Nigeria’s “special forces”?  To the extent the federal government tries at all to impose its authority, it increasingly turns to local militias to serve as cannon fodder.  Meanwhile the regular army takes shelter in “super camps,” abandoning the countryside to its fate.


Without security, does Nigeria even exist as a legitimate country?

Any sovereign state with legitimacy has as its most foundational duty to protect the population.  With uncontrolled violent chaos spreading, can one truly call Nigeria a “state”?

4 April 2021

Rita Okoye

Rita Okoye

Opinion columnist

The land may still exist, as well as the flag. There’s still someone designated as president, although he spends most of his time in a hospital bed in London.

But doesn’t statehood denote more than just that?

A state’s most basic raison d’être is to maintain public security. What can one say of a political entity that consistently fails to protect citizens from roaming bands of pillaging psychopaths?

One must say it’s rotten. It awaits one final kick to smash down the residual façade of continued existence.

Although historians sometimes use the year 476 AD to mark the end of the Western Roman Empire, in reality its collapse was a slow process; nothing major actually happened in that year. Heralds never spread out with the announcement, “Our empire is officially over.” But over the course of one or two generations, people living in the various territories of the former empire eventually realized that the state was finished and was never going to revive itself.

With Nigeria sliding ever-deeper into chaos, will warlordism replace the state? (Liberian Civil War)

Has Nigeria already imploded, or is it somewhere in the process of self-destructing? Between ragtag jihadist rapists that continually humiliate the Nigerian army; herders murdering and raping their way across the countryside with impunity; and large, hyper-violent criminal organizations with virtual warlords at their helm; Nigeria already does have some features that defined the turmoil of sixth century Europe.

The unprecedented violence is creating a new era of great movements of the peoples. Refugees repeatedly move from one town to another as the violence catches up to them.

One remembers the utter savagery of the Liberian crisis of the 1990s. But that was a country of roughly two million people. Nigeria is over one hundred times that large. If Nigeria continues its rapid descent into a post-Apocalyptic, Mad Max-style outcome, can humanity cope with tens or hundreds of millions of Nigerians flooding across and beyond the borders of the second-largest continent?

Will the relatively small countries surrounding Nigeria, many of them already struggling with their own jihadist insurgencies and economic crises, really be able to cope with a tsunami of humanity of Biblical proportions?

If tens of millions of Nigerian refugees flood Africa and beyond, can humanity cope? (Goma, DR Congo, 1994)

Although people only gradually recognized that the Western Roman Empire was finished, its collapse preceded centuries of violence and great movements of peoples

Adding poison to the darts striking Nigeria, there’s a dynamic feedback loop — a downward spiral effect — to the signs of the country’s collapse. For example, consider the half-starved families who have deserted their farms in the scorched countryside, who are now huddled in improvised settlements surrounding the Nigerian Army’s “super camps” (where brigades take refuge to maintain a symbolic presence, while actually abandoning control of the countryside to insurgents). 

These displaced families are now a “problem” requiring scarce resources because they can no longer grow their own food. But it’s more than just that. Children who grow up malnourished, poorly educated, and traumatized will not be able to contribute to a global economy marked by mechanization and technology; thus, the state’s foundation of human capital sinks ever lower.

Nigerians always identified more with their ethnicity or their religion than with loyalty to the federal state. But when the government allows criminal groups to invade the South, or when it commits atrocities in the North during its incompetent fight against the jihadist perverts, it transforms mere apathy into active antagonism.

Essentially, every time government leaders make a wrong chess move, they’re not merely losing a piece, but also giving the state’s opponents extra pieces.

Is it even worth making diagnoses and recommendations as if the Nigerian state could still be saved?  At what point should people focus on realistic planning to save themselves and their families?  

And when will the world start paying attention and stop pretending that hundreds of millions of refugees flooding the planet will not affect them?  Of course Nigerians themselves are responsible for their own destiny, but it’s surprising other countries aren’t yet interested in the speeding truck headed directly for them.

Recent Articles

Scroll to Top