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    Political succession and nation building in Nigeria: Problems and challenges


    Apr 20, 2021

    Being the text of a lecture delivered by Anyim Pius Anyim, a former Senate president, at University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN) during the Faculty of Social Sciences’ Distinguished Annual Public Lecture held on Tuesday, April 20, 2021.

    The topic I am requested to talk about is: ‘Political Succession and Nation Building in Nigeria: Problems and Challenges’. For purposes of definition, the two key phrases in this topic are: “Political Succession” and “Nation Building”. I shall attempt to define these two terms to help bring my perspectives and approach into focus.


    Webster dictionary defines the term ‘succession’ as the order in which or the condition under which one person after another succeeds to a property, dignity, title or throne.

    Flowing from the above, I make bold to say that in every position of public interest or better still, in every organisation where progression is inherent, succession from one person to another is inevitable. How the succession process is handled, to a very large extent, will determine how effective and sustainable the organization will be. Therefore, permit me to identify the following as the key elements of succession: There must be a legal framework detailing: Qualification for the position; Selection process; Tenure; Task (duties and responsibilities), and Powers and limits thereto, etc.

    The sole aim of succession planning is to get the best man for the job. Once the wrong persons step into positions of authority, the organisation is bound to experience retrogression.

    I shall canvass in this lecture that in the case of Nation Building, every institutional succession is as important as the other, e.g: Succession from one President to another; Succession from one President of the Senate to another; Succession from one Chief Justice to another; Succession from one Vice Chancellor to another; Succession from one head of government parastatal to another; Succession from one President of Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) to another; Succession from one President of National Union of Road Transport Workers to another, etc

    The point I am making here is that every institution/organisation contributes in a very important way to nation building and whenever there is succession turbulence in institutions of the nation, it affects the health of the nation.

    Nation building

    Nation-building has been defined as the process of building a political entity which corresponds to a given territory based on some generally accepted rules, norms, principles, and a common citizenship.

    It is also about building institutions along the line of equity, equality, fairness, a common sense of purpose, shared destiny, as well as a collective imagination of togetherness and inclusion.

    In this sense, nation building is about building the tangible and intangible threads that hold a political entity together and which provides a platform for the economic, social and political advancement of the entity for the benefits of the people.

    From the above, it could be seen that the task of nation building is not a one-off thing and since it is an organic project, succession at any nation’s helm of affairs is inevitable. As was defined by Alan Brier, political succession is: “The ways in which political power passes, or is transferred, from one individual government or regime, to another. In its narrower sense, it refers to orderly arrangements for the transfer of tenure of important offices within a state, which make allowance at the same time for change and for continuity.”

    Flowing from the above, I want to submit that the topic I am requested to discuss in this lecture i.e Political Succession and Nation Building in Nigeria: Problems and Challenges is in itself a challenge. Am I to discuss the political succession in Nigeria from civilian administration to military regime or from one military regime to another or from military regime to civilian administration or from one civilian administration to another or from PDP administration to APC administration?

    Let me say at this juncture that a country is not just a nation because it has political independence, its leaders must nurture programmes, policies and platforms that promote the economic, social and political advancement of the entity for the benefits of its citizens. These programmes, polices and platforms constitutes the building blocks of the nation. The lack of continuity of the building blocks, the regular unlawful termination of governments and unnecessary policies and programes summersault are at the bane of nation building in Nigeria.

    In general, I want to state that military incursion into political administration in our country is the worst set back we have suffered in building the Nigerian nation. Political succession under the military in Nigeria was bloody, lawless, lacked process, lacked defined tenure, duties and responsibilities and above all, exercised limitless powers. Let me therefore use this opportunity to condemn in its entirety, any form of military intervention in the political administration of the nation.

    Let me also say in general terms that transition from civilian-to-civilian administration in Nigeria have also been rancorous, grossly violent, manipulative and in many cases, threw up the wrong outcomes where the wrong men for the jobs emerged. This has retarded our progress as a nation. However, whatever the challenges have been, I make bold to say that we have hope.

