Sam Oyovbaire and Tunji Olagunju
History is a succession of events in the life of nations, of peoples or of communities. Historical events are social accumulations. Fundamentally, one set of identifiable events in time and space is as much rooted in a preceding set as it is the root of succeeding events. Similarly, historical events in one place could become the genesis of events in other places depending, of course, on the critical nature of the former. In this manner of conceptualizing events, history could be said to be unrestricted by space and time.
But history and historical events are not amorphous or shapeless occurrences. On the contrary, historical events and processes possess uniqueness which marks them as much the product of the past and of particular places, as they are sufficiently differentiated from their antecedents. Such uniqueness of history provides both the basis for a break from either the past or from events of other places, as well as the basis of a completely new future history. The decisiveness of the unique nature and character of historical events and processes provides the basis for the differentiation in history. A set of events and processes could be quite profound and long drawn-out with the attendant consequence that existing structures and values of a nation become completely broken or overturned, giving rise to new structures, institutions, values and patterns of social conduct. In this way, one could speak of a revolutionary historical situation.
Revolutions in history may be dramatic and traumatic. They may also be violent, resulting in bloodletting. Revolutions could also occur or be made to occur through systematic activation of particular decisions, policies and Programs by an historically informed leadership. Once revolutionary events and processes are inaugurated and sustained, new structures, institutions, values and patterns of social relations could begin to germinate in the life of a nation, of a people or of a community without. necessarily experiencing the drama of social violence. This is not to say that historical or revolutionary occurrences do not have costs. On the contrary, nations that have grown and developed, especially within brief spans in history have had the unbearable experience of paying dearly the price of change.
The purpose of the preceding disquisition is to underscore the simple point that there is, in Nigeria, a revolutionary change taking place and that we can date our observation of the process of change from 27 August 1985. This date marks Nigeria’s fifth coup d’etat, a date on which the country was made once again to grapple with another military succession. The leader of this historical event is General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, referred to in the subtitle of this book simply as IBB. Before IBB, there had been four military successions to power in Nigeria —in January 1966, July 1966, July 1975 and December 1983. There were also two overtly unsuccessful military attempts to wrest power — in February 1976 and December 1985.
Since succeeding to leadership of Nigeria in August 1985, the IBB Administration has decided on very many crucial courses of actions, and undertaken many significant policies and Programs. It has also proceeded doggedly to carry through or implement the decisions. In conception, formulation and execution, the decisions have undoubtedly become monumental events, and have cumulatively inaugurated profound historical processes. The decisions have greatly affected the life of the nation for boon or bane, and will, no doubt, continue to do so for a long time to come. With IBB, Nigeria cannot be the same again!
The decisions which have been taken by the IBB Administration are varied, profound, touchy and cataclysmic. They include, among many others:
(a) The structural adjustment program for economic recovery and development;
(b) Measures to transform the rural and agricultural sectors of the country;
(c) Proscription of importation of a variety of commodities including items of foodstuffs and raw materials whose continued importation had undermined local production;
(d) Policies of economic liberalisation, including the unimpeded flow of commercial activities between Nigeria and the outside world, and a relatively deregulated adjustment of the exchange rate of the Nigerian currency;
(e) Dismantling of a regime of import licences and of monetary and fiscal controls;
(f) Deliberate restructuring of market forces largely for the benefit of primary producers; and
(g) Rationalisation of operations of banking and other financial institutions for more effective and productive performance.
In addition, the IBB Administration has taken measures to rationalise public sector investments, including elimination of wastes in education, health, transport, communication, and other basic social services.
With respect to political, constitutional and governmental processes, IBB has taken up an array of measures, and worked out Programs of supervised transition from military rule to civil democratic government by 1992. These measures and Programs include those of:
(a) Systematic disengagement of the military from governance;
(b) The banning or disqualification of certain past leaders from further participation in the political leadership of the country for life or until 1992 as the case may be;
(c) Deliberate renovation and scaffolding of the constitutional superstructure;
(d) Reformed realignment of the civil services with the requirements of the new political and constitutional or presidential leadership; and
(e) The routinization of grassroots governance and development;
These decisions have not only been heavily articulated and clarified, they have also been laid out for long-drawn implementation and result. Singly and cumulatively, the decisions have constituted an historical catharsis with the justifiable hopes that this time around the jinxed musical chairs of successive civil and military rules would have been arrested and reversed by 1992. In all this, there is no social class, occupational group, family, individual Nigerian, ethnic or religious group whose status has not been questioned or shaken by the IBB Administration.
