“WHY Nations Fail- The Origins of Power, Prosperity and Poverty” by Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson is a classical and contemporaneous book that should be of interest to our political leaders, decision makers, administrators, academics, development experts and others interested in global dynamics. This is a book described as blending ‘economics, politics and history to provide a powerful and persuasive way of understanding wealth and poverty’. The fifteen-chapter book addresses some, if not most of the fundamental issues militating against the nation’s prosperity.
From this book, it is discovered rather astonishingly, why the Nigerian state has not been successful despite its unique position of harbouring innumerable resources and enormous manpower. The history of warring and slaving and their devastating effects on the socio-psychology of the early rulers and kingdoms, colonisation and the amalgamation of multi-dimensional entities of over two hundred and fifty tribes to become Nigeria, the emergence of poverty due to avoidable inertia and rudderlessness, unending power struggles, and the independence that was designed to fail ab initio.
Acemoglu and Robinson theorise that we need ‘inclusive institutions’ which create virtuous circles of innovation, economic expansion and more widely-held wealth for us to achieve prosperity and become a powerful nation. Regrettably, we are yet to get to the stage of inclusiveness. Our institutions are patterned after our leaders or do I say rulers who determine at their whims and caprices what we must have and get. In other words, there is no sustainability and continuity in governance since most policy formulation and implementation are devoid of strategic innovation, patriotism, futuristic planning and direction.
According to Ian Morris, the authors of Why Nations Fail have ‘in this delightfully readable romp through four hundred years of history, two of the giants of contemporary social science bring us an inspiring and important message: it is freedom that makes the world rich. Let tyrants everywhere tremble’. How relevant this assertion to our country is anybody’s guess. Do we have freedom? If we have, what are we doing with it?
It is intriguing to decipher while Malaysia, India, Singapore, Indonesia, and New Zealand that are similar nations to Nigeria now differ so incredibly in economic, social and political development. Looking at these nations between 1955 and 1962, one is left befuddled on what brought about Nigeria’s paralysis.
The differences in modernisation, development, income and standards of living separating Africa and Europe and North America, and even now, Asia (China and India), and South America are indefensible and are surely at the footsteps of African rulers. Most African, South Asian and Central American rulers see public office as an opportunity for self-aggrandizement and impoverishment of their nationals. The poverty index of Africa, and indeed, Nigeria are quite alarming. How did Nigeria become the poverty capital of the world?
Poverty has different faces. Indeed, it ‘entails more than the lack of income and productive resources to ensure sustainable livelihoods. Its manifestations include hunger and malnutrition, limited access to education and other basic services, social discrimination and exclusion as well as the lack of participation in decision-making’. We see all these manifesting in Nigeria and most other countries in Africa. Some of the effects of poverty in Nigeria affect the growth of democracy, stunt our economic development, breed corruption, prevent development of institutions, promote tribalism and clannishness, and engineer the clamour for restructuring or reordering of the nation.
We have been deluding ourselves by not delving into the past to understand the historical dynamics of the various constituent parts of Nigeria. When Lord Luggard decided to amalgamate the south and the north, what were the lessons inherent in this decision and what did our nationalists do to make the best use of or annul the situation? Why did our forefathers take it wholesomely? Did the nationalists see the danger ahead and did they take any remedial action to foster a nation that could be prosperous, powerful and above reproach?
For example, why was the purported January 15, 1966 Revolution sabotaged and why did the planners made it hegemonic? Again, the retaliatory or counter coup of July 28 to 30, 1966 created more problems for the country that we are yet to recover from.
What has been the role of religion in our poverty and underdevelopment? We are a nation of religiosity with less spirituality. We pretend to be holier than the Pope, and we claim to understand Islam than Prophet Muhammad!
Can we now reinvent the wheel by looking at ‘The Origins of Power, Prosperity and Poverty’ through the x-ray of ‘Why Nations Fail’ as espoused by Acemoglu and Robinson? This column shall be devoting the next few outings to this assignment.
To be continued.