The Failed State Index(FSI) report is definitely one of the most relevant policy reports in the world. It rates states on a number of criteria that ought to depict strength, weaknesses, tension points and overall performance. In a closely knit and globalizing world, the failings of just a single country may send reverberating shock waves all over the globe. There is the growing recognition that conflicts in places such as Sudan, Somalia, the Middle East and elsewhere have international effect and hardly remain local problems. This recognition has spurred stronger and more stable government around the world to take action, be it diplomatic, financial or military efforts, to correct the ills of weak states.
Several scholarly works have been published which depict strong links between failed states and global insecurity. Usually, weak and failed states become havens for gun dealers, terrorists, drug dealers, or homes to the world’s hungriest, poorest, and most deprived peoples. It is either there is a direct security or socioeconomic threat and these are sufficient tension points for a world that is already tense from uncertain, shifting intentions and priorities flying back and forth.
Indeed, the United States has acted on this premise emphatically since 2001 in its bid to root out global terrorism and other forms of international criminal networks. The U.S pays special attention to stressed, weak and failing states as they may evolve into sources of global threats. This is not peculiar to the United States. It is what every stable state watches out for. Even relatively weaker states are acutely concerned for the welfare of their neighbouring states, knowing fully well the scourge of thin borders in the case of full scale ‘local’ conflicts.
The current report which depicts state performance for 2012 shows that Nigeria is in a critical zone. Nigeria is 16th, and is ranked more critical than Syria, 21st, and North Korea, 23rd. While this rating may prove to be unpopular with a lot of Nigerians, particularly in comparison with obviously stressed states like Syria and North Korea which are both under international sanctions, it still holds some value for Nigeria’s policy makers. These ratings are ‘scientifically’ derived. This does not exclude mistakes but whatever the error margin is, the laboratory shows that Nigeria is indeed in a critical position.
Weighted on twelve key indicators, Nigeria scored poorly especially in demographic pressure (8.5), group grievance (9.8), uneven development (9.2), public services (9.3) and security apparatus (9.5). Other indicators are refugees (6.6), human flight (7.3), economic decline (7.5), delegitimization of the state (8.8), human right (8.6), factionalized elite (9.4) and external intervention (6.3).
It is no coincidence that this rather poor picture has fuelled and is fuelled further by home grown terrorists, militants, ethnic and religious conflicts, etc. To spell it out clearly, this report claims that
¤Nigeria is in a more difficult security state than Syria;
¤Nigeria’s economy is stressed;
¤The standard of living is quite low and vexing.
This is the kind of picture that scares away scientific minded investors and security conscious tourists, as well as triggers human capital flight.
My initial response was denial. But that does not solve a thing. Neither would accepting this report as our present reality. Remember, this report records 2012 performance. Though the time lag does not inspire much confidence that the situation might have changed considering the conflict in the north and an agitated south, that the Nigerian government considers the report and factors it into its policy structure is a good sign. The release of the each failed state index since its inception has always provoked public debate and governance accounting. It is usually a time to sit up tight and deliver on the promises.
The Chinese word for ‘challenges’ could also mean ‘opportunities’. And that’s what we have here in Nigeria. A new wave is going all over the country. It’s a wave of political awareness, enlightenment, a will to be involved in society and make a change. The government keeps seeking ways to tap into this and improve the lives of the citizens. While the results may take a while to take shape, some other facts that the FSI does not exactly tell is that the Nigerian market is still expanding and it is still a long way from reaching maximum elasticity. This means that there is still more space for investors and new corporations. Indeed, while most economies in the more stable West have slowed down, Nigeria’s economy has posted higher economic growth rates, and keeps attracting capital.
The Federal government has intensified efforts to quell the insurgency in the North, to open up more political space, and to improve human rights record.
Now that we have this international report, we could merge this with our own national appraisals and move on from here.