Recently, I was asked whether I thought Nigeria’s problems would be solved if only we managed to fight corruption effectively. I responded that this alone would not be enough. That while important for sure, other problems needed to be tackled as well. The next day a headline in one of the papers read “World Bank says corruption not Nigeria’s Bane.” After I had looked up what "bane" meant, I realized my response had been misunderstood.
The entity often known as ‘the international community’ has a touching faith in standard liberal constitutions and one-person-one-vote elections. Now, while those are outstanding human inventions, it is becoming clearer every day that in plural, deeply divided societies these inventions alone will not lead to settled systems of governance.
In my previous blog post, I examined how the system of oil revenue distribution in Nigeria is likely to weaken accountability and the results focus at all levels of government. Some of my colleagues actually wanted me to be more forceful than I was and close the door on the argument. However, I did not want to do so, for having lived in Nigeria for almost three years now, I have observed signs of change.
When I first went to Nigeria, I had a picture in my mind of an oil country with a struggling non-oil economy. This picture came from two statistics I knew: 95 percent of Nigeria’s exports are oil and 85 percent of Government revenues come from oil. What I did not know was that oil is only the fourth largest sector in the economy, with the wholesale and retail sectors being larger.