    In view of the above, permit me to state that at the core of any discuss on political succession and nation building is the question of leadership. Bearing in mind that academics constitute a larger percentage of my audience, I shall bring some theoretical perspectives to the lecture. I will therefore present my thoughts along this line: the nature of rulership; the evolution of nation states and transition from rulership to leadership; social progress as the foundation of nation building; challenges of succession and nation building in Nigeria; causes of political succession challenges in Nigeria; consequences of poor leadership succession in Nigeria and finally the way forward

    Nature of rulership:

    Rulership simply means a position in which one rules or has sovereignty or dominion over others. The concept of Rulership can be traced to the plan of God for mankind as encapsulated in the biblical passage of Genesis Chapter 1 vs. 28 (King James Version) where God gave man the mandate to:

    “And God blessed them, and God said unto them, be faithful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.’’

    The important point to note here is that while God gave man the mandate to subdue, dominate and rule over all other creatures, man was not authorized to exercise rulership over his fellow man as that authority was reserved for God alone who made man in his own image and likeness. This position was reiterated by St. Augustine in Chapters 14and 19 of his book titled: De Civitate Dei Contra Pagnos (otherwise known as the City of God) wherein he stated as follows:

    “God wanted rational man, made to his own image, to have dominion only over non-rational beings. He wanted man to have dominion over the beasts and not over man.’’

    From the above, the critical elements of rulership as dictated by God are as follows:

    1. No man has the authority to rule over another as that role is reserved for God.

    2. Whenever a man exercises rulership over another, he is doing so on behalf of God. This is why rulers try to deify themselves.

    3. The language of rulership as mandated by God were “subdue”, “dominate” and then exercise “rulership”.

    We shall see in cause of this lecture that the social history of man was dotted with the struggle to dethrone the application of the rulership mandate (to subdue, dominate and then rule over other creatures) to man.

    Man’s quest to rule or dominate fellow men began to manifest as a punishment from God for the sins committed by Adam and Eve. This is evident in Genesis Chapter 3 vs 16 where God told Eve that ‘you will be under the man’s power’ as a symbolism that human beings would be subjected to the power of their fellow human beings.

    The disobedience to God’s will which prompted God to chase Adam and Eve away from the Garden of Eden birthed an innate desire for self-preservation on the part of man and at the same time, the desire to acquire dominion over others. As noted by Nnabue, the conflicting desire of man to preserve his liberty and at the same time assert dominion over other men was dictated by the impulse of self-preservation and this led to what Thomas Hobbes described as a ‘war of all against all’. This development made life ‘solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short and gave rise to men seeking protection from fellow men against the aggression of other men’. As mankind grew in number, the need for social existence became inevitable.

    In order to preserve the society, men resorted to a social contract as the only logical way to ensure lasting peace. In furtherance of this goal, they constituted themselves into a civil society by appointing a sovereign described by Thomas Hobbes as the Leviathan who will act for them in their corporate capacity. The challenge of this arrangement became the tendency of such sovereign to deify himself in place of God and to generally perpetuate his rulership. The implication therefore, was that the sovereign tends to stay above or elevate his status over and above the principles that gave him authority; and himself and his family far and above other human beings under his rulership. This made the sovereign powerful, arrogant and unaccountable to the very persons who gave him authority.

    As men (sovereign) began to assert rulership and dominion over fellow men, there was no collective mechanism put in place by the people to ensure political or leadership succession from one individual to another. Rather, what was in place was succession on the basis of hereditary or inheritance by children or family members of the sovereign. This is typical with succession styles of monarchies and empires as seen throughout the course of history. The succession mechanism under the rulership era led to very few succession problems since there was a solitary succession framework that is usually followed after the death of the monarch.

    With no collective leadership succession plan in place, the dark side of men began to show. This adversely affected nation building, constituted men into absolute sovereigns and gave rise to man’s endless quest for political power without purposeful political succession plans other than perpetuating their personal or family interests. The results therefore were instability, conquests, colonization, wars, slavery, etc as seen all through the annals of history.

