News / Africa

Nigerian Scholar Blames Underdevelopment on Outdated Ideas of Governance

Political scientist says in many African countries, including Nigeria, resources used to enrich leaders, not population as whole

Nigerian Scholar Blames Underdevelopment on Outdated Ideas of Governance
Nigerian Scholar Blames Underdevelopment on Outdated Ideas of Governance

Multimedia

Audio

Nigeria’s reputation as one of the most corrupt countries in the world is widely regarded as one of the reasons why more than half its people live in poverty. Observers say its political leaders have made it impossible for Nigeria’s vast wealth in fossil fuels to benefit Nigerians as a whole. Instead, he said, they use it to enrich themselves or their friends and family.

Richard Joseph is the John Evans Professor at Northwestern University, in Chicago, Illinois. He said Nigeria suffers from “prebendalism,” a system of governance that he said exists in many other African countries as well.

He coined the term about 30 years ago from the word “prebende” – a term that describes some early European forms of governance, including religious ones. A prebend, he said, is an elected or appointed office in which the officeholder uses its resources for personal needs.

“I adapted it to Nigeria,” said Joseph, “because…[politicians] were looking at offices they had – elected or appointed – as a way of generating revenues for themselves that they could allocate and distribute as they chose, rather than looking at the office in terms of the services to be performed and how the funds for the office would be used (to accomplish that goal).”

He said the term is still relevant to Nigeria today. “Why are the roads in such bad shape, why electric power, water production. You name it, in any area of governmental activity there has been underperformance.”

He said that when people are elected to public office, they owe allegiance not to the electorate but those in their party, tribe or clan. Joseph warns that “Nigerians need to realize that the reason they don’t have any progress in all the critical areas is because we have been so locked into that system.”

Analysts say the abuse of office and corruption are endemic in Nigeria -- to levels that they are almost tolerated by a resigned public. Nigeria always ranks low in terms of political transparency and is often a target of criticism from major donor organizations like the World Bank.

Professor Joseph said the cycle can be broken if there is a willingness on the part of the electorate to demand that those they put in public office are held accountable. But he adds that each society has to find customized solutions to its problems.

“Every country has to find a path out of that system…its own approach.” He gives the example of Scandinavian countries, where officials “will be thrown out of office for what will be considered very minimal abuses. In Kenya or Nigeria, the opposite prevails.”


He advises governments to emulate the private sector and some state governments in Nigeria that have instituted major reforms in creating more transparent systems. Adding that there is a need to make a transition to a rules-based system, so the use of government is governed by laws and accountability.

You May Like

Obama: I Will Do 'Everything I Can' to Close Guantanamo

US president says prison continues 'to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world' More

Sierra Leone Educates on Safe Ebola Burials

Also, country is improving at rapid response to isolated outbreaks, but health workers need to be even faster, officials say More

Religion Aside, Christmas Gains Popularity in Communist Vietnam

Increasingly wealthy Vietnamese embrace holiday due to its non-religious glamor, commercial appeal More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid