CRISIS OF STATE AND CHALLENGES OF DEVELOPMENT IN NIGERIA (1)
(As published in the Nigerian Tribune of 30/05/2023)
On May 19, 2023, I was in the midst of lecturers and the cream of the academic community in far-away Jos, Plateau State, to share my thoughts on the above topic. It was very engaging and I seek to share it with you.
In the preamble to the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) (‘the 1999 CFRN’) the foundation of the existence of the entity called ‘Federal Republic Nigeria’ is captured as follows:
“WE THE PEOPLE of the Federal Republic of Nigeria: having firmly and solemnly resolved: TO LIVE in unity and harmony as one indivisible and indissoluble Sovereign Nation under God dedicated to the promotion of inter-African solidarity, world peace, international cooperation and understanding: AND TO PROVIDE for a Constitution for the purpose of promoting the good government and welfare of all persons in our country on the principles of Freedom, Equality and Justice, and for the purpose of consolidating the Unity of our people: DO HEREBY MAKE, ENACT AND GIVE TO OURSELVES the following Constitution.”
The aforesaid preamble is a typical reflection of the social contract theory in its most basic form – whereby people live together in society, in accordance with an agreement that establishes moral, political and legal rules of behavior. Philosophers like the prominent Thomas Hobbes, John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau adopted the social contract theory as the main emergence/ origin of a State. It was assumed that due to the existence of a primitive, pre-civil condition of humanity, where there was no such things as right or wrong, no justice or injustice but a default state of mankind where life was nasty, brutish and short, there was need to escape from this default state by using a contract, pact, or covenant (express or implied) between each individual and his fellows, by which each surrendered his natural right to do as he pleased and received in exchange civil rights, that is, rights created and protected by the State.
In doing justice to this discourse one must endeavor to address the main key terms in this topic for proper perspective – which are ‘Crisis’, ‘State’ and ‘Development’.
The term ‘crisis’ generally used in a loose way covers a variety of meanings. In lay language, a crisis is usually equated with disaster, an environmental event which poses an external threat. The Britannica (online) Dictionary defines crisis as a difficult situation that needs serious attention. The Collins Dictionary describes a crisis as a situation in which someone or something is affected by one or more very serious problems. The Oxford Learners’ Dictionary defines it as a time of great danger, difficulty, or confusion when problems must be solved or important decisions must be made. In the simplest term, crisis means ‘an upset in a steady state’. No other time has our nation witnessed a crisis of monumental dimensions than the present situation foisted upon us by the greedy political elite. And it is a major crisis of leadership. As the saying goes, the fish rots from the head, so once the leadership is barren and empty, it will trickle down to all other sectors of our national life.
The word “State” conveys different meanings in different circumstances. In international law and the present context, it means a nation with full status of Statehood, as a sovereign entity. A STATE is a community of persons, more or less numerous, occupying a definite territory, bound by their laws, possessing an organized and legitimate government; and enjoying independence from external control. The four elements of a state are therefore (i) People, (ii) Defined Territory, (iii) Government and (iv) Sovereignty. Nigeria is thus a State in this context recognized by other State-actors at the international scene.
Development is a relative concept. It is however possible to arrive at some specific indicators of development that are widely acceptable. In every society, there are minimum expectations which all members share. These include access to functional health facilities, access to safe drinking water, universal qualitative education, and equal opportunity for all members in public affairs where competition based on merit is upheld over and above other considerations. All these are universal values that transcend cultural and political boundaries. Applied to human societies, development refers to a state, condition or stage, which entails positive transformation in both quantity and quality of life for all members of a particular society. Where there is corresponding decline or retrogression in the quality of life for a significant portion of the population, it is described as the state of under-development. One can therefore observe that development in this discourse means “quantitative growth, qualitative improvement, and expansion in the capabilities, capacities, and choices of individuals, groups or states”.
Some fundamental socio-economic and political questions are used as indices in measuring development in a State. The questions one must ask about a country in measuring its development include: What has been happening to poverty? What has been happening to unemployment? What has been happening to inequality and rule of law? If all three of these have declined from higher rates/ levels, then beyond doubt this has been a period of development for the country concerned. On the other hand, where these problems have been growing worse, especially if all three have, it would be strange to call the result “development”.
From the above, it is not rocket science to place where we lie as a country on measurement of our development. As found in the World Bank report “A Better Future for All Nigerians: Nigeria Poverty Assessment 2022”, ravaging inflation, sluggish economic growth, low human capital, labor market weaknesses, and exposure to shocks are holding Nigeria’s poverty reduction back. It says as many as 4 out of 10 Nigerians live below the National poverty line. Meanwhile, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBC) as of November 2022 the unemployment index rate had increased from 29.7% to 34.9%.
THE BASIS OF THE CRISIS IN THE NIGERIAN STATE
This being a gathering of foremost intellectuals in the land, permits me to delve a little into the area of education. Even the Bible is clear when it states in Hosea 4:6 that the absence of knowledge leads to destruction, which I am sure is also replicated in other faith books and doctrines. Education is key to development and in discussing the crisis of development, we must situate it within development in education.
‘Education’ and ‘Educational Development’
The term ‘education’ is a very familiar term to us. According to Merriam Webster dictionary, education is the action or process of educating or of being educated or it is the knowledge and development resulting from the process of being educated. Cambridge dictionary sees education as the process of teaching or learning, especially in a school or college, or the knowledge that you get from this. Wikipedia however has a broader definition: “Education is a purposeful activity directed at achieving certain aims, such as transmitting knowledge or fostering skills and character traits.” Education can thus be referred to as a process by which an individual acquires any physical and social capability demanded by the society in which he or she is born or functions. In another word, education is the acquisition of knowledge and skills by those who pursue it to become capable people ready and able to contribute to the welfare of their families, communities and country. Education is therefore not an end in itself but a means to an end.
‘Stakeholder’ in Educational Development
In general terms, stakeholders are any group or individual who can affect or are/is affected by the achievement or loss of any process or project. They can also be referred to as those groups who are vital to the survival or success of any given assignment. So, in terms of education, a stakeholder is someone who has a vested interest in the success and welfare of a school or education system. This includes all parties that are directly affected by the success or failure of an educational system, as well as those indirectly affected. Having the aforesaid background, the list of stakeholders in educational development is non-exhaustive. Stakeholders in this regard include and not limited to the following:
(1) The Government, (2) School/ Learning Institutions
(3) Parents/ Guardians, (4) The Students
(5) Political Parties and Pressure Groups, (6) Trade Unions
(7) Non-Governmental Organizations, ( Alumni-associations
(9) Private Sector/ Employer of Labour, (10) Religious bodies
(11) Local, Regional and International development agencies
(12) The Community/ Society.
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