Towards the IBB Presidential Library
Mu’azu H. Wali
Let me first clarify a few misconceptions. To write a book on General Babangida is business, not documentation. However, to allocate an ISBN to the book or provide an index to its content, that is documentation. To produce a list of books or bibliography on General Babangida, a subject area, country or region is a documentation of information and knowledge on a person, subject, country or region as the case may be.
A library catalogue is the tool to access the collection in a given library.
All the above activities are works of documentation. Documentation, therefore, is a group of professional activities associated with identifying, gathering and assembling of intellectual products as well as producing the necessary tools that would facilitate access to the information and knowledge that they contain.
For the documentalist, the Babangida presidential papers are intellectual products. They should be properly identified and documented to make them more useful as follows: grouped into recognised relationships between and among each other, establish linkages to other publications in that area of scholarship, disseminate their contents as widely as possible to other researchers and establish the authority of their contents.
Examining the papers, they are all deficient in the authority of their contents. There are interpretations and conclusions that are speculative, and can only be clarified if the working papers of the Armed Forces Ruling Council or Council of Ministers are available. There are no significant citations in all the papers from the working documents of–the regime itself, and that is the argument of my paper. We need access to the working documents of the regime in order to arrive at fair perspectives and interpretations of its programmes, achievements and problems.
Documenting Babangida Regime (1985-1993).
“I take full responsibility for anything that happened. I know the bashing will continue. I hope that one day, someone will seriously itemise the roles played by all those who were involved. The present generation may not be able to paint a full picture of what I have achieved in office… Now people judge me by the cancellation of the June 12 presidential elections…” General Ibrahim Babangida.. Sunday Punch, September 17th, 2000.
The Babangida regime was the most intellectually inclined regime the country has ever had, including the period of debates that led to independence. There was no aspect of social, economic, political and educational life that was left untouched in the form of ideas, funding and projects. Unfortunately, the regime is the least documented the country ever had. This lack of full and accurate documentation of official and non-official records of the regime has led to the misinformation and misinterpretation of the regime and its leadership, especially the president. Yet all Nigerians are convinced that the Babangida Years were not wasted years, only that they have not been articulated and sufficiently documented and that is the nation’s historic irony. I am aware that no president has left as much legacy of recorded information while in office as President Babangida.
Documentation of presidential records requires a special skill. The activity has always been accorded the highest importance in most developed nations. In the United States of America, for example, the first privilege for an outgoing president is a library. It is here that a thorough documentation of the administration is done, and the intellectual activities of the regime continue as a national undertaking. Nigeria has a good lesson to learn here and to put such a facility in place for all former Heads of State. I see General Babangida in particular, as someone walking around and whose mind was left in the Villa. We need to assemble every document that made him tick while in office both for his sanity and the sanity of the nation.
In the absence of such an arrangement, and in order to provide a comprehensive documentation of a highly intellectual regime such as Babangida’s, we must identify the major sources of information on the regime. The regime itself created the organs for the generation of information on itself. Its instruments for governance and its executive power structures, provided the sources of primary information and data on the regime.
Constitution (Suspension and Modification) (Amendment) Decree No 17, 1985 set down the parameters of governance for the regime. Of particular interest is Section I (5) where:
“The powers vested in the President of the Federal Republic, Federal Military Government or Supreme Military Council, as the case may be, specified in the sections of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1979, as amended by the principal Decree, set out in Schedule 1 of this Decree shall be vested in the President, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces.”
It is clear therefore that during the regime, the Presidency took up enormous powers unprecedented in the history of this country. To a large extent, policy formulation, decision making and programme implementation started and finished at the Presidency. Furthermore, no less than 40 parastatals and extra ministerial departments were moved directly under the Presidency. This arrangement increased the executive functions of the State House.
In addition, the Civil Service Decree, No 43, 1988 made significant changes in the structure of the Civil Service. Ministers became Chief Executive Officers and Accounting Officers for their respective Ministries, and both the Budget Office and the Central Bank of Nigeria were moved into the Presidency. The implication of these new arrangements is that, the Presidency and the Ministries became the major generators of information and data on all aspects of national life. This transformation in governance is significant for the documentation of government business in general and the regime in particular. Finally, the regime allowed a free press that commented, reported and criticised its activities throughout its long tenure. The freedom enjoyed by the press generated a lot of documentation on the activities and key personalities of the regime, which in turn became an additional and significant source of information.
