Midway in the tenure of an administration, and especially one with clearly articulated terms of reference such as the IBB Administration, is not the proper time to discuss any legacy. Inaugurated in August 1985 with self-imposed terminating Programs of policies and actions till 1992, any judgement about continuity, durability, tenacity and consolidation of existing actions and policies during and after 1992 cannot now provide more than hunches, tendencies, and structured hopes. Hopefully, timely implementation of the programs of political and economic transition will proceed continuously and systematically until the IBB Administration relinquishes power to civil democratic rule. In other words, it is, in a fundamental sense, foolhardy to speak now of the legacy of a regime whose Programs of administration are still in the process of implementation.
The above caveat notwithstanding, and as has been amply demonstrated in the preceding sections of this book, it is clear that the IBB Administration has proceeded from an articulated framework of conviction about the pre-eminent role of leadership and the human will in ordering change. There is no doubt whatsoever that IBB has laid foundations of a new Nigeria with potentially far-reaching implications for the Nigerian society, economy and politics. What are these foundations?
Are the foundations likely to persist in coherence, sustenance and durability or will they outlive the period of transition into the Third Republic on a sustained and sustainable basis? The answer to the first question derives abundantly from the enormous evidence in the preceding sections of this book, and can be restated. As to the second question, the answer or answers will derive from the well-known difficulties of observing social change especially by participants and combatants of the change process, and indeed, from one’s understanding and view of the process and character of social change. It is like grappling with the question whether Nigeria has changed since colonial rule or since the Civil War. The answer is, of course, yes. The Nigerian economy, society and politics, in all their ramifications- in components and texture, strength and capability, tempo and velocity, and in quality and dynamics, etc -have greatly changed or have been transformed by historical forces and circumstances, for higher value and social goodness since colonial rule and the Civil War.
The IBB era is a radical departure from the state of the nation during the first two and a half decades of independence. Without mincing words and at the risk of being uncharitable to past post-independence administrations and leaderships of the country, the IBB Administration is the only administration which has proceeded on the basis of well thought out philosophy and Programs of national redefinition and reconstruction. The essential philosophical elements here are those of ‘economic recovery, social justice and self-reliance’. The commitment of the Administration is to what it believes to be the proper path to true independence, unity and progress of the country; and it has, despite the vagaries, turbulence and contradictions of the nation, adhered doggedly to this commitment. We can perceive and feel some primary recession of the old order and the main blocks and filaments of the new order.
Among the major elements of the legacy of the IBB era are the economic policies generally referred to as SAP and the political transition program. The main elements of the SAP have been described and analysed in previous sections of this book. We will be concerned here to point out areas in which the program holds great hope, not just for the present but for the future. Before the introduction of the SAP, the economy was greatly bedecked with considerable idle resources ranging from a large army of unemployed youths and equipment, to very low productivity that was out of tune with high wage rates. IBB took immediate action to mobilized the resources and put to productive ends. The Chukwumah Committee on strategies for dealing with mass unemployment was set up in March 1986 and, based on the recommendations of the Committee, the National Directorate of Employment (NDE) was established in November 1986. The NDE has become an effective instrument, not only for placement of over 3 million jobless citizens out of an estimated total labour force of 36 million, but also for creating more job opportunities through its agricultural, small-scale enterprises, special public works, and vocational skills development Programs. Many Nigerian youths now learn to make their own living instead of always looking up to the government as the only source of employment. With the NDE effectively established in all the states of the federation, an important agency for employment generation has been built into the development process of the present and the future.
IBB promulgated the National Minimum Wage (Amendment) Decree in 1986 which took the agricultural sector entirely out of the minimum wage law and exempted enterprises employing not less than 500 persons at against 50 persons before 1986. This act had the dual effect of widening the productive base both of employment and of national incomes policy. The minimum divided payable profit was also altered from 60 per cent of after tax profit (subject to 15 per cent withholding tax) to 50 per cent of after tax profit (subject to 10 percent of withholding tax). While the impacts of these measures are already apparent in wage rates, corporate income tax rates, and dividends accruing to individual and/or group investors, the full potential effects on the economy will be better appreciated in the future than at the moment. The same is true of equipment which had been lying idle for more than 50 per cent of the time since the early 1980s.
