A TESTIMONY TO ELITE FAILURE IN NIGERIA
Prof. Akin I. Mabogunje, Chairman, Development Policy Centre, Ibadan
Being a Speech on the occasion of the public presentation of IBB: a Heritage of Reforms at the International Conference Centre, Kaduna on the 17th of December, 2002.
Let me start by thanking AVM Hamza Abdullahi (Rtd), Chairman of the Launching Committee and other members of his Committee for the invitation to be the Chief Reviewer on this special occasion of the presentation of the two-volume publication: IBB: A Heritage of Reform jointly edited by Baba Yunus Muhammad and Chidi Amuta. I must, of course, also express my sincere gratitude to Prof. Sam Oyovbaire who had undertaken the long journey to Ibadan to present me with a copy of the two volumes and get my consent about reviewing them.
In many ways, I feel very honoured and privileged to be invited to review this book. Apart from the fact that I regard myself as part of the deep network of friends and admirers of IBB, I am also at least, a marginal player in those memorable eight years of his regime. I was not only a member of the Directorate of Food, Roads and Rural Infrastructure but also Executive Chairman of the National Board for Community Banks. More than this, I was involved in the brainstorming on some of the major policy innovations of the regime through my late friend and colleague, Prof Ojetunji Aboyade, the Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee.
This two-volume publication, covering a total of some 1,260 pages, is essentially the product of a three-day symposium held in Jos, Plateau State, on 13-15 October, 2000. The purpose of the symposium was to discuss, in the words of the publisher, “the problems and perspectives of interpretation of the Babangida regime in the period between 271″ August 1985 and 261h August 1993”. It is, however, the first volume sub-titled: “Perspectives and Interpretation” that contains the proceedings of the symposium, it is also distinguished in having the former Head of State of the Republic of Ghana, Flight Lieutenant Jerry John Rawlings write a foreword to it.
The second volume is the product almost of a labour of love by Baba Yunus Muhammad who must have been fascinated by the IBB phenomenon and must have spent many years of painstaking effort collecting, abstracting, filling and annotating all references to IBB in newspapers, unpublished papers, academic journal articles and books. He must also have been keeping a diary of all notable events in the life of the regime. This second volume, sub-titled; “Bio-Bibliographical Insights” is in four sections. After the first section which is a short biography of the life and achievements of IBB provided by Prof Sam Oyovbaire, the second and third comprise of this documentation and diary. The former covers some 360 pages whilst the latter covers some 134 pages. The fourth and last section contains the author index, the title index, the subject index and the sources of records. Since the first volume is the one really concerned with the legacy of IBB, permit me to finish with my brief comments on this before moving on to the former. In the closing chapter of the first volume, Mu’azu Wali had raised the issue of the importance for any nation of documenting and keeping records of the activities of their Presidents while in office.
He pointed out the greater significance developed countries notably the United State attach to such documentation whereby the first privilege to an outgoing President is granting him the wherewithal to set up a library. Nigeria is yet to copy this worthwhile example. In the meantime, we have this second volume, which documents various records and comments on IBB’s era in government and underscores the great benefit the country is missing by not institutionalizing this process of documentation. I found this second volume a very rich mine of information about the views and opinions about Babangida and his regime both within and outside Nigeria. I believe scholars will find it extremely valuable as reference bibliography. They, however, will discover that the emphasis is on Babangida himself and not on the various institutions and agencies that he established and that are intricate part of the achievements of his regime. The chronological section is refreshing. It makes you somehow nostalgic about the excitement and trepidation we all felt as different events were unfolding during those eight years. One date I missed in this chronology was the date that IBB inaugurated his Presidential Advisory Committee and the composition of that committee. Although it operated away from the glare of public attention, the Presidential Advisory Committee headed by late Prof Ojetunji Aboyade was an innovation of IBB for policy analysis and development which came to have some tremendous influence on the range, direction and outcome of various initiatives taken during the regime. I would, therefore, hope that against the very strong likelihood of a second edition of this publication, this significant omission would be corrected.
