Thoughts on Africa: Issues, Analysis, Discussions

Tradition and development in West Africa: A critical look at some contemporary issues in Ghana and Nigeria

June 18, 2018

Tradition and development in West Africa: A critical look at some contemporary issues in Ghana and Nigeria

This study examines underdevelopment of West Africa through a qualitative methodological approach. In explaining the challenges pitting the economies of West African states, modernization and dependency theories for analysis was adopted. Development in West Africa Region was examined using Ghana and Nigeria traditional political systems and economy as a focal point. Information gathered from the field suggests that there is the need for a blend of African traditional systems with modern political system in addressing underdevelopment. An overhaul of the existing political systems to accommodate African traditional and democratic measures in addressing West Africa under-development is prescribed. It concludes that, for West African states to achieve the status of developed nations, a lot of work needs to be done with or on the West African political systems and institutional structures to eschew external forces and pressures that causes underdevelopment in West African sub-region. Keywords: West Africa, Underdevelopment, Nigeria, Ghana

IntroductionEvery normal human action is rooted in thought. Therefore, thinking is what makes the human (Condorcet 1795). Over the years and across vast literatures, there have been scholarly arguments and debates on African states underdevelopment. Many theories have been propounded on trends and dimensions that explain underdevelopment with accompanying suggestions as a way forward for African states. Observations and debates by scholars on Africa’s development have been presented by two schools of thoughts. The first argues that the failure of African states is because of African leaders’ inability to adopt relevant policies and activities to develop the continent. The second school of thought believes that Africa underdevelopment is a direct effect of colonialist activities on the continent. While some blame Africa's failure to develop as the negative effect of pre-colonial institutions on post-colonial institutions others put their blame on the ethnic diversity. Englebert (2000:09; Easterly and Levine1997), argues that ethnic diversity has led to social polarization and entrenched interest groups in Africa and this has caused the ‘likelihood of selecting socially sub-optimal policies' as ethnic representatives in government.

According to Englebert,this trend fails to internalize the entire social costs of the rent creating policies adopted. Nonetheless, Englerbert (2000:27) revealed the flaws in the work of Easterly and Levine by pointing out that 'the developmental capacity of African states is partly a function of their degree of legitimacy and congruence with pre-colonial institutions.' More of these contested and diverse opinions of West Africa’s underdevelopment are discussed further as the article unfolds. Traditionally, colonialism has always been blamed for the woes of the West African sub-region. Acknowledging that colonialism contributed to some of the problems and challenges ravaging the West Africa nationals who cohabited peacefully from time immemorial, there has been the forceful fusion of ethnic tribes in Nigeria were majority points as indication of underdevelopment, civil war and problems observed in West Africa.
For the argument presented herein, there is the need to move away from the game of blame to solving the problems and challenges the region is facing in attaining the status of developed countries or region. This is what Ajayi (1970) and Ekeh (1983) already argued when they discussed colonialism as an episode and epoch. According to Ajayi (1970) and Ekeh (1983), Africans blame the colonialist for the woes which African witnessed but forget that different narrative could have played out: for colonialism to hold on the African continent, there was an agreement between the colonialists with African leaders who agreed that the territories of Africa be colonized for varied reasons and causes. In other words, African leaders supported colonialism through trade-offs. Contrarily, some people contend that the colonialist deceived Africans for the obvious gains by the former.
The question that should be asked deeply is what did the colonialist deceive them with? The acceptance of colonialist activities to flourish in carrying out their business within Africa may be the lack of negotiation skills. Thus, another point by Rostow indicates that without the affront to human and national dignity caused by the intrusion of more advanced powers, the rate of modernization of traditional societies over the past century-and-a half would have been much slower (Rostow 1959). Also, looking at the African tradition and culture before the introduction of Christianity and Islam, Africans have always prided themselves in the traditional religion that was so effective in dealing with injustice in the society. So, the question that comes to mind again is that, where were the African Gods when the colonialism was taking its root in Africa? Lots of questions contradicting the blames on colonialism can be generated in this study. Therefore, the study focuses on the contemporary issues that are inhibiting West Africa from attaining the status of developed countries or regions. As a matter of fact, while African countries are still debating on attaining the status of a developed continent based on what humanity means in achieving developmental status and rights, other continents such as those in Asian are discussing post-human concept. In as much as this study tries to identify and discuss the challenges of West Africa development, African scholars should not see it as the African adage that says (the child who uses a left hand to describe his father’s house is a bad child). However, the focus on Nigeria and Ghana which are Anglophone states is not deliberate because 14 Francophone countries are already disadvantaged due to the taxes they still pay to France who colonized them. (
The issue here is addressed objectively so that the West African leaders would see and swallow their pride or see things differently while working for developed West African states. Also, Branco (2008:01) noted that, 'one should not mistake underdevelopment for un-development although, the latter is the mere absence or delay in development whereas the former is a specific supporting role given to developing countries within the global development process.' Again, this study which focuses on the West African sub-region is as salient as a wakeup call on why little progress has been achieved in the region as against the observable growth of development in Southern African region and Asian countries over a period of 40years. Nigeria and Ghana are used in this study to explicate and point out striking issues concerning development in West Africa because these two countries are important and central amongst other things to the course and advocacy of developmental programs in West African sub-region.
