For over three decades, this writer has devoted a greater chunk of time to research on the fuller import of the development concept of third world.
For me, what convinced me that Nigeria indeed belongs to this never-do-well categorization of nations of third world is not just because of infrastructural deficits or the backlogs of accumulated but dubious foreign debts which successive and current governments have continued to pile up.
Before delving into the germane issue that would stand out as a clear evidence of how uncivilized Nigeria is, let us look at what in broad terms the word Third World means.
Defined by language and history experts as a collective name for most of the nations of Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East, many of which share a colonial past and are variously termed as developing, less developed, or least developed countries.
They (third World nations) are said by experts to support 75 percent of the world’s population but consume only 20 percent of its resources, and are generally characterized by (1) slow pace of industrialization, (2) low to very low levels of per capita income that is insufficient to generate savings for economic growth, (3) low literacy levels but high rate of population growth, (4) poor health facilities and transport infrastructure, (5) dependence on agricultural and commodity exports as main foreign exchange earners.
Etymologically, the concept was coined in the 1950s by the French writer Alfred Sauvy (as ‘le tiers monde’), it was originally used in the Cold War era (1945-89) to distinguish non-aligned nations from the Western capitalist economies aligned with the US (the First World) and the Eastern communist economies aligned with the USSR (the Second World).
Shockingly, African rulers have worked to undermine the economic and socio-political advancement of their nation states so as to fast track the emergence of their nations as developed nations even when the cold war ended nearly half a century ago or so. Nigeria is particularly a cesspool of political corruption.
By commission or omission, these poor political rulers lacking vision, ingenuity, goals and positive aspirations for the collectives, have rather worked to ensure that their nations remain deeper as members of the Third World.
Political office holders in Africa have often manipulated the armed forces of their nation states to self-perpetuate in their offices that are administered with no regard to transparency and accountability.
So how did it occur to me that indeed the textbook’s description of Nigeria as a Third World nation was existentially and substantially accurate?
Long before I became a long distance flyer to far flung continents outside of Nigeria/Africa, the clearest indication of how backward we are as a nation and therefore merits the inglorious and notorious membership of the third world nation is the modus operandi and modus vivendi or indeed what is called ‘Weltanschauung’ or world view of the Nigeria police as an institution that harbours the lawless, professionally incompetent and grossly indisciplined persons.
Growing up in the 80’s in the rusty town of Kafanchan near a bustling police barrack with many childhood friends whose parents were police operatives, afforded me the earliest encounters with the pathetic state of the Nigeria police force vis-à-vis the gross misconduct and crass indiscipline of the operatives.
Apart from knowing that police operatives in Nigeria believes and practice torture as a technique of criminal investigation, I also came in contact with the sordid reality that the police enjoyed the past time of engaging in the extra-legal execution of detainees in their decrepit detention facilities.
Many years after leaving Kafanchan, I have had no reason to believe otherwise that the Nigeria police remains one of the vestiges that mark us out as still belonging to the third world categorization of nations.
Two recent events, perhaps, justifies this conclusion.
Few days back, the media reported live the public protest by armed mobile police operatives in the terrorism afflicted Maiduguri city in Borno state in the North East of Nigeria.
Reason for this unusual protest by armed police was given as the prolonged delay in paying them their salaries for some months or so.
Commuters who were heading away from Maiduguri to other parts of Nigeria had had to scamper for safety because these protesting police operatives shot sporadically in the air to demonstrate and ventilate their angst at the undue delay by the police top hierarch to pay them their entitlements.
But in Abuja, the spokesperson of the police headed to a television studio to deny that the police ever protested even when the video evidence were visibly carried in the mainstream and new media.
This brazen falsehood spewed out by the spokesman of the Nigeria police force with the permission of one of Nigeria’s most controversial and incompetent police boss, shows that Nigeria is deeply a third world country because it is only in such a nation with poverty of ethical codes of discipline, can you find a police authority lying from both sides of their mouths with no shame whatsoever.
Another case to show that Nigeria police is where to look at if you want to know whether Nigeria is still a third world nation, was the unprovoked violence unleashed by the police targeting members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) who had gathered in Ado Ekiti, in Ekiti State few hours to the governorship election scheduled for this Saturday to stage a peaceful campaign walk which is absolutely lawful since election campaign is allowed in that state.
During the police instigated show of shame, the state governor and his deputy Ayo Fayose, and Professor Kolapo Olusola who is the candidate for the PDP, were both injured with the governor sustaining serious injury to his neck.
However, in Abuja, the police denied that their men ever attacked the PDP rally but the police officer who is on ground in Ekiti state was quoted in the media to have admitted that indeed the Ekiti abomination happened and pledged never to allow a repeat.
The man in question is the Deputy Inspector-General of Police (Operations), Habilal Joshak who however denied that he ordered his officers to use teargas on the crowd at the rally of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Media reports showed that security agents took over the premises and allegedly fired teargas at Governor Ayodele Fayose.
The teargas allegedly left Fayose unconscious for about five minutes, before he was resuscitated by party supporters and taken to the Government House Clinic.
But Joshak has denied instructing his officers to use such force and promised “such mistake will never repeat itself”.
“What I said was that those massing for the rally should be asked to leave because it is not good going by the mood of the state now to hold rally or street procession.
“I didn’t say they should use force. This is an election and electioneering is a civil matter anywhere across the globe, so police as security agents can’t use force on the people. But I want to assure the good people of Ekiti State that such mistake will never repeat itself,” Joshak stated.
