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Although Nigeria gained independence from colonisation in 1960, since then it has been overwhelmed by a crisis of underdevelopment. Despite having vast wealth from oil exploration, mining, and other natural resources, there have been no signs of recent social or economic development. Scholars have argued that the increase in political violence and the recent violent outbreaks demonstrate that although Nigeria was freed from military rule in 1999, democratisation has not yet resolved the political tensions that endured under military rule. T. Forrest reasons that this crisis of underdevelopment is often a result of corrupt and authoritarian leadership, ineffective government, and political violence (1995). Both politics and development are contested concepts with multiple interpretations and meanings (Igbuzor, 2006). Defined by Leftwich, development is a “change in the structure of societies” with “profound social, political and economic and cultural changes” (2008). Politics of development is “about changing not only how resources are used, produced and distributed, but also about how decisions are taken about such changes and about the politics which sustain, implement and extend them” (Leftwich, 2008, p.10). This paper discusses how politics can influence social and economic development in Nigeria, arguing that in the case of Nigeria politics has hindered social and economic development. The essay will examine the increase in political violence affecting social development, the big factor oil revenue plays in politics hindering development, and comparing Nigeria’s petroleum politics with Norway.
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In 1998 the death of dictator Sani Abacha, who served from 1993, gave hope to the Nigerians for a political change towards a multi-party system (Soyinka, 1996). Nigeria officially became a democratic state in 1999, when Chief Olusegun Obasanjo became the elected President of Nigeria through a flawed election (Ibeanu & Luckman, 2007), adopting a multi-party system of government (Obi, 2011). To strengthen the transition, Obasanjo employed an internationally recognised team of technocrats to assist development (Amundsen, 2010). Promises of reduced violence and corruption, good governance, better fiscal policies, and regulation of the oil industry, were made (Eneh, 2009). However, four political transitions have occurred since 1999, a trend some scholars (Guichaoua, 2009) have argued indicates the strengthening of a democratic culture, and yet, democratic consolidation in Nigeria has increased levels of political violence, high levels of poverty and underdevelopment (Mustapha, 2009). More than three presidential election cycles have occurred since the democratic transition in 1999, however still the majority of Nigerians have not gained the benefits of democracy and neither have their living standard improved (Obi, 2011).
Eneh (2009) argues the failure of the leaders to keep their promises is one of the reasons for the lack of development in Nigeria. Nigeria’s development policies and programmes from the 1970s to 2000s have been characterised by unsuccessful investments, poor implementation and a lack of political will. In 1970, the Gowon administration started a National Development Plan with 5 key goals. 37 years later, not even one of the goals has been achieved (Falola & Heaton, 2008). Similarly, after the transition to democracy in 1999, Obasanjo’s government (1999-2007), came up with the National Poverty Eradication Programme, National Economic Empowerment, and Development Strategy (NEEDS) and the Vision 2020 (Abdulhamid, 2008). Although, the transition to democracy gave Nigeria’s hope, both the NEEDS programme and Vision 2020 have been declared as a failure (Eneh, 2009). Thus, implying that the failed development policies that characterised military rule are still existing.
Furthermore, studies show that despite an estimated 400 billion USD in oil income since independence, Nigeria continues to be troubled by a crisis of development, with high levels of poverty, slow economic growth, unemployment, corruption and political violence (Alumona, 2009). Rather than contributing to the overall development of Nigeria and improving the welfare of citizens, the discovery of oil and the annual oil revenues, has led to a corrupt political system which has benefited only a few of the Nigerians (Watts, 2007). It can be argued that the corrupt accumulation of oil rents by politicians has unquestionably weakened the Nigerian state, removed the government’s interest in the development and increased the violent outbreaks within the country. It is argued that this nature of politics has since independence, led to discontent amongst different parts of the state by politicising ethnicity and religion, leading to an increase in divisions among the society and increasing political violence, particularly in the southern part of Nigeria (Akude, 2007; Ibeanu & Luckman, 2007).
Conversely, when comparing the politics of Nigeria to Norway, it is evident that the wealth accumulated from oil is not the reason for the corruption in Nigeria however, petroleum politics. Nigeria and Norway have oil exports of $43.6 billion and $33.3 billion respectively. However, while Nigeria shares its own oil revenues, Norway saves its oil revenues in a Sovereign Wealth Fund, this is a big factor in the current outcome of the two countries. Furthermore, another difference between the politics of the two countries is how in Norway, the politicians put the countries interest above their own, while in Nigeria, the politicians have failed the people again and again. Although Nigeria has one of the best economic plans in the world, their applications are always the worst as a poor sense of nationalism, and religious and regionalism politics have always come in the way. Thus, it is evident from the current situation in Norway, that wealth for oil its self is not the reason for the crisis of underdevelopment in Nigeria, however, the weak democracy is.