This study could not agree more when Rodney noted that an 'analysis of underdevelopment should come closer to the present than the end of the colonial period in the 1960s.' (Rodney 1973).

Objective This piece investigate the challenges of development in West-Africa through these highlighted objectives: · The challenges of West-Africa development in this contemporary period · The unsupportive institutional role of the West to West Africa · comparing the experiences of Ghana and Nigeria economic development in West-Africa · proffering an alternative framework for a developed West Africa

Literature review To understand the contemporary West African region developmental issues, there is the need to study and understand its past. On this ground, different contributions and positions of scholars on Africa’s underdevelopment have been expounded in the current study. Rodney defined development in human society as: a many-sided process, thus moral categories of development are difficult to evaluate such as (the level of individual in increased skill and capacity, greater freedom, creativity, self-discipline, responsibility and material well-being), depending on the age or era which one lives, class origins, and one's personal code of what is right and what is wrong. However, what is indisputable is that development takes the form of personal development tied with the state of the society as a whole on the other hand, he explained underdevelopment as not the absence of development, because every people have developed in one way or the other and to a greater or lesser extent, but noted that underdevelopment is comparing levels of development and it is much tied to the fact that human social development has been uneven and from a strictly economic view-point some human groups have advanced further by producing more and becoming more wealthy (Rodney 1973:24). On the dialectical relationship of development and underdevelopment, Western Europe and Africa had a relationship that ensured the transfer of wealth from Africa to Europe. However, during these transfers of wealth, Africa helped to develop Western Europe in the same proportion as Western Europe helped to underdeveloped Africa. Thus, the internationalisation of trade was and is still the extension overseas of European interests. (Rodney 1973:116). (Branco 2008; Lipset, 1959), theorized that indicators of economic development were higher in democratic countries than the authoritarian ones, which suggest that development is a condition to democracy. Contrarily, after reviewing economic obstacles to democratization in Africa, Branco (2008:01), concluded that democratic development is not a yardstick for getting richer and developed. The study of Nathaniel (2014), argued and pinpointed corruption as the core reason for Africa’s underdevelopment which is also evident in Nigeria. He thus recommended that for Africa to break the impasse of underdevelopment there should be good governance and establishment of special agencies to monitor all development projects being undertaken by African countries. Thus, Kuhnen (1987: 02) explains that 'development is seen as an increase of production and efficiency and measured primarily by comparing the per capita income'. Grundy, (1966) emphasizes that, understanding the leaders of underdeveloped countries on how they think about the problems of underdevelopment will serve as 'theoretical and empirical foundations for domestic measures designed to rectify the relative backward conditions, temper and condition such leaders’ attitudes and polices towards the West, and the Communist world. The comprehension of African leaders’ views will provide an opportunity to assess their current ideological tendencies to discuss future Western policy alternatives.' As mentioned earlier that colonialism is the main fulcrum of accusation, Grundy on one hand noted that, 'the leaders of Ghana, Guinea, and Mali openly state that their backwardness is a direct product of European Colonialist exploitation, and the other hand, there is less denunciatory criticism of colonial rule as expressed by the leaders of Nigeria and Senegal.' (Grundy 1966:66). From another dimension, Asafa (2015) pointed out triple evils of underdevelopment in Africa as colonial capitalism, state terrorism and racism of different forms resisting Africans the search of pathways of implementing universal human rights laws and rights of indigenous people. The countries implicated as the European colonial powers with African collaborators on the extermination, abuse and misuse of indigenous Africans from the 16th to the first half of the 19th centuries who underdeveloped and impoverished African populations are Spain, Portugal, England, Holland, France, Belgium, Germany and Italy. Surprisingly, another study reveals different information from colonialism and African leaders, that out of other factors investigated for, malaria ranks as the highest in the underdevelopment of Africa, which implies that the high mortality caused by malaria induces household’s consumption to be high with less savings for the future and on the other hand, morbidity adversely affects labour productivity, (Bhattacharyya 2007). Thus, the combined impact of increase in household consumption and increase in morbidity slows down capital accumulation and economic growth. Against all colonial blames, Emeh (2013) noted that, it is no longer tenable to argue, but the main culprits of the destruction of Africa in contemporary period are Africans themselves.