    The evolution of nation states and the transition from rulership to leadership

    The need to curtail the excessive powers of men (sovereign), make the sovereign accountable to the people and entrench fundamental freedoms and liberties, led to a movement of resistance and opposition to the authority of sovereigns as depicted throughout history. For instance, the Magna Carta which was originally issued in 1215 by King John of England was a direct response to appease dissent and opposition faced by the King of England at the time. The Magna Carta is considered as the foundation for individual rights and established, for the first time, a framework for the relationship between the sovereign or King and his subjects. It established the principle that everybody including the King was subject to the rule of law and documented liberties to be enjoyed by the people. It provided amongst others that:

    No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions or outlawed or exiled or deprived of his standing in any other way, nor proceed against with force except by the lawful judgment of his equals or by the law of the land…

    Before the Magna Carta, there was already a push to attain an ideal nation state where the citizens are part of the political succession as exemplified by the introduction of democracy in Greece during the 9th BC. However, democracy as practiced during this period in Greece was flawed as it excluded women from participating in the democratic process.

    By the end of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th century, the formation of nation-states started in Europe and America. This process of profound change was initiated by new political and philosophical ideas, which identified equality of all persons before the law and the people, as the source of sovereignty.8 For instance, the American Declaration of Independence was written in 1776 because the American colonies were not happy with the way and manner, they were being ruled by King George the Third of Britain. They had no representation in Government and yet, laws were being passed by the British King which affected their lives. They wanted their own Government built on the principles of equality, rule of law, fairness and democratic ideals and for this reason, they drew inspiration from the Magna Carta which was regarded as a symbol of freedom and democratic Government.

    In a sense, I am to say that the real shift of sovereignty from the ruler to the law and the people started with the American declaration of Independence in 1776.

    Apart from the Magna Carta and the American Declaration of Independence, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was entrenched in 1948 after the 2nd World War as a result of the atrocities committed by men in positions of authority prior to and during the war, including the extermination of 17 million people during the Holocaust. The UDHR did not only acknowledge the universality of human rights which includes the right to peaceful assembly and association, the right to freedom of speech, the right to take part in government, the right to vote and be voted for etc, it also set a common standard of leadership and governance to be attained in nation building.

    Other international human rights instruments such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights, etc all recognise the fundamental freedoms of men such as equality of all persons before the law, right to life, right of all persons to participate and choose the Government of their choice, right to peaceful assembly and association, right of expression and above all, the right to vote and be voted for.

    These human rights instruments did not only provide or entrench these fundamental freedoms, they also placed obligations on States to ensure that these rights are guaranteed their citizens and that they were protected and enforced.

    The democratic ideals entrenched in Magna Carta, American Declaration of Independence, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, etc set the stage for the transition from rulership, where the sovereign or king and his family assert unaccountable and indeterminable power of rulership or dominion over fellow men, to leadership where all persons are regarded as equal with rights to vote and be voted for. Through this means, the people are able to participate and decide their own Government as well as the nature of political and leadership succession acceptable to them unlike in the rulership era where succession is solitary and revolves around the monarch and members of his family.

    I make bold to say that until sovereignty moved from the king to the law and the people, nation building was a mirage as the king and his family were all that mattered.

    Social progress as the foundation of nation building

    The search for an ideal framework for social progress (nation building) dominated the work of philosophers like John Locke, A.V Dicey, Montesquieu and Jean Jacques Rousseau, who stressed the ideals of leadership anchored on democratic principles of liberty, rule of law, equality, separation of powers, right to vote and be voted, etc as opposed to the ideals of rulership and dominion. As the works of these philosophers gained ground, the absolute authority of monarchs, kings, emperors, etc became increasingly questioned especially during the 18th century and the sharing of state or political power became inevitable owing to the volume and sheer strength of the opposition.

    As opposition to the absolute power of the sovereign and the consciousness of democratic ideals grew amongst the people, the people realised that sovereignty belongs to them and not to the Monarch and that it was against the collective interest of the people to be subjected to the rulership and perpetual dominion of the Monarch. This movement or realisation constituted the social progress that paved the way for nation building. Some of the ideals that enabled this social progress and which may be regarded as the fundamental pillars to nation building include:

    The Principles of Separation of Powers

    The principle of separation of powers was postulated by Montesquieu and it represents one of the cornerstones of any democratic system. Montesquieu believes that an ideal nation is one that practices a system of political succession where political powers are not excessively centralized in a single person, monarch or ruler. He believed that there should be division of powers among the three independent and separate arms of government (i.e the legislature, executive and the judiciary) in order to enthrone a system of check and balances on one another and prevent arbitrariness. The whole essence of the doctrine of separation of powers is the prevention of autocratic governance or tyrannical rule, despotism and oppression which are inimical to nation building.

