US Envoys’ New Book Calls Nigeria a Kleptocracy, Says Buhari’s Anti-corruption Fight Has Little Effect

  • Says 774 local government councils moribund
  • Country caught in demographic, religious catch-22

Bayo Akinloye

Nigeria has been described as a kleptocracy of ethno-religious and political robber elites in a new book, Nigeria: What Everyone Needs to Know, written by a former United States Ambassador to Nigeria, John Campbell, and former US intelligence community expert on Nigeria, Matthew Page. The book released on July 2, extracts of which were obtained by THISDAY, says Nigeria is caught in a difficult demographic situation made worse by violent ethno-religious sentimentalism. It says government and public officials in Nigeria loot the national treasury at the expense of more than 180 million Nigerians, while President Muhammadu Buhari’s anti-corruption war does very little to check sleaze.

Campbell and Matthew also states that fraudulent enrichment by the political class have increased, despite the administration’s anticorruption campaign.

According to the book’s introductory page, “However, if Nigeria is a democracy, it is also a kleptocracy, a nation characterised by a type of corruption in which government or public officials seek personal gain at the expense of those being governed. Throughout the post-independence period, wholesale looting of the state by members of the political class has accelerated.

“On a smaller scale, corruption has become deeply embedded in virtually all aspects of national life.” It says, “Chiefs of state regularly denounce this malfeasance, and President Buhari has taken concrete steps against it, but with little effect. Kleptocracy and government dishonesty have corrosive effects on popular confidence in governance. Official and unofficial corruption undermines the democratic trajectory and risks overwhelming it. It is among the most important hindrances to the country’s economic and social development.”

Page had last October affirmed that Buhari’s integrity was at stake following the $25 billion contracts allegedly awarded by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) without due process.

The book continues: “The country’s 774 local government councils, ostensibly responsible for delivering basic education, health, and social services, are moribund yet still gobble up more than one-third of total public spending. State governors routinely waylay these funds and set up their cronies as local government chairmen…. Across many parts of Nigeria, government inaction and petty corruption are sparking land disputes, particularly between farmers and semi-nomadic livestock herdsmen.”

The book also takes a swipe at former President Olusegun Obasanjo on his military-styled eight-year rule and third term ambition, saying, “Although the elections of 2007 were characterised by blatant rigging in favour of Obasanjo’s hand-picked choice, Umaru Yar’Adua, the latter’s presidency (2007-2010) was genuinely civilian in style and outlook. In a positive development for the rule of law, Yar’Adua, as a matter of principle, enforced judicial decisions that his administration did not like, unlike Obasanjo who had ignored inconvenient court rulings.

“Olusegun Obasanjo’s presidency (1999-2007) ostensibly was civilian, though he had been a military chief of state and his style was that of a military ruler. However, his ambition to serve an unconstitutional third term was thwarted in the National Assembly.”
Despite signs of modernity in the country, Nigeria: What Everyone Needs to Know reiterates what recent reports have said about Nigeria being one of the poorest in the world, stating that by “indices ranging from levels of female literacy to average life span”, Nigeria scores among the lowest in the world and that its population “has grown explosively without the economic and infrastructure development” to support it.

The book adds, “Though it possesses extraordinary potential, Nigeria is truly the troubled giant of Africa…
“Nigeria is at the junction between Christianity and Islam and, more broadly, where the modern and traditional overlap…. Though in some ways Nigeria is a proverbial ‘riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma,’ its immediate importance has six elements…. The country is caught in a demographic catch-22: the country’s rapid population growth is both a product and a key cause of socio-economic stresses such as high poverty, youth unemployment, gender inequality, and food insecurity.”

It identifies the six elements as the country’s largeness, multi-ethnicity and religious diversity, role in international energy market, political leadership in Africa, contributions to arts, and internal security challenges spilling over into West Africa region.

However, under the section, “What Is Nigeria’s Promise?” the book notes, “Having listed Nigeria’s most daunting challenges, let us turn to its inestimable promise. Far from being the dystopia portrayed in Western and, too often, its own domestic media, Nigeria at moments feels like a country on the verge of turning the corner on the path to greatness…. Throughout this book we emphasise the optimism we have about Nigeria’s future by highlighting ways in which the country can unlock its great potential, whether by focusing on infrastructure development, combating corruption, reforming its military, and opening up more opportunities for women to participate in politics, and a host of other ways.”

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