Insecurity: Will Nigeria be a failed state by year 2030? And the US connection - Paul Ukpabio's Blog


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Thursday, 18 March 2021

Insecurity: Will Nigeria be a failed state by year 2030? And the US connection


By Paul Ukpabio


A recent report conducted by the United States Air Force for The Occasional Papers series, established by the Center for Strategy and Technology (CSAT), a forum for research on topics that reflect long-term strategic thinking about technology and its implications for US national security, points out that Nigeria will be a failed state by the year 2030. 

But, why the research!  According to the authors, who are also all colonels, Christopher J. Kinnan, deputy director of the Center for Strategy and Technology (CSAT), Daniel B. Gordon, chief of the Space and Nuclear Network Group at Hanscom AFB, Massachusetts, Mark D. DeLong, the executive officer to the commander of Pacific Air Forces, Douglas W. Jaquish, the director of the National Assessment Group at Kirtland AFB, New Mexico, and Robert S. McAllum who serves as the principal assistant to the director, Developmental Test and Evaluation (DT&E), Office of the Undersecretary of Defense, Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics, at the Pentagon, the research became important because of the possibility for the “US Air Force finding the need to  respond to a failed state, especially one of vital interest to the United States and one which could be on the cusp of a civil war.”

The report goes ahead to identify what can make a state to fail. And on this, it notes that: “Nation-states can fail for a myriad of reasons: cultural or religious conflict, a broken social contract between the government and the governed, a catastrophic natural disaster, financial collapse, war and so forth.”

It notes further that: Nigeria, like many nations in Africa, gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1960. A most populous country in Africa likely to have nearly 250 million people by 2030, Nigeria in his relatively short modern history, has survived five military coups, separatist and religious wars, presently mired in an active armed insurgency, and suffering from disastrous ecological conditions in the Niger Delta region, and also fighting one of the modern world’s worst legacies of political and economic corruption.

“A nation with more than 350 ethnic groups, 250 languages, and three distinct religious affiliations—Christian, Islamic, and animist, Nigeria’s 135 million people today are anything but homogenous. Of Nigeria’s 36 states, 12 are Islamic and under the strong and growing influence of the Sokoto caliphate. While religious and ethnic violence are commonplace, the federal government has managed to strike a tenuous balance among the disparate religious and ethnic factions. With such demographics, Nigeria’s failure would be akin to a piece of fine china dropped on a tile floor—it would simply shatter into potentially hundreds of pieces.

“Poor investment in the nation’s critical infrastructure and underinvestment in health care, education, science, and technology are all leading to a “brain drain” in which Nigeria’s most talented and educated citizens are leaving the country. This will leave a future Nigeria even poorer.

“Nascent attempts to address electoral and governmental corruption are meeting with some success and hold promise for the future. Recent meetings between the president and insurgent groups may, over time, help resolve some of Nigeria’s most intractable and dangerous internal conflicts. The population’s disappointment in its government has not appreciably shaken its faith in democracy. Elections are and will likely remain an important part of Nigerian life as they, despite the odds, provide the people hope that they can make a difference as Nigeria struggles to succeed,” said the report.

So, invariably, the report concludes that Nigeria becoming a failed state is not a foregone conclusion!

And technically, the authors in their report, once again pointed out the US major interest in Nigeria which in the first place, motivated the research.

“Should the oil-rich state of Nigeria, a nation likely to provide up to 25 percent of US light, sweet crude oil imports by 2030, fail, then the effect on the United States and the world economy would be too great to ignore. The threat that failure poses to a quarter billion Nigerians in terms of livelihood, security, and general way of life could quickly spread and cause a humanitarian disaster of previously unimagined proportions. Regardless of the extent of the humanitarian crisis unfolding in the wake of failure, the hard work to repair the damage could take two generations to make Nigeria viable again.’

And guess what, what mostly prompted the report again to the US Air force, was the need to be ready when the nation state Nigeria fails!

Exploring “the implications of what it would mean for the US Air Force to respond to a failed state in 2030, one with a large population that has resources vital to the Western world. The capabilities necessary to detect threats, characterize the environment, rapidly deploy and protect responders, and sustain operations long enough to create conditions for the indigenous people to resurrect their fallen nation are all issues that need to be explored!”

The US is already prepared for a failed Nigerian state, which the report concludes will take place in 2030.

