Governance and Nigeria’s Weak Institutions: Is the 2020 Project Achievable?


Victor E. Dike



The Vision 2020 trumpet has been rising to a deafening pitch as Nigeria is aspiring to joining the league of the first 20 industrialized economies in the world by the year 2020. Is the 2020 project achievable under the current dismal state of the nation’s institutions and infrastructure? Nigeria cannot become a member of this enviable club without the necessary structure. This paper, therefore, examines the challenges facing the Nigerian economy and avers that Nigeria’s 2020 project will remain a dream without first resolving its longstanding institutional and infrastructural constraints.


The Nigerian Economy and Challenges


Nigeria’s Vision 2020 reflects her aspiration to improve the economy, reduce poverty and hunger, produce good quality products and services and provide good quality education, security, and basic health care to the citizens. But Nigeria’s most formidable economic Achilles Heels venturing into the 2020 economic development and prosperity race are insufficient power and energy supply, poor governance, ineffective institution, and dismal social infrastructure, high profile corruption, dwindling educational standards and security, rising inflation, unemployment and poverty.  How can Nigeria achieve this lofty objective with all the challenges facing the nation? These problems are much more manifest in the present highly competitive and crisis-ridden global economy. Only nations whose products and services are of high quality could compete effectively and thrive in the highly computerized global economy. There are many forces facing the nation but part of the challenges facing the Nigerian economy is poor governance and “rotten institution” (Acemoglu, June 2003; Robbins 2000), social infrastructure and corruption and the resultant weak economy, which has prevented the present administration from tackling the deepening social decay and worsening poverty in the society. Is the federal government building the institutional and infrastructural capacities necessary for meeting the 2020 objectives? The reality is that Vision 2020 will be unachievable without resolving the challenges facing the economy.


Leadership Challenges

Nigeria’s fundamental approach to leadership is troubling. The leaders have the capacity to influence public policies to make a difference in the lives of the citizens, but have failed to do so because their primary goal of assuming leadership position is self-enrichment. They have the power to educate, inspire, and provide the people with the resources to advocate for the causes they believe in, but like bad parents, they have failed in their responsibilities to lead by good examples. In The Problem with Nigeria, Chinua Achebe concludes that Nigeria’s problem is bad leadership and evidence on the ground has consistently shown that he is correct. Some people however seem to suggest that leadership is not Nigeria’s problem. Certainly it is leaders and not the poor rural dwellers that are not responsible for Nigeria’s underdevelopment. In every nation, it is the responsibility of the leadership to protect the political, social, and economic interests of the citizens.

Leading a nation involves making policies and finding solutions to problems, ensuring stability of the polity, and guiding the society to prosperity. But a large number of the political leaders of Nigeria lack the vision, the passion, and the character to effectively govern the state and deal with the crumbling economy. They do not have a clear understanding of their responsibilities, as some of them are insensitive to the people’s sufferings. Nigerians are tired of complaining to those who are leading without listening to them. As Bell and Smith (2002) opined “leaders can point to many reasons why they aren’t good listeners, but none of these reasons excuses them from the obligation…to listen.” Leaders who listen are, however, known to respond well to criticism and crisis, build more loyalty, and increase the morale of the followers. Listening is a way of showing that a leader cares about others.

Because power belongs to the people no political leader in advanced democracies would function effectively without the support of the people. Thus they constantly have their ears on the ground for information (signs of shift in public opinion) that often guides them in policy formulations and implementations. The world’s leading economies are what they are today because their leaders are innovative and always searching for solutions to their social, political and economic problems. But that is not the case with Nigeria; evidence of bad leadership is all over the landscape as the leaders have not gone beyond a promise for change. They are only good at drumming the nation’s problems without finding their solutions. The institutions and infrastructure that are the bedrock of the economy are allowed to rot away leading to weak economy, rising unemployment and inflation, poverty and crime. 