If I may now go into the first volume, which attempts to provide perspectives and interpretation to the Babangida regime, I recall a suggestion of the Swedish economist, Gunnar Myrdal on how to review a book such as this. Myrdal suggests that to do justice to such a work, it is necessary to attempt both an immanent and a transcendental review of its content. The immanent review treats the book on its own and seeks to comment on it in terms of the content. The transcendental places the book within the broad sweep of the history of the country, a people or a nation and draws valuable insights on what reflection of the society is presented through the book. In this review, I intended to adopt Myrdal suggestion and provide both an immanent and transcendental commentary on this two-volume publication but particularly the first volume.
I have no information on how many papers were presented at the Jos Symposium of 2000 but the first volume represents the publication of some 37 of those papers apart from the scene-setting publisher’s Note by Baba Yunus Muhammad, the foreword by Flt. Lt. Jerry John Rawlings, and the introduction by Chidi Amuta. At the end of the volume, we have appendices (otherwise referred to as section Eight). These comprise the speech made by IBB himself at the Closing Dinner of the symposium, the Welcome Address by Admiral Augustus Aikhomu, a select Checklist by Mamman Kontagora of the Infrastructural Projects completed under the IBB regime, Notes on the contributors and various Tables referred to by different authors in their presentation.
Following on the Introduction by Chidi Amuta, the 37 contributors were organized into the following seven sections: Overviews and Biographical Insights, the Economy, the Society, Women Empowerment and Poverty Management, the Mass media, Politics, and Foreign Relations. Both the Publisher’s Note and the introduction by Chidi Amuta provide the rationale for the Symposium and a good summary of the vision that impelled the Presidency of Babangida and his mission in trying to realize that vision. The Publisher’s Note states that the aim of this publication “is not only to produce for our present and future generations, a treasure house of meticulously researched data on General Babangida and his regime that goes beyond a mere enumeration of writers and their writings, but to open up the intellectual history of his factor in Nigerian history and relate it to the intellectual history of the larger international community”. This international dimension was also echoed in the Foreword by Jerry Rawlings who argued that “if Africans are to be guided by an understanding of the past which shapes our present and must inform our future, we need to have access to thorough documentation of what happened, as well as objective analysis of why and how it happened and its significance to us today”. Chidi Amuta’s introduction which he titled “The Man They All Call Oga” provides a thumbnail sketch of Babangida and the popular perception of him and of his regime.
Section One which is the Overview and Biographical Insights comprises of three chapters written by Bolaji Akinyemi, Sam Oyovbaire and Chidi Amuta. They stress the fact that, like Chief Obafemi Awolowo before him, IBB remains an issue in Nigerian politics largely because of the twin revolutions of democratisation and the free market economy, which he initiated but failed to carry to their logical conclusion. In spite of IBB’s political astuteness particularly noted by Chidi Amuta, the unresolved political and economic situation prompts Akinyemi to reiterate the call for a National Conference with a view to restoring true federalism in the country and discussing what needs to be done to make Nigeria truly a great country.
Section Two on the economy has six contributors notably, Chu Okongwu, Yomi Kristilolu, Afolabi Faramade, M. I. Yahaya, E. U. Chukwukere and Abdullahi Labo. Chu Okongwu’s contribution provides the most detailed record of both the parlous economic situation before IBB took over the reins of government and the many challenging and different strategies he had to adopt to deal with it. Much of Okongwu’s argument centres, of course, around the adoption by the nation in 1986 of the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP). He emphasizes the impressive and positive impact that SAP was already having on the economy and the situation up to 1991 after which the programme got derailed. Okongwu provides various reasons for this derailment, an event, which casts its dark shadows on the nation’s economy up till today. He consequently offered various policy suggestions for improving the situation. The other five contributors look at more specific aspects of SAP. Yomi Kristilolu compared IBB’s economic innovative programme (with their resonating acronyms, such as (DFRRI, NDE, BLP, NERFUND, MAMSER) and so on with those of President Roosevelt in the United States in the late 1930s and early 1940s, also with resonating acronyms such as TERA, FERA, WPA, PWA, CCC, TVA, and so on. Faramade provides a brief evaluation of SAP especially its removal of bureaucratic controls whilst Yahaya looks at many exciting developments in the finance and banking fields. Chukwukere examined the challenging thrusts science and technology were being made to have on the nation’s industrial growth and Abdullahi Labo the many new initiatives taken in the agricultural sector with as many as 30 new policy measures launched during the period. Like Kristilolu notes, all these developments were marked by the establishment of many new institutions with resounding acronyms.
