State Capacity in Nigeria

Cate Pollini


A case study by Dickovick and Eastwood explains what a weak state is and how it can be changed, in regards to Nigeria. They use the term state capacity that explains that a strong state is capable of implementing public service acts such as educational investments or establishing a rule of law. In regards to whether Nigeria is a strong state, it is dependent on whether or not “one thinks transforming the state is feasible in a given span of time, and what steps can be recommended to get there.”


In the month of April alone in Nigeria, armed robbers stormed five banks in Offa, Kwara and shot aimlessly and blew up entrances, resulting in 17 Nigerian deaths. There were also herdsman attacks that week as well. These attacks, in addition to others, in just the first 10 weeks of the new year already resulted in about 1,351 deaths. These violent attacks call to question the section of the 1999 constitution that states “the security and welfare of the people shall be a primary purpose of the government.” By these attacks, one can conclude that Nigeria’s rule of law and its state capacity are being completely ignored. The government is unable to submit to sections of their constitution as well as react swiftly to control violence amongst its citizens. Therefore, political scientists (according to Dickovick and Eastwood) thinking in a rationalist point of view can determine that by these acts of violence mean Nigeria is truly a failed state since the political institutions put in place do not provide adequate responses.


Is there a precise way to establish whether a nation is a “failed state,” without having to think in terms of rationalism or historical events?


While determining whether a nation is a failed state it is important to think in ambiguous terms. Being open to more than one interpretation is important in political science and in class, especially while determining statehood. It helps to establish multiple, unbias viewpoints on a particular subject that can move towards a definitive conclusion.



  1. Tyler J. Dickovick and Jonathan Eastwood. Comparative Politics: Integrating Theories, Methods, and Cases. New York: Oxford University Press, 2018.
  2. Yemisi Adegoke. “Is It Fair to Call Nigeria a Failed State?” The Guardian. April 11, 2018..

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