Theoretical perception of modernization and dependency theory The general features of Modernization theory: This according to Rostow (1959), is based on the traditional society that entails the pre-capitalist, technologically constrained, traditional value and beliefs, stagnant and unchanging. Thus, the reason for the ‘backwardness’ or underdevelopment of society is attributed to the traditional societies and thus there was nothing about the global system and the colonial past. On the other, hand, the modern society is viewed and endowed with the West as the paragon of modernity, technological prowess, rapid economic growth, modern way of life with capitalism and democracy. Thus, the process of development from undeveloped society, is to emulate the first world by breaking away from the fetters of tradition (Fajans-Turner 2014).
The application and challenges of the 4th and 5th stages of Rostow’s modernization theory model: Modernization is an economy theory movement of the 1950s and 1960s rooted in capitalism. The concept of modernization incorporates the full spectrum of the transition and drastic transformation that a traditional society must undergo to become modern (Matunhu see (Hussain et al., 1981; Lenin, 1964). Though Rostow’s model has been criticized as there is no clear-cut distinction of traditional to the modern era. The 4th and 5th is given credence in explaining developmental problems and recommendation for West African countries. Therefore, what this study seeks to analyse using the modernization theory’s 4th and 5th model or stages, with the presence of (modern economy, industrial diversification, consumer goods and services, rise in per capital income, welfare and social security systems and increase in military expenditure), are indicators that West African states have what it needs to be developed nations, yet there are huge gaps. These gaps are caused by the dependence project and schemes of the colonialist in the form of neo-colonialism through financial aids and international relations policies among others.
The dependency theory The notion of resources flows from a ‘periphery’ of poor and underdeveloped states to a ‘core’ of wealthy states that enrich the latter at the expense of the former. Dependency theory was first introduced by Prebisch-Singer(1949) with other scholarly disciples such as Fanon (1963) who worked on the wretched of the earth, and making emphasis on overexploitation. Dos Santos (1970:03) working on the structure of Dependence revealing on how international and internal structures causes underdevelopment and Cardoso and Faletto (1969) who worked on dependence and development in Latin America, all helps to explain the dependence interplay between West African countries and the West. (Emeh 2013 Randall and Theobald, 1998,120) noted that, 'Dependency theory holds that ‘the condition of underdevelopment is precisely the result of the incorporation of the Third World economies into the capitalist world system which is dominated by the West and North America’...'hence in development studies, dependency implies a situation in which a particular country or region relies on another for support, survival and growth' Emeh (2013). The tenets of the ‘periphery’ and ‘core’ of dependency theory will be assessed further as it applies to West African countries.
Challenges of West Africa’s developmental strides in contemporary periodA comparative study of the nation of South Africa and the West African states reveals gaping gaps with the former revealing high level of development, with regards to physical infrastructure and general socio-economic advancement even though South Africa attained independence at a very late date as compared to all the states of West Africa. This has been a big concern and the question on what the problem is in terms of West African states’ development easily arises. In recent times, a change from the World Economic Situation and Prospects, (2017) forecast on the growth of world output between 2017-2018, shows the GDP per capita has declined in West-Africa to -0.7% in 2017 and -0.6% for 2018. Also, 'with 0.4% real GDP in 2016, West Africa has recorded the lowest growth rate in Africa because of the economic downturn in Nigeria recession caused by drastic fall in oil price and fragile security situation and political uncertainty'. (West Africa Brief (2017:04), Similarly, United Nations (2017) noted that the constraints on the growth of Nigeria which has consequence on West Africa has been attributed to pressures on the oil sector and foreign exchange constraints.