    Thus, in nation building, the structures that guarantee and enforce the principles of separation of powers and reduce abuse of powers by a component or arm of the Government must be put in place if any meaningful progress is to be recorded. The 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) provides for this structure in sections 4, 5 and 6 by clearly defining the powers of the Legislature, the Executive and the Judiciary. However, these structures as far as Nigeria is concerned are in most cases, observed in the breach. For instance, in the Fourth Republic there were attempts by the Executive branch of Government to meddle in the affairs of the Legislature by seeking to influence the leadership succession process of the Legislature against the collective interest of the nation. These attempts destabilised the senate and led to the removal of two presidents of the senate in less than two years.

    The implication therefore, is that such attempts undermine the fundamental pillars of nation building, creates division, chaos and reduces the ability of the Legislature to function optimally for the general interest of the nation. A good example was the frosty nature of the relationship between Sen. Bukola Saraki led National Assembly and the Executive branch of Government which not only affected the optimal functioning of government as a whole but also led to tension, division and compromises within the polity.

    Strong Institutions

    Another crucial point to note is that it is absolutely necessary for political power to be separated in any given nation in order to prevent abuse of power and to hold men accountable for infractions that may be detrimental to nation building. In this regard, it is pertinent that there exist strong viable institutions to ensure that even the most powerful leader is subjected to the rules of the game and held accountable for his actions. This is the only way the journey to nationhood can be progressive.

    Rule of law

    The rule of law as was formulated by A. V. Dicey reinforces the principle of supremacy of the law and equality of all persons before the law irrespective of political or social status. It recognises the protection, promotion and enforcement of the fundamental rights of the people and the need for an impartial legal and judicial system that protects human rights and civil liberties of all citizens including the right to vote and be voted for.

    The principles of rule of law in nation building ensures adherence to norms, values, rules, principles and procedures. It ensures that the rules of the game are followed judiciously in governance as well as in political succession processes so that no one is entitled to impose leadership or manipulate the process of succession except they play by the rules and procedures already established by law or convention.

    The principle of rule of law is essential in nation building and political succession processes as it ensures that persons who go against the rules of the game in assuming power or leadership positions are brought to book and punished in accordance with the law irrespective of their political or social status; thereby affirming the supremacy of the law and equality of all persons before the law. This also means that succession can be retrogressive except it follows the process prescribed by law.

    The political succession and electoral experience in Nigeria have shown that politicians are yet to imbibe the principles of rule of law and as such, they employ all manner of tricks in order to assume leadership positions as opposed to following the laid down rules and procedure for political succession. The result therefore in rising cases of electoral malpractices, weakening of institutions of state, disenfranchisement of the people to vote and be voted for and manipulations which have sadly become the unwritten code for political succession in Nigeria. I make bold to say that disregard for rule of law and due process retards the progress of any nation.

    Challenges of succession and nation building in Nigeria

    I have shown earlier in this lecture that nation building is anchored on the process of equipping a nation with institutional foundation such as principles of separation of powers, rule of law, strong and viable institutions, respect for fundamental human rights and liberties including the right to vote and be voted for.

    Flowing from the above, it is pertinent to note that it is not only the political succession that affects the progress of the nation but also the succession at every institution of the State. This includes succession at educational institutions (e.g universities), parastatals, law enforcement agencies, electoral bodies, etc.

    While it could be said that stable political leadership can enhance other institutions of state, it can as well be stated that the reign of the former President of the United States of America, Mr. Donald Trump, has shown that with strong institutions, even the most powerful political leadership can be put in check. We all witnessed the various attempts by Donald Trump to undermine the electoral results of the last presidential elections in the US including pressurising Governors of States from his own Republican party and his Vice President, Mike Pence to truncate the electoral process to pave way for him to continue in power.

