The Nigerian Economic Development: A Case Against Liberal Democracy II; By Alpha J. Marshall


AFTER over 6 decades of nation hood and development activities in Nigeria, poverty still pervades the entire country.

Health, Educational and social infrastructure has continued to degenerate. Insecurity, government corruption and the Hobbesian state of nature, where life is short, brutish and nasty is prevalent from Sokoto to Uyo and from Lagos to Maiduguri. It is a disaster.

The orthodox explanation for the lack of development in Nigeria has been attributed to the following factors:

  • Low level of investment (both domestic and foreign).
  • Unequal terms of trade between Nigeria and develop nations.
  • Lack of technical skills.
  • Low productivity of workers (civil Service)

The truth be told, the above factors have contributed to Nigeria’s underdevelopment, but, these are not the fundamental problems.

Claude Ake, a leading authority in development, asserts that Nigeria’s underdevelopment is as a result of her historical background, (Nigeria’s colonial origin). Ake, asserts that the colonial state were -:

  • Statist -The colonial state exercised domination and control over the economy and social life. It was an absolutist state and also arbitrary. In the colonial state, the emphasis is on the achievement of compliance through coercion, rather than through the exercise of legitimate authority. It was a governance by means of coercion, and what was required of the people was their ‘conformity’ and not their ‘consent,’ and part of that conformity was for the people to accept finished products manufactured by the colonial powers.
  • The post-colonial states’ political elites: – After independence – (flag independence of course), the politicians shifted their focus from fighting the colonizers to competing amongst themselves for the control of state power as an avenue to accumulate private wealth. The politicians manipulated ethnicity in order to gain power, and thus the birth of ‘politics of exclusivity.’
  • The integration of Nigeria into the global capitalist system. – This factor created a relationship of structural dependence between Nigeria and the advanced economies, thus, making Nigerian leaders to believe that economic development depends on the inflow of foreign capital from developed nations inform of aids and loans.

To reiterate, as earlier enunciated in the first part of this article, development includes – economic growth, social and political development. Development is not economic growth, whereas, economic growth is part of development. For example, the establishment of more banks and raising of skyscrapers are signs of economic growth, but, they cannot be considered to be development. London, Rome, Brussels, Paris, etc. do not have skyscrapers compared to New York, Thailand, Hong Kong and Singapore.

Development is not a project; it is a process. It is a process by which the people create and recreate themselves by their lives circumstances to achieve higher levels of prosperity and values. Development is a process in which the people are the end, the means and the agents. The tech giants, owners of Facebook, Twitter, google, etc., were persons first and foremost who created values and recreated themselves. Development is the people and not artefact.

Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State in his first tenure, concentrated on massive infrastructural development across the state. The opposition leader, Ayodele Fayose, endeared himself to the people by meeting their food needs, in the famous “Stomach Infrastructure”. The people reciprocated his gesture with their votes. They voted out Fayemi the incumbent governor and voted in Fayose. When the people become the centre of development and attention, every other things falls in line.

The Chinese built one of the most architectural master pieces ever constructed, called The Great Wall Of China. The wall was built to keep away invaders and to protect the people. History beckons that the Chinese were invaded three (3) times, despite the wall. On a closer observation, it was discovered that the invaders never climbed the wall, because it was too high, but rather gained entrance by bribing the guards at the wall. The Chinese built the wall, but failed to build the guards who watched over the wall.

The Democracy suitable for Nigeria – popular democracy.

Liberal democracy which is prevalent in Nigeria is not suitable for development. Truth be told, democracy (peoples power) itself thrives better in an enlightened society. It is an enlightened “demos” (people) that can actually exercise “kratia” (power).

In Nigeria, the practice of democracy, has brought tears and agony on the people and the polity. Nigeria needs to jettison the prevalent liberal democratic principle and embrace the “Swiss Format” of democracy – The Popular Democracy.

Switzerland had ranked number one (1) amongst the 10 best nations of the world, based on the three P’s principle of: Principle of subsidiarity – (1) here, the best decisions are those taken at the lowest level of government, example, town unions and not at the federal level as obtainable in Nigeria. (2) Principle of Popular Sovereignty: – Most important decisions are subject to a referendum or a plebiscite. It is not setting up a committee. (3) Principle of Devolution of Power: – Power sharing is based on agreement.

Popular democracy will allow the people to participate actively in the process of decision-making beyond periodic electoral processes.

Popular democracy will entrench self-reliance, having no need to borrow from outside, but evolve your own system. Dependency had been the bane of Nigeria’s underdevelopment. It has empowered the elites and disempowered the people.

Popular democracy will enshrine Human Capital Investment (HCI). It will provide the people with resources such as start-up capital, soft loan, technology and skill acquisition. As they make their own plans, implement them and own them, they begin to develop confidence in themselves. Aba City in Abia State ought to be the industrial and manufacturing hub of Africa, but liberal democracy stifled its development. The Ikeja computer village in Lagos State ought to be the Silicon Valley of Africa.

A good case worthy of mention is the Innoson Motor Company at Nnewi in Anambra State. The MD of the company approached the Federal Government of Nigeria for patronage over foreign vehicles, the federal government advised the company to set up a base in Kaduna State instead.

Liberal democracy indeed stifles economic development, and Nigeria will do well to embrace and imbibe Popular democracy towards becoming a developed nation.


Marshall writes from Abuja and can be contacted via sms only on 08032641104 or email @: [email protected]


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