The few statistical information above explains development issues in West Africa. However, this does not explain all because in a deep analysis for the causes of fragile economic security situations and political uncertainties there are more explainable variables at work. One of the problems of the West African region as identified by Rostow (1959:06) is that ‘when a new national government was achieved in the face of the colonial power, the traditional society, or both in combination - its leaders were tempted to go on with the familiar game of politics and power rather than to turn promptly to the domestic tasks of modernization’. Thus, Awojobi (2014:01) made emphasis in his work, that 'corruption is the core reason behind African underdevelopment.’ On Nigeria, an example of underdevelopment as indicated by Emeh (2013), is the siphoning of natural resources into foreign banks worth 600 million U.S. dollars, belonging to the late super corrupt Sani Abacha of Nigeria. Continuously, corruption is still holding the nations development to a standstill. The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) programme set to assist human and state development in Nigeria also, did not escape endemic corruption (Ajiye 2014). Apart from the recovery of stolen funds from the administration of Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, another problem of underdevelopment in the contemporary times associated with the recession which Nigeria faced is also corruption manifesting in the Nigerian foreign exchange. For example, Mr. Babatunde Gbadamosi a former governorship candidate and business man who helped eased the problems of forex in exposing the shabby practices of the CBN and at the same time arrested and detained by the Department of Security Services (DSS) on (February 22, 2017) due to this exposure of the shabby practices of the president's allies and the cronies of CBN big-wigs receiving ridiculous low rate of 3 Naira to 1 dollar (N3/$1), through a video revealed and available in YouTube(2017) ( Even with the creation of two anti-corrupt agencies, political corruption has been blamed for the continued underdevelopment of Nigeria. (Awojobi 2014). Currently, in the face of transparency, accountability and management of government finances, in the Muhammadu Buhari regime, transparency and accountability has eluded Nigerians in diaspora overtly; this played out in his ear infection treatment and in the 103days of presidential sick leave in London for treatment which goes contrary to his statement that, ‘Nigeria loses about $1 billion annually to medical tourism, which is more than annual budget of some states; and his administration will not encourage expending the nation’s resources on any government official seeking medical care abroad especially when there is evidence of expertise in Nigeria.’ ( This led to the outcry of the Commonwealth Medical Association, vice president Dr. Enabulele calling the president trip a "national shame" because the president, Mr. Buhari, went to the UK for treatment when Nigeria had more than 250 ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialists, as well as a National Ear centre and should lead by example by Using Nigerian doctors, facilities and ensure government officials do not go abroad on frivolous medical trips’, ( Citation of the few corruption situations above derails the state and human development train in the country and for the West Africa region.
The unsupportive institutional role of the Westerners on West Africa Dependency is a role enjoyed mostly by the financial organizations who give out finances and states who borrow based on the profits of capitalism. As Santos (1970) noted, underdeveloped countries are largely a product of the Europeans. Santo made this known through the historical dependence and the contemporary dependence instituted by the policies and financial institutions of the West. The historical dependence showcases the traditional form of dependency through colonial dependence, trade export, commercial and financial capital in alliance with the colonialist and state dominated economic relations of the Europeans as well as the colonies by means of trade monopoly with colonial monopoly of land, mines, and manpower based on feudalism. In the post-war period, Santos noted that, technological-industrial dependence consolidated based on multinational corporations who invest in industries geared to the internal market of underdeveloped countries. Thus, the, dependence limits the potential of underdeveloped nations because, a great part of accumulated surplus was sent abroad in the form of profits, which limits internal consumption and possibilities of reinvestment. For the contemporary, Santos (1970) noted that the dependence of underdeveloped countries was upgraded to existence of financial resources in foreign currency for the purchase of machinery and processed raw materials are not produced domestically which limits the export sector and service relations. Each of this dependence conditioned the international relations, internal structures, orientation of production, forms of capital accumulation, reproduction of the economy with the social and political structure of the state.
When African countries borrow loans, several policies are in places to know if the finances are used appropriately for what they are meant for. If that is the case, and the international community with many financial aids for West Africa countries should also take the initiative in making sure such things like refineries in Nigeria and other West African states are built to reduce dependency. However, it appears that capitalism by the West would not align with such an initiative to ensure that funds borrowed must be used for the intended purposes. Building these refineries would enable and increase the country’s GDP. Eschewing this idea based on avoidance of meddling with affairs of sovereign state is encouraging more dependency on Western financial institutions which informs that underdevelopment is also directly or indirectly supported by the powers controlling the financial organizations. Concisely, noted 'the unequal and combined character of capitalist development at the international level is reproduced internally in an acute form, the productive system in the underdeveloped countries is essentially determined by the western internal relations. The industrial, and technological structures respond more closely to the interest of the multinational corporations than to internal developmental needs. Attempts to analyse backwardness as a failure to assimilate more advanced models of production or to modernize are nothing than ideology disguised as science...Thus, alleged backwardness of underdeveloped countries economies is not because of integration with capitalism but that the most powerful obstacles to their full development comes from the ways in which they are joined to this international system and its laws of development' (Santos 1970). From the foregoing discussion, Chinweizu (2010) sums it up that, Africans have lost power due to illusions which are: that-self-government is independence, that colonialism is over, in other words, colonialism is still very much functional in different dimensions as wolves in a sheep skin and Africans are not economically independent. In other words, the 'world market' of the imperialists dictates what developing nations sell and buy and at what price; which is championed by IMF and World Bank; through their dictate, of economic and social policies, their corporations dominate developing nations’ production, commerce and subordinate their economic activities to serve the imperialists.
