DEMOCRACY AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT IN NIGERIA, 1999 – 2007
Democracy and development are both highly contested concepts. Similarly, the interface between both concepts is also a subject of contestation. On the one hand are neoliberal theorists who believe that liberal democracy is essential, in fact a desideratum for economic development and human security and therefore an ideal form to which all nations of the earth must aspire. On the other are what may be termed neo-Marxist theorists who interpret liberal democracy as an ideological fig wig for masking the mindless exploitation and atrocious inequality that characterizes the global capitalist system, particularly the peripheral states. In line with the former position which has been on the ascendancy since the end of the cold war, the restoration of democratic rule in Nigeria in 1999 elicited high expectations among the citizenry that it would usher in an era of economic prosperity and security of lives and property both of which had been eroded under prolonged military rule. This study empirically examines the impact of the first eight years of democratic experiment in Nigeria on economic development and human security. Specifically, it examines the impact of democratic governance on economic development and the implication of the high level of insecurity witnessed during the period on the standard of living of the citizens. The study made use of qualitative descriptive method of collecting secondary data and employed content analysis in the analysis of the data. The theory of the postcolonial state was adopted as its framework of analysis. The study found that the democratic rule as implemented in Nigeria between 1999 and 2007 did not translate to economic development or increased security of lives and property and that the high rate of insecurity as witnessed during the period adversely impacted on the standard of living of the citizens. The study therefore recommends among other things the bridging of the high level of inequality in Nigeria and the opening up of the democratic space to make for greater citizen participation and which would in turn ignite their creative energy for national development.
1.1 Background of the Study
Democracy is a contested concept. In its liberal conception, democracy is the political form through which political power is said to reside in the people. This political power could be directly exercised by the people especially in modern times through their decisions on sensitive matters expressed in form of plebiscite or referendum; or indirectly through their representatives in government (Magstadt, 2009). The import of this notion therefore is that democracy is a process and indeed a developmental process which encompasses the people. In other words, the people are so central to democracy in that when the people develop politically, then the democratic process is bound to transform to maturity stage (Omodia, 2013: 569). This, he said, implies that democracy is a dynamic process that is expected to bring about the growth and evolution of a society and that democracy, if fairly practiced, should bring about a reduction in poverty, socio-economic empowerment and other quantitative and qualitative indices of development of man and the society he lives in.
In Africa, the need for democratization especially as witnessed in most nation-states in the 1990’s is based on the conception that democratic governance constitutes a major tool for socio-economic and institutional transformation or development (Olagunju et.al 1993; Omodia 2007; Johari 2011; Omodia 2012a). Thus, the pattern of democratization was majorly anchored on the transition from either one-partyism to competitive party democracy or from military rule to competitive party democracy.
In the case of Nigeria, although under military governance, developmental strides at reducing poverty and strengthening national integration were intended through the adoption of various strategies (Aku et.al 1997; Omodia 2005; Omodia 2007b), it has been recorded that political development was quite minimal as a result of the nature of military governance which is not designed to be integrative of the people. This factor no doubt also negatively impacted on the success of poverty reduction and economic development strategies of military regimes. Thus, democratic governance especially in the mid 1990’s and late 1990’s in Nigeria was viewed as a functional mechanism that would bring about an enduring development to the Nigerian state.
Meanwhile, the concept of development is no less contested with the most pronounced contestation being that between the Liberal and Marxist perspectives. To the liberalists, development means change which results due to maximization of the growth of GNP through capital accumulation and industrialization. Todaro (1979), for instance, saw development as the capacity of a national economy, whose initial economic conditions have been more static, to generate and sustain an annual increase in its Gross National Product (GNP) at the rate of 5% or 7%. On the other hand, the Marxists view development differently. To them, development is above economic progress and encompasses multidimensional processes. It is beyond economic variables and focuses on man and his well-being. Taking a hard look at development, Rodney (1972) posited that development in human society is many sided process. At the level of individual, it implies increased skill and capacity, greater freedom, creativity, self-discipline, responsibility and material well-being, while at the level of the society, it implies an increasing capacity to regulate both internal and external relations. It is the Marxists opinion that development starts at the individual level of the society and therefore, for real development to emerge the Marxists advocate the following:
- Free, compulsory and universal basic education;
- Improvement in the education and training of the working population;
- Raising the standard of living of the people;
- Improvement in the health of the people, by all round provision of health facilities;
- Making sure that level of consumption of material, social and spiritual goods and services are raised.
