Nigeria: ‘Crippled Giant’ No More?

Nigeria’s Transformation through Representation and Revenue

Panel discussion during the American Political Science Association’s Annual Meeting
Friday, August 31, 2012 at 2:00
Nottoway room of the Sheraton New Orleans

Just months before Nigeria’s 1999 transition, Eghosa Osaghae published his seminal book, Crippled Giant, and reference to the title became a common was of introducing the politics and economics of Africa’s most populous country.  Since then, Nigeria has grappled with guerrilla rebellions in the oil producing south, violent Islamic militants in the north, stolen elections, and widespread corruption.  However Nigeria has also witnessed checks on executive excesses, increased economic diversification, improved macroeconomic performance, and some effective conflict resolution across multiple levels of politics.  What do the institutional, cultural or structural features of Nigerian government performance tell us about broader comparative trends in Africa’s emerging democracies?

On Friday, August 31, I will chair a panel discussion entitled “Crippled Giant No More? Nigeria’s Transformation through Representation and Revenue,” sponsored by the APSA’s Committee on International Political Science that will explore this question at a panel during the Annual Meeting in New Orleans. The panel’s papers examine how subnational variance in revenue collection speaks to different types of citizen-government linkages, and how reforms in the legislature and within political parties have opened new avenues of political accountability.  Recurring debates over the appropriations have often slowed the policy process, but they has also enhanced civil society participation and promoted legislative capacity building.  Efforts to address religious conflicts through property rights reforms and enhanced civil rights enforcement show some promise.  Representational dilemmas at the core of these conflicts have also brought into the open popular demands to reconcile power-sharing traditions which operate at different levels of formality and at different tiers of Nigeria’s complex federal system.

A new generation of scholars on the panel will explore these varied outcomes through key concepts and themes of comparative political institutions, drawing upon innovative field research and trans-Atlantic collaboration facilitated in part by APSA’s Africa Workshops.  The papers engage literatures on comparative democratization and politics in the developing world in several ways.  The research on corruption and post-transition economic performance joins a reinvigorated debate among Africanists about the ability of policy choice to overcome adverse structural conditions, including colonial legacies (Ndulu, O’Connell, Bates, 2008; Acemoglu and Robinson 2010).  The endogenous emergence of local power-sharing traditions has important implications for conflict resolution and comparative federalism (Reynolds 2011; Rothchild and Roeder 2005).  In particular the recent strengthening of governors through statutory revenue allocations raises important questions about fiscal federalism’s relationship to subnational political authority (Suberu 2001; Lijphart 1999).  Two of the papers engage the literature on comparative legislatures, debating whether Nigeria’s National Assembly has advanced democratic consolidation by promoting accountability — or held it back by enabling clientism and corruption. If Nigeria was a “crippled giant” in the words of Osaghae’s famous book, domestic drivers of political and economic change suggest it is now healing.

Here is information about the papers and panelists, three of whom are veterans of the APSA’s Africa Workshops:

“The Flourishing of Religion and Violence: Explaining the Volatility of Religion, Identity, and Politics in Nigeria”
Laura Thaut, University of Minnesota, Department of Political Science
Despite undergoing recent democratic transitions, a number of countries in the global South have been beset by inter-religious communal violence over the last four decades, hindering political stability and socio-economic development (e.g., Duffy-Toft 2006; Fox 2004;). Concurrent with this trend, religious change has swept through the global South. Although Islam has grown rapidly in some countries, the change of recent decades is largely due to the rapid growth of Christianity (e.g., Shah 2009; Marshall 2009; Johnson and Chung 2004, 171; Jenkins 2002, 2-3; Barrett, Kurian, and Johnson 2001, 5; Berger 1999; Gill 2002; Esposito 1998). Current scholarship, however, largely overlooks the importance of religious change in the construction of group identities or cleavages and in the contestation for representation in political institutions. The puzzle is this: Why does inter-religious violence occur in some religiously and ethnically mixed communities and not others with similar dynamics? Under what conditions does religious identity – as opposed to other ethnic identities – become the fault-line of communal violence and the salient mobilizing narrative even if the “root” of the conflict is not religious ideas or beliefs? In Nigeria, for example, Muslim-Christian violence has surged since the 1980s, resulting in the loss of thousands of lives, displacement, and destruction of property.  However, Muslim-Christian violence does not break out everywhere. What are the political mechanisms that result in endemic communal violence as opposed to relative peace among religious groups?