The federal government of Nigeria has undertaken some reforms over the years to revive the sluggish economy, but a review of the reform efforts shows a posteriori, that the society is deeply corrupt and lacks effective institutions and good governance for successful reforms and for sustainable economic growth and development. In other words, the society lacks political leadership that is ready, willing, and politically motivated to address the ills in the economy. Nigerian leaders (military and civilian), appear good at prescribing solutions to the nation’s economic problems without providing the institutions to make the economy work. They make high-sounding promises without fulfilling them; and more often than not their policies are hastily put together and poorly executed. These deficiencies have affected the nation’s economic performances.

In the 1980s the General Babangida regime foisted the Structural Adjustment Program (SAP) on the nation and General Sani Abacha came up with vision 2010, which the Obasanjo civilian administration abandoned and initiated the National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS). The present Yar’Ardua administration, which is invisible, is tantalizing the nation with its Seven Points Agenda and the Vision 2020 project without the necessary institutions and infrastructure in place and reasoned national development strategy to actualize them. The political landscape of Nigeria is littered by myriad of unreasoned policies. Those that are involved in such activities, as Dike (July 22-28, 2006) has noted, appear to enjoy the nation’s underdeveloped status.

For Nigeria to develop and achieve its 2020 objectives the leaders must produce results and not promises, as good leaders are always driven with the need to produce positive results. Fullan (2001) notes, “Leadership, if it is to be effective, has to have an explicit [making-a-difference] sense of purpose ... and be ultimately assessed by the extent to which it awakens people's intrinsic commitment, which is …mobilizing of everyone's sense of moral purpose.” But Nigeria’s leaders are good at lying and shifting blame as they often surround themselves with political godfathers and sycophants who always agree with their policies, even if they are not making a difference in the lives of the people. Consequently, the nation’s problems remain perpetually unresolved.


Political/Democratic Governance Challenges

Part of the challenges facing the polity is that many Nigerian politicians do not practice ethical politics and their actions, therefore, do not add any values to the system. The system also lacks checks and balances to challenge autocratic tendencies; it is a society where injustice, authoritarianism, nepotism and tribalism are rife, adored and glorified, as was the case during the Obasanjo administration. This does not mean that the present Yar’Ardua’s “secret government” is democratic. The recent closure of the Channels Television by the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission and the State Security Service (SSS) and suspension its license apparently by the order of his administration, and the arrest and detention of the journalists involved in reporting inaccurately that Yar’Ardua would resign following his health problem (Vanguard, September 20, 2008), was not democratic and does not in any way show that his administration is respecting the rule of law. These and the September 23, 2008 “Oath of Secrecy” administered on the Aso Rock representatives show an attempt to deny the public access to information on the activities of the government and a return of authoritarianism in Nigerian politics. 

The nation has had a “servant-leader” for more than a year now without making a difference in the lives of the citizens. Like the previous administration the present government appears a lying and deceptive administration. The lies recently blew open with the unprofessional manner with which the representatives of the federal government tried to cover-up the issue surrounding Yar’Ardua’s recent health problem and his 17-day absence from Nigeria (Vanguard, September 8, 2008). It must be noted that is not a crime to get sick as any person can take ill. As a president and public servant Yar’Ardua has no private life; and whatever he does, including his health is a public matter. Why didn’t the federal government formally inform the nation that he took ill while away in Saudi Arabia for a lesser Hajj and, thus, decided to check into a hospital?  How long will the fraud last? With this hiccup his integrity is now in question.  Thus when trust fades worries take hold. Lack of “ethical politics and values” (Dike, January 15, 2007) and politics of secrecy, hate and destruction are creating economic and political hiccups in the society. Sadly, to gain access to political power (or to retain political power) a good number of politicians in Nigeria practice the Machiavellian political prescription (Prince); and with that political assassinations litter the landscape.  

Since 1999 Nigeria has witnessed an increasing build-up of authoritarian structures and institutions and human rights abuses have worsened. According to the U.S. Department of State Reports on  Human Rights Practice (2005) released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor on March 8, 2006, Nigeria’s human rights record is appalling. The Obasanjo administration was indicted for “abridging citizens” right to change their government; politically motivated and extrajudicial killings; use of excessive force; arbitrary arrest; interference in the judiciary; restrictions on freedom of speech, press and assembly; and restrictions on workers' rights,’ among other violations (Ibid.). The present administration has not done any better with its failure to secure peace and safeguarded the population in the Niger Delta region. The military should change its strategy and engage in “stability operation” instead of regular destructive combat operation, which will not secure peace and stability in the region.

