Webs Preventing Nation Building In Nigeria

By Esther Alade, LMU Undergrad, Kwara State

Citizens of a society cannot do without the existence of a nation because every activity people engage in, within and outside the nation can all be determined by policies made by the people in the nation. Nations are an important part of modern society.  History tells us about the existence of empires, fiefdoms and kingdoms, all dating from the classical era, medieval period, age of enlightenment, even to the contemporary modern world of today.However, nations or nation states have replaced all of them as the basic unit of human political organization.

Nations are not a product of historical accidents but are deliberately built by men and women of vision and resolve. Nation-building is therefore not the product of wishful thinking but of conscious,well thought-out governance.  It is a continuous work-in-progress, a dynamic process in constant need of development and re-invention.  Nation-building never stops and true nation-builders never rest because all nations are constantly faced with new challenges.

Nation-building encompasses many important aspects.  Firstly, it is about building a political entity that is said to be related to a given territory which has its foundation on some generally accepted rules, norms and principles, and citizens who share the same vision.

Secondly, it is also about building institutions which embody the political entity; institutions such as a bureaucracy, an economy, the judiciary, universities, a civil service, and civil society organizations.

However and perhaps most importantly, nation-building is about the builders, i.e.the citizens, building a common sense of purpose, a sense of shared identity and destiny, and possessing a collective imagination of belonging.  It involves the building of the tangible and intangible threads that hold a political entity together and gives it a sense of purpose by which it attains modernity. This can be linked to the founders of Nigeria, men like Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Dr.Nnamdi Azikwe, Sir Tafewa Balewa, Sir Ahmedu Bello and others, who had vision and showed keen interest in the attainment of independence and continuous building of the nation. These are the kinds of people that the nation Nigeria needs for its continuous growth and development.

Unfortunately, in modern times, Nigeria has been caught in the webs of so many challenges, despite the fact that she is endowed with so many human and natural resources. Some of the webs of challenges trapping Nigeria as a nation include the following:

  • The Web of History
  • The Web of Socio-Economic Inequalities
  • The Web of Building of Institutions for Democracy and Development
  • The Constitutional Web
  • The Web of Leadership


The Web Of History

From times past, it could be said that the challenges of nation-building have their roots in the colonial rule.According to Peter Ekeh’s Colonialism and the Two Publics, the two publics are the primitive and the civilian publics which involve the African and the colonial bourgeoisie respectively. In it, he stipulated that the primitive public involves the African way of living – their traditions, cultures, norms, values and political systems related to the culture and the likes. The civilian public refers to the colonial period and how the colonialists covered the Africans with the veil of ideology including: the fact that traditional worship is evil;that Africans are not progressive or developed because of their way of life and such similar thoughts.

In essence, this period can be regarded as the era of civilization,which involves the building of institutions like schools, hospitals, the constitution which involves rules for the people,political institutions and systems which encompasses or has been responsible for the people’s standard of living, even after the colonialists had left governance in care of Nigerians, assigning nationalist leaders according to their regions.This has led to tribalism which has gradually created the web of illegitimacy crisis, political instability and the likes. Scars had been left from history which cannot be forgotten because everybody is affected by what had happened since then, even up till date.But instead of focusing on the past, we can focus on what is on ground and give solutions to it. A wise man once said that history is past politics and politics is present history but those who do not learn from their past are doomed to repeat it – again.


The Web of Socio-Economic Inequalities

In Nigeria, many citizens are denied basic rights, such as the right to affordable and qualitative education and healthcare.There are also variations in the enjoyment of these rights across the country.  As a consequence, the average citizen is not motivated to support the state and society, because he or she does not feel that the society is adequately concerned about their welfare.

Secondly a socio-economic inequality across the country encourages fear and suspicion which keep people divided. For example, the level of immunization of children against dangerous childhood diseases, it can be said that while the South-East has 44.6% immunization coverage, the North-West has 3.7% and North-East 3.6%.  This is also be applicable to the education of the girl-child as an indicator; the pattern of inequality is similar with the South-East having an enrolment rate of 85%, South-West 89%, South-South 75%, North-East 20%, and North-West 25%. Only 25% of pregnant women in the North-West use maternity clinics, while 85% of the women in the South-East do. It is not surprising that 939%more women die in child-birth in the North-East, compared to the South-West.

Education and poverty levels show the dimensions of inequalities across Nigeria.  If we take admissions into Nigerian universities in the academic year 2000/1, we see that the North-West had only 5% of the admissions, while the South-East had 39%.  As for poverty, the former Governor of the Central Bank, Charles Soludo, once pointed out that while 95% of the population of Jigawa State is classified as poor, only 20% of Bayelsa State is so classified.  While 85% of Kwara State is classified as poor, only 32% of Osun is in the same boat.These inequalities can be related as challenges to nation-building.

