Nigerian Pathways: Towards Stability, Security, and Democratic Development

By Richard Joseph

July 23 marks 100 days since the Chibok girls were abducted. The Boko Haram insurgency has brought to world attention the shortcomings of Nigeria’s army, police, and other security services. President Goodluck Jonathan is seeking $1billion in external loans to enhance their capacity. His government has shifted from one bold declaration to another: a state of emergency, total war, and now adding more funds to the billions already poured into these services. There is an urgent need for a comprehensive strategy focusing on the wider Nigerian predicament as well as the opportunities for sustainable progress. This essay and others to follow will address this need.

Untitled by Issek of Cameroon

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Electoral Politics and Power Strategies in Ethiopia

By Elise Dufief

International democracy promotion is challenged by the global retreat of democracy. The case of Ethiopia demonstrates how political space can be narrowed, a hegemonic regime strengthened, and election observer missions constricted in their capacity to influence outcomes. Election monitoring can deepen the contradictions between regime practices and democratic objectives. *

Why does the Ethiopian government regularly organize elections and invite election observers only to reject their findings? How did the governing party come close to losing the 2005 election yet triumph in 2010 with 99.6% of the vote? Why do international actors such as the EU Observer Mission continue to participate in these processes where their credibility is likely to be tarnished? Such questions must be answered about the manipulation of democracy promotion instruments by a non-democratic regime.

 

Photo of Billboard in Meskal Square

Addis Ababa – Meskal Square 2013 – (c) E. Dufief

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The Chibok Girls and an Embattled Nigeria

By Richard Joseph

Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard
Are sweeter; therefore, ye soft pipes, play on

Two centuries ago, John Keats wrote his enigmatic “Ode on a Grecian Urn”. It came to mind after President Barack Obama’s foreign policy address at West Point. The unheard message was about the Nigerian Urn, filling with human ashes from terrorist atrocities and military counterattacks. The heard melody was about the girls of Chibok, hauled away like livestock into the Sambisa Forest: “Fair youth, beneath the trees, thou canst not leave”.

 

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Escaped Chibok schoolgirls meeting with Borno state governor

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Bring Back Our State: Another Nigerian Plea

By Ayo Olukotun

“Democracy Day Blues” republished with the permission of The Punch, Nigeria

“The national protest, Bring Back Our Girls, should be complemented with Build Us a State. There are some missions, such as overcoming the Nigerian state crisis, that require more than advanced intelligence technologies”
– Prof. Richard Joseph, May 22, 2014

May 29 was Democracy Day in Nigeria, the 15th edition of the milestone which marked the formal inauguration of civilian rule on May 29, 1999. Political science professor Richard Joseph captures, in the opening quote of this essay published by The PUNCH on Thursday, May 22, the sombre, despairing mood in which this year’s Democracy Day was marked around the country. This writer quibbles mildly with Joseph’s refrain, “Build Us a State”, by suggesting that it should have read, “Bring Back our State”, without disagreeing with the agenda he proposes.

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Confronting Boko Haram and the Nigerian Predicament

By Richard Joseph

This post first appeared on the Brookings Institution’s ‘Africa in focus’ blog. The original text can be read here.

The mass kidnapping of girls has brought the Nigerian Predicament to global attention. The insistence by Nigerian authorities that these and other incidents reflect global terrorism is not the full story. For a long time, Boko Haram was portrayed as a local phenomenon. Now it is depicted, most recently in a UN Security Council resolution, as an al-Qaeda affiliate. There is more conjecture than hard knowledge about this elusive entity.

Photo credit: Brookings Institution

Photo credit: Brookings Institution

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Boko Haram and the Nigerian State Crisis

By Richard Joseph

This post first appeared on the Brookings Institution’s ‘Africa in focus’ blog. The original text can be read here.

“Africa will not make sustainable progress in building democratic systems and fostering economic development until the continent acquires coherent, legitimate, and effective states.”

I had Nigeria very much in mind when those words were written a decade ago.1 Today, the veil concealing the ever- deepening state crisis has been shredded. The federal government has turned to western nations for intelligence capacities to help locate the abducted school girls. France, long distrusted by Nigerian authorities, has been asked to craft a regional coalition to combat Boko Haram. However, beyond the security missions in the remote northeast, the broader aspects of the Nigerian predicament must be confronted.