The actions of the IBB Administration derive from a profound diagnosis of the socio-economic and socio-political problems of the country. The surgery of the problems has been equally profound. As a result, the impact and consequences of these actions have understandably generated a variety of reactions, including social upheavals, crises and even hostility towards individual leaders in government. There has been, since 1986 a number of crises, including religious upheavals, students’ protests, calculated blackmail and calumny by individuals and groups whose socio-economic and political interests have been gravely undermined by the various measures of government. There have also, understandably, been hostile protestations and criticisms from the highly vulnerable groups in society, including the unemployed and the urban poor. Between May and June, 1989, a series of highly orchestrated uprisings was inaugurated with the probable objectives of undermining the legitimacy of a. MB Administration and possible reversal of the ongoing policies and Programs.
It can be argued without contradictions that the reactions are expected consequences of the Administration’s policies and Programs. This means, in effect, that the policies and Programs creating necessary results, both intended and unintended which would constitute the basis of movement of Social force for future history. In a revolutionary situation such as the one which the IBB Administration has enacted, it is simply not enough for social observers, historical chroniclers and analysts to merely swell rank-and-file of social mourners engrossed only with highlighting the pains, losses and curses of social change without in fact, also appreciating the salient, concrete and enduring dimensions in the Administration’s actions, policies and Programs. It is important that we reflect upon the enduring elements as well as the necessarily painful experiences of the IBB Administration. It is, indeed, necessary to locate IBB in historical context. This is the essence of this book.
Within its own understanding of the Nigerian historical process and of the program which is accordingly charted for itself and for the nation, there is hardly any doubt that the historical foundations of a new Nigeria are being laid, forged and fostered. What are the essential elements of these foundations? To what extent are the objectives of the IBB Administration being realised? And what are the directions of Nigeria’s new history for the period of transition and indeed beyond?
Foundations of a New Nigeria is a collection of concise, seminal essays intended to draw attention to, and analyse the essential contributions of the IBB era to the historical development of Nigeria. The reader may wish to call the book the recording of quick history. While keenly conscious of the subjective difficulties of writing history quickly, or too quickly, we are also equally informed by the reasoning that unless present history is chronicled presently and appropriately, we stand the chance of missing the opportunity of carrying along with us correct appreciation of historical events and consequences of historical processes. We believe that there is immense historical value in undertaking a quick analytical chronicle of the contributions by the IBB Administration to the development of the Nigerian nation-state at the point that history is being made.
The account of the IBB Administration contained in this book was conceived and organised by four persons, namely, Tunji Olagunju, Tunde Adeniran, Adele Jinadu and Sam Oyovbaire. Initially, the materials which have been revised as sections of this book were put together by a few persons informed by the purpose of the book. These materials were tallied at a one-day seminar which was attended by highly informed scholars, administrators and critical participants in the Political and economic processes. The critique and suggestions offered at the seminar have been most helpful in slightly revising the materials for publication. While we wish that participants at the seminar remain unmentioned, we wish to record our collegial gratitude to them for participating and offering critical and occasionally dissenting viewpoints on various aspects of the IBB Administration.
We wish also to acknowledge the fact that the issues covered in this book and the analyses of the materials in each section do not exhaust the actions and contributions of the IBB era. For example, policy decisions and their consequences in the education and health industries, or the overall impact of IBB’s policies and actions on the standard of living of the various social classes in the country have not been dealt with directly. Similarly, detailed accounts of life revampment in the rural communities of the country and the restructuring of industry and commerce in the direction of local sourcing and authentic self-reliance have also not been dealt with directly. It is also prudent to mention that this book is not strictly academic in the scientific sense of routine research, documentation, analysis, refutation or confirmation of propositions, and conclusions. Rather, the claim of this book is that we need to recognise that fundamentally policy measures have been undertaken in the past four years of the IBB Administration and that a sustained implementation of these policy measures would, over time, constitute a revolutionary change in the Nigerian economy, politics and society. What, therefore, could be done in the future is to take in more target areas for analysis in which the IBB era has had major impact and consequences.
Taken together, the sections of this book point to matters of enduring legacy of the IBB Administration. Salient elements of this legacy are reflected upon in the concluding section. It is our hope that readers will find that collectively, the materials and the message contained in this book are worth the exercise. We are convinced that while history is a continuous social process, the corner-stones of history are not erected everyday. It appears quite patent and plausible to us that other than colonial rule and the Nigerian Civil War, the IBB era provides another historical landmark in the development of the Nigerian nation-state.