The illusion that oil money comes from an everlasting source and is reliable for development, has hindered the Nigerian government from diversifying the economy or creating productive policies to help create jobs, reduce poverty and improve the wellbeing of the people. As such the possibility of substantial development and democratic consolidation in Nigeria has become an illusion and an unlikely accomplishment for most Nigerians. The undeniable reality is that despite the oil wealth and the contribution of the Delta to the sustenance of the Nigerian state, the region remains the most underdeveloped part of Nigeria and home to some of Africa’s poorest people (Watts, 2009). Therefore, one can argue that authoritarianism, government corruption, and the oil production in Nigeria, have harmed the Nigerian government, destroyed the country’s social structure, and plunging the country into a crisis of development (Falola & Heaton, 2008).
It is often argued that the increasing rate of unemployment in the region is as a result of the refusal by multinational oil companies to employ the Niger Delta natives (Imokoba & Imbua, 2010). The citizens are cut off from any source of income and nourishment as oil exploration has not only destroyed their fishery and farming activities but has also left many jobless (Peel & Chatham House, 2005). However, this is not to blame multinationals for unemployment in the Delta region, because the government has the responsibility of ensuring that jobs are created for citizens. Thus, the argument once again comes back to the corrupted government influence in oil production.
According to Dudley (1973), “the possession of political power leads directly to economic power”. Those who hold power determine the location and distribution of scarce resources. However, to get into politics there is always be a price to pay, which can lead to involvement in political violence. In Nigeria, political violence has become highly disruptive to social life, causing divisions in families and communities as well as causing resentments among and within social groups. Nigerians have witnessed several cases of political violence in the form of assassinations, bomb-blasts, intimidations, murders, and destruction of properties in the past and now it’s beginning to increase. Leading, to a fear of violence that has been embedded in the hearts of Nigerians, especially during electioneering times.
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The current political violence hinders the social progress and prosperity of Nigeria, creating difficult living standards for them. Many people cannot live in the northern part of the country where violence has become unstable. Thus creating a mass movement of people from northern to southern part of the country, leading to a loss of human lives and destruction of their assets and property. The political violence, conflict, and terrorism not only destroy human lives and physical assets but reduce people’s social relationships and trust. This violence has created a division among the Nigerians, where previously there has been a mutual trust between Muslims, Christians, and the ethnic groups; Hausa, Igbo, Yoruba, Tiv, and Fulani. The political situation has contributed significantly to the ethnic and religious conflicts that are witnessed in Nigeria today. Aver (2012) stressed that political violence has led to the emergence of a religious criminal group like Boko Haram who has been terrorizing religious organizations living in some parts of north-eastern states of Adamawa, Yobe and Bono, resulting in the death of innocent citizens. For example, on June 17, 2012, over seventy people were killed and thirty others wounded in three coordinated church bombings and revenge attacks on EWCA Goodnews Wusasa Zaria Church, Christ the King Catholic Church in Zaria, and at a church in the city of Kaduna. Furthermore, in places like Plateau, Kaduna, Kano, Bauchi, and Yobe people are targeted clearly on the basis of their religion or ethnicity. This political violence has led to a division of the country into factions which contributed to the underdevelopment of social relationship and has also been a great factor of increasing migration.
This has seriously affected social development in this area. Children are growing up to believe that all this fighting and conflict is part of their religion and that any disorder is an opportunity to settle past conflicts and take revenge on their own enemies. This harmfully affects the human security and social development of the country (Vilela 2009). The political violence acts impact negatively on the children living in such societies as they grow up to take the same path. Bandura and Walters (1963) stated that “such children would likely end up being violent in nature”. Social activities such as worship, and sports among others are often disrupted as a result of political violence, denying Nigerians access to social interaction and relationships. Fundamental human rights like freedom of movement have been greatly violated because of the restriction of movement or curfew whenever there is a dominance political party, limiting most Nigerians to a time framed movement their social life as they no longer engage in social activities.
Educational activities are often brought to a halt and consequently, the school calendar is extended. This negatively affects the time students spend in school, leading to higher expense from the parents, and exposing students for longer to drugs, alcohol, and armed robbery. Nigerian society has now been characterized by conflicts, continuous cases of armed robbery, terrorism, sea piracy, assassinations, hostage-taking, murder, rape, and gang violence that are increasingly becoming more and more common and creating a climate of fear and insecurity in the country. Business activities are often closed for a long time leading to a loss of government revenue, due to the worsening of political unrest and failing security in the country.
To conclude, this paper looks upon the effect politics plays in the social and economic development of Nigeria. Although Nigeria has a vast amount of wealth from natural resources, it is evidently clear that the past and current politics of Nigeria has hindered development. The government has failed to reach any level of sustainable development or to improve living standards. This is illustrated through the increase of political violence and the failure of recent developmental policies and programmes. Echoing the academic Obi, although more than three presidential election cycles have occurred since the democratic transition in 1999, the majority of Nigerians have not yet gained the benefits of democracy (2011). The political power of the natural resources, mainly oil exploration, has hindered development, leading to a corrupt political system which has benefited only a few of the Nigerians. Furthermore, it is important to note that looking upon Norway, it is not the wealth of the oil that has hindered the development of Nigeria, however, the politics behind it.
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