Furthermore, the absence of a genuine democratic system in which the electorate could participate without coercion and hold politicians accountable for their actions in Nigeria has had adverse effect on the economy in many ways. As Sen (1999) notes, “unfreedoms” leave the people with little choice to exercise “their reasoned agency.” And “Freedoms are not only the primary ends of development, they are also among its primary means.” Development “requires the removal of major sources of unfreedoms.” Lack of democratic governance is thus one of the causes of Nigeria’s weak economy and rising poverty. The un-ending political feuds, the Niger Delta, and ethnic and religious crises have contributed immensely to the unstable polity. Such unstable political atmosphere has undermined the nation’s democratization process, governance, national security, and economic activities, in addition to scaring away local and foreign investors from the economy. While the political leaders have always been folding their hands waiting and hoping in vain that things work themselves out without good policy actions, Nigeria will not become an industrialized nation in 2020 without directly addressing the macroeconomic challenges facing the nation.


Macroeconomic Challenges

The nation’s economic managers have toyed with varied economic policies to guide the economy. The Obasanjo National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS), which focuses mainly on creating wealth and employment, reducing poverty and values re-orientation (National Planning Commission, Abuja, 2005)  and appears to guide the nation’s present economic reform agenda, has not achieved the objectives because of the reasons already elaborated in the previous sections. The question is: are the nation’s macroeconomic policies well-articulated to achieve the 2020 objective? According to Rose-Ackerman (2004), real reform requires systematic policy initiatives.

Inconsistent and unsustainable policies are major part of the causes of the present ‘hemorrhage’ in the economy. Any keen watcher of the political activities in Nigeria knows that every leader that comes on stage often discards previous programs. It appears the Umaru Yar’Ardua has abandoned the NEEDS for his Seven-Point Agenda and the Vision 2020 project. But sustainable macroeconomic policies are important for healthy economy. The CBN noted in its Economic Report (August 2005) that aggregate money supply grew by 39.8 per cent during the period as against the targeted growth of 15 per cent for January 2005. Like other public institutions in the society, the apex bank is not free from political interference from “above.” It has many times indicated its commitment to shoring up confidence in the Naira but it has had difficulties mopping up the excess liquidity in the system so as to tackle inflation. According to the Guardian of October 2, 2008, the naira in circulation rose to N948 billion in August from N937billion in July. The economy is still dependent mostly on foreign inputs.

The naira official exchange rate hovers around N120/$1 as compared to N80/$1 of the late 80s! The consolidation program in the banking sector has not done any magic as fraudulent activities still persist in the banking sector. However, good monetary policy will only correct the anomalies in the economy with effective institutions and social infrastructures. As experts, including (Rose-Ackerman 2004) have observed without taming corruption and without a well-functioning government macroeconomic policy would not be effective.


Corruption Challenges

The greater part of the problem facing the nation is ‘corruption,’ which contributes to poor governance, sociopolitical and economic problems. Corruption has, among others been defined as an act of “requesting, offering, giving or accepting directly or indirectly a bribe or any other undue advantage or the prospect thereof, which distorts the proper performance of any duty or behavior required of the recipient of the bribe, the undue advantage of the prospect thereof”  (Kofele-Kale 2006). Unfortunately, after years of independence, Nigerians still harbor the mentality that public money belongs to no one and that any person who has access to it should convert it into his or her personal use. According to the Punch of November 9, 2006, Nigeria earned about N3.8 trillion from oil exports between January and August 2006. However, the budgets of 2004, 2005 and 2006 were based on oil price of $25, $30 and $35 respectively, but the price of crude oil was $16 per barrel in January 1999, $38.3 in 2004, and $55.3 in 2005, and about $ 68 in 2006 (BusinessDay, September 27, 2006).The price of crude oil, however, skyrocketed to over $140 in mid-July 2008 before it dropped to $123 in August 1, 2008 (International Herald Tribune, July 21, 2008; BusinessDay, September 2, 2008). But these monies have unfortunately gone down the sinkhole created by corruption.