The third section, which is concerned with the Nigerian society, also has six contributors namely Ariyo, Saidu Dogo, Isaac Obasi, Abereoran, Ojo Oluronke and Harrison Adeniyi. Ariyo notes IBB’s regime’s capacity to successfully conduct a National Population Census which was not later bogged down in controversy as well as the formulation and adoption of a National Population Policy which sought to encourage women to have no more than four children. Saidu Dogo calls attention to the disruptive impact on the nation’s erstwhile religious harmony of IBB’s attempts to change Nigeria’s observer status to one of full membership in the Organisation of Islamic Conference. Obasi and Abereoran examine IBB’s relationship with the labour union. The former notes the dexterous way in which the relationship was handled whilst the latter comments on his promotion of labour interest not only through some 15 direct legislations but also the setting up of the National Institute of Labour Studies. Olorunleke looks specifically at IBB’s attempts to contain the militancy of the Association of Staff Unions of Universities (ASUU) whilst Adeniyi turns the search light on the many achievements in the cultural areas, noting that it was during the regime that Nigeria established a National Troupe under Chief Hubert Ogunde, a National Broadcasting Commission that helped break government monopoly of the electronic media and resuscitated the Nigerian Film Corporation.
Section Four looks at Women Empowerment and Poverty Management. It also has six contributors namely Nuhu Yaqub, Olusegun Ogidan, Bilkisu Yusuf, Yomi Oruwari, Joseph Macarver and Phebe Jatau. Yaqub examines the various measures IBB put in place to deal with poverty and rural development and concludes that, other than their fanciful acronyms, they all failed to meet their objectives. Ogidan, on the other hand, who was a journalist that covered some of the programmes at the time concluded that “with the benefit of hindsight, some of these programmes today have emerged as the most radical, pragmatic and honest concern for the rural transformation of the countryside, economic empowerment of its citizenry and capacity enhancement of the informal sector of the nation’s economy. Bilkisu Yusuf, in turn argues that IBB regime changed the face of gender politics in Nigeria through, among other things, the setting up of the National Commission for Women and the National Centre for Women Development. Yomi Oruwari in dealing specifically with the achievements of the Better Life Programme (BLP) for Rural Women notes a very characteristic Nigerian trait, which is “the ability … to criticise their leaders immediately they put a programme in place, even before it develops the initial teething problems”. Joseph Marcaver turns our attention to youth employment and poverty reduction through the National Directorate of Employment. He notes the various programmes launched under the scheme and concludes that “14 years after the inauguration of the NDE and 8 years after its architect stepped down from power, the scheme continues to enjoy currency and relevance in Nigeria’s fight against youth unemployment and poverty”. Phebe Jatau on her part returns us to the revolution on women’s enlightenment during the regime and particularly stresses the pivotal leadership role played by Maryam Babangida in this revolution – a role which has changed the personal and public perception of Nigerians as to the duties of First Ladies.