To address this puzzle, my paper draws together the literature on representation and ethnic conflict, examining the relationship between ethnic/tribal representation in local government institutions – degree of power-sharing – and a community’s vulnerability to inter-religious conflict. Recent scholarship questions the ability of power-sharing to ameliorate ethnic cleavages and conflict, and finds little empirical evidence of its effectiveness (LeVan 2011; Rothchild and Roeder 2005; Cheeseman and Tendi 2010; Lijphart 2002; Oyugi 1999); but the power-sharing scholarship has largely focused on formal national-level institutions. In my research, I reformulate this theory to test whether informal power-sharing among ethnic/tribal groups in local level government helps to explain the sub-national variation in inter-religious violence. From nearly a year of fieldwork in northern Nigeria, my paper presents the findings of both qualitative case study research and quantitative data gathering work, including the construction of an original dataset of communal violence in northern Nigeria from 1979-2011 and data collected on “sub-state/province” local government election results. Based on these data, I find support for my theory that religious change in Nigeria has introduced a powerful narrative of group identity and difference that, depending on informal local power-sharing arrangements, can be leveraged for violence or peacebuilding. Furthermore, I show how inter-religious violence has become a more frequent phenomenon since the end of the 1970s, and I discuss the importance of distinguishing between the precipitating events and mechanisms that spark ethnic/tribal versus inter- or ethno-religious communal violence.

The Nigerian Legislature and Socio-political Re-Engineering in the Fourth Republic
Joseph Olayinka Fashagba, Landmark University, Nigeria
Since independence in 1960, Nigeria has been struggling to develop economically and efforts to stabilize democratic government have been futile.  Although Nigeria inherited a parliamentary democracy at independence and experimented with the presidential system in the second republic, both republics collapsed due to stress and strain, implying that institutional reforms matters little.  The intervention of the military in governance became a major feature of the polity until 1999 when democracy was once again restored.  While military rule lasted, political participation was stifled, the national economy was grossly mismanaged, and civil society was severely emasculated.  This study identifies specific historical factors which have impacted participation and economic policy planning during the Fourth Republic.  Comparative studies focus on the role of the legislature in consolidating democracy broadly (Barkan 2009; Fish 2008) or enhancing accountability (Bryan and Hofmann 2007; Stapenhurst 2008).  However less research has been done on the role of African legislatures in setting the economic policy agenda or in widening the scope of public participation in politics.  Using original data from secondary sources including newspapers and government reports, this paper argues that the legislature has not only broadened participatory politics but also helped to kick start Nigeria’s economy through various acts enacted after the restoration of democracy.  Advancing this policy agenda required the vigorous participation of civil society, and it also enhanced legislative capacity as the National Assembly gained technical experience in its negotiations with the executive branch over economic policy.

 “Corruption in High Places: Is the National Assembly Endangering Nigeria’s Democratic Project?”
Yahaya T. Baba, Political Science Department, Faculty of Social Sciences
Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Nigeria