One of the most radical initiatives which promises to place the successor civilian government of 1992 in solid economic foundations is the dismantling of import licensing system along with the oppressive nightmare of a cohort of corrupt officials and their agents. With them have disappeared the familiar briefcase-carrying millionaires who threw their financial heavyweights around for accumulating wealth without really working for it. There is a great deal of popular support for this measure. The point must be emphasised that with the de-regulation of import controls and the gradual disappearance of the notorious get-rich-quick middlemen, it is only to be expected that, both for now and especially as we enter the 1990s the real entrepreneurs nurtured in the work ethic of the present economic environment will begin to emerge as models of a new breed of authentic investors committed to the developmental philosophy which informs the IBB revolutionary policies. This is a direct assault on an already crystallising class structure and clientelism; and only the future will tell much better than the present, the sense of direction that the IBB era has brought to bear on the national economy.
There is also another policy initiative that will greatly strengthen the foundations of the Third Republic. This is the privatisation and commercialisation program. Many Nigerians often fail to recognise the limitations placed on the country’s administrative and managerial capacity in the face, not only of regimes of several years of economic centralism, but also of the expansion of the federal structure and the accompanying proliferation of institutions, especially the bureaucracy in the public service and the parastatals. All of these have tended to create excessive pressures and demands on government ability to take national decisions, thereby reducing bureaucratic proficiency and effectiveness to the edge of mediocrity. To jettison the enormous wastage of the prevailing tight and centralised system of controls, IBB moved to loosen and open up the system. Here the economic policies of the IBB era provide an effective weapon for delinking the economy, both from a regime of choked up and inefficient management and from the firm grip of the wealthy few, thereby creating an environment for a much more proper and rational distribution of wealth now and in the years ahead. In this connection it is hoped that the Technical Committee on Privatisation and Commercialisation (TCPC) will ensure effectiveness and fairness in the allotment of shares among individual investors, groups and social classes. If the TCPC lives up to the objectives and challenges of the program, then there is every reason to hope that one of the fundamental objectives and directive principles of state policy of the constitution can be realized. This objective which stipulates that we ‘manage and control the national economy in such a manner as to secure the maximum welfare, freedom and happiness of every citizen on the basis of social justice, equality of states and opportunity’ , may be realized in the Third Republic.
The continuing, process of adjustment in the creation and allocation of resources and wealth is perhaps the most revolutionary aspect of the SAP. It is bound to shape and consolidate the character of the political economy of the Third Republic. SAP has not only attempted to address the problem of socio-economic inequality between and among the citizenry, it has also sought through the Directorate of Food, Roads and Rural Infrastructures (DFRRI) to bridge the gap between the urban and rural areas which, for long, has been heavily skewed in favour of the former. Although intended to complement the local governments and federal and state ministries of agriculture in this respect, the accomplishment of DFRRI in mobilising local consciousness, energies, resources and technical expertise to generate development in the rural political economy, is an irreversible legacy of the IBB era in Nigerian history.
In this context, the continuing process of locating the appropriate value of the Naira promises to provide an impetus to rural production and to enhance the social welfare of the rural populace. Thus, assuming that the present focus on the rural areas will continue and the provision of infrastructures accelerated, there is reason to believe that the Third Republic will be assured of a higher level of commitment to productivity which may turn out to be the bedrock of national self-reliance in 1992 and beyond. The link between agriculture and industry will also be greatly strengthened. While the agricultural sector would be relied upon to provide local raw materials for manufacturing industries, the industries on their part will have to adjust their processes to the local raw materials in order to survive. In this way, a SAP-induced reciprocity is brought to bear on the Nigerian development process with elastic potentialities for the utilisation of indigenous technology, which is the basis of self-reliance.
On the political transition program, there seems to be a common mistake, even among intellectuals, in their understanding and analysis of this major policy plank. There is the tendency to disentangle the political transition program from the economic recovery program and to treat the two Programs as if they are separate elements rather than as mutually interrelated dimensions of the same vision of laying the foundations of a new liberal, social and democratic order by 1992 and beyond. The most significant assumption in the model is that the theoretical requirements of an open market system cannot be satisfied except in the context of a participatory, and responsible democratic system.
The essence of the political transition program is this: it is tied to the basic philosophy of the economic policies while at the same time taking into account the historical evolution of the country and the need to avoid the mistakes of the past in the process of establishing a new political order in place of the old. IBB’s insistence on the SAP as the only viable economic recovery package for Nigeria, his insistence that the old politicians who in one way or the other were associated with the better-forgotten excesses of the Second Republic should give way to a new generation of politicians, his emphasis on grassroots developmental democracy, and his belief in political education and social mobilisation as mechanisms for inculcating and spreading a new political culture, are all ineluctably articulated in the framework of actions. This framework envisages a national democratic order rooted in economic liberalism. The legacy of the IBB era revolves around the potential growth and development of the dynamic links between responsible national democracy and authentic economic liberalism. The foundations of such a possibility have been laid and are being laid. The future will testify.