Comparing the challenges undermining state development in Ghana and Nigeria In Nigeria, some of the problems undermining state development are primordial. These problems are enshrined in tribalism, ethnocentrism and corruption. Contrarily to these claims, authors like Felix and Wilson (2011) see the politico economic system as the cause of Nigeria’s underdevelopment. By contrast, politics is a product of the social life and therefore the social consciousness of a society, state and nation is paramount to the political decisions. For example, in Nigerian society whatever decision that is made at the family level extends to the tribal level and consequently manifests at choices that are made at the National level. In the Nigerian issue, the problem of tribalism and ethnocentrism as mentioned earlier plays out at the National level. This is based on the heterogeneous nature of the country. Therefore, the claim that the heterogenous nature and diversification of a country is a curse to a country contradicts nations that are heterogeneous in nature yet successful and developed.
According to Omotoye (2011:01) the problems ravaging Nigeria as a state in terms of its politics, economy, education, unstable situations, religions, cultural settings, etc. are all indices of a developing state. In other words, these problems are expected to manifest as the state is transforming itself. Aptly said, Omotoye was right but in Nigeria, there are seething problems that are inimical to the growth of the country and looks like it can never be addressed, even if it can, it will take longer years to achieve. Thus, this places Nigeria on the status of underdevelopment, and it is this underdevelopment issue that inhibit the growth of the state. On debt issues, it has been observed that 'some governments are currently borrowing from private lenders, in contrast to previous years when they borrowed mostly from official lenders with concessional terms' (UNCTAD 2016:03), Even with the loans and domestic borrowing for development in Ghana the research conducted for Institute of Economic Affairs in Ghana showed that in the year 2000, Ghana's debt rose over 100% of it GDP putting Ghana in the category of Heavily-Indebted Poor Countries.
Though in 2006 with the Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative in 2006, Ghana's debt dropped to about 26% of its GDP, but subsequent borrowing to finance infrastructure project increased the debt to about 48% of its GDP in 2012. (Kwakye 2012) This shows the state debt unattainability and vulnerability. Even with lot of interventions for human and regional development, the NEPAD report (2015) indicated that unemployment for youth and infrastructure are major problems hindering the development in Africa, with about 50 billion US Dollars per annum illicit financial flows from Africa. The interview from the government officials in Nigeria and Ghana revealed that most of the workers in the government ministries are idle and lots of paper works are done with little developmental project implementation in the society; the few projects that are implemented are stifled up by the people (boss) in charge of funds dispensation to run the projects smoothly. The respondents informed this study that when there are bids for contracts to develop the country, those that are awarded the contracts are made to inflate the figures presented for bidding and some fraction of these goes to those who awarded the contract.
This is also done by patronage in forms of (tribalism, classism, old boys/girls networks, regionalism and political partyism). On the condition of anonymity, a good number of private firms were implicated as conduit for embezzlement in Nigeria and Ghana. For example, Premium Times (2013) press release informs that, 69 billion naira ($306,250,000) was awarded for the city gate in Abuja in 2013. There are other worst examples in the administration of governments in Nigeria. These trends and patterns bedevil state development. In Ghana, an interview granted by a conglomerate of traditional chiefs with aggregation and peculiarity, from Dr Togbe Azanku gave an opinion on March 8th, 2017, on a holistic view that, ‘Traditionalism’ is the problem inhibiting Ghana’s development. He avowed that, Ghanaians are clinging on the ideas and thought of the societal traditions. In other words, Ghana is traditionally, a conservative state. Thus, the summary of these problems is situated in taboos. He stated however, that tradition is not bad and it does not necessitate that everything modern should be adopted, but modernity for development should be indigenous. Furthermore, he stated that there have been several cases of traditional and modernization conflicts and clashes. Firstly, he gave an example of a case brought before the traditional authority about people reporting against nomadic animal rearing that graze and destroy people’s farms should be passed into law and eradicated, while some believe it is a primordial practice that has sustained them economically over the years and should be allowed. Thus, in such cases, addressing such issues could be ambiguous even at the creation of grazing reserves for animal rearing. This presentation by Dr. Azanku coincide with Englerbert (2007:09), who notes that 'the weight of tradition stifles the emergence of associative life; and strong ethnic identities prevent the spread of trust in society' Secondly, Dr. Azanku stated that value systems are also a problem. Articulating his view, he proposed that the value systems of Ghanaians as a nation towards achieving greater developmental strides in the country have been watered down. In other words, the value systems are mixed of tradition, imposed and adoption of European values. For him, the mixture of this value system without clear cut differentiation and the purpose of the values system has fettered the responsibilities of the political leaders for the country while downtrodden traditional values inappropriately. Thus, traditional authorities are losing their legitimacy. He expressed the view that, during the colonial period by Britain, traditional authority and system left and did not knit the authorities with the governmental structures they imposed and implemented; and after that era and independence, the traditional authorities were not acknowledged in an inclusive system for state development in Ghana.
