Political Elites and Development Crisis in Nigeria (A Case Study of Southern Ijaw LGA of Bayelsa State)
1.1 BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY
Presently, the crisis of development is the most serious problem facing Nigeria and Africa as a whole. This is because the country has remained largely underdeveloped despite the presence of huge mineral and human resources. Several decades after the end of colonialism, most parts of Africa with Nigeria inclusive is still fighting with problems such as high poverty rate, lack of basic infrastructural facilities in all sectors of the economy, unemployment, high mortality rate, political instability and insecurity of lives and property. For example, Nigeria the most populous African country, according to the United Nations human development report (2005), out of 177 countries, ranked 158 in human development index,165 in life expectancy at birth,121 in combined primary, secondary and tertiary gross enrolment and 155 in GDP per capital. Recently, Suberu (2007) also had said of Nigeria that “it earned around US$500 billion in oil revenues since the 1970s, yet remains mired in poverty, unemployment, a bourgeoning domestic debt, infrastructural squalor, abysmal health and educational services, and attendant social frustration and unrest’’.
Against the background of Nigeria’s development crisis, emanated the debate on how to solve the crisis of development in Nigeria. The political elites constitute the majority of the stakeholders that can facilitate state development leading to resolution of any crisis of development. According to Wikipedia (2015), the political elite is a small group of people who control a disproportionate amount of wealth or political power. In general, political elite means the more powerful group of people. It can be otherwise described as a selected part of a group that is superior to the rest in terms of ability or qualities or has more privilege than the rest.
Political elite are the most influential and prestigious stratum in a society. The elite are those persons who are recognized as outstanding leaders in a given field. Thus, there are political, religious, scientific, business, and artistic elite. Ekeh (1983) has defined elite as small minorities who play an exceptionally influential part in the affairs of society in specific fields. He further described political elite as decision-makers whose power is not subject to control by any other body in the society. Nnoli (1981)maintains that political elite are those who have an influence over the fate of the society because of their superiority. The members of an political elite group have important influence in shaping the values and attitudes held by their segment of society. Falola (2005) has described them as those who make decisions having major consequences, who are able to realize their will even if others resist, and who have the most of what there is to have-money, power and prestige. However, the term does not apply to any one person but refers to a plurality, a collectivity of persons, however small it may be. This identifiable collectivity has certain attributes and skills which give it not only a certain superiority but also power of decision-making and influencing others.
The term political elite may also be defined as a group of high stratum decision-makers in political culture or concrete political structure which monopolizes political power, influences major political policies and occupies all important posts of political command. The main duty of political elite to the public as a whole is to reconstruct society by attempting to mobilise and tap available resources and political energies. Their attack on economic backwardness, in order to achieve material advancement, is through change in institutions and attitudes. The political party or governmental apparatus serves for them as the central instrument for modernization. However, the elite class in Nigeria seems to assumed dimension that is unusual of realistic functions in development context. Analysis of contemporary situations in Nigeria reveals that the country political elite class has no consistent and significant linkage to its national exploit. The formation and conduct of Nigerian’s political elite group have not been translated into a source of national development, despite the fact well observed by American political scientists John Purcell(1974) that powerful initiatives from within the political elite groups is critically important for national development (Ojo, 2006). However, the researcher seeks to identify the relationship between the political elites and the development crises in Nigeria.
Southern Ijaw whose political elite are directly under study in this research work is a Local Government Area of Bayelsa State, Nigeria. Its headquarters are in the town of Oporoma (or Osokoma) in the north of the area at4°48′17″N 6°04′44″E. The area has a coastline of approximately 60 km on the Bight of Benin. It is the second largest Local Government in Nigeria (Landscape) after Toro Local Government of Bauchi State. The people and their language are known as Izon. It has Institutions like The Niger Delta University(NDU) and the states airport in Amassoma and Federal Polytechnic Ekowe in Ekowe, it is the home of Kolu United FC of Koluama II. the first democratic governor chief Diepreye Alamieyeseigha (DSP) and the former deputy surveyor general/director for urban development in Bayelsa state capital Mr C.B Ingibina is also from the Southern Ijaw LGA. It has an area of 2,682 km² and a population of 319,413 at the 2006 census (Wikipedia, 2015).
