Since independence in 1960, Nigeria has been plagued by a crisis of development. Research shows that despite vast resource wealth acquired from oil exploration, the government has failed to improve the lives of the citizens and the country as a whole. Recently, the increase in violent outbreaks in different parts of Nigeria suggests that democratization has not resolved political tensions that persisted under military rule. This research seeks to explore why political violence occurs alongside political transitions in Nigeria. The relationship between resource abundance, underdevelopment and violence is examined using the Nigerian case and then situated within the Niger Delta for a deeper analysis. In the research, analysis are made to figure out the implications of these crisis on the culture, nature and livelihood of the people living in the Niger delta region. Agitations for resource control and fiscal federalism especially by those in the Niger Delta and the chances it has in resolving the crisis of development in Nigeria are evaluated. The significance of resource control notwithstanding, this dissertation argues that other political mechanisms notably good governance, transparency and democratic deepening must be considered if violence and the crisis of development in Nigeria are to be resolved.
1.1 BACKGROUND OF STUDY
The concept of development is a highly contested one with different interpretations and meanings (Igbuzor, 2006). In accordance with Kambhampati (2004), development requires some level of growth and structural change, political transformation, improved health and education, modernization and some measure of distributive equity. Rist (2008:7) defines development as ‘a process of growth, a movement essentially springing from within the society that it is developing’. However for some scholars (Kothari & Minogue, 2002:1), ‘while development undoubtedly takes place in some places, as measured by shifts in economic growth, relative poverty and inequality have also increased’. Nonetheless, though fraught with some limitations, the Human Development Report (HDR) has come to be one of the most respected and authoritative sources of knowledge as regards development issues, and serves as a more successful alternative to GDP measure of development which is based on economic indices (HDR, 2006; Igbuzor, 2006). This is because it is more people-centred, thereby making development more democratic and participatory (Rist, 2008).
Though endowed with an abundance of natural resources such as diamonds and oil, which have over the years translated into vast government revenue, majority of African countries have failed to reach any substantial level of development (Yates, 1996; also Ross, 1999). According to Akude (2007), economic and political development have been grossly neglected in these countries, thereby resulting in high levels of socio-economic underdevelopment and political instability, a description best qualified as a crisis of development (Ibeanu & Luckman, 2007) . This ‘crisis’ of development is often accompanied with corrupt and authoritarian leadership, ineffective government, poor policies, unproductive patterns of accumulation and political violence (Forrest, 1995: 1). For the purpose of this dissertation, a crisis of development will be treated as the inability of the state to transform government revenue into the economic, political and social advancement of its population and society as a whole, a situation that will be illustrated here in the Nigerian context.
Research shows that despite an estimated USD 400 billion in oil income since independence, Nigeria continues to be plagued by a crisis of development (Amundsen, 2010; also Watts, 2008). This has translated into high levels of poverty, slow economic growth, unemployment, corruption and political violence (Alumona, 2009). It is argued that ‘Nigeria lost about one quarter of USD 400 billion to corruption between independence in 1960 and the end of military rule in 1999’(Watts, 2007). According to Amundsen (2010:x), these illegal outflows have surpassed any other country in the world. Further, ‘located mostly in the Niger Delta region, petroleum became Nigeria’s chief export which single-handedly made Nigeria the wealthiest country in Africa during the 1970s’ (Falola & Heaton, 2008:181). Nonetheless, rather than contribute to the overall development of Nigeria and improve the welfare of citizens, the discovery of oil and the annual oil revenues of USD 40 billion, has ushered in a corrupt political system which has favoured a few and rendered majority of Nigerians poor and hopeless (Watts, 2007). As such it is believed that real economic growth is a major casualty of the politics of oil in Nigeria (Development Reports, 2006).