The presence of socio-economic inequalities means that different Nigerians live different lives in different parts of the country. To put it succinctly, Nigeria needs a social contract with its citizens as a basis for demanding their loyalty and support.


The Constitutional Web

It can be said that ever since Nigeria got her independence, the country has been caught in the web of creating an acceptable constitution by the people without having so much lacunas. In the 1940’s and 1950’s our founding fathers were said to have been caught in the web of a stable constitution arrangement.  In the long run, they embraced the principle of federalism as a foundation for our nation.  But federalism had been caught in the web of those who, on the one side, want a unitary form of government and of those, on the other side want a confederal arrangement.

Another constitutional web is in relation to the nature of the nation’s democracy. Many Nigerians may embrace the principles of democracy which includes the forming of government based on the will of the majority, respect for the rule of law, and respect for basic freedoms of citizens, but in reality, Nigerians are said to be caught in the web of either the military rule or defective civilian governments.  These events can be related in terms of accountability, or respect for the rule of law, or the holding of elections, our conduct in the recent past has been far from democratic.  Be that as it may, while most Nigerians do not want military rule, the practice of democracy does not imply uniformity, showing a fundamental lack of consensus on this important question as well.  Moreover, political parties should need to become little more than vehicles to deliver power to the highest bidders at local, state and federal levels.


The Web of Building Institutions for Democracy and Development

Institution building can be said to be very important in nation-building. Lest nations are able to manage their political and social disputes peacefully, without being involved in conflict, or sustain economic growth without creating huge inequalities, it absolutely depends on the quality of the relevant national institutions.

Institution building encompasses the following components:

  • Institutions for the Enforcement of Laws; This is often related to the courts, Police, EFCC (Economic and Financial Crime Commission) and the likes are said to be institutions that ensures the integrity of the public
  • The Judicial Institutions:These are important institutions in any democracy and are important in the functioning of a market economy.  The judiciary settles disputes between the various levels of government, between government and citizens, and among citizens and also among private sector agents.
  • Economical Governance Institutions: An economic institution is responsible for the regulation of the supply and flow of money and the financial system (Central Bank); to allocate capital to firms and individuals (Banks and Stock Exchange); to insure against commercial risks (insurance firms); to insure individual bank depositors against loss of up to certain amount (deposit insurance); to enforce contractual obligations (courts); and to collect revenue for the government (fiscal authorities) and the likes.


The Web of Leadership Failure

Since inception, Nigeria has been caught in the web of poor leadership.  Leadership is an essential factor in nation-building.It is the ability to lead, manage, control, guide, and give direction to the people. Leadership is often given to appointed or elected individuals who possess personal qualities of integrity, honesty, commitment, noble character and competence of individual leaders at the top.  Also, leaders possess the collective qualities of common vision, focus, and desire for development as a group of the elites.

The performance of our past individual leaders over the years has left much to be desired. In these times, Nigeria as a nation needs leaders who can understand the social, political, cultural, and economic problems of the nation,and provide solutions to them; leaders who see all citizens as one, and carry them along; leaders who do not place self above the constitution and laws of the nation, but lead by example showing respect for the rule of law.Nigeria needs leaders who are not of double-standards. This vision however, cannot be accomplished by one person alone but with people who share the same vision and goals. This can be linked to the statement united we stand but divided we fall.



Nations are built by men and women who have the will and vision to accomplish greatness, not born of selfish motives, but for the country and for posterity. A good personality to mention is Late Chief Obafemi Awolowo who can never be wiped away from history because of his numerous contributions.Among his other notable accomplishments, he coined the name of the Nigerian monetary unit – the Naira.Late President Nnamdi Azikwe,Late Sir Tafewa Balewa together with Late Sir Ahmadu Bello, had shared the vision and began the nation known today as Nigeria.


Lastly, national greatness can be achieved by the will to offer such a leadership and support it through strong dependable political and economic institutions. Hiring persons with the technical expertise and moral competence to interpret the rules or implement the goals of the organisations; and ensuring that the institutions inspire public confidence by being transparent, fair and consistent.  These are also the standards by which the performance of any organisation, in particular, public sector organisations should be measured.  This shows that the act of creating the organisation itself is not as important as its proper functioning and overall effectiveness. In this regard, Nigeria needs to create and strengthen institutions that would help achieve the national goals of democratic governance and sustainable development.


http://www.mafng.org/anniversary/challenges_nation_building_nigeria.htm#_edn4Being a presentation by: Professor Ibrahim A. Gambari, on THE CHALLENGES OF NATIONS BUILDING: THE CASE OF NIGERIA @ Sheraton Hotel Abuja, Nigeria on 7 February 2008

http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download;jsessionid=38E85C61F8D0A0DEF6185FDADB8068A2?doi= and the Two Publics in Africa: A Theoretical Statement; Peter P. Ekeh; Comparative Studies in Society and History, Vol. 17, No. 1. (Jan., 1975), pp. 91-112

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