And each of the five authors took on different chapters to look at different aspect s of Nigeria, from economy to politics to social fabric to the widening gap between the governed and the government.

From the report, one understands that, “a state fails when it suffers ‘the loss of physical control of its territory; (its) monopoly on the legitimate use of force; the erosion of (its) legitimate authority to make collective decisions; an inability to provide reasonable public services; and the inability to interact with other states as a full member of the international community.”

The report quotes The 2007 Failed State Index, compiled by the Fund for Peace and Foreign Policy magazine, which identified indicators of a failed state and then ranked the nations of the world from those most to least likely to fail based on institutional corruption, criminality, the ability of a government to regulate the economy and collect taxes, internal displacement of citizens, sharp economic decline, group grievances, institutional discrimination, the emigration of the intelligentsia, and the state of the ecology, ranked Nigeria, an oil-rich country with the largest population in Africa and a top-20 economy, 17th most likely to fail on the list of 148 countries studied for the 2007 Failed State Index.

And the areas of greatest concern for Nigeria included uneven economic and social development, a failure to address group grievances as manifested through an active insurgency, and a perceived lack of government legitimacy.  While its oil wealth holds promise for the future of its people, Nigeria’s potential failure holds danger for the global economy and could threaten the vital interests of many nations.

The Failed State Index researchers concluded that state failure, such as that considered possible in Nigeria, can be catastrophic based on a single incident or may be the result of a long period of decline in which the government can no longer govern or provide for its people.

The report quotes again from the United States Commission on National Security. State failure results in “an increase in the rise of suppressed nationalisms, ethnic or religious violence, humanitarian disasters, major catalytic regional crises, and the spread of dangerous weapons.”

Nigeria’s current system of government and the present racial, ethnic and religious conflicts are, to an extent, the result of its colonial past.

“Nigeria has the sixth largest Muslim population in the world. Moreover, it is the largest country in Africa, with an almost equal balance of Muslims and Christians, a balance that will soon reach a tipping point because of the larger population growth in the Islamic north.”

Indications that Nigeria had failed even from the beginning may not be too far from the report. But to give a clearer picture, the report gives a historical review of Pre-Nigerian Nation and it turns out to be quite an interesting one.

“Prior to the arrival of the earliest European settlers, the area now called Nigeria was the home to a number of separate and distinct societies. The largest of these included the Kingdom of Borno in the northeast; the city-states of Katsina, Kano, Zaria, and Gobir in the north-central part of modern Nigeria; the Yoruba Kingdoms of Ife, Oya, and Ijebu in the southwestern regions; and the Igbo region in the southeast. Between these various regions, an extensive trading network developed, which stretched across the Sahara. The people of the region have long-standing roots that predate the drawing of Nigeria’s modern borders. Despite widespread trading between these regions, the area now known as Nigeria has a history of conflict and instability. This background has been made potentially more unstable by developments in the postcolonial era. In the late 1790s through the early 1800s, the northern kingdoms began resisting the establishment of a religion-dictated set of laws. The idea of religious rule began to spread to the region as Islam continued its westward expansion from the Middle East. The resistance of these kingdoms set the stage for an Islamic holy war, in which the Sokoto caliphate, in an effort to create stability, end violence, and establish Islamic justice, brought the northern sections of present day Nigeria under a single Islamic government in 1808.  The caliphate reached its peak when it eventually governed 30 emirates from modern Burkina Faso to Cameroon in the mid-1800s. The North was not the only part of Nigeria experiencing unrest in the early 1800s. In 1817 the Yoruba (southwestern) provinces were caught up in civil wars over issues surrounding trade roots, the slave trade, and the right to populate inland areas.

“Shortly thereafter, in part as a result of pressure from missionaries and others, Britain began to work to eradicate the slave trade along the African coast. These efforts began in Lagos and then moved eastward along the African coast. The decision to eradicate the slave trade led to a concomitant decision to occupy and maintain control over the African coastal regions. Catholic and Protestant missionaries followed on the heels of British forces. The religious orders cooperated to divide up the territory in order to convert as many of the indigenous people to Christianity as they could with their limited resources. This process of gradually expanding both British influence and the influence of the Christian faith would forever change the southern part of Nigeria. The British occupation of these lands initially resulted in the granting of trading rights to a large territory encompassing much of Nigeria to the Royal Niger Company. The company exercised control over the territory in exchange for a monopoly on trading rights for goods sold from Nigeria to the rest of the British Empire.