The Press revealed how a former aide of Obasanjo, Andy Uba, used the presidential jet to haul about $170,000 in cash into the United States (Daily Trust, November 10, 2006;” TheNews, November 14, 2006). More recently, there was the shocking revelation by Otunba Fasawe, during his testimony at the Senate investigations into the PTDF scandal that during the Obasanjo administration the Presidency  used billions of public money to fund the party’s 2003 election (ThisDay, March 20, 2007); and the National Assembly probe panel’s shocking revelation of the alleged $16billion the Obasanjo administration spent in the power sector without commensurate results (Daily Trust, March 21, 2008) These are public funds that should have been invested on social projects to improve the living conditions of the citizens.

The Yar’Ardua administration has not also made any difference in the lives of the people in spite of its mountain of promises. The long-standing power problem remains; inflation hovers around 12-14 per cent; inflation was 8.2 per cent in April, rose to 9.7 per cent in May, 12 per cent in June and 14 per cent in July as the prices of Kerosene and food are now beyond the reach of the masses. And with 54-70 per cent unemployment the roads remain death traps. The government’s commitment to the “war on corruption” and “rule of law,” which is its mantra, is seriously questionable. The rising high profile corruption detracts from the integrity of the institutions and the leadership; and this has detrimental effects on people’s trust and interest in government. The society lacks the necessities of life that keep the citizens healthy and productive. Health care services are poor as hospitals in Nigeria are ill-equipped and fake drugs are sold to citizens by unscrupulous traders with the connivance of corrupt officials. How will the administration meet the Vision 2020 objectives when the people lack proper medical care and thus die of minor ailments? It has been proven that poor health affects people’s productivity and the overall health of the economy.

It is unassailably true that Nigeria’s problems are not from the “harshness and the niggardliness of nature” (Keynes, May 1932). The corrupt practices of the leaders prevent the society from putting its abundant material and human resources into effective and productive use. In an article “Oil giant that runs on grease of politics,” Nigeria was described as a rich nation floating on oil wealth “but almost none of it flows to the people” (San Francisco Chronicle, March 11, 2007). Thus it is Kleptocracy -a nation ruled by a government of thieves-a ruling body or order of thieves (The Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd edition, 1989) that hampers the progress of the society. It will take a committed leadership and the best of the followers (not to respect or worship the office holders who fraudulent enriched themselves) for Nigeria to solve its corruption menace (fake contracts, kickbacks, assets stripping and outright conversion of public funds into private purses), create a productive environment, and move the nation forward.


Market Challenges

Still, among the challenges facing the Nigerian economy is the lack of genuine competition in the system. The Nigerian government determines the prices of most of the goods and services. However, a market-oriented economy appears better suited for economic growth and development since genuine capitalistic economies are controlled by market forces and not by personal idiosyncrasies. Sadly, Nigerian leaders are yet to heed the advice of Adam Smith in The Wealth of Nations (1776) that the State should not interfere in the economy. But with the recent global economic problem and the historic $700 billion bailout of the financial services industry in the US skeptics of the capitalistic market economy could jump and argue that the capitalistic economy wouldn’t work properly without some form of government intervention. But people should understand, as it has been argued, that the recent global financial crisis is not a normal economic situation. The law of demand and supply should therefore be allowed to regulate the economy for the interest of everyone, and not for a privileged few (as has been the case in Nigeria).


Regulatory and Productivity Challenges

The regulatory agencies in the society (INEC, EFCC, CBN, etc) are not free from political interference to operate effectively. For instance, the Obasanjo administration used the state agencies for selfish political purposes. And through crooks and hooks the Yar’Ardua administration removed Nuhu Ribadu as the EFCC boss and replaced him with Mrs. F. Waziri. Some people, however, insinuated that the corrupt ex-governors who were prosecuted by Ribadu sponsored her. Without allowing the agencies unfettered hands to regulate the economy and Nigeria’s ‘fragile financial system’ and institute good corporate governance the economy will not gain from the “power of productivity”(Lewis, April 2004; Dike, Daily Champion, January 31, 2006). It will be recalled that the Yar’Ardua administration did not allow the Central Bank to re-structure the naira.