The fifth section looks at the Mass Media during IBB’s regime. There are only four contributors to the section: Mohammed Haruna, Umaru Pate, Uchenna Ukwo and Ogu Enemaku. Haruna reviews the press perception of Babangida’s policies on politics and socio-economic development in the country and notes that “on the whole (IBB) got a bad press during much of his rule”. Umaru Pate, on the other hand, indicated that after the earlier alliance between Babangida and the Press, there followed a shift towards more negative coverage of the activities of the regime. This seemed to force the regime towards more punitive measures against the press with as many as six repressive decrees passed against press freedom between 1987 and 1993. Uchenna Ekwo comments on Babangida’s policy on News Commercialisation in the Nigerian Broadcast Media and concludes that “commercialisation of news engenders discrimination and threatens democratisation of information”. Ogu Enemaku discusses the problems of Media Research in the Babangida era and calls attention to the important definitional fact that “… the man Babangida is not synonymous with the regime called the Babangida regime” so that the input of other officials into the making of government-media relationship needs to be clearly recognised.
Not totally unexpected, Section Six on Politics has the largest number of contributors. The nine contributors include R. T. Akinyele, R. 1. Ohikhokhai, Bala Takaya, Chizor Wisdom Dike, Ukertor Moti, Dahiru Yahaya, Raji Rasaki, Tunji Olurin and Duro Onabule. Akinyele reviews the various ways Babangida’s administration attempted to deal with the National Question. He notes the setting up of such agencies as the Political Bureau, MAMSER, the Centre for Democratic Studies and the two-party system, the creation of more states, the proscription of regional associations, the dissolution of joint ventures owned by states of former regions, the establishment of the Technical Committee on Revenue Mobilisation and the setting up of a 13-man panel to look into the National Question. Ohikhokhai calls attention to the structural deformities that make governance in Nigeria even by the military a colossal challenge since, as he points out, “at the bottom of (most) Nigerian political crisis (is) the quarrel over spoils”. Hence, he concludes that Babangida himself was a victim of the Nigerian state system. Takaya provides a very “northern Nigerian” interpretation to why Babangida’s local government reforms continues to fail since what is often attempted is to systematically dismantle what remained of the primordial political independence of various ethnic groups in favour of emirate controls. Chizor Dike, on his part, looks at the Babangida regime and the Niger-Delta oil-producing communities and notes that the regime provided a conscious, organised and systematic response to the developmental problems of the oil-producing region of the country through, among other things, raising the special fund for oil producing communities from 1.5 to 3.0 percent, setting up the Oil Mineral Producing Areas Development Commission (OMPADEC) and putting at its head a Nigerian of impeccable integrity in the person of Chief Albert Horsfall, former Director-General of the State Security Service. It also established a Federal Environmental Protection Agency to deal with the mindless pollution of the region by oil companies. Moti attempts fascinating review of aspects of Babangida’s political tactics, assuming, to my mind quite erroneously, that for IBB governance was no more than a game of manipulation either through inducement, coercion, persuasion, obligation, money, the media, anonymous literature or credible personalities. Yahaya investigated how Babangida dealt with the internal domestic politics of the country. He noted how the malignant tripod of ethnicity, regionalism and religion was always beclouding any policy initiative and the dexterity with which Babangida used patronage to ensure greater stability in the country. But, at the end of the day, Babangida had to face the grim reality of a fully mobilised country without reliable politicians to give it leadership. Raji Rasaki looks at the leadership style of Babangida and how this enabled him to cope with the various crisis of his regime whilst Tunji Olurin provides a glimpse into Babangida’s relations with his primary constituency – the Nigerian Armed Forces – and emphasises how the fragile cohesion and divisive internal politics within that constituency contributed significantly to the debacle of the annulment of the elections of June 12, 1993. Finally, the chief image maker of the regime, Duro Onabule, provides us with his own insights into the many crucial events although his attempts to underplay the problem of corruption in the Nigerian polity was somewhat disingenuous.
