Last Saturday, May 29, 2021, marked the 22nd anniversary of Nigeria’s Fourth Republic. Recall that the period between 1999 and now is classified as the Fourth Republic. From October 1, 1960 to January 15, 1966 when Nigeria recorded the first military coup d’état is regarded as the First Republic; October 1, 1979 to December 31, 1983 is the Second Republic while the elongated transition period of 1990 to June 23, 1993, when the June 12 presidential election was annulled, is regarded as the aborted Third Republic.
It was a republic that was truncated because while all other governance structures had been filled with elected representatives of the people, there was no president inaugurated after the election turned inconclusive.
How has governance been in Nigeria in the last 22 years? Topsy-turvy, I must say. Yes, we run a multi-party democracy and have had successful elections as and when due. Six general elections have been held by the Independent National Electoral Commission in 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011, 2015 and 2019 with numerous bye-elections, court-ordered re-run elections, off-cycle governorship elections as well as supplementary elections to conclude inconclusive polls. It is important to note that the quality of our elections has been improving even though it is not yet satisfactory largely due to the obduracy of the political class who uses underhand tactics of voter inducement and election violence to win at all cost.
In the last 22 years, Nigeria has witnessed an uninterrupted civil rule, the first time since political independence in 1960. We have had two parties ruling at the federal level, namely, the Peoples Democratic Party that governed for 16 years and the All Progressives Congress, that has been in the saddle for six years now. Also, Nigeria has had four presidents: Olusegun Obasanjo, Umaru Yar’Adua, Goodluck Jonathan and the incumbent, Muhammadu Buhari. Despite agitations for more states, the country has remained a 36-state political structure while the 768 Local Governments and six Area Councils of the Federal Capital Territory have been tinkered with in several states as some governors have sponsored bills in their state Houses of Assembly to create several Local Council Development Areas supposedly to bring governance and development closer to the community level.
Thus, Nigeria continues to have three tiers and three arms of government. The three arms being the executive, legislature and judiciary. The inter-relatedness of governance in Nigeria is such that both the arms and tiers of government depend on one another for efficiency and effectiveness. There is separation of powers just as there are checks and balances to check the excesses of any of the arms and tiers. For instance, states as individual and as a collective have had instances to take Federal Government to court over governance matters. I recall that in 2002 or thereabout, the Lagos State Government took the Federal Government to court over the seizure of local government subventions after the Governor Bola Tinubu administration created additional 37 LCDAs to complement the 20 constitutionally backed ones in the state. The state government defeated the Federal Government in that case. The Nigeria Governors’ Forum has also challenged the Federal Government on Executive Order 10 granting financial autonomy to state Houses of Assembly and judiciary.
As part of the checks and balances mechanisms in Nigeria’s governance systems, while the executive arm prepares the budget, the legislature must pass the document while the governor must sign it before it can have force of implementation. Even after that, the legislature has the constitutional power to oversight the Ministries, Departments and Agencies under the executive branch.
Having said all these, how has the country fared in terms of good governance and development? Poor, very poor, indeed. Let’s take a look at the Good Governance Index as it relates to Nigeria. In April this year, there was a report which indicated that Nigeria was ranked in the 102nd position out of 104 countries captured in the inaugural Chandler Good Government Index which classifies countries in terms of government capabilities and outcomes. The data is aggregated to produce a score on a scale of 0 (lowest) to 1 (highest), and Nigeria scored 0.319 points. Finland topped the list with 0.848 points ahead of Switzerland and Singapore. The only countries behind Nigeria are Zimbabwe and Venezuela, while Mauritius, with an Index score of 0.5670 and at number 38 on the log, is Africa’s best performer.
On November 16 last year when the 2020 Ibrahim Index of African Governance of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation was released to the public, Nigeria ranked 34 out of 54 countries. Precisely, the country scored 45.5 points out of 100, just as we declined by -1.6 in overall governance. On the 2020 Legatum Prosperity Index, Nigeria ranked 144th out of the 167 countries surveyed. Since 2010, the country has moved down the rankings table by three places. When the Germany-based Transparency International released its 2020 Corruption Perceptions Index on January 28, 2021, it ranked Nigeria 149 out of 180 countries surveyed. TI said Nigeria scored 25/100, which is one point less than its 26 points in the previous year, a record that is three steps lower than its rank of 146 in 2019.
In the 2020 Global Terrorism Index published in November by the Institute for Economics and Peace that “provides a comprehensive summary of the key global trends and patterns in terrorism over the last 50 years”, Nigeria remained the third most terrorised country in the world. This cannot be disputed given the astronomic rise in banditry, insurgency and kidnapping for ransom across Nigeria. Latest figure by the National Bureau of Statistics put the country’s unemployment rate at 33.3 per cent. In a May 2020 report, it said 40 per cent of Nigerians live below poverty line. In a report about poverty and inequality from September 2018 to October 2019, it also said 40 per cent of people in the continent’s most populous country and biggest economy lived below its poverty line of 137,430 naira ($381.75) per year. The NBS claims that represents 82.9 million people.
Aside from that, a November 2020 report by World Poverty Clock has shown that more Nigerians have been plunged into extreme poverty since November 2019. The latest figure shows that over 105 million Nigerians now live in extreme poverty – from 98 million in October 2019. The figures represent 51% of the population. Nigeria, according to the World Poverty Clock, has a total population of 205,323,520 people with 105,097,856 in extreme poverty, representing 51 per cent of the population. An individual is classified as living in extreme poverty if the person earns below $1.90 or N855 a day.
What do all these indicators and statistics say about Nigeria? They show that our past and present leaders have not done well in steering the ship of this nation. All the governance structures combined have not fared well in delivery of good governance. Little wonder there is a lot of restiveness in the country with separatist agitations in the South-East and South-West of the country. However, even if the clamour for self-determination is granted, will that make the governance problems of these enclaves, whether Biafra or Oduduwa Republic, to disappear? No! The governance challenges are likely to get worse as the cry of marginalisation, discrimination and injustice may become more strident. The sad story of South Sudan who fought decades of fratricidal war with Sudan to gain independence in 2011 is a case in point.
South Sudan gained independence in 2011 and only enjoyed two years of relative peace before descending into a protracted civil strife. According to the Council on Foreign Relations’ May 28, 2021 Global Conflict Tracker, “Since civil war broke out in South Sudan in December 2013, over 50,000 people have been killed —possibly as many as 383,000, according to a recent estimate— and nearly four million people have been internally displaced or fled to neighbouring countries. 2018 brought an increase in regional and international pressure on President Salva Kiir and opposition leader and former Vice President Riek Machar to reach an agreement to end the conflict, including targeted sanctions from the United States and a UN arms embargo.”
So, what is the way forward? To my own mind, there is a need for elite consensus to deliver on good governance. This, I know, will be difficult to achieve but with sustained pressure from the citizens to hold elected and appointed political office holders accountable, it can be achieved. This is why I fully support the 12-point “Asaba Declaration” of the 17 Southern Nigerian governors. Those resolutions, if implemented in their respective states and by the federal government will help douse tension in the country, move the country away from the precipice of anarchy and bring about better governance.
Having kick-started the fifth alteration of the country’s 1999 Constitution, I expect the political elite to harken to the citizens’ demand for inclusive governance based on equity, justice and fair play. These are achievable via attitudinal, administrative and legal changes.