For example, there were very few traditional allocations at the parliament for political constitutions and implementation of developmental programmes in the country. Thus, in the absence of these allocations of traditional rulers to address developmental programmes in their societies and localities, developmental projects are not fairly distributed, implemented and managed. Thus, traditional authorities are patronised only when politicians are seeking for vote during election periods. Dr. Azanku, a Ghanaian traditionalist and a lecturer at University of Ghana Legon, recommended that, for the issue of development to be addressed in Ghana, there is the need for the fusion of the traditional practices with the modern ones in the government in spurring state development. This coincides with Chabal (2013), noting that, the lack of recognition for traditional forms of political accountability could cause the failure of democratic accountability to be dangerous. Ameliorating the problem according to Azanku, could be done through educated chiefs. Also, the chiefs informed that, in Ghana, a lot of Chinese companies have been granted lots of rights to exploit the remaining natural resources (gold) to the detriment of the people. Firstly, the Chinese people do not take adequate measures in controlling and mitigating environmental degradation due to their excavation process. Secondly, the rights given to the Chinese companies alienate citizens to explore little opportunities they have for developing their societies, and finally, a visit to such communities revealed that there are lots of single young mothers impregnated and abandoned by Chinese men and in effect creates more problem for the society. A visit and interviews conducted among the working class in Ghana and Nigeria revealed that apart from the bottom-top approach of the government and traditional institution, the help needed from the government while making the country a developed nation is 24hour constant supply of electricity. Admitting that with constant electricity there will be less independent on government and they can run their business and companies that have moved out of the country due to epileptic electric supply with high cost of running their companies on fuel and diesel will return. As fundamental as these revelations from the working class shows, it begs the question of the failure of power plant projects during president Obasanjo regime (1999-2007) in Nigeria due to corruption and utopia of recent power project support and loan from $5bn from World Bank ( and dumsor in Ghana, hoping that corruption will not cripple the laudable project has it has always done. Arguing on the precept of Rostow (1959) traditional stage’s model of modernization one could link his expression on traditional stages of development but again, in West African societies, traditionalism is sine qua non-to development and modernization. Thus, it serves as an arbiter for state development and ‘No country in this world can develop outside its culture’, and indigenous religion is one of them. ( The problems of underdevelopments in Nigeria and Ghana which will be explicated further are: · Institutions · Followership · Culture of extravagance spending as against investment and savings · Governance and academic gaps in politics · African graduate’s orientation
InstitutionsA major cause of West Africa underdevelopment is the presence of bad institutions on political, social and economic spheres. Institutions provide the incentive structure of an economy; as that structure evolves, it shapes the direction of economic change towards growth, stagnation, or decline. (North 1991:97; North 1993:4) Without good and effective institutions, capitalism through investment and profit that increases the economy of a state will not be encouraged. Coase (1992) and North (1993) submit that bad institutions generate high transactions costs. Thus, for there to be good institutions, property rights, political stability and rule of contracts must be present in the state. For West Africa, the institutions are not effective as they should, they have been compromised at different levels such as their dependency on external aids to function. Buttressing this, Chinweizu (2010) explicates further, that through the open veins of its still-colonial economies, Africa is being robbed of billions every year by the multinationals. The Washington-based investigators Global Financial Integrity (GFI), informs that, Multinational Companies removed more than $854 Billion from Africa by Illicit Financial Flows from 1970 to 2008. GFI estimates that the loss could be as high as $1.8 tr. This loss is a principal reason why Africa has remained poor. Thus, the result of neo-colonialism is that foreign capital is used for the exploitation rather than for the development of the less developed parts of the world. Investment under neo-colonialism increases rather than decreases the gap between the rich and the poor countries of the world. (Chinwezu 2010:6-11) Also, Fredua-kwarteng (2005) noted that, bad leadership and governance experienced in Africa is blamed on the colonial institutions where the leaders received their education and training. In other words, you cannot blame an individual for bad leadership or governance without equally blaming the institutions that shaped or moulded their consciousness in address problems in the society…Thus, colonial rule set the precedence for political oppression and sowed the seed of corruption in Africa. (
Followership On followership and leadership for development, Azeez (2016) submits that, 'the tragedy of the Nigerian state is the lack of star followers to choose the best candidate for leadership position and challenge their leaders to accountability and transparency.' Chigbu see Azeez (2016) opines that in 'viewing Nigeria's bad governance in the context of bad followership that 'there must be a conversion from mere citizens to star followers, for what we have in abundance are people motivated by religious sentiments, ethnicity, cultural beliefs, elite manipulation, poverty and illiteracy.' Concisely, it is apparent that, for there to be a meaningful development in the country, the followers must also play a major role in choosing the right person without sentiments.
