The Predatory State

Peter Lewis identified the nature of the predatory state in..

The Predatory State

Peter Lewis identified the nature of the predatory state in his 1996 article on Nigeria, “From Prebendalism to Predation” (P. M. Lewis 1996). Lewis says that after 1990 President Babangida, “concentrated political authority and economic discretion to an unprecedented degree in Nigeria, fostering the emergence of predatory rule.”[1] Citing Linz, Lewis referred to the nature of predatory rule, where, “The ruler exercises his power without restraint or by any commitment to an ideology or value system.”[2] He identified three essential features of emergent predatory order, firstly the concentration of power under coercive auspices, extending repression, killing opponents, and removing potential restraints on presidential power, secondly material inducements to loyalists officers, civilian cronies and acquiescent politicians and thirdly “the conscious erosion of central public institutions and the corresponding hegemony of a close circle of ethnic and personal loyalists.”[3] The predatory state, as described by Lewis, hollows out the state and in the case of Nigeria, “the military leadership and a small circle of civilian cronies largely circumvented the formal economy through unprecedented corruption, including large diversions of oil stock and revenues, systemic commercial fraud, and intensified drug trafficking. These parallel activities offered refuge from a declining economy to a narrow, predatory élite.”[4] In other words a predatory system, such as that which President Babangida developed in Nigeria, reduces the economic production of the national economy, but at the same time enriches a small elite, the mass of the population therefore experiences economic decline. As criminals run the state and therefore control the protective apparatus of the state, the courts and legal system, are therefore are subordinated to this group of criminals. From the point of view of the predatory elite this is a perfect system, and for the mass of the population it is a situation from which there is no escape; one can either aspire to join the predatory elite, flee the country, or submit to their demands.

[1] Peter Lewis – “From Prebendalism to Predation: The Political Economy of Decline in Nigeria”, The Journal of Modern African Studies, 34 (1) (1996), Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, page 100

[2] Juan J. Linz – “Totalitarian and Authoritarian Regimes” in Fred Greenstein and Nelson Polsby (editors) – “Handbook of Political Science”, Volume 3, “Macropolitical Theory”, published Menlo Park, 1975, page 259, cited by Peter Lewis – “From Prebendalism to Predation: The Political Economy of Decline in Nigeria”, The Journal of Modern African Studies, 34 (1) (1996), Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, page 100.

[3] Peter Lewis – “From Prebendalism to Predation: The Political Economy of Decline in Nigeria”, The Journal of Modern African Studies, 34 (1) (1996), Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, page 101

[4] Peter Lewis – “From Prebendalism to Predation: The Political Economy of Decline in Nigeria”, The Journal of Modern African Studies, 34 (1) (1996), Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, page 103

Photograph – Dakar 4 June 2011, Jeff Attaway, after a football match (Creative Comm0ns/FLICKR)


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