The latest Mo Ibrahim Index of African Governance showed that Nigeria has joined the top 10 bottom underperformers in governance in the continent. This dismal ranking should be of deep concern to Nigerians.

The Index shows that Nigeria deteriorated from an overall ranking of 41 out of a possible of 52 countries to 43rd position. In addition to a decline in the country’s overall ranking, Nigeria was also ranked very poorly in the area of personal safety – a sub-category under Safety and the Rule of Law – with the abysmal score of 11 out of a possible 100, compared to the average African score of 44. The Mo Ibrahim Index measures personal safety by the level of criminality against individuals, the prevalence of violent crimes and a measure of human trafficking and forced labour. In the provision of infrastructure, the country equally performed poorly, scoring only 11 (out of 100) and ranked a lowly 48 out of 52 countries.

Mauritius came top in the overall index, followed by Cape Verde, Botswana and the Seychelles, continuing the same pattern as last year. Somalia maintained its bottom position in each of the four category rankings – a position it has, not surprisingly, occupied since the index was first published. For Nigeria, there has been a consistent retrogression in its ranking in the Index since 2008.

For the third year running, the Mo Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership – the annual award of $5m spread over 10 years and $200,000 thereafter for life – would not be awarded this year because no one met the eligibility criteria. It will obviously remain contentious on whether the organisers of the award should be praised for not lowering standards just to keep up appearance or be chastised for what others may consider its very tight selection criteria.

One of the most worrying aspects of the latest Mo Ibrahim Index of African Governance was the observation that whereas governance has been improving in many countries in the last six years, some of Africa’s regional ‘powerhouses’ – Egypt, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa – have recorded unfavourable governance performance. The four countries have declined in the categories of “Safety & Rule of Law” and “Participation & Human Rights”. South Africa and Kenya additionally registered declines in ‘Sustainable Economic Opportunity’.

Despite the lingering contestations about the validity of some of the Index’s measuring instruments and the inherent methodological weaknesses of most of the indices on Africa such as the UN Human Development Report, the Failed State Index and the Ease of Doing Business in Africa Index, these indices could give a general indication of the direction a country might be headed. For Nigeria, the fact that it performed poorly in most of these indices could be an indication that the country is going in the wrong direction. For instance, on the Ease of Doing Business index prepared by the World Bank/International Finance Corporation released in April 2012, Nigeria maintained its lowly ranking of 131 out of 185 economies – same as in the previous year.

Nigeria’s dismal performance in the latest Mo Ibrahim indices should be a wake-up call for the country. There is an urgent need for the government to do something about the rapid deterioration in the quality of governance, which seems to be giving rise not only to several new socio-political problems but also aggravating old challenges.

Mo Ibrahim