And how can Nigeria become an industrialized nation by 2020 when the police abuse its power and cannot protect the public, and the judiciary is weak and corrupt, and the economy is still powered by generator? Much of Nigeria goes without power for weeks and many small-scale businesses have collapsed because of high cost of gasoline to power their private generators. The Obasanjo administration spent more than $10 billion on power during his eight-year tenure, without anything to show for it. A probe by the National Assembly showed that more than $50 million of that money was paid to bogus companies (International Herald Tribune, July 21, 2008).

The Yar’Ardua administration has not made any difference in the power sector. Because of erratic power supply and other infrastructural and institutional factors the capacity utilization (or the extent to which an enterprise or a nation actually uses its installed productive capacity) of the nation’s manufacturing sector recently dropped to 38 per cent from 42 per cent (BusinessDay, August 22, 2008).

The role of productivity in determining living standards is important for nations as it is for individuals. According to Mankiw (2001) the productivity of a society is determined by many factors including physical and human capital, natural resources, and technological skills and knowledge. Productivity has a lot to do with the workers and morale. Nigerian workers must be well trained and well motivated to work productively. A nation enjoys higher standards of living if the workers can produce large quantity of goods and services for local consumption and extra for export, for revenue.


Human Development Challenges

Another important challenge is the lack of high quality work force to propel the economy owing to the inability of the nation’s educational system to perform its basic objectives. The system lacks adequate funding (for research and innovative ideas, etc), lacks good planning and management, teaching materials and good quality teachers at all levels, and with poor governance and infrastructure, among others. The Yar’Ardua administration (like the Obasanjo administration) does not seem to care about how to educate Nigeria’s children and improve the quality of their lives as the schools are still under funded and teachers are still fighting for survival. As Dike (2002) has noted, the state of a nation’s educational sector, among other things, determines the economic health of the nation.

Greed and leadership incompetence has provoked Nigeria’s sociopolitical and economic crisis. Without “values education” (Lickona, October 1992; Dike, May 25, 2005) that involves “educating for character” and for good “moral values,” which has been linked to moral education and civic responsibility, the economy may not grow and prosper. As Lickona (October 1992) avers “respect and responsibility are the two foundational moral values” that a society should teach its citizens; others include honesty, fairness, tolerance, prudence, self-discipline, helpfulness, compassion, cooperation, courage (the virtues of Aristotle) among other democratic values. Taking responsibility for the things we do wrong as well as the things we do right is important for national development.

Linked to this is the issue of inadequate investment in human capital and knowledge that hinders productivity and increases poverty and social crisis. Nigeria needs vocational and technical projects to develop the skills investors, the industries and companies would use to accomplish the 2020 agenda. Attention should, therefore, be given to the technical education, which has been pushed to the back burner in the education sector.  Technical skills could enable those with the resources to become self-employed and escape poverty. Available economic indices show that about 70 per cent of Nigerians live on less than one dollar per day (U.S. Department of State Reports on Human Rights Practice, 2005). The implication of this situation is that many poor Nigerians will spend most of their resources on feeding with little or nothing remaining to invest in the economy. Without boosting economic growth and empowering the people, the government’s ill-planned and hastily implemented poverty alleviation programs may not reduce poverty in the society.

Inadequate investment in technological development, agricultural and rural development (lack of reliable electricity supply, unreliable transportation system, lack of clean water, health care, etc that are the catalyst of economic growth) are among the challenges facing the Nigerian economy. And to grow and prosper the system should encourage competition, innovation and creativity. Presently, information technology almost determines the nature of every human activity; with it, individuals and businesses communicate much faster than ever. Thus in the midst of global electronic communications revolution in which electronic information flows across national boundaries, no society would succeed in building a thriving political economy without being information technology conscious. In spite of the presence of the GSM in the society, Nigeria still lags behind in the integration of information technology in its daily activities, as it lacks the adequate technical manpower in this sector.

Also, the nation lacks functional data base for effective national planning and administration (security check, personal identity, birth and death records, etc). For reasons of technology, infrastructure and socioeconomic status many Nigerians lack access to the Internet and electronic information to make informed decision on various issues affecting the polity. One must note, however, that modern technology is not the answer to all the problems facing the Nigerian economy - it is only part of the solution. Having said that though, how is Nigeria going to achieve the Vision 2020 objectives without addressing the magnitude of challenges facing the economy?