Culture of extravagant spending as against investment and savings In Nigeria, there are some ethnic groups associated with extravagant spending. These ethnic groups spend so much on unnecessary things even when they have little or no means of income. For example, the Yoruba culture is known for throwing expensive parties even when they don’t have the finances for such parties. Some borrow money from the banks for parties and spend some good years of their life paying debt. This trend is not only associated with the Yoruba culture, but also found in some ethnic group within the country and in Ghana, where the contemporary societies have copied such extravagant spending. At the political sector, politicians in Nigeria and Ghana pride and stock themselves with exotic and expensive cars and V8 engine Jeeps while the developmental project such as the roads are very bad. A typical example is the procurement and debate of the type of cars the Nigerian senators want in the senate which costs $15,304,516 when there are other developmental projects the money should be channelled to (Tukur 2015). Also, in West Africa, it is traditionally a norm for gifts to be presented at different occasions before serious dialogues on different issues are done especially among someone seeking things ranging from information, advice, or favour. As it is a general thing, several people misinterpreted this norm of custom of gift to custom of corruption through bribery (by offering supposed gift) in search of favours. Contrarily, these affect institutions in the society by making them ineffective for what they stand for.
Governance and academic gaps in politics In the Western world, development is largely owed to scholarship and research output, but in West Africa, the case is different. In West African countries, using Nigeria and Ghana as case studies, there is a huge gap between the governance and academics. Scholarships and research output are barely encouraged and used. Most of the political leaders in governance do not reckon with the academician. They play the game of politics and ‘politricks’. Thus, all the researches that have been done with recommendations, advocacies and policies on how to develop the country rest in the literature and used only for academic purpose.
African graduate’s orientations The African graduate’s orientation is very low. It has been observed that, contemporary African graduates don’t contribute intellectually to development. This problem is largely owed to the kind of education system provided by the government. The education institutions are poorly equipped with research instruments and scholars. Having observed the kind of education system over the years, it is notable to see African students giving back to the educational institutions what was taught in class which is locally known in a slang among Nigeria students as ‘La give, La pour’ which means, they return to the lecturers and educational institutions what was been taught through cramming. In other words, very few graduates engage in practical situations with what is learnt during their years as student due to lack of rigorous and challenging researches. The few ones, who out of their own struggle attain the level critical reasoning and application in addressing issues in the societies, do not get the required support to broaden and apply research outcomes for development. Due to this debauchery, graduates and youths are then driven by materialism and religion. An example of the challenges on researches and scholarship by the West African graduates and tertiary institutions plays out when a United Kingdom institution won $500,000 for coming up with the best method of preserving Nigeria's cassava in the Rockfeller foundation (IITA 2017). No country in the world grows and eats more cassava than Nigeria and was expected that Nigeria institutions can come up with the best method as this cassava relates to nearly all sector in Nigeria's economy. So, what are the institutions doing? The core problems of underdevelopment in West Africa are not religion or ethnicity/culture but the Nigerian politics as it is practiced by her political leaders. Though, religion and culture are double edge sword depending on its application on the society, yet, the country's underdevelopment is largely, a direct causal effect of the actions of the political leaders. These actions manifest in looting and embezzlement from the country's resources meant to address underdevelopment in the country. In other words, corruption has always been the order of the day. For example, one vital factor which can move the country's economy in aiding development is the purposeful denial of the availability of crude oil refineries in Nigeria. There is no sense in depending on external funds from the international communities’ organizations, such as the World Bank and the IMF when these refineries can be built to reduce dependency from funding organizations. No better name suits it well than corruption. As a matter of fact, corruption is the bane of most political leaders in West Africa.
