or a disadvantage that would engulf the state into ceaseless inter-ethnic crisis similar to the ones the region has witnessed during the past two decades - including the one fought just last week between Mumuyes and Jukun in Taraba State that has left many dead.

Agitation of the South-south is based on its oil - its sharing and environmental impact. Unless its leaders acquire wisdom superior to the one they portray today, differences between various tribes and the capriciousness of its elites may become the ingredients for instability. The scramble may produce the worst case scenario.

I am not a prophet of doom. Citizens of the different nations to emerge may show a propensity for mutual tolerance and transparency better than what they exhibit presently as Nigerians. They may prove both the anthropologists and the political scientists wrong in the absence of ‘the other Nigerian’, when the tragedy of the common disappears. That not withstanding, personally, I will not squander my hope.

If there are sufficient Nigerians ready to make the present nation work as it is I will not hesitate to join them rather than consigning my fate to the unknown, a priori. At least I have a feeling of the problems of the present and there is a consensus that what is needed is a credible leadership that will oversee the overhauling of our institutions. Our differences are not insurmountable. They could be addressed to the reasonable satisfaction of all under the tutelage of a charismatic and competent leadership, a Gorbachev if necessary. Though the probability of such a leadership may not be high especially if we insist on its emergence through the present counterfeit democracy, the pain of waiting for it is mild compared to the long suffering in conflict ridden new nations.

How that vanguard would emerge and compel the necessary reform of political institutions remains a serious challenge to well-meaning Nigerians who, though many, are yet to cross the borders of their ethnic and religious divides, catalogue the grievances of each section, brainstorm over their solution and submit it to Nigerians for adoption through the most effective means possible. Thus, our problems of scale and its diminishing return on governance can be addressed without resorting to primitive cleavages that guarantee further suffering in most of the emerging entities.

This is my distillation of our situation as informed by my one day companionship with The Origins. It has provided me with sufficient reason for caution against the consequences of breaking up our country based on tribal and religious sentiments. It has instigated the desire in me to look for Nigerians with whom I would partner for the emergence of a future Nigeria, perhaps of different configuration, that would be quickly expelled from the league of failed states.

I am ready to be a foot soldier of any commander to this cause.


19 July 2011


Bashir said...

Doctor This is indeed an excellent and fine analysis. And reads very well! It really resonates with me. I hope we will have more foot soldiers in this recruitment drive.

Anonymous said...

May your tribe increase...

Maryam said...

I am a Nigerian, first, of northern origin after. i am exasperated at the way things are going; i stand with you.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Your writeup is marvellous continue educating the nation on the dangers ahead only ALLAH will reward you. From Wudil

Ghali said...

I find the following article by Dr Aliyu Tilde which I can summarise as "the present day Nigeria, reality on ground" both interesting and thought provoking.

Naturally, I would not like to agree with the summation in the article that Nigeria is already in the league of failed states like Somalia and Haiti. This is because the country/government is still able to hold certain institutions in place (arguably, though), which is not the case in Somalia and Haiti.

However, if looking at the current situation in our dear country from this perspective would provide the necessary impetus for engineering the emergence of a new Nigeria of our dream (devoid of high level corruption, insecurity, ethnic cleaning, dysfunctional institutions, etc.), then the summation is worthy of deep thought and consideration. In order to contextualise Dr Tilde's message, I will highly recommend the reading of the book quoted in the article, "The Origin of Political Order" by Francis Fukuyama, 2011. Profile Books Ltd, London.

The big question is where and how do we begin this challenging, but achievable journey? Perhaps the students of political science and contemporary history may give us some hints from countries that have in the past successfully persevere through similar journey of self actualisation. Like Dr. Tilde, please count me as a ready supporter and active follower to any leader to this cause.

How about you?

Shariff Ghali

aakankia said...

Somalia is a failed state in spite of the fact that it has a manageable population made UP of people as homogeneous as the word can get, single tribe and single religion. Paradoxically, India on the other hand with the second largest population in the world (10 times that of Nigeria) and ethnic divisions doubled that of Nigeria, is a power to recon with in world economy and politics.