Vision 2020: Meeting the Challenges


Nigeria cannot ignore the constraints on the economy and expect to achieve its purpose. It requires potent economic medicines and good leadership to spur the ailing Nigerian economy. As noted earlier, Nigerian leaders are good at listing the challenges confronting the polity, without providing the solutions to the problems. Consequently, Nigeria’s socio-economic and political problems remain perpetually unresolved.

Fixing Nigeria’s ailing economy would require a holistic approach because a “dysfunctional government” is often “captured by wealthy interests” (Rose-Ackerman 2004). Effective institutional reforms are the key to improving the economy because poor governance and corruption, which are related, distort socioeconomic and political activities in societies. Although corruption has assumed many definitions, Robbins (2000) defines corruption as “an institutional system in which rights are dissolved in exchange for gifts.” In this case law enforcement policies that deal with corrupt practices may not be effective without tackling the underlying institutional problems that are the root causes of the malaise. Efforts to improve governance must go beyond mere anti-corruption campaigns; the reform efforts, if well-planned and well-implemented, could have huge benefits with less disruption. Unbundling corruption in the society would not be possible without effective checks and balances to monitor people’s (leaders and followers) activities and with stiffer penalties for corrupt practices, such as longer and tougher jail terms without option of fines.

Security is a serious problem in Nigeria as it affects investment and economic growth. The Yar’Ardua administration recently created the Niger Delta Ministry (Guardian, September 11, 2008) with the hope that it would tame the militancy and criminal activities in the region. But with the upsurge of the “oil war” since after that it is doubtful if that will solve the longstanding Niger Delta problem. The people appear to be interested more in true federalism and resource control and less on the ministry. Nigeria operates a political system modeled after the United States where the legislative branch plays an important part in the formulation of laws and influences policy directions. But in Nigeria the executive branch has unlimited powers and literally determines who gets what, when, and how much. To transform Nigeria’s democratic experiment into a true democracy and for the economy to prosper, there should be proper balance of power among the branches. The National Assembly and the Judiciary could only influence national decision-making process when, and if, they are independent of the influence of the presidency. The unlimited power tussles as seen from the spate of impeachment of state governors and the influence of the godfathers should be controlled through the institution of due process, because they impede on economic growth and development. Until the society destroys the authoritarian institutions that are choking the Nigeria’s nascent “democracy,” domestic politics would remain authoritarian and chaotic with catalogue of human miseries.

To stimulate the economy the government must fix the dilapidated social infrastructure (roads, bridges, rail roads, water, etc), in addition to truly reforming the power sector, because these are crippling economic activities. For instance, how can the private sector function without stable electricity, access to financial capital, and good road network? Poor infrastructure creates a poor business environment and negatively impacts business activities and productivity. Effective reform and privatization of the power sector is critical in fixing the ailing Nigerian economy and achieving the Vision 2020 agenda. The Guardian of November 5, 2006 noted that for the “reforms in the power sector to achieve its set objective a whopping $20 billion would have to be invested in the next 20 years.”

It also requires good management to turn institutions like NEPA (now PHCN), NNPC, NPA and other public corporations into viable entities that would benefit the entire society. No economy will grow without functional and effective institutions. In this case, one could venture to say that Nigeria’s economic problem is partly a productivity issue. Addressing the business environment will enable the economy to produce more goods and services to feed the teeming population. However, to improve productivity the employers of labor in the society must motivate the workers by way of a good reward system and invest in technological development. And with high-tech one would turn raw materials into finished products at a least cost.

The Nigerian economy will not grow and prosper without investment in human capital. Good schools are important part of the solution to Nigeria’s sociopolitical and economic problems. To enable the educational sector to produce and supply the required high level manpower and human capital for sustainable growth and development the educational system should be properly funded and reformed. The failure of the Obasanjo administration to honor its agreement with ASUU contributed to the unending teachers’ strike actions and the disruption of the nation’s academic calendar during his era. And recently primary and secondary teachers embarked on weeks of strike action because the Yar’Ardua administration refused to meet their demands. Without increased investment in human capital and job creation, and without ensuring that the necessary factors of production are available and affordable, the economy will remain in shambles and the Vision 2020 project will remain a dream.