Proffering alternative framework for a developed West Africa Building on the intelligentsia developmental programmes and structures in West Africa, there is the need to re-evaluate and reconstitute governmental political constitutions for inclusiveness. There are structures of inclusiveness in place in the government such as the Federal Character system in Nigeria, but the question is how effective are these systems in addressing developmental problems at the grass root level and not mere allocation of portfolios to politicians at national levels? For there to be a meaningful state development, the issue of development should start at the grass root level, a bottom-top approach is very necessary. When people are carried along in societies by their leaders, resentments and agitations will not be a main problem among the people, as these variables are the motivating factors of violent conflict in societies. In mitigating these effects, realistic and developmental ideologies should be encouraged for the youth who are the base of the state development. This can be done in several ways, ranging from vast supportive youth empowerment programmes, the overhaul of existing multi-track diplomacy if there is any to address seething issues in the country. The problems of internet scam popularly known as ‘yahoo yahoo’ and ‘yahoo plus’ in Nigeria and in Ghana, ‘sakawa’ or ‘pal boys’ or ‘internet romance’ is a direct consequence of unemployment. The youth find solace in such practices to fend for themselves and their families with back up statement/expressions when dissuaded from such, that, ‘There are no Jobs for us and our leaders are corrupt’. Getting a Job in Nigeria and Ghana is not objective. You must see the ‘boss’. In other words, you must know someone at the top hierarchy or a politician to get a job. This then undermines the quality of the job that is carried out, the good ones with good qualifications and skills for the positions who can make changes in the society through their jobs are then alienated and some of them leave the continent to advanced countries in search of places that they can earn a living useful to the society which they find themselves. Internal and external problems causing underdevelopment should be mapped out and addressed simultaneously. Concurrently, industrialization is still low in Nigeria and Ghana, as a matter of fact, West African countries are more consumers than producers. This kind of attitude towards state development should be revisited. For example, the current Nigerian vice president, Professor Yemi Osibanjo, who was sworn in to office in 2015, stated that if made in Aba goods which are produced by Aba boys of Nigeria are encouraged and developed, then Nigeria has little or no business with China in terms of production. (
Much has been described in the literature on ways to address corruption with little or no significant result in West Africa. To reduce or eliminate corruption in African societies for development, there are two prescriptive models that can be adopted. These prescriptions are traditional and democratic prescription. Traditional prescription: is reverting to African's old testament tradition of addressing corruption and theft. This will be successful if the African traditional institutional deities such as ‘Amadioha’(Igbos) and ‘Ayelala’, (Yoruba) in Nigeria, Atoa Nyamaa, tigari, Nogokpo gods, Daade gods, Akonedee, Te-Kofi all of Ghana have the potency and power as claimed to be. Where the western institutions have failed to address corruption in Africa, then traditional means should be employed. Though, Westerner’s may not understand or believe in this kind of prescription and seen as fictitious and paganism, but this prescription is for Africans only, for they understand their tradition and society better. A former Ghanaian President Jerry John Rawlings noted that people are getting away with massive corruption because they are not compelled to conform to traditional religious authority. ‘We swear by the Bible and the Koran and lie but dare not with our local traditional deities. We are destroying the fabric of our society. This is not good enough. ( For democratic prescription, the fact that some people will be against traditional punitive measures based on claims that it is 'barbaric' and democracy supports, freedom of religious practice, then, heavy punitive measures like China should be imposed. The elimination of corruption is the key to African development but for these prescriptions to work, Africans must come to a consensus on what they want.
The West African states are not the problem; it is the people who run it. For there to be meaningful steps in addressing the problems of underdevelopment in West Africa, Africans must give up ‘clientelism’, the demonization and diminution of the African state, Rents, patronage in forms of (tribalism, classism, old boys/girls networks, regionalism, political partyism etc.), nepotism, ‘big manism’, and policy inconsistency. The modernization and the dependency theory adopted here have revealed the status of what West African nations possess and can utilize in 4th and 5th stage of Rostow’s model of modernization to address the problems associated with dependence as pointed out by the dependency theorist. Also, the Nigeria and Ghana experience in this study has shown few problems of underdevelopment in West Africa. Countries like Nigeria and Ghana can work out its greatness with lesser complication if they want to. In attempt to deal with the problems of underdevelopment, true pan Africanism is important. Drawing from Chinweizu’s (2010), definition of true pan Africanism, means addressing underdevelopment through new political, industrial, social and cultural means. This involves addressing the power illusion questions such as, independence of self-government, that colonialism is not over, African Unity is the solution to our problems and that we are developing nations. West Africa need to start investing seriously on the resources they have been made to abandon in the pursuit of development based on dependence on Westerners. The African political systems need a total overhaul, create and institute systems that work for the good will of the Africans. This is a herculean task which needs to be addressed bearing in mind that the bourgeoisie and ‘powers that be’ will not stand aloof to watch Africans slip away from their grasp. The colonialist network and agenda is intrinsically crafted in a way that makes untangling and disengagement difficult, yet, it can be done. In whatever, method or principle needed to achieve this agenda, there is the need for African’s reorientation starting with their, attitudes, perceptions and changes within every individual, cooperate society and organization and state structures for African’s development. If the internal problems are solved, the problems of underdevelopment and dependency will be half solved. For weakness compels strength; and the weakness of West African countries needs all the strength it can muster to address underdevelopment. Perhaps, where Kwame Nkrumah and Muhammad Gadhafi failed in uniting Africans, what West Africa needs is another Mao Zedong of China.

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