“While the boundaries of this region were expanded several times, usually by force, they did not quite encompass all of present-day Nigeria. To achieve that objective, the jurisdiction of the Royal Niger Company was deemed insufficient. In 1900, after compensating the Royal Niger Company for the loss of its property, the British established a formal British governmental protectorate with Sir Frederick Lugard as the high commissioner of northern Nigeria. This change allowed Britain to bring its full power to bear on uniting the lands of Nigeria as a single. Among Lugard’s first challenges was to bring the Sokoto caliphate under British control. This was initially achieved by force, but Lugard’s governance after the conflicts was considered highly successful, largely because he generally applied indirect rule, allowing the former rulers (the emirs) to enjoy some autonomy. To insure against major uprisings, Lugard reduced the number of small fiefdoms in the emirates, thus reducing the wealth and patronage provided to the emirs, which curbed their influence and power substantially. Further, the emirs were made formally subservient to the British crown. Nonetheless, Lugard permitted the continuation of Shar’ia law in this region, although Shar’ia law was not applied to Christians living in the Sokoto emirates. While this use of indirect rule kept relative peace in the north, it had the effect of perpetuating existing divisions and set the stage for a later religious bifurcation of the country. By 1914, during his tenure as governor general, Lugard succeeded in unifying Nigeria.

“In 1919 Lugard’s successor, Hugh Clifford, took charge. His leadership style was nearly the opposite of his predecessor. Whereas Lugard preferred to allow the various ethnic groups to retain some autonomy, Clifford sought to modernize Nigeria and bring it into the Western world. Clifford’s efforts had the dual effect of alienating some while producing yet a new culture in the south—one more Western and increasingly industrial. In the efforts to civilize the Nigerian delta, Clifford introduced cultural influences that would eventually serve to further split the Nigerian populace. Clifford scaled back the influence of the Sokoto caliphate, and Christianity, which had first taken root in the country during the slave trade, began to rapidly expand in the south. Complicating this split were the indigenous people who lived in southeastern Nigeria—the remnants of the kingdom of Igbo. Upon first encountering the British several years after the colony was formally established, the Igbo were forced to pay taxes to support the British crown. The Igbo reacted with animosity, which placed them at odds with their neighbors to the north and west. This simmering animosity against the British lingered in this region of Nigeria.

“Thus, the initial result of British colonialism was the exacerbation of the already considerable ethnic and cultural differences spanning a collection of people with divergent histories and traditions. The newly created “Nigeria” was composed of diverse people with no common sense of nationality. Moreover, due to the types of leadership exercised by Lugard and Clifford, the dividing lines between the Islamic emirates and Christian provinces were reinforced. The north was generally left to practice its Islamic agrarian traditions, while the south was modernized and opened to commercial trade with ports, roads, and railroads.  Yet even the south was split between its eastern and western parts.”

The report goes on to elaborate on Nigerian politics after independence and how Nigeria’s economy influenced growth of the nation in the next years that followed: Also the growth of the military during the military era and the change of political baton to civilian rule.  

“President Obasanjo published Nigeria’s first defense policy in 1979. At that time he tasked the Nigerian military with four primary functions: preserving Nigeria’s territorial integrity, contributing to national emergencies and security, promoting collective security in Africa while furthering Nigerian foreign policy, and contributing to global security. Thirty years later, the responsibilities of the current Nigerian military remain the same as iterated in President Obasanjo’s 1979 national defense policy.

While Nigerian forces have performed acceptably during these peacekeeping operations, years of military rule have paradoxically not equipped the country with a capable military. By the time of President Obasanjo’s election in 1999, the Nigerian military was widely blamed for the country’s economic and social problems. Military facilities had decayed considerably with corresponding declines in morale and discipline. President Obasanjo began efforts to reform leadership in the military soon after taking office in 1999. He retired 150 military officers with strong political ties, published plans to downsize the armed forces by 40 percent, and promised to restructure military spending to about 3 percent of GDP, which would bring Nigeria closer to the world average of about 2.5 percent.9 However, nationwide unrest and the operations tempo of Nigerian peacekeeping efforts led President Obasanjo to put military reform plans on hold in 2001.