    He and his allies also instituted over 60 court cases in an attempt to cancel millions of votes cast by majorly black voters as well as contributed towards the events that led to the insurrection at Capitol Hill to stop the US Senate from certifying the Electoral College results. But in all those attempts, the US institutions held their ground to ensure that the right thing was done despite the powerful office, Mr. Trump occupied. Not even the Judges appointed by Mr. Trump could come to his rescue, as the pillars of nation building i.e rule of law, separation of powers, adherence to fundamental rights including the recognition of the right of the people to choose a government of their own choice were all in fine display and combined together to ensure a successful and peaceful political succession in the US.

    In Nigeria however, the opposite is the case as the institutions of state which ordinarily should act as checks on governance and hold persons in leadership positions accountable for their actions are weak. Worse still, the leadership of these institutions in Nigeria pander to the whims and caprices of those who put them in office against the collective interest of the nation. It therefore, means that in order to have their way or satisfy their personal interest, political power holders in Nigeria will continue to choose or determine the leadership succession of the institutions of state for their own personal gain. Until such a time when we can collectively put in place a sustainable mechanism that will ensure the growth of strong viable institutions of state to withstand such pressures, leadership succession will remain a huge challenge in Nigeria.

    l shall at this juncture draw your attention to some of the succession challenges we have faced in some of our institutions:

    Succession in Educational Institutions

    Educational Institutions like the primary, secondary and tertiary institutions are like the incubator where the youth are groomed and prepared over time to assume future leadership positions. Nigerian Universities have been bedeviled by several succession crises arising from Vice-Chancellors seeking tenure extensions after the expiration of their terms and the obsession by the government both at the Federal and State levels to impose and or dictate who becomes the Vice-Chancellor. This does not only create tension within the university system, but also brings about instability which adversely affects academic activities.

    Another crisis that affected the university system is the proclivity for nepotism and insisting that only one tribe or a particular group could assume leadership positions of our Universities. One of such crisis arose at the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka where majority of the people of Anambra State insisted that only persons from Anambra State could be appointed as Vice-Chancellor of the University not considering whether there was another person from another part of Nigeria more qualified for the position. This tendency of wanting our own brother, sister, uncle, aunt or someone from our state, religion, tribe or ethnic group to assume leadership positions for our personal gain despite the availability of more qualified persons or the tendency to truncate laid down process or procedure of political succession in favour of our own candidate or to suit our personal bias breeds nepotism, mediocrity, mistrust, distrust and social tension which have combined to exacerbate the challenges of political succession and nation building in Nigeria.

    These frequent crises and tendency of political office holders to unduly decide who assumes the position of Vice-Chancellor of our universities for personal gains prompted the National Assembly, then under my leadership as President of the Senate, to seek ways to entrench university autonomy in Nigeria in order to ensure they discharge their responsibilities without undue interference. I am happy to say that our efforts led to the passage of the Universities Miscellaneous Amendment Act in 2003 otherwise known as the Universities Autonomy Act. This Act which was further amended in 2012 prescribed a single tenure of 5 years for Vice-Chancellors and gave the Governing Council of Universities the mandate to appoint Vice- Chancellors.

    This singular act of passing the Universities Autonomy Act brought about certainty of succession change and relative stability in the leadership succession process of our tertiary institutions. It also facilitated a culture of continuity of university programmes and projects. I must state that instability at the foundation of leadership training institutions like the universities is at the root of our national leadership calamity.

    Succession in Government Parastatals

    Just like in our educational institutions, we also have seen succession challenges in government parastatals and one of the reasons for these challenges is our proclivity to flaunt or disregard clear provisions of the law or laid down procedure in the succession process at our parastatals. A good example is the confusion that trailed the recent extension of the tenure of the former Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu against the provisions of the new Police Act which was passed into law in 2020. A combined reading of the provisions of sections 214, 215 and 216 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) and section 7(3) of the Police Act, 2020 shows that only a serving police officer can be appointed as an acting or substantive Inspector-General of Police. In this case, Mr. Mohammed Adamu retired from the Nigerian Police on 1st February, 2021 after completing the mandatory 35 years in service and was no longer a serving police officer at the time his tenure was extended. Further, the advice of the Nigeria Police Council was not sought by Mr. President before the tenure was extended. So, the decision to extend his tenure amounted to a fragrant disregard of the law and procedure for succession at the Nigeria Police.