They contend that if these conditions are met, it will engender all round individuals with the capacity to contribute to development.
Sanusi (2010:4) acknowledges that economic progress is merely a component of development and that development goes beyond pure economics. In an ultimate sense, he said, development must encompass more than the material and financial side of people’s lives. Development, according to him, is therefore a multidimensional process involving the reorganization and reorientation of the entire economic and social systems which, in addition to improvements in incomes and output, typically involves radical changes in institutional, social and administrative structures, as well as in popular attitudes and in many cases even customs and beliefs.
Mindful of these conceptual polemics, we take as our point of departure Dudley Seers’ injunction that the questions to ask about a country’s development are:
What has been happening to poverty? What has been happening to unemployment? What has been happening to inequality? If all of these have declined from high levels, then beyond doubt this has been a period of development for the country concerned. If one or two of these central problems have been growing worse, especially if all three have, it would be strange to call the result “development”, even if per capita income doubled. This applies of course to the future too. A “plan” which conveys no targets for reducing poverty, unemployment and inequality can hardly be considered a “development plan” (Seers 1972 cited in Oyugi, 2008: 1-2).
Meanwhile, the concept of democracy and its relationship with economic development has equally been an area of debate (Rodrik, 1997). The debate has revolved around whether or not democracy promotes economic development or, conversely, whether or not economic development produces an environment that allows democracy to thrive and be sustained in the longer term (Matlosa, Elklit and Chiroro, 2007). Going further back, the debate may however properly be situated within the classical liberal theory and its concern with the best form of government to promote economic development. The liberals believe that government is best which governs the least, and that the primary function of government, which comes into existence as a result of a social contract, is the maintenance of national security and the protection of private property. On the basis of the classical liberal theory, Immanuel Kant, several centuries ago wrote a book titled Perpetual Peace in which he argued that peace depended on the establishment of liberal democracies in all nation-states and the translation of the principles of liberal democracy into the international realm.
This has been further expounded and propagated by neo-liberal theorists notable among who is Francis Fukuyama. He argued, following the collapse of the Soviet Union, that liberal capitalism provides the best solution for national progress and international peace and that in it mankind has finally discovered the ideal state. Implicit in this liberal cum neo-liberal assumption is that the implementation of liberal capitalism along with its political correlate liberal democracy would lead, as if by automatism, to greater economic development and guarantee the security of lives and properties of the citizens of any given state. In this sense therefore, democracy has become widely recognized as prerequisites for sustainable economic development (Johnson 1982; White and Wade 1988) essentially because it fosters transparency, accountability, the rule of law, respect for human rights, civic participation, and civic inclusiveness; all of which are necessary for securing economic productivity, equitable distribution and state legitimacy (The Ghana Center for Democratic Development, 2001). With respect to Nigeria however, it would appear that the restoration of democratic rule neither stimulated economic growth nor did it guarantee greater security of lives and properties of the citizens.
It is against this backdrop therefore that this study examines the impact of Nigeria’s democratic experiment on the nation’s economic development between 1999 and 2007.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
The debate on whether or not democracy is the engine for economic development has continued to attract attention of social science scholars, political practitioners, policy makers, international donor agencies, research bodies and agencies and the civil society. While the dominant view is that democracy conduces for rapid economic development by providing the enabling environment in which the productive capacity of the individual could be unleashed, there are those who argue that multi-party democracy actually impedes development and advocate the enthronement of one-party dominance and the hoisting of developmental elite to drive the development process.
Regardless, the restoration of civil rule in 1999 held a promise of realizing Nigeria’s potential of becoming the largest economic and most developed country in Sub-Saharan Africa and a major player in the Comity of Nations by virtue of her plenitude of human and material resources. These resources include huge oil reserves estimated at about 32 billion barrels, large deposit of solid minerals, and a population of over 140 million, large domestic market, and a land area of 923,768 square kilometers, 75 percent arable land and a large labour force.