Ja'afar said...

It is a pity, the harm has already been made on Nigeria as a nation possibly engineered by external influence of forces that saw the so call failed state to their knees. Nonetheless, count me in on this crusade.

Anonymous said...

Dunnit again Dr., Count me in! But how do we get the lead? I provide a food for thought for people like you who can deeply reflect lest we may come up with a solution, as follows: The Nigerian similitude is like a large, beautifully coloured, and sweet colanut which has been riddled by warms (Ka san tsutsa bata cin goron banza). To derive its benefits, one has to surgically cut-off a reasonal portion of it from either direction.

Point of reflection:
Which part should precisely be cut-off and by Who?

This is the single most important decision that should be made to ammend Nigeria.

Please DO NOT WAIVER, Keep-on Creating Awareness Until That Time!

Anonymous said...

Well the truth is that the brand of islam obtainable in the north of Nigeria is violent and a distabilizing factor. Stop this and all the calls for separation will fizzle out.Ilamic intellectuals like you should learn to call a spade a spade to enable this country maintain stability.

Anonymous said...

In respnose to one of the Anonymous that the only problem is with the brand of Islam in the north - Again some people do not seem to get it, instead of joining this new movement they have started making sectional blame, remember the Afenifere/NADECO calls for Oduduwa republic in the 90s and the MENDs call for separation in the last 2 decades all predated the Boko Haram thing in the north. We should all own to the current situation in Nigeria and move to change it, rather casting blame on other sections.
Dr Tilde please forge ahead to recruit new Nigeirans of all divide towards this New Nigeria

Zakariya said...

This is a beautiful and realistic piece of analysis and true meaning Nigerian should suscribe to it.

Dantala said...

Well written article. I have started a facebook page- Nigeriansforchange"and blog "Nigeriansforchange"

it is time to start the walking instead of talking. join me at the facebook page or blog so that we start teh change process

MISADDIQ said...

I like the depth of the analysis you made and agree with your position that the pain of waiting for the kind of leadership that Nigeria needs “is mild compared to the long suffering in conflict ridden new nations”. However, my contention is with your premise summarised in the quote you made of Obama’s speech during his visit to Ghana - “Africa needs strong institutions, not strong leaders.” Your concluding remarks indeed contradict this position when you stated that “[o]ur differences are not insurmountable. They could be addressed to the reasonable satisfaction of all under the tutelage of a charismatic and competent leadership, a Gorbachev if necessary”. There can be no robust argument for the need for stronger leaders than this statement.

Kabeer M A said...

Fukuyama is right; Nigeria is a failed state. A country that cannot provide simple basic amenities to its citizens in spite of its enormous oil wealth is definitely a failed state!

Rabia said...

Making Nigeria work is a collective responsibility and all must be interested in the crusade. While most of us that read your articles are from the North and agree that we need to be above our primordal seniments,we MUST reach out to like minds across the bridge to be part of re-engineering Nigeria. I am sure there are many who share our aspirations but if the call is coming from our divide,we may be misunderstood.

Anonymous said...



Dr. Aliyu U. Tilde said...

The strong leadership we need is the one that will have the courage to strengthen the institutions - which we already have but in a state of decay - through rule of law and the necessary reforms, including the manner the country is configured if necessary. However, I envisaged the necessity for dismemberment only as a last resort, when we are convinced that sustained development - given our poor leadership skills - is not tenable with the large size of the population or when the majority - which could be just a vocal and the most influential minority - insists on dismemberment.

We live in a democracy. Emphasis on the leader is misleading. Soon after his tenure his successor may not be as good. Hence, reliance on strong institutions is best guarantee to development. This is what i understand from Obama's statement. We saw that in Rawlings. A strong leader therefore is just a temporary measure for the expedience of this moment of decay. In succeeding articles, we will have the opportunity to elaborate on this

Emeka said...

Dr. as always thank you for the enlightenment.This article is a vindication of my earlier conviction that " Nigeria cannot, will not,will never survive in its present form" I am also a strong believer that no single unit can survive successfully on its own.