Democratic governance lodges the power to rule in the hands of the people, enabling them to hold officials in high places accountable for corruption. Accountability in its vertical and horizontal forms is promoted by relatively autonomous institutions (O’Donnell, 1999; Smullovitz and Peruzzotti, 2000).  The legislature is especially central to controlling the conduct and behavior of officials through its roles of law making, oversight, and representation (Barkan, 2005, 2009, Nijzink, et. al 2006). Thus strong legislatures are necessary for a robust democracy.  Nigeria’s National Assembly since its inception in 1999 has been grappling with crises relating to autonomy, capacity, and political patronage (Lewis, 2009; Jibrin, 2004).  This affects its ability to supervise and control government. This paper argues that corruption both within the National Assembly and in the presidency are a consequence of a weak legislature. An entrenched culture of executive dominance, low capacity of personnel due to inexperience and high turnover, and clientelism are some of factors contributing to weak capacity. In this sense the National Assembly resembles other emerging legislatures (Barkan et. al, 2004, Stapenhurst, 2004; Barkan 2005; Nijzink, 2005).  Nigeria’s legislators do deserve credit for successfully provoking probes and sanctioning corruption internally, but their capacity to engender broader public accountability across executive agencies is comparably weak.   What explains the partial success of the National Assembly to stem internal corruption on one hand, and its failure to engender broader public accountability across governmental agencies on the other hand?  What have been the instrumental and reactionary roles of the executive to corruption episodes in the National Assembly? Why have various probes by the National Assembly into some executive agencies (power, health, privatization, and education) failed to systematically improve public accountability?  A key reason stems from the abuse of power by the executive since the inception of democracy in 1999, which has undermined the autonomy and capacity of the National Assembly.  Corruption episodes in the National Assembly are often engineered by the executive to displace disloyal assertive leadership as a strategy to keep the legislature weak. Primary and secondary source data suggest that the executive has responded to legislative probes by protecting friendly members accused of corruption and instigating the probes of unfriendly members. This often visibly divides the National Assembly along patronage and nationalistic lines. The paper concludes that inadequate public interest is also responsible for the failure to induce horizontal checks against executive corruption, a viewpoint gauged against the backdrop of varying levels of public support enjoyed by the National Assembly in recent years.

“Taxation and Representation in Contemporary Africa: Determinants of Local and State Budgeting Priorities”
Olufunmbi M. Elemo, Department of Political Science, Michigan State University
Under what conditions are African local and state governments more likely to spend public revenues on public service delivery? Local and state governments, increasingly important to the execution of African democracy, serve as a mechanism for participatory integration people into the fold of governance. In order to facilitate the execution of their growing duties, local and state legislatures are endowed with the power to raise revenue. Given these varied obligations, what determines local and state government spending priorities?

Scholars have continuously linked the development of representative institutions to citizen taxation. Originating in studies of Western Europe, theory suggests, in order to raise revenue for war/border protection, rulers enter into a contract with citizens: citizens agree to provide tax revenue in exchange for an enhanced role in governance. With taxation comes the incentive for political leaders to shift public policy and spending toward citizen interests (Tilly1985/1990; Bates and Lien, 1985; Levi, 1988; North and Weingast, 1989; Acemoglu and Robinson, 2005). In an application of this theory to Africa, Gibson and Hoffman (2005) find that in Tanzania and Zambia, local governments deriving a larger portion of their revenue from citizen taxation are also more likely to spend revenue on public service delivery, and less likely to spend income on recurrent expenditures (e.g. government salaries).

I attempt to further test the applicability of this theory to Africa, focusing on the Nigerian case, where interactions between income from citizen taxation and petroleum create varied sub- national revenue compositions. Using 1999– 2009 budgetary data collected from the Central Bank of Nigeria during fieldwork (October 2010 – July 2011), I test the Gibson and Hoffman hypothesis, not only at the local government level, but also state government level. I expect a positive relationship between tax dependence and public service delivery (in both local and state governments) and a negative relationship between non-tax based sources of revenue (federal transfers from petroleum and value added tax, grants/foreign aid) and expenditures on public services. Utilizing random effects Generalized Least Squares models, analysis confirms that as revenue from taxation increases, both local and state government spending on public service provision increases.  A relationship between taxation and representative government suggests that building the local and state governments’ tax administrative capacity can also bolster responsive and democratic governance.


Congratulations in advance to these four scholars!
Please join us for a robust discussion about the recent past — and the near future — of Nigeria.
Carl LeVan, American University, School of International Service

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