All states are states, but some are more statesy than the others.
States exist on a spectrum of competence. Simplifying it a tonne, think of them as either, Modern, Pre-Modern or Failed. Within each major “marker”, spectra equally exist; Singapore, USA and Denmark are all modern states for example, and yet their dissimilarity is glaring.
To the issue of contention. “A failed State”. What is a state? Been a while since Secondary School Government, but here’s me winging it: A state is an organised community within clearly defined borders, therein the monopoly of violence is held by an eponymous authority.
That definition seems lacking to me, so here is me pushing the ball deep into midfield: A state is a political tool of enforced societal cohesion, reliant on superior force and deriving legitimacy solely from the perception of its existence.
Even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this Island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle.—Winston Churchill.
Honour, common sense and the interests of the country require that all free Frenchmen, wherever they be, should continue the fight as best they may.—General Charles De Gaulle.
We the people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria
Having firmly and solemnly resolved … to provide for a Constitution…
- Provision of services?
- Defined Territory?
- Monopoly of Violence?
“No! No! No!”
The only thing that matters is perception. A state has only failed when it ceases to exist in the minds of people as capable of power. USSR, Prussia, Rhodesia.
So then is Nigeria a failed state? A few tests if I may:
- When the power goes off, across the nation, who do the people blame? Despite news of privatisation being common knowledge. The common refrain by all is to be blame NEPA, the formerly state-owned utility company.
- When pensioners protest, who they protest before? The Nigerian state.
- Teachers on strike? Only to gain the state’s attention.
- Petrol fuel hike? “Ohh those useless politicians in charge of _______
- Millions of Nigerian civil servants are directly employed by?
- Even the militants have been co-opted by the state. It is interesting to note that they chose state-employment rather than secession and control of what they claimed was “our oil”. The majority of oil receipts still go to the Nigerian state.
Forget the abstract, the state is inherently political—based on the people—, if political power, as Chairman Mao says, grows out of the barrel of a gun, then the soldier is the chief symbol of the Nigerian state.
My last test on the perception of the Nigerian state is simple:
This can be purchased here:
How many Nigerians will agree to put this on and walk around a Nigerian city? How many do not feel a growing sense of fear at the mere thought?
Make no mistake, the Nigerian state is powerful. The mistake Nigerians tend to make is misunderstanding the perception of those who control it at present. Their view is venal, it is despotic, nepotistic, and authoritarian, Resource extraction is its preferred role. It is pre-modern.