    The case is also the same in our judiciary and a good example can be seen from what transpired in Cross River State following the retirement of Justice Michael Edem as the Chief Judge of the state in November, 2019. While the National Judicial Council (NJC) wanted due process to be followed in the leadership succession of the Cross River State High Court by recommending the most senior Judge as required by law, the State Government on the other hand preferred another candidate.

    As reported in the news, the governor of Cross River State had in November, 2020 sworn in the most senior Judge in the state, Justice Akon Ikpeme as Acting Chief Judge but the Cross River State House of Assembly declined to confirm her appointment on the ground that she is from Akwa Ibom State and will constitute security risk, despite the fact that she had served so many years in the Cross River State judiciary and rose through the rank to become the most senior Judge in the state. This crisis led to the appointment of two other Judges as acting Chief Judge until reason finally prevailed and Justice Ikpeme was eventually confirmed by the House of Assembly.

    One thing we have seen from the various succession crises in Government agencies and parastatals is the overt manipulation of the succession process for personal interest and for political power holders to continue to assert their control over these institutions. The end result is to make the leadership of these institutions loyal to the Government of the day instead of being loyal to the people and constitution of Nigeria. This makes some of them subject to undue interference from political actors. In some cases, these institutions are deliberately starved of funds to weaken them and to subject them to the whims and caprices of the Government in power and use them to oppress and suppress opposing voices or political opponents. A country whose public institutions are manipulated in this manner can only be said to be building personal empires rather than building a nation.

    Causes of political succession challenges in Nigeria


    There is no gain saying that political succession challenges are a common feature in developing nations. The reasons are not far-fetched. In developing nations, leaders tend to copy and enjoy the glamour and benefits of public offices without the responsibilities attached thereto. In a polity where access to wealth and fame is largely through public offices, the lure of office will no doubt present a temptation to seek to perpetuate one in office or at best install a surrogate leader by breaching the rules and manipulating the process.

    One of the reasons for this is financial insecurity or the fear of losing the financial benefits that normally accrue to leadership positions. Hence, persons occupying leadership positions will do everything possible to ensure that they choose the candidate of their own choice as their successor as a means to financial security even if it means truncating the process or disregarding the provisions of the law.

    Another reason is that most political office holders or persons in leadership positions find it hard to imagine a time when they will have no influence whatsoever in the affairs of a State or Office in which they have served.11 They fear to lose the influence, dominion and authority they once had or wielded. This makes them reluctant to entertain succession especially if the successor is not their chosen candidate or will have a tendency not to be subservient to them.

    This situation of not having influence over the affairs of a State or office they once occupied gives them a sense of apprehension and leads to the enthronement of a successor who will do their bidding at any point in time against the collective interest of the State or office. This is the reason why god-fatherism still holds sway in virtually all facets of our nation.

    Weak Institutions

    One of the greatest problems posed by weak institutions is its inability to enforce accountability. Institutions such as the Judiciary, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), law enforcement and security agencies all play critical roles in political succession and nation building. However, political leaders have over time rendered these institutions weak, such that they are unable to effectively discharge their responsibilities and ensure that the rules of the game are followed, rule of law is upheld, leaders are held accountable and principles of separation of powers is observed.

    As I noted earlier, Mr. Trump was unable to perpetuate himself in office despite all his efforts because the US has strong institutions which he was unable to manipulate to continue in office.

    The unwillingness of the political leaders to imbibe and uphold the fundamental pillars of nation building such as adherence to rule of law, fundamental rights, separation of powers, is at the root of the leadership crisis bedeviling Nigeria and as far as this continues to be a lacking trait in leadership, we shall continue to have challenges in our political succession and nation building processes.

    However, for the people to agree to stay as one and be committed to nation-building there must be fairness, equity, a sense of belonging and the governance process should be able to address the socio-economic needs of the people.

    Consequences of poor leadership succession in Nigeria

    Political or leadership succession as practiced in Nigeria today has adverse effects on nation building. This is because it sets the stage for the following:

    a. It breeds nepotism and encourages mediocrity in governance. In this regard, there is lack of commitment to the state.

    b. It weakens or destroys the institutional framework of the nation and truncates continuity of governance policies.

    c. It leads to violation of laws, rules and procedure and breeds lawlessness.

    d. It leads to corruption, creates instability and insecurity.

    e. It erodes fundamental freedoms and liberties such as right to equal opportunity to participate in government, freedom of association, and the right of the people to freely choose their own leadership or government.

    f. It discourages patriotism on the part of the citizens and stunts national growth.

    g. It leads to failure of the state to meet its obligations to the citizens.