The final section, which is on Babangida’s foreign relations, has only three contributors-Jide Osuntokun, Julius Okolo and Nnamdi Obasi. Osuntokun provides a broad sweep of Nigeria’s foreign relations under IBB, his new emphasis on promoting the ECOWAS idea leading to our involvement in the Liberian Civil War and the emergence of ECOMOG as a regional military – response innovation, the Abuja Charter of 1991 which attempts to set Africa on the path of an African Common Market, his accent on economic diplomacy through many economic joint commissions and, of course the many firsts scored by his regime through having Nigerian citizens — Anyaoku, Joe Garba, Yaya Aliyu, Professor Obasi, Prince Bola Ajibola and Rilwanu Lukman — elected to the top posts or very important positions in various international organisations. Okolo concentrates on the ECOWAS venture. He emphasises how, from the very low level of interest and enthusiasm for the sub-regional organisation in 1985, Babangida as chairman provided the right leadership to revitalise the community, improve relations with and amongst them, advance trade liberalisation, enhance the finances of the organisation and make it emerge as the reference institution for all forms of development in West Africa. Obasi, on his part, elaborates on the economic diplomacy dimension of IBB’s foreign policy. He notes the earliest indication of this shift of emphasis with the establishment of the Technical Aids Corps Scheme (TACs) to provide technical assistance to other African countries and the fact that in the last three-and half years (1989 – 1992) of the regime some 29 joint sessions and bilateral talks were conducted compared to 47 in the preceding 19 years (1970 — 1988). Obasi also emphasises the increasing importance that the regime attached to private sector participation in foreign economic relations especially in the process of attracting increased foreign direct investment to the country.
There can be no doubt that these two volumes on IBB: A Heritage of Reform provide a very comprehensive and critical assessment of the eight years of IBB’s regime. In offering an immanent review of the contents of the book, I wish to make only three comments. The first is to congratulate both the organisers of the Jos symposium and the editors of the volumes that they have not attempted a whitewash of IBB’s regime in the history of the country. From the contributions in the two volumes, it was clear that the organisers of the Jos symposium did not set out to invite only praise-singers or military regime apologists to the symposium nor did the editors shy away from including in the volume the many very critical papers on IBB and his regime. This has made the volumes a very credible piece of literature. Apart from the fact that most of the papers were honest, critical and insightful, the editors have done a very impressive work of making them all very easily readable without destroying the idiosyncratic and inimitable style of the various authors. It was interesting, for instance, to note how they managed to preserve Chu Okongwu’s style of addressing his paper to the Nigerian audience as if he were Saint Luke writing his gospel for the edification of Theophilus (not of course Theophilus Danjuma) but the biblical Theophilus.
Secondly, it will be remiss on my part not to call attention to some very notable omission in the two volumes. I believe that IBB will be the first to admit the invaluable importance for the governance style and achievements of his regime by his decision to experiment with the idea of a Presidential Advisory Committee. This was the result of a very unique negotiation between IBB and my late colleague and friend, Professor Ojetunji Aboyade. IBB wanted a Minister for one of his economic ministries, Aboyade was willing to assist the government in policy articulation but did not want to be a Minister. It took a great mind like IBB’s to appreciate that this could provide a most exciting innovation in policy development for a country. In accepting to establish a Presidential Advisory Committee, IBB initiated a think-tank, shielded away from the hassle and hurly-burly of daily administrative and bureaucratic routines that could not only conceive of radical and innovative programmes but also serve as a vital filter for different policy proposals and recommendations from diverse interest groups in the country. Someday, an evaluation of how much this Committee contributed to the brilliance of the Heritage of Reform will need to be made. One other small but intriguing omission is the failure to mention the fact that it was during IBB ‘5 regime that a Nigerian -Wole Soyinka – won the Nobel Prize for literature. I recall with immense pride IBB’s response to this development in not only sending a Nigerian delegation to the event in Stockholm but also conferring on the Nobel Laureate out of season a National Honours, the Commander of the Order of the Niger.
