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India and Nigeria: Democratic Process

India and Nigeria: Democratic Process

The topic of my choice is the difference in the historical paths for India and Nigeria. Taking into account the similarities they share (their experience of being under the colonial rule), it is interesting to explore the evident and discreet distinctions that modern history of these two countries shows. India has proved to be much more successful at implementing the principles of institutionalized constitutional democracy. The significant size of both countries and their impressive demographic resource simplify the comparative analysis only at the first glance. In fact, the political system, religious diversities and conflicts, and relations with the bordering countries shape the state-building peculiarities of India and Nigeria. The current paper focuses on the inherent nature of political systems of these two countries.

It is necessary to find out the similarities between India and Nigeria. There are five of them: administrative, territorial, demographic, historical and linguistic, which will appear below.

Both of these countries are federal states with a republic type of governance: the former is a parliamentary state, while the latter is a presidential one. The official state structure of Nigeria divides the country into 36 states and a capital territory of central administration, which is the city of Abuja. India, in its turn, is divided into 29 federal states and seven union territories. Two of the union territories elect their governing bodies, while the other five are regulated directly from the central institutions of state power.

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The second common characteristic for both countries is their impressive demographic and geographical potential. Nigeria, with its approximate 174 million people population, is world’s seventh most populated country, while India is number two with a massive number of 1,2 billion of inhabitants (Duiker, 2011, p. 280). Also, in terms of territory, one cannot underestimate India, which is the world’s seventh largest country (3.29 million square kilometers) and Nigeria, which is the number 32 with its 924 thousand square kilometers.

The third similarity between them is the chronological record of striving towards independence from their ruler and oppressor, the United Kingdom. Historically, both India and Nigeria began developing their independence movements after the World War I, but the process of gaining true sovereignty was officially finalized only after the World War II. India received a dominion status and became independent from Great Britain in 1947; it was declared a republic in 1950 and remains so up to the present day. Nigeria experienced unification of the Northern and the Southern parts of the country in early 1914. However, full recognition came only in 1960, commonly known as the so-called “year of Africa” (as pronounced by the UN), when seventeen nations, including Nigeria, celebrated their long-awaited independence. Nigeria became a fully-fledged republic in 1963. With a time gap of 13 years, India and Nigeria started their way independently from the former empire dominating over them.

However, the decades of existence under the British rule could not have passed on without consequences. The “soft power” of cultural influence is still shaping the everyday lives of millions of Indians and Nigerians, at least linguistically. English language is still the official language of Nigeria (the indigenous Yoruba, Hausa and Igbo languages and dialects do not serve administrative purposes). Also, in India, English language shares the status of official one with Hindu, thus exercising its continuing influence.

The difference between Nigeria and India is their development speed. The pace of Nigeria towards economic growth is slower and leaves it approximately ten years behind Deli. India witnessed the blooming era of manufacturing and productivity in 2003-2008; it started only in 2013 for Nigeria. Gopaldas (2013) describes the most characteristic features of this period as “demographic boom, rapid urbanization, a poor and ethnically diverse population and an array of vast economic opportunities”.

One of the reasons why Nigeria was set back in implementing democratic principles lies in the historical past and can be disputable among scholars. It concerns the policy of the British towards Nigeria in late 19th century and on the cusp on the centuries. Namely, African issues were closely studied and discussed during the Berlin conference held in 1884-1885 (Duiker, 2011, p. 67). The notorious Roman principle called “divide and conquer” was the motto of this process called “Scramble for Africa” or “Partition of Africa.” The world powers decided on the boundaries of impact between themselves on the territory of Western Africa, with its rich deposits of natural fossils and gems. The territorial units that became Nigerian were later devoid of any autonomous rule or self-governance. The democratic constitutional reforms are conducted in Nigeria slower because there is simply not enough of democratic tradition, no corresponding experience of local administering and a lack of properly educated people. In other words, the colonial history has a much more daunting and decelerating influence on Nigeria than on India. Even the aforementioned fact of uniting Northern and Southern parts of Nigeria in 1914 is not an act of national self-awareness but an initiative of the British administration, namely Lord Fredrick Lugard. He carried out the unification process without due attention and respect towards the ethnic peculiarities of the population on those territories. This ill-considered decision led to tensions between the people of the two halves of Nigeria during the 20th century.

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India has a glorious and remarkable history of raising self-awareness and liberating from under the British yoke. This process is embodied by the iconic figure of Mahatma Gandhi.

According to Ibrahim (2002), for both Nigeria and India, the way to democracy means implementation of similar assumptions. These principles include “open political space, rule of law, human rights, marginalization, resource control and the national question issues”. There were also other tools to enable different groups of citizens to participate in the governing process effectively. One of the key definitive features of a truly democratic state is prevalence of law, rules and institutionalized power over the personal influence of individuals of high standing. In India, social life and distribution of material goods is based on constitutional laws and regulations; there is relatively little chance for politicians and their cliques, even very rich ones, to shift this system. This is a promising fact, an attribute of stability and predictability of the system, and reliability for foreign partners. In Nigeria, as in a less developed country, the situation is different: their political system is weaker in terms of implementation of legislation basis, more patrimonial and prone to fluctuations. Hence, the tendency towards activity of military juntas, similar to the same trend known in Latin American countries since the 1970s.

The supreme law of India came into effect in 1949 and became effective in 1950. According to this document, the head of government is the Prime Minister. He or she is also the central personality in the political life of the country. Unlike the Prime Minister, the President fulfills, prevalently, a ceremonial part.