For the economy to function well the environment must also support medium/small-scale firms and micro-enterprises that create employment. This will help reduce the rising youth unemployment and crime rates in the society. Ensuring a good business environment will improve the worsening capacity utilization of domestic industries.

Economic growth should be tied to activities in the non-oil/agricultural sectors because resources from the oil sector alone wouldn’t grow the economy. Nigeria needs “agricultural revolution” by applying new and advanced agricultural technologies and methods both in the urban and rural areas, for increased food production. The prices of some staple food are rising beyond reach of the masses. Commercialization of agriculture with commercial food processing is necessary because any nation worth its name must be able to feed her citizens to enable them function in the 21st century economy. It is time for a paradigm shift to unchain the impediments to economic diversification and economic growth in the society. The economic base should be diversified with more attention given to the federal government’s ‘cassava initiative.’

Nigeria should restructure her revenue collection system because it has very low capacity to collect taxes from her citizens. States cannot function if they are unable to collect taxes and account for them. As Moore (1998) has noted if citizens are not taxed they have little or no incentive to hold the government accountable. Regulation of business activities to check tax evasion and other corrupt practices is also important (even though some businesses get into corrupt practices for survival because of the unfavorable economic environment).

The “go-slow” Umaru Musa Yar’Adua administration promised but failed to declare a state of emergency on power supply in July 2008. To realize the Vision 2020 objective the administration must resolve all the fundamental impediments – weak social institutions, erratic power supply, poor governance and corruption, and low productivity, among several others – to economic growth and development. More importantly, to prevent further erosion of confidence in the democratization process the government should ensure political stability, institute sound macroeconomic policies and be transparent (transparency is negatively impacted by corruption and unnecessary politicization of issues).

Good leaders are transparent and always driven with the need to produce positive results. As Fullan (2001) notes, “Leadership, if it is to be effective, has to have an explicit [making-a-difference] sense of purpose ... and be ultimately assessed by the extent to which it awakens people's intrinsic commitment, which is …mobilizing of everyone's sense of moral purpose.” But Nigeria’s leaders are good at lying and shifting blame as they often surround themselves with godfathers, sycophants and aides who always agree with their policies, even if they are not making a difference in the lives of the people. As a result, Nigeria’s problems remain perpetually unresolved.


Concluding Remarks


For Nigeria to achieve its 2020 objectives the people must be vigilant and demand accountability from the leaders. It has been proven that ‘the strength of a democracy is only as great as the will of the people to uphold it.’ Thus the legal system must be reformed to maintain and ensure the people’s trust in its rulings. It has been observed that ‘when trust fades, worries take hold.’ Nigeria should reform its decision-making process to ensure the citizens full participation, including the opposition.






And for Nigeria to build a strong foundation for true democracy and economic growth and development there is urgent need to resolve her institutional and infrastructural problems. The society should also promote democratic ethics, which include good governance that is accompanied by accountability and transparency.

For all these to be possible the citizens must be politically educated and mature. This would enable the future leaders to make ethical decisions and for the people to begin to make political office holders accountable while in office. According to Mahatma Gandhi, “politics without ethical principles” is among the “social sins of humankind.” Nigeria has the potential (human and material resources) to realize the Vision 2020 dream if the politicians (and the people) can change their mind-sets and learn to play ethical politics that adds good value to the system. If Nigeria wants to transit fully from the current democratic experiment to democratic consolidation, all stakeholders (leaders and followers) should adhere strictly to code of ethics, and any person that goes contrary to the rules should be punished without fear or favor. This entails a paradigm shift in the manner in which the nation is governed. As Albert Einstein has noted, “the specific problems we face today cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.” The political leaders should do more and talk less. In conclusion, the reality is that presently Nigeria lacks the critical institutions and infrastructure to transform the nation into one of the first 20 industrialized economies in the year 2020.


Notes and References


Amartya Sen (1999). Development as Freedom; New York: Anchor Books.