Furthermore, there were additional characteristics in the life of the regime that are of great interest to documentalists and researchers. Some of these characteristics included the following:
- it was a military government, it had a charismatic leader,
- it possessed a vision to transform society,
- it survived a military coup and attempted coups, went through the severest political turbulence more than any regime before or after it,
- it decreed a new constitution,
- it effected a transition programme, it annulled a Presidential election,
- it stepped aside for an Interim Administration.
A great deal of research will be necessary in order to give accurate accounts of these events, or even unravel the myths from the facts. Such research efforts can succeed only after all relevant sources of records generated by the regime or on the regime are searched, documents collected and carefully organized. A thorough documentation such as is envisaged above would go a long way to establish the regime’s intellectual legacy to the nation.
Reasons for a Library/Documentation Centre.
The need for a befitting library or documentation centre for the regime is of paramount importance for the following reasons:
- to create a reservoir of information on the regime, its activities, the principal actors and its leadership,
- to establish a reference library resource on development information for the nation much of whose beginnings can be traced to when the regime was in power,
- to create CD/ROM data bases; and on-line facilities links to foreign/national data bases which could allow access to global information networks of interest to Nigeria, eg the United Nations and its principal agencies,
- to serve as a repository of the President’s memorabilia,
- to support research in governance, democratic studies, military science and in particular the regime itself.
Such a facility will be equipped with the most modem technology so as to serve as an international information centre, document storage centre, archive, museum and a research centre. In the end, the library collection will help to authenticate the achievements and leadership qualities of the regime and its leadership for posterity.
A three floor structure is proposed comprising a ground floor, a first and second floors. Operational functions on each floor have been grouped to enhance efficiency and ease of use. The ground floor is envisaged as the “market place” of the documentation centre and will serve as the thoroughfare for magazine stands, art exhibition stands, craft shops etc. It is a place where users come for quick service and consultation, and therefore a place for minimum stay by users. A Bookshop, a Business Centre, coffee shops; are proposed to be located on this floor. For the same reason, the floor should also accommodate exhibition and current awareness display areas and the acquisitions department, responsible for orders and receipt of materials. The nature of traffic involved in these activities necessitates their being grouped together such that they do not constitute a problem to the quiet and serious use of the library. Finally, the floor would provide a revenue-generating outlet through the rental of spaces to the services like the Bookshop and Business Centre.
The next two floors should address the intensive use of the library. By the nature of the content of materials and activities located on the first floor, it is conceived that the two floors are envisaged as a quiet and conducive haven for intensive; interaction with the library stock and information technology. They would also serve as the gateway to the intellectual world of information and knowledge within and outside Nigeria, via the Internet.
A space Deployment being proposed is as under:
- Acquisition Department.
- Business Centre.
- Security Post.
- Exhibition and Current Awareness Display Area.
- One Reading Room for Current Newspapers and Magazines with adjacent area for
- TV cable viewing.
- Staff and Public Toilets.
- Administration Conference Room – multi-purpose Hall.
- Special Collection (closed access).
- Stacks area.
- Reading Area.
- Staff space including circulation desk\counter.
- High-Tech Services.
- Computer work stations for CD/ROM; Internet and E-mail facilities; Small scale desk top publishing.
- Non-Book Media Collection. Audio Visuals.
- Storage and User Areas.
- Staff supervision and circulation desk\counter. Staff and Public Toilets.
- Cataloguing and Processing Department.
- The Main Library\Documentation Centre.
- Reference and General Collection.
- Periodicals and Journals – Current and back sets.
- Private Reading Carrels.
- Staff and Public Toilets.
The foundation stock for the library will be Government Documents – Presidential documents, Ministerial records and all classified as well as public reports issued by ministries and other government agencies. Every record and report kept by government departments and their agencies when the regime was in power is of public interest, and must be traced, collected and thoroughly documented. Comments in the media as contained in Newspapers, Magazines, Radio and Television Broadcasts should be acquired, indexed, and abstracted as the case may be. There would be cases where photocopies may be available, while in other cases especially those traced to foreign countries, the location of where the material exists would suffice. The more comprehensive the collection, the more useful it will be for research.
The primary documents referred to above should be supported by the standard reference books usually acquired by special libraries. Because comments are still being made on the regime and its leadership, new publications will be acquired as and whenever published. Subscriptions to current periodicals will be taken in order to continue to monitor discussions on programmes and other ideas whose origins can be traced to the period when the regime was in power.