Nigeria has experienced an unbroken democratic rule since 1999 marking the longest stretch of time that state power has been exercised by non-uniformed men since the country gained political independence in 1960. Within these years the political leaders and government functionaries have gleefully talked about democracy dividends and the people have eagerly yearned for the translation of democracy to development. This is clearly in line with a large body of literature which has presented evidence to show that countries that have reached the highest level of economic development across generations are all stable democracies (see Torstensson, 1994; Heitger, 2004; and Root, 2005). According to Sharma (2007), one of the most robust findings of some two decades of research on democratisation is that durable democracy is strongly correlated with economic development. The conventional wisdom is that democracies have embedded institutional advantages that support economic development. Theoretical literature believes this is possible because democracies enrich individual lives through the granting of political and civil rights, and do a better job of improving the welfare of the poor, compared to alternative political systems (Sen, 2001 cited in Philip and Ojeka, 2011: ).
More so, democracies are seen to be responsive to the demands and pressures from the citizenry, since the right to rule is derived from popular support. Numerous studies corroborate this with an analysis of forty-four (44) African states by Stasavage (2005), for instance, finding strong evidence that democracy helped to increase government spending on education. Similarly, Avelino, Brown, and Hunter (2005) found that democracy is robustly linked to higher spending on health, education, and social services. Third, the open dialogue and debates inherent in open democracies aid in the development of values and priorities, and this “constructive function” of democracy can be very important for equity and justice. Sen (1999) notes that this explains, for example, the remarkable fact that, in the terrible history of famines around the world, …no substantial famine has ever occurred in any independent country with a democratic form of government and a relatively free press. According to him, famines have occurred in ancient kingdoms and contemporary authoritarian societies, in tribal communities and in modern technocratic dictatorships, in colonial economies run by imperialists from the north and newly independent countries of the south run by despotic national leaders or by intolerant single parties. But they have never materialized in any country that is independent, that goes to elections regularly, that has opposition parties to voice criticisms, and that permits newspapers to report freely and question the wisdom of governments’ policies without extensive censorship. Given these scenario, more people are persuaded that democracy matters for development – that institutions, rules and political processes play a big role in whether economies grow, whether children go to school, whether human development moves forward or backward.
In spite of these claims, there are those who argue that the introduction of electoral democracy in Nigeria since 1999 has done little to enhance socio-economic development of Nigeria or to secure the lives and properties of the citizens. Such commentators argue that in spite of the many years of democracy, Nigeria remains one of the countries with low human development index with the implication that Nigeria is still bedeviled with poverty, food insecurity, poor sanitation, and high mortality rate, health crisis, and high illiteracy level, lack of improved water source, dead/dilapidated infrastructure and high crime rate according to Agba et al (2009).
In the context of these disputations therefore, this study explores the impact of democracy on Nigeria’s economic development as well as the security of lives and property in the country through the investigation of the following research questions:
- Did the restoration of democratic rule fail to enhance Nigeria’s economic development between 1999 and 2007?
- Does the high level of insecurity account for the low living standard of Nigerians between 1999 and 2007?
1.3 Objectives of the Study
The broad objective of this study is to critically examine the impact of democracy in achieving sustainable economic development in Nigeria from 1999 to 2007.
The specific objectives include the following:
- To investigate the extent to which the restoration of democratic rule enhanced Nigeria’s economic development between 1999 and 2007; and
- To analyze how the high level of insecurity accounted for the low living standard of Nigerians between 1999 and 2007.
1.4 Significance of the Study
The relevance of the study of democracy and economic development cannot be overstated particularly in the context of the neo-liberal triumphantism and its clam that liberal democracy is the best and in fact the ideal form of societal organization under which alone economic prosperity and the security of lives and properties of the citizens of any nation can be guaranteed.
At the theoretical level therefore, this study promises to be a rich contribution to the existing pool of knowledge on the nexus between democracy and development. This effort is particularly relevant in that even though a number of theoretical and empirical studies on democracy and development exist, there is as yet a dearth of empirical studies on the specific impact of the democratic enterprise as implemented in Nigeria since 1999 on the economic well-being of Nigerian citizens. The study will therefore be a useful resource for scholars, students and sundry researchers interested in further exploring the impact of democracy on development particularly in Nigeria under the current democratic dispensation.
At the practical level, the study will be of paramount importance to policy makers of developing countries, especially in Nigeria as it provides a practical guide for the understanding of the seeming contradiction between democracy and development in Nigeria and the roadmap for overcoming this counter-intuitive outcome and for safe guiding Nigeria’s democracy and transforming it into a vehicle for the mobilization of Nigeria’s abundant natural and human resources for the socio-economic and political transformation of the country