Working Paper
Promoting Education within the Context of a Neo-Patrimonial State

The Case of Nigeria

In the first two or three decades of independence, Nigeria, like the rest of Africa.  placed heavy emphasis on expanding educational opportunities from primary 
school through university. This has resulted in a very impressive increase in the number of students enrolled in institutions at all levels. In spite of this, education 
today, like other social services, is in deep crisis. The population growth which greatly increases the number of children seeking access to schools combined with 
the recent economic decline has necessitated significant cutbacks in public spending on all social services.  Complicating the problem of the declining economic fortunes are the general problems of policy implementation in Nigeria. In spite of the economic downturn, Nigeria is still arguably one of the richest countries in Africa.  However, despite the nation's endowments both in human and natural resources, it has not been able to guarantee the minimum and steady provision of basic social services for the majority of its population. This has resulted in persistent mass illiteracy, and deterioration of health, housing and other related social 
services. Therefore, the main challenge facing Nigeria today is how to translate its wealth into policy outputs that will advance the provision of education and 
other social services. This paper presents a brief history of social services provision in Nigeria with special reference to education. It argues that the problems of implementation of social policies are due to state monopolies, the negative effects of structural adjustment conditionalities, central government bureaucracy, the neo-patrimonial nature of the state, and, the neglect of possible contributions from civil society. The suggestion that civil society in Africa might provide alternative, fruitful points of input to the provision of social services is dealt with at length. This is particularly relevant in Nigeria where resources for social services are channeled through state structures which are likely to be diverted or misappropriated by corrupt officials because of the neo-patrimonial structure of the state. This civil society is not seen as organized in a dynamic opposition to the state, but as an associational stratum intermediate to the state and its institutions and agents. It 
functions both to give organized expression to the private, unofficial domain and it acts out its intermediate position with the state (if needed). This aggregate of 
grassroots associations includes such organizations as professional associations. informal cooperatives, churches, cultural societies, mutual aid groups, market 
women's associations, hometown associations, 'old boys clubs' and the like. Its recommendation or rather its appeal is predictated by the fact that being the 
product of society, civil society is capable of creating economic and political resources as well as channels for bypassing distribution through officials, who might be corrupt.  The paper concludes with a call for the encouragement of a viable civil society that will not only help to mitigate the present problem of a top-down approach to policy implementation, but will also help in generating additional resources for social services.