Inasmuch as a greater percentage of us will like Nigeria to survive, we must also take into account that so much harm has been done on the psyche of ordinary Nigerian who bared the brunt of most the violence to humanity.

How do we go about removing religion from our lives so that we can reason like humans. Every third person in Nigeria is a pastor/Iman or born again, with an impeded sense of justice or fairness.

How do we reconcile those whose lives have been destroyed or torn apart with their perpetrators. Do Nigerians have the capacity to forgive? Can we trust each other again?

What lesson/s have we learned from Oputa panel? We must face the bitter truth, we all know where the problem is, we just do not have the government with the will power to make the necessary changes.

Dr. Tilde, I share your ideas on this, but where do we start?

MISADDIQ said...

Emeka, you touched on the heart of the matter when you said 'Can we trust each other again?'. Trust deficit is at the centre of all the problems we face and I guess that's the starting point. How do you build trust?

Dantala said...

I suggest we start as a small group and through word of mouth we will build a critical mass. Our actions and our dids shold be in line with the values we all belive in. The facebook page could be a start

Sarkiyaki Mohammed said...

Many asked where do we start, to me we have started already. All we need now is sustainable build up. As I said earlier, almost everything we do seems insignificant, but it is important we it for the change of the world starts with an insignificant action.
Having said that, I want us to look at the solution from the software development perspectives. By using Dependency Injection and Inversion of Control techniques to solve most sophisticated user defined problems.
These two techniques are used to decouple highly depended components such as ours.
We can use these techniques as follows:
1. Establish a small group by whatever name but with a clear defined goal of restructuring Nigeria.
2. Separate Users (the group) from the problem domain
3. The group should be loosely coupled – None is indispensable.
4. Decouple execution of tasks – by dis integrating the big problem of ethnicity and religion into smaller components and analyze.
5. The group should also use the Hollywood principle of “Do not call us we will call you” in their dealing with others otherwise they will be bogged down with smaller problems leaving the bigger ones unsolved.
Please note that the above may not make any meaning to many and may never be useful but the aim is to trigger lateral and creative thinking from others who may proffer the dare need ideas we urgently require.
Please Dr, count me in as one of the supporters of restructuring Nigeria. May Almighty Allah help us. Amin

Dr. Aliyu U. Tilde said...

I hereby publish some comments from Sahara Reporters

Submitted by Straight Talk (not verified) on July 20, 2011 - 13:34.

For how long will Africa and its people continue to believe, munch, swallow hook, line and sinker everything that comes from the West just as expressed by this author (Tilde)..America will only tell what they want others to hear from their perspective. why bank on a report from a foreign land to determine your fate in your homeland..the recent inability of the U.S Govt to settle her debt is enough to open your eyes to all these hypocritical stands of the West..Portugal, Greece to mention few are in deep financial crisis yet they never seen as failed...If the Nigerian State is to tax her citizen just as it's been done in U.S and some Europe, do u think you can survive?..there are countries of Zero taxation yet robust GDP (Qatar is a good example)..Please let's embrace what we have and depend less on the foreign agencies for all those negatively skewed statistics, it's a way of controlling the Govt and its People for Continuous exploitation..God bless Nigeria, God bless Africa!


Submitted by aremu (not verified) on July 20, 2011 - 12:48.

all these big grammar because southerners are complaining of being killed in the north...


Submitted by K.I.S (not verified) on July 20, 2011 - 09:28.

Better if "good leaders" can somehow emerge who will have the will to stop the rot in present Nigeria. We have such people in our midst. People who have achieved significantly in prior assignments. Not that they are angels and free from faults but if a critical mass of them can get hold of the reigns of govt.....

My list of such people includes Fashola, Ngige, El Rufai, Ribadu, Iweala, Col Umar, Oby Ezekwesili, Fola Adeola, Aregbesola, Audu Ogbeh and such kindred spirits. They should give us a breath of fresh air and direct our gaze upon a vision of future greatness. They will harness our strenghts and redirect our energies. One of them should be president while others serve as VP, Senate president, House speaker, Governors etc. The important thing is to have a critical mass of them present and acting together.