One of the reasons why Nigeria falls back in democratic transformations, compared to India, is the fact that Nigerian economy is less diversified in terms of replenishing the state budget. In fact, Lagos is dependent on world oil prices because it is one of the world’s biggest oil suppliers. Nigeria joined the Organization of Petrol Exporting Countries (OPEC) in the early 1970s, during the first oil crises related to the military actions in the Middle East (Duiker, 2011, p. 482). Since then, diversification of profit sources for the state budget has never been a real priority for the government of the country. Interestingly, both Nigeria and India are theoretically considered to be LDCs – less developed countries, according to the official UN classification.

In fact, it is the paternalistic tendencies within the Nigerian political system that make it more sensitive to negative influences. Should the oil prices fluctuate on the world market, the national budget begins to suffer from disproportionate revenues. Exporters, like Nigeria, usually enjoy the position they have. At the same time, importers always depend on suppliers, and, of course, on the world oil prices. Each country seeks to acquire its profitable fields or, at least, reliable suppliers; some use their geographical position and, thereby, reduce the tariff for themselves on raw materials, as they ensure transit through their territories. In general, each separate state strives to leverage the conditions that have developed at the present moment, while the situation on the world stage can change rather quickly. In the case of Nigeria, all of the oil and gas sphere tendencies have a decisive meaning and specific importance, for they influence the processes within the political system of the country.

Oil industry continues to be the definitive features of the global economy. Exports of crude oil yield of more than 90% of foreign exchange earnings of countries like Nigeria. According to Gopaldas (2013), as the pace of development of the industry, the level of investment (USD 10 billion) Nigeria is one of the first places in the world. Nigeria intends to increase its amount in OPEC.
The oil sphere development deals with foreign companies, however, the state receives more than half of the general income. In fact, the welfare of Nigeria rises or falls depending on the oil price on the world market. Most fields are located in the south of the country, where the Niger River flows through the area of lagoons, swamps and mangroves. Oil goes to Port Harcourt, where other goods are also exported, including palm oil, peanuts and cocoa. However, the latter export articles account for less than 20% of the budgetary revenues (Duiker, 2011, p. 590). Many plants and food industry operates in such major cities, such as Lagos and Ibadan. Revenues from the oil industry are managed by the Nigerian government to improve the education system, the development of agriculture and new industries. Approximately half of the population in Nigeria is farmers who use traditional methods. Recently, development has been noticed in the field of mining, especially in coal mining and tin processing and manufacturing.

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India, on the contrary, is an exemplary case of a national economy that managed to escape the haunt of import dependency. The key success in this sphere was diversification of economic system. India is currently entering on the path of development in an open market economy, but still traces of the previous policy of the country remain. Liberalizing the economy meant to carry out changes in industrial regulation, to privatize enterprises and to decrease control over foreign trade. Liberalization and forced investment attraction began in the early 1990s. It was meant to accelerate the country’s economic growth, which has reached the level of “more than 7% annually since 1997” (Ibrahim, 2002). India’s economy is diversified in terms of farming, up-to-date agriculture, a multitude of modern industries and various services. Unlike Nigeria, India has more than half of its economy as agricultural companies and entities which grants employment to more than one-third of the workforce. One can see that the Indian economy still has many structural problems; however, compared to the economy of Nigeria, it is more stable and less susceptible to various types of challenges in modern economy.

The main impetus to the industrial growth came from the service sector. Such growth is exactly what distinguishes Indian economy from Nigerian one and directly influences the ability of the state to exercise severe control over the tycoons and enforce law and order within the country. Services account for 55% of the gross national product. Speed, quality and complexity of the types of services offered for sale are rising and strive to meet the international standards. Financial and software services, as well as accounting, keep this industry highly professional and is the main stimulus to economic development.
India is becoming a significant force in the information technology field quite fast. According to the National Association of Software and Service Companies (NASSCOM), more than 150 of the “grand list” of Fortune 500 companies use Indian software services (Ibrahim, 2002). This potential spurs global software giants such as Microsoft, who have made significant investments in India. A number of multinational corporations are relative cost advantage and highly qualified personnel available in India, and opened service centers and call centers in India to meet the needs of its customers worldwide. Nigeria, however, cannot boast about such kind of economic advancement and augmentation. Therefore, the political system of Nigeria is defined by the economic environment, while democracy, as a principle, demands an exactly opposite approach. Political system should be construed and formalized by the economic one, in order to implement the constitutially leveraged laws. In any other case, the legislative system of the state becomes secondary and accessible to manipulations from the people who control extraction, transportation and export of fossil fuels (i.e. the tycoons).

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Interestingly, the similarities between the countries and their unprecedented economic opportunities make their cooperation almost inevitable. The rapprochement in various spheres has strengthened during the past two decades, and new platforms for mutually beneficial liaisons are ready.

Summarizing all written above, one can make a number of following conclusions. It is highly unlikely to name one reason for the lack of success in implementing democratization for Nigeria. The existing administrative, territorial, demographic, historical and linguistic peculiarities make it impossible for India and Nigeria to follow a similar democratization path. This political phenomenon is a multifaceted process. Chronologically, it took place for at least several decades. The time gap of thirteen years of the date when independence was proclaimed, distinguishes the difference in the pace of democratization for Nigeria and India. In terms of history on a global scale, it is a short time, but for fundamental economically related processes of the modern world, this is an era. It is important to understand, in the final account, that in India, constitutional system rules over the economic situation and allocation of material goods, while in Nigeria, it happens exactly the opposite way. Also, Lagos power structures are more subject to influence of the military administration. Therefore, in Nigeria, the legislative system, unfortunately, sometimes plays the part of a secondary and less significant factor of internal life in the state.

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