And American interest remains the same. With global demand for energy potentially increasing over  60 percent by 2030,23 the United States as well as the international community has recognized the strategic importance of sweet crude oil production in the Gulf of Guinea off the west coast of central Africa. This focuses considerable attention on Nigeria since it controls approximately 60 percent of the proven reserves in the region.

Despite the 1967 civil war, as at today:

 “Nigerians from all walks of life are openly questioning whether their country should remain as one entity or discard the colonial borders and break apart into several different states. Ethnic and religious prejudices have found fertile ground in Nigeria, where there is neither a national consensus nor a binding ideology. While reform efforts might improve conditions in Nigeria, it is unlikely any effort currently envisioned will make the population any less polarized in one generation, especially those from the proud Igbo, Hausa, or Yoruba tribes, who have a fierce loyalty to their respective tribes and traditions. Militant groups often form to protect specific geographic areas or communities or to press grievances for indigenous people when governments fail to provide expected services and security. The conditions for these scenarios are already present in Nigeria, with poverty levels in the northern areas nearly double those in the southern regions. Any downturn in the Nigerian economy, particularly if regionally focused, has the potential to escalate into civil war.

“Nigerian “power sharing” at the federal level is still not constitutionally mandated. While Christians will represent the majority of the electorate through the mid-2020s, the Islamic electorate, by sheer population growth, will likely compose the majority before 2030. Christian-led governments will continue to follow the Nigerian constitution and appoint people from each of Nigeria’s 36 states to serve as ministers and to key positions in each ministry. However, client patronage and other forms of corruption will likely continue unabated throughout the federal, state, and local governmental systems.

And apart from the inner conflicts and problems, the report gives an hindsight into external forces that can also make Nigeria finally collapse in 2030.

“In 2030 the United States probably will still be Nigeria’s largest trading partner, with China holding the number two position. China’s successful experiment with capitalism has opened many diplomatic doors across Africa, Nigeria included. As China seeks assured access to the resources it needs to sustain economic growth to maintain “internal harmony,” it is likely to support stabilization efforts to protect critical resources and infrastructure. Since 2008, China has invested heavily in Nigeria’s oil sector to secure it as a reliable energy source for its rapidly growing economy. With the United States providing security in the Gulf of Guinea region, China will remain focused on infrastructure development rather than physical security through its paramilitary private military organizations. Both China and the United States will seek long-term energy contracts with Nigeria to help ensure predictable energy prices. These energy contracts could lock the United States into receiving up to 25 percent of its oil imports from Nigeria by 2025.

“While the United States and China are generally viewed favorably within Nigeria, potential tensions may arise between the United States and the Sokoto caliphate over US military action in other Islamic countries. These tensions will be exacerbated by US demands for the accountability of money invested by the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the MCC in developing nations. If Nigeria’s anticorruption measures fail, or elections are disputed, it is likely that the US Congress may sequester assistance funds and cancel loans to the Nigerian government.

The report goes on to discuss the benefits of intervention, direct and indirect, collaborative and solo, in a possible Nigerian state collapse and tension that leads to anachy! And the implementation of such intervention until, the many years that it may last or take to bring the country back to normalcy.

The report is however quiet about whether Nigeria will be allowed to break into separate countries after the state fails, but the report states more than once, the need for US intervention in Nigeria after the country fails and possible long term intervention to ‘assist the people of Nigeria until they stabilize back their country.”

However, the above report aside, this is not the first time that the US has stepped out with a report like this. It could be recalled that prior to the 2015 general elections, the Nigerian space was filled with US information of Nigeria’s possible state collapse in year 2015.

The atmosphere just as of then, was tense and hostility grew daily in the Niger Delta region with MEND and other militia groups threatening and almost tearing apart the country. Coupled with the political tension of an election where it was assumed that the incumbent candidate from the Niger Delta, must win the election against a Fulani opponent. The period also witnessed a large scale smuggling of arms and ammunition into the country in an alarming rate.

However, many years after that election, Nigeria is still in existence as nation.

But then in fairness to the above US report, hostility may have reduced but traces are still there. Even newer enemies of the government and people grew with Boko Haram committing more havoc with a newer killer Herdmen invasion here and there along with government tacit or non-tacit complicity in the whole matter. Corruption persists and all the indices pointed out in the above report are still glaring.

But will Nigeria be a failed state in 2030? Only time will tell and prove the US Air Force right or wrong!


(This article was done with support by Real news magazine)

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