But if the alternative is a continuation of Nigeria in its present state then break up is preferable (even with all its uncertainties).

Submitted by K.I.S (not verified) on July 20, 2011 - 09:08.

I am a virulent, angry and unremitting critic of the state of Nigeria today but, even so, I honestly believe the country should remain one. Your forecast of what may happen after break up is spot on. The core north will surely splinter into a warring, poverty striken, cacophony of strife as your internal contradictions catch up with you. Chad and Niger is the fate that awaits you. The Yoruba in their effete degeneracy, foolish arrogance and mutual hatred will quickly return to pre colonial intra Yoruba civil war (as happened in first republic). The individualistic Igbo can not cooperate for long over anything. Niger Delta republic will be a joke; they will fritter away their oil proceeds drinking burukutu with loin clothes around their waist (see Jonathan's profligacy and his penchant for expensive parties. He is determined to catch up on the good times he missed while growing up

Submitted by A (not verified) on July 20, 2011 - 05:48.

Dr Tilde,you must be honest and sincere in the things you say.I tell you today,that you are one of those Nigerians in the forefront of promoting ethnic,religious,regional sentiments in Nigeria.Most of your articles suggest so.


Submitted by Jaja (not verified) on July 20, 2011 - 02:53.
Change must come. I am solidly behind you Dr., under the leadership and supervision of a competent commander.Long live the Peoples Republic of Nigeria.


Submitted by Wähala (not verified) on July 20, 2011 - 00:19.

´Not entirely true but Naija is heading South.

Dr. Aliyu U. Tilde said...

Submitted by James (not verified) on July 20, 2011 - 16:03.

I agree with you that Dr. Tilde may pretend and deceive himself that he is a detribalised neutral Nigerian but he is not. His discourses, put together betray him as a typical (standard) Nigerian who promotes self (by region, tribe & religion) above the country. He happens to be different only in intellectual endowment.

Dr. Aliyu U. Tilde said...

Mr. James. Thank you for the compliment on intellectual endowment which i find a bit undeserving. I am glad also that I am not blessed with the hypocrisy of the detrabilized Nigerian who, in view of the benefits he derives from our failed state, would fail to tell the truth if it will impair the feelings of people from tribes, regions and religions other than his own. I am undeniably a product of my tribe, my religion, my region and the little education I was able to acquire. But, happily, none of these hinders me from being fair to others or telling the truth against mine. A better Nigeria will not be a utopia where these differences are buried completely. Rather, it should be a nation of various peoples, religions and regions that upholds the principles of fairness to every citizen, in spite of those differences, without exploiting them to mete injustice against any.

Abubakar Bala Garba Muri said...

Another one from patriotic Nigerian. Sir, we are with you, go ahead with the initiative you are the commander, not a foot soldier we are with you, not behind you. The write up is fantastic; more ink to your pen this book from Yoshihiro Francis Fukuyama, it called for sober reflection on the state of our dear country, how I wish the publication will receive widest circulation so that more people will read and understand the message.

Laubare said...

Dr since the beginning of this democratic dispensation precisely when Hausa clash with Yoruba in Shagamu i foresee this type of scenario. I still bleed as i am seeing people carrying the nation towards doom. Allah knows best.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Tilde this is a good one as always. I am convinced that the de - amalgamation of Nigeria is not a recipe for regional / tribal progress. I know because as the analysis states, when the common enemy is gone, we shall turn on each other in our various enclaves. To buttress my point, some of the the people that have done some of the worst things to me have been my own family people! The stifling federation that we have will also not propel us to real national development. We therefore need to talk and people like Dr. Aliyu Tilde have a bounden duty to educate people on the need to have a national review conference to smooth out rough edges in our national life; to remove the millstones we have tied around our legs and expect to swim.

'Mma Okezie

habiba said...

Consider me a foot soldier for the cause.
As for you Aremu,u r definitely among those who dont wish Nigeria well...ur hatred is palpable,but remember Bola Ige...

Anonymous said...

I am distressed take the predicament in Syria!