Following uproar that this unruly conduct of the armed Police generated from all over the World, the Police then stated that they have already dismantled the barricades they mounted at the entrance to the Ekiti State Government House in Ado-Ekiti.
Apart from demonstrating that Nigeria is a Third World nation, these tendencies described above displayed by the Police has seriously presented the current President as a fascist or a dictator who does not tolerate multiparty democracy.
The impression showed by the photographs that were published in the media about the Ekiti abomination by police has fundamentally demarketed President Muhammadu Buhari who is facing a political communication nightmare as a political leader who has not kept to his campaign promises.
So in Political communication, what the Police did by executing that show of shame is to remove any lingering doubts that Nigeria has entered a grave dictatorship and that next year’s election would be marred by police instigated violence.
Let’s read what some experts on political communication would interpret the Police show of shame in Ekiti to mean especially as it pertains to the impression the President had created as someone who is no longer behaving like the military dictator of his days of military regime about 30 years back.
“Yet politics, like courtship, requires a degree of ‘mystification’. We all want to present ourselves as we want to be seen, maybe as we want to become, rather than as we are. The audience – to our courtship ‘moves’ and to the tactics and strategies of politicians – wants to be mystified”.
Reobert Brustein suggests that the public insists on thinking that ‘certain specially endowed individuals can heal our disorders, realize our dreams, and solve our problems’. Yet, television precludes that mystery for politicians, as the unblinking camera lens intrudes into all aspects of their lives.
Still on the demystification of so called political statesman in the person of the President, Television or indeed the media, according to Columbia history professor Henry F. Fraff, ‘robs statesmen of the distance between themselves and the people that heads of government have historically required and savored and for which they have not yet found a substitute’.
As Meyrowitz concludes, ‘in the new communication environment the political actor faces a disquieting paradox: to audition for the role of traditional hero is to end up playing the fool’.
“Indeed, who but fools would attempt to put themselves forward as logical candidates in a media environment in which, as the president of the CBS Broadcast Group, Howard Stringer, has put it, ‘we seem to want our leaders to be asexual, a typical and without intellectual or personal histories’, (From the book “Political Communication Rhetoric, Government, and Citizens” by Dan F. Hahn.)
On a much more serious level, the shows of shame by the hierarchy of the Nigeria Police force in the current dispensation have demonstrated clearly that constitutional democracy faces imminent threat of death.
Two distinguished professors of Government in one of the World’s most respected Universities-Harvard may actually have had Nigeria under Muhammadu Buhari in mind whilst penning their award winning book titled HOW DEMOCRACIES DIE (What history reveals about our future) published this year.
They argued thus: “Although some elected demagogues take office with a blueprint for autocracy, many, such as Fujimor, do not. Democratic breakdown doesn’t need a blueprint. Rather, as Peru’s experience suggests, it can be the result of a sequence of unanticipated events – an escalating tit-for-tat between a demagogic, norm-breaking leader and a threatened political establishment.”
They argued that the process often begins with words in such a way that demagogues attack their critics in harsh and provocative terms – as enemies, as subversives, and even as terrorists.
Citing examples from many parts of the World, these beautiful political essayists stated thus: “When he first ran for president, Hugo Chavez described his opponents as ‘rancid pigs’ and ‘squalid oligarchs’. As president, he called his critics ‘enemies’ and ‘traitors’; Fujimori linked his opponents to terrorism and drug trafficking; and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi attacked judges who ruled against him as ‘communist’.
“Journalists also become targets. Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa called the media a ‘grave political enemy’ that ‘has to be defeated’. Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused journalists of propagating ‘terrorism’. These attacks can be consequential: if the public comes to share the view that opponents are linked to terrorism and the media are spreading lies, it becomes easier to justify taking actions against them”.
The assault rarely ends there, just as these great authors affirmed that though observers often assure us that demagogues are ‘all talk’ and that their words should not be taken too seriously, a look at demagogic leaders around the world suggests that many of them do eventually cross the line from words to action.
This transition according to them, is because a demagogue’s initial rise to power tends to polarize society, creating a climate of panic, hostility, and mutual distrust.
“The new leader’s threatening words often have a boomerang effect. If the media feels threated, it may abandon restraint and professional standards in a desperate effort to weaken the government. And the opposition may conclude that, for the good of the country, the government must be removed via extreme measures impeachment, mass protest, even a coup”, (From the book “How Democracies Die, What History Reveals about Our Future” by Steven Levistsky & Daniel Ziblatt).
The Ekiti police debacle and the cacophonous press statements from the Presidency in Nigeria against political opposition and the deployment of security forces and EFCC against opponents, completely supports all the examples cited in the aforementioned book for any rational analyst to draw factually and verifiable conclusion that indeed constitutional democracy is imperiled in the current dispensation.
All democrats, real patriots must endeavour to stand up and face the emerging challenges and ensure that Nigeria does not become a nation ruled by a dictator.
We can make the difference through pure words and action by defeating fear.
The fear of the unknown if defeated will enable Nigerians to collectively set the agenda to systematically sustain the overall objectives of the enthronement of democratic institutions.
We must strive to ensure the sustenance of not just civil rule but constitutional democracy in such a way that we will erect strong institutions to support the sustenance of durable democracy rather than the current template of political players in which they are progressively building a strong person and a tyrant as the President as against the tenets of the Constitution.