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
Almond (1960) has used the term ‘power elite’ for the political elite who monopolies power and rule the country. Blanda (2001) has called them ‘governing elite’, Marx, referred to them as ‘ruling class’, Riesman as ‘veto group’, and Floyd Hunter as ‘top leaders’. The Nigeria political elite class had little disposition to contemplate the positive use of elite advantage as strategic instrument for engineering national development. Nigeria has realized very little of her potentials because of in effective mobilization of these potentials by the political elites.
Today the people (masses) have limited access to education, lack of good drinking water and adequate medical care. Millions of Nigerians are said to be suffering from various deadly diseases. There is a prevalence of poor income and unemployment, street trading by children, hazardous reproductive behaviours. However, the researcher will analyze the development related crises in Nigeria considering the role of political elites (Ake, 1995).
1.3 OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
The general objective of this study is to examine the relationship between the political elites and development crisis in Nigeria while the following are the specific objectives:
1. To examine the relationship between the political elites and development crisis in Nigeria.
2. To identify the developmental challenges and crisis in Nigeria.
3. To examine the role of Nigeria political elites in the national development process
1.4 RESEARCH QUESTIONS
1. What is the relationship between the political elites and development crisis in Nigeria?
2. What are the developmental challenges and crisis in Nigeria?
3. What are the roles of Nigeria political elites in the national development process?
HO: There is no significant relationship between the political elites and development crisis in Nigeria
HA: There is significant relationship between the political elites and development crisis in Nigeria
1.6 SIGNIFANCE OF THE STUDY
The following are considered to be the significances of this study:
1. This research will be a useful guide for political elite in Nigeria in identifying their roles and actively participating in the process of national development using their political power as the development facilitation tool.
2. This study will educate the general public on how political influences of some small group of people in the society can be used in resolving the developmental challenges faced in the society.
3. This research will be a contribution to the body of literature in the area of political elite and development crisis in Nigeria, thereby constituting the empirical literature for future research in the subject area.
1.7 SCOPE/LIMITATIONS OF THE STUDY
This study on political elites and development crises in Nigeria will cover the relationship between the political elites and process of development in Nigeria. It will also examine the role of political bigwigs in facilitation of developmental projects in Nigeria.
LIMITATION OF STUDY
Financial constraint- Insufficient fund tends to impede the efficiency of the researcher in sourcing for the relevant materials, literature or information and in the process of data collection (internet, questionnaire and interview).
Time constraint- The researcher will simultaneously engage in this study with other academic work. This consequently will cut down on the time devoted for the research work.
1.8 DEFINITION OF TERMS
Political elite- political elite are a small group of people who control a disproportionate amount of wealth or political power. In general, political elite means the more powerful group of people within the political structure.
Development- the act or process of growing or causing something to grow or become larger or more advanced.
Infrastructure- the basic physical and organizational structures and facilities (e.g. buildings, roads, power supplies) needed for the operation of a society or enterprise.
Ake C (1995) Democracy and Development in Africa, Spectrum Books Limited; Ibadan.
Almond G, James C (1960). (eds.) The Politics Of Developing Area, Princeton University Press, Princeton
Blanda,W. (2001) The Struggle for development in Africa.Sanata Press. Lagos
Ekeh P (1983). Colonialism and Social Structure. Inaugural Lecture, University of Ibadan.
Falola T (2005). (ed), The Dark Webs: Perspectives on Colonialism in Africa. Carolina Academic Press.
Nnoli O (1981). “Development/ Underdevelopment: Is Nigeria Developing?” in Okwudiba Nnoli (ed) Path to Nigerian Development. CODERSIA, Senegal.
Ojo, E.O (2006) Challenges of Sustainable Democracy in Nigeria. Ibadan: John Archives African Experiences” Ibadan J. Soc. Sci. (2)1
Suberu R (2007). ‘’Nigeria’s Muddled Elections ‘’ J. Democracy 18(4).
United Nations Development Programme (2005). International Cooperation at a Crossroads: Aid, trade and security in an equal world (Human Development Report) New York.