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Africa’s Third Liberation: Transformative Growth and Developmental Governance

By Richard Joseph

On March 10, 2014, I gave a lecture on this topic to a large audience at the University of Ghana, Legon, sponsored by the Department of Political Science. It was followed by a seminar presentation at the Ghana Center for Democratic Development on March 13 on the related topic of “Development without Democracy in Africa: Confronting the Revisionist Paradigm”. The text of the lecture is provided here along with a video of the second talk. They should bring these debates to a wider audience and encourage examinations of the diverse outcomes of Africa’s political and economic abertura.

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Democracy at Bay: The Arab Spring and Sub-Saharan Africa

By Richard Joseph

A great pendulum shift has occurred in the geopolitics of the Middle East and North Africa, from repressive autocracies to political liberalization to violent conflict and civil war. Enormous financial resources and military weaponry are being poured into these theatres. It is not too soon to ask, as the United States prepares to strike against the Syrian government, whether the fragile democratic gains in Sub-Saharan Africa since 1990 can withstand the winds of change. Will governing systems in this region tilt further towards authoritarianism? What can be done to shore up resistance to further democratic retreat as security operations escalate?

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Is Good Governance Necessary For Economic Progress in Africa?

By Richard Joseph

The third wave of democracy arrived in Africa in the early 1990s, well after the pursuit of pro-market reforms advocated by western aid agencies and international organizations. When that wave subsided, a good governance agenda of the rule of law, accountability, transparency, and human rights persisted. A third of the states of sub-Saharan Africa are today substantially democratic while the rest consists of quasi-democratic, electoral authoritarian, autocratic, and failed states. Yet the driving force of change is less democratization than economic growth; and most countries share in the economic upswing that has moved the region higher on global growth charts. Virtually all African governments make the requisite genuflections to the good governance agenda however diluted in actual practice. Aid flows remain buoyant, direct foreign investments led by China are climbing, and remittances from diasporas add to positive financial flows.

Having drifted from Africa during the quarter-century of economic stagnation and contraction that began in the 1970s, leading economists are returning to the study of the continent. Drawing on the experiences of Asian economies, some are challenging prevailing paradigms that regard governance and institutional failures as the greatest impediments to sustainable and transformative growth in Africa. They are a force to be reckoned with as they bring to policy debates confidence in their methodologies and access to networks that connect academia with international agencies and finance and development ministries in rich and emergent countries. Social scientists in other disciplines, and policy analysts more generally, should take account of these analyses and arguments and their implications for political and socio-economic progress in Africa. This paper, which will appear in a forthcoming edited volume, responds to this important challenge.[i] Continue reading

Prebendalism and Dysfunctionality in Nigeria

By Richard Joseph

In the summer of 1977, I tried to make sense of what was amiss in Nigeria. The outcome was an article, “Affluence and Underdevelopment: the Nigerian Experience”, published a year later. That same year, as the transition from military rule to the Second Republic was fully underway, I arrived at another understanding about a fundamental flaw in Nigerian politics, economy and society which I termed prebendalism. Thirty-three years later, an international group of scholars was convened by Dr. Kayode Fayemi, Governor of Ekiti State, for a conference in Lagos organized by Drs. Wale Adebanwi and Ebenezer Obadare entitled, “Democracy and Prebendal Politics in Nigeria: Critical Reinterpretations.” In early 2013, they published an edited volume of papers described by one commentator, Nicolas van de Walle, as “essential reading to anyone who wishes to understand why a country with so much potential remains mired in poverty.” [i]

Following the September 2011 conference, many commentaries appeared in the Nigerian print and online media. Bankole Oluwafemi in his blog told his fellow Nigerians: “you’re very familiar with this concept [prebendalism], you just might not know it.” Segun Ayobolu provided an apt explanation: “occupants of public office at all levels in the second republic felt that their positions entitled them to unbridled access to public resources with which they not only satisfied their own material needs but also serviced the needs or wants of subaltern clients… This kind of criminal diversion of public resources for selfish private ends starved the polity of funds for development, increased poverty and inequality, and intensified an unhealthy rivalry and competition for public office that triggered pervasive instability… Two and a half decades after, Professor Joseph’s postulations remain as valid as ever.”[ii]

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