    The way forward

    Building Strong Institutions

    Institutions are the main drivers of nation building in any society. This is because institutions sustain the democratic process by promoting and maintaining an orderly procedure through which political succession is attained, power is transferred from one government or individual to another and dividends of democracy are delivered to the people. As noted by Gambari, there are three important components to institution building: setting the rules; hiring persons with the technical expertise and moral competence to interpret the rules or implement the goals of the organisations; and ensuring that the institutions inspire public confidence by being transparent, fair and consistent.

    Institutions also play vital role in upholding the pillars of nation building and ensuing that persons who go against the rules are held accountable and punished. Hence, there is the absolute need to strengthen our institutions by mainstreaming the principles of rule of law and other democratic norms in their operations, beefing up their capacity, improving their independence, setting up internal or corporate governance structures and making them open, transparent and accountable to the people.

    If there is any lesson, we can learn from the last American presidential election is that strong institutions matter and is a fundamental pillar for nation building and ensuring sustainable political succession. We therefore must strengthen our institutions if we are to make any meaningful progress.

    Eradication of poverty and ignorance

    Poverty and the ever-widening gap between the rich and the poor have impeded sustainable nation-building in Nigeria. There cannot be sustainable push towards nation building without genuine efforts at eradicating poverty and ignorance. Poverty and ignorance do not only breed corruption, distrust, desperation for political office and many other vices that are inimical to nation building, they are also a major cause of serious conflict and insurgency such as the Boko Haram menace that are detrimental to a nation.

    Hence, all actions necessary for the up-liftment of the socio-economic condition of the people including provision of social security, employment, education, shelter, food, health care services, etc should be put in place as this will reduce the urge for corruption. When people have means of livelihood and are well informed, they are more likely to be knowledgeable about governance processes and are able to hold leaders accountable.

    Further, when the people are certain that there are sustainable policies and programmes to cater for their socio-economic well-being and that of their family members, they will be less likely to be induced into corrupt practices while occupying leadership positions and this will ultimately reduce their tendency to impose a successor or manipulating the process just to ensure that the successor covers their track and protects their interest.

    In addition, the quest to assume leadership positions would no longer be for the purpose of accumulating wealth but rather for service to the people.

    Growth of the middle class

    The middle class represents a fundamental component in any nation. They constitute a strong group of individuals made up of professionals, experts, civil society organisations, etc whose major role in nation building is to promote foresighted policies and to make government work well because their socio-economic fate is more closely tied to the quality of government in place.14

    The middle class in Nigeria are almost non-existent and where they exist, they are considerably weakened. What you have is majorly the rich and the poor. The reason for the collapse of the middle class is that most professionals are interested in ‘making it quick’ by lobbying for government leadership positions rather than building sustainable careers in their chosen fields. They believe that attaining political leadership positions is the surest means to wealth and satisfaction and this leads to breach of the rules, inducement, corruption and resort to manipulations in order to attain leadership positions.

    Therefore, as part of our efforts towards nation building and enthroning a political succession model that we can all be proud of, we must build back the middle class by ensuring that all incentives that are needed for their growth and sustenance are in place. These include the passage of laws and the creation of the right environment that will enable them excel in their chosen careers and discourage the rush or crave for political leadership positions. Through this way, the middle class will be well positioned to contribute effectively to nation building by promoting and championing good governance polices, defending fundamental rights of citizens and be empowered to hold political leaders accountable.


    The importance of an efficient, transparent, fair and equitable political or leadership succession process in any nation can never be over emphasised. As nation building is a continuous process, we must as a people continue to strengthening our justice and governance institutions and democratic ideals as fundamental elements of our political succession processes towards building a prosperous nation. As noted by the United Nations, weak institutions, poor governance culture, lack of awareness and docility on the part of the people are major contributors to under-development of any nation. We therefore must strive hard through collective engagement and sincerity of purpose to ensure that these debilitating factors that are inimical to nation building are eradicated from our political, economic and social space for the good of all Nigerians.

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