Arthur H. Bell and Dayle M. Smith (2002); Developing Leadership Abilities; Upper Saddle River, New Jersey, Columbus Ohio: Printice Hall.


Barry Eichengreen (2004). “Financial Instability;” in Global Crises, Global Solutions (Bjorn, Lomborg, edited, 2004), Cambridge University Press, pp.251-280.


Daily Trust (Editorial, Nov 10, 2006). “Presidential Plane and Money Laundering;” also see TheNews (Nov 14, 2006). “A Dollar Smuggling Shame;” Daily Trust (March 21, 2008. “Power Probe Panel May Summon Obasanjo.”


Daron Acemoglu (June 2003). “Root Causes: A historical approach to assessing the role of institutions in economic development;” Finance and Development (F&D), Vol. 40, No.2. Also see Hali Edison (June 2003). “Test the Links: How strong is the links between institutional quality and economic performance?” Finance and Development (F&D), Vol. 40, No.2 and Victor E Dike (October–December, 2003), “Nigeria: Economic Growth and Institutional Factors.” NESG Economic Indicators, Volume 9, No.4.


Guardian (September 11, 2008) “Govt creates Niger Delta Ministry, 27 others.”


John Maynard Keynes (May 1932). “The World’s Economic Outlook;” The Atlantic Online - accessed December 4, 2006 -


Michael Fullan (2001). Leading in a culture of change, CA: San Francisco, Jossey-Bass.


M. Moore (1998). Death without taxes: aid dependence, democracy, state capacity and aid in the fourth world. In M. Robinson and G. Whites (eds.), The Democratic Developmental state: politics and institutional design. Oxford University Press, Oxford.


Ndiva Kofele-Kale (2006). The International Law of Responsibility for Economic Crimes: Holding State Officials Individually Liable for Acts of Fraudulent Enrichment; Hampshire, England: Ashgate Publishing Limited, p.179


N. Gregory Mankiw (2001); Principles of Microeconomics (2nd edition) Fortworth: Harcourt College Publishers.


National Planning Commission: Nigeria National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategies (NEEDS), Abuja


P. Robbins (2000). The Rotten Institution: Corruption in Natural Resource Management. Political Demography, 19, 423-443


San Francisco Chronicle (March 11, 2007); “Oil giant that runs on grease of politics.”


Susan Rose-Ackerman (2004). “Governance and Corruption;” In Global Crises, Global Solutions (Bjorn, Lomborg edited, 2004). Cambridge University Press, pp.301-344.


Thomas Lickona (October 1992). Educating for Character: How Our Schools can Teach Respect and Responsibility. New York: Bantman Books (Paperback edition).


Tume Ahemba (Reuters) International Herald Tribune, July 21, 2008, “Squandered oil wealth leaves Nigeria in dark age;” also see BusinessDay (September 2, 2008) “Price fluctuation signals risk to oil dependent economy.”


ThisDay (March 20, 2007). See Sufuyan Ojeifo “Fasawe: Obasanjo paid N 700m into Mofas Acct…”


Vanguard (September 8, 2008) “Yar'Adua: Only wife, CSO see president;” ThisDay (September 6, 2008) “Yar’Adua returns home;” also see Guardian (Editorial-September 7, 2008), “Yar'Adua: A Feast of Rumors.”


Victor E. Dike (July 22-28, 2006) “Unreasoned policies and Nigeria’s underdevelopment,” Weekly Trust; Victor E. Dike (January 15, 2007), “Need for ethical politics and values;” Daily Trust; Victor E. Dike (May 25, 2005) “Values Education and National Development;” Daily Trust.


Victor E. Dike (Jan-March, 2002) “The State of Education in Nigeria and the Health of the Nation” in NESG Economic Indicators, Vol. 8, No 1.


William W. Lewis (April 2004). The Power of Productivity: Wealth, Poverty, and the Threat to Global Stability. University of Chicago Press; also see Victor E. Dike (January 31, 2006), “Economic restructuring and power of productivity,” Daily Champion.


Victor E. Dike is the author of Leadership without Moral Purpose: Godfathers, Greed and the Obasanjo Administration, 2003-2007 (forthcoming).