Thirdly, these two volumes present us with a very intriguing contradiction. Virtually, all of the papers, described the IBB’s regime as having failed both in its economic programme of installing a free market economy and its political agenda of establishing an enduring democracy in the country. Yet, the characterisation of IBB in virtually every instance in the book is of someone who could not be expected to fail in anything he set his hands and his mind to do. Three characterisation of Babangida should help to make the point I am trying to stress. The first is on P. 129 by Edward Ugo Chukwukere in reviewing Babangida’s impact on Science, Technology and Industrialisation in the country. According to Chukwukere:
“Babangida’s acclaimed leadership qualities (are) manifest in all other areas of his administration and openly, or privately acknowledged by friend or foe, namely: – charisma, courage and bravery, bold initiatives and vision, a scientific and intellectual approach to problem solving, an uncanny sense of decision-making and “stopping-the-buck”; ability to comprehend the multi-faceted issues of governance, a magnetic and affable personality that commands respect and loyalty with ease. All of these made him ride the crest of the wave of popularity for the entire period of his regime; thus appearing to “bestride the Nigerian and indeed, the African scene, like a colossus”.
Dahiru Yahaya (on P. 471) further deepens this characterisation. He notes:
“General Babangida has an essentially brilliant, broadminded, cosmopolitan personality. He can, however, be provincial in outlook. His mind is always in Minna; never in Kano where he rightly belongs or Lagos, where he lived most of his working life. He inspires confidence but he can be elusive and not easily impressed. He is as generous as a mystic is, but, like a woman, he cannot be weak and irresolute on account of himself. General Babangida is polite in comportment, but can be brazen in action. He rarely says no; that most important word in human diction, but his yes must by necessity be most often a very tortuous and tormenting no. The real affirmation for him is followed by prompt action; the unreal one by meandering pledges and calendar searching. He is certainly a dependable and faithful friend, but could be a very ruthless comrade. He stings and soothe at the same time, for it is not in his nature to be offensive. He can build hopes in others and then dashes them without a wink for probably good, but undisclosed reasons… Consequently, General Babangida is unsurpassed in his love of people, information and research. He was able to build a vast network of friends in the military, in the intelligentsia and in all sectors of socially active society. With that electric mind, he keeps every name, remember every event and reads every shade of opinion and nuances in the behaviour of his associates, friends and acquaintances”.
Finally, Raji Rasaki, a military colleague, writes of him as follows:
“General Babangida is a man of strong character, he has very strong will; he possesses the ability and capacity to search the past, compare and contrast with the present, with the sole aim of emerging with a vision that will lead to the attainment of a future goal. He is bold, courageous and ever ready to take full responsibility for his actions …His leadership style is one that is goal-oriented. He has a vision, he has a goal, and he does not believe that anything or anybody should be allowed to be in the way of people-oriented desired goals”.
Given these various sketches of IBB, what else, you must ask, can a nation require of his leader for him to succeed which he did not possess? And yet, his regime is adjudged a failure on both counts of not delivering a democratic society and not institutionalising a free market economy?
It was the dilemma of this contradiction that forced me wondering about the real import of this two-volume publication and led me to an appreciation of the need for a transcendental review that places this publication within the broad sweep of the history of the Nigerian nation. For, if beyond the salient description of the Babangida regime, you choose to listen quietly, read between the lines and think carefully about what all these contributions add up to, you will come to the inevitable conclusion contained in the sub-title of my review, which is that these two volumes are not simply an evaluation of a heritage of reform bequeath by IBB to Nigeria but, more importantly, they constitute a veritable testimony to elite failure in Nigeria.
The question then is: Who are the Elites and what are their roles in the development of any society? According to Suzanne Keller (International Encyclopaedia of the Social Sciences, vol. 5, 1968, P. 26) no society, however, primitive, can do without elites. Such groups of individuals are needed to coordinate and harmonise the diversified activities of members of the society; to symbolise its moral unity by emphasising its common purposes and interests; to combat factionalism and resolve group conflicts and to protect the society from external danger. Elites are thus a minority set apart from the rest of society by their pre-eminence in one or more of the activities connected with these goals. Where such elites are strategic, they are the prime movers of change and serve as models for the entire society. Strategic elites are marked by their diversity as well as by their importance. They constitute the top echelons in government, the bureaucracy, the private sector, the media, the military, and the academia and so on. Recruitment into their ranks is thus not by blood, wealth or property but rather by merit and skills, particularly based on education appropriate to their specialised skills.
