Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs

Richard A. Joseph: "The Nigerian Project Must Be Salvaged"

March 14, 2012

The Nigerian statecraft project cannot be allowed to fail, said Richard A. Joseph, John Evans Professor of Political Science at Northwestern University.

According to Joseph, the Nigerian state currently faces three key challenges: the promotion of sustainable economic growth and poverty reduction, the strengthening and deepening of democracy, and the advancement of security for its citizens. These challenges are not necessarily relevant only to Nigerian or African concerns, Joseph said.

By working together, "Nigerian leaders, including the government, the business sector, universities, civil and communal associations, the media, and faith groups, can salvage Nigeria's national project and contribute to advancing those of other countries," Joseph said. Sustainable institutions are key to promoting this agenda.

"Understandings of Africa are in conflict," Joseph said. He cited a February 2012 World Bank report describing an "opportunity in Africa for transformation and sustained growth." At the same time, former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan pointed to "progress, stagnation and discouraging regression" during a panel on African progress. On February 13, 2012, the Nigerian National Bureau of Statistics published a report indicating an increase in the nation's poverty. According to the Bureau's most recent records, 61% of Nigerians live on less than $1 a day.

Joseph suggested an approach to targeting the challenges posed by questions of growth, democracy, and security. The secondary issues affecting many African nations include re-territorializing, expanding oil and gas reserves, South-South relations, war and predation, and at-risk democracies. "There is currently no effort to address the complexity of these issues in the continent by any think tank," Joseph said.

In response to the crises, Joseph has proposed the AfricaPlus project, which incorporates five core themes: claiming democracy; building social wealth; governmental accountability, transparency, and efficiency; investment in ethical entrepreneurship; and state-nation configuration.

Nigeria is a failed state, according to Joseph, based on the assumption that a state provides its citizens with security and resources. It is, however, successful in its ability to continue with natural resource extraction and maintain a military and police force. In response to the thematic question, "Can the Nigerian project can be salvaged?" Joseph's answer was absolute: "Given Nigeria's significance, we have no choice."

By Watson Institute Student Rapporteur Anna Andreeva '12