Armed with this definition, it is critical to examine what type of elites we have in Nigeria and how they have reacted to the momentous reforms initiated in the country during the IBB’s era. When Babangida acceded to power, the country was faced with two very serious problems. Social injustice based on decades of pre-capitalist social relations and accentuated during the colonial period by the indirect rule system was being compounded by a repressive military dictatorship. At the same time, the economy with its gross over-dependence on oil revenues was in dire straits because its foreign exchange receipts had plunged from some US$26 billion to just around US$6 billion by 1986. Faced with such a challenging situation, IBB saw this as a unique opportunity to re-engineer the nation. To quote him: “I never wished to rule Nigeria and I never did. My goal was to engineer it. Things must be redesigned, even re-invented … Our vision was to build a democracy that would endure (and) an economy that must be free in order to grow”.
But Babangida overrated the elites whose job it was to help in meeting this goal. Here were elites, which, in the words of Chidi Amuta (P.20) depended and continue to do so upon primordialism, ethnicity, religion and other factors to assert themselves in the competition for power. Here were elites faced with the challenges of the Structural Adjustment Programme which gave them tremendous opportunities to produce, manufacture, innovate to make up for the shortfall in revenue of over US$20 billion and with a guaranteed internal market of some 100 million people and all they could do was to complain about inadequate foreign exchange and their inability to continue to import as they used to. The media fraction of the elites instead of enlightening the populace as to the challenges of SAP for national self-reliance spent the opportunity lamenting that the purchase of Volkswagen cars and other imported commodities were now beyond the reach of the poor. Indeed, when critics of the regime claim that the middle class in. Nigeria disappeared during the regime, one wondered what middle class they were talking about. Clearly, this was a middle class, which thrived only on patronage from government and had made the key parastatals of the country – NEPA, NITEL, NNPC and so-become parasitic on the treasury or fail in their mandates. This must be a middle class which has become the means whereby successive governments practiced, in the words of Chu Okongwu, “eleemosynary or charity economics” (P. 75). This, certainly, must be a middle class whose members have become largely indolent, greedy, rapacious and venal and have little to contribute to the economic or political progress of the nation beyond fomenting trouble to frustrate any reform for the better. For such elites, therefore, the new culture of productive endeavour as well as the stabilising coupled behaviour of policy makers, which (SAP) sought to build into the system required discipline yet lacking among them.
Similarly, when it came to enthroning democracy, we found an elite for whom politics was all about quarrel over spoils operating, in the words of Ohikhokhai at two levels: rivalry of regions and states for large share of the federal revenue and tribal competition for job. According to Ohikhokhai, (P. 420), the (Nigerian political class) has produced no ideology of national unity which would interpret conflict in social or class terms, and the structure of Nigeria at independence filtered all contests into regional, and so inevitably, ethnic or communal channels. And even when Babangida proscribed regional associations and dissolved joint ventures owned by states of former regions in 1991 (Akinyele, P. 408) to force them to start thinking and planning as a national elite group, the elites in different parts of the country found various ways of maintaining their regional structures. When it came to reforming the Nigerian socio-political system by inaugurating and inculcating the culture of social justice and democratic values at the grassroots level, the elites were there to frustrate the effort. Although, Bala Takaya saw this only in terms of the Kaduna mafia and the emirate power elite especially with respect to much of the middle belt region of the country, the truth is that the problem is nation-wide.
No wonder that Ohikhokhai (P. 425) saw Babangida himself as a victim of the Nigerian state system. According to him, “no nation gets a leader that it does not deserve because if a government does not reflect the collective will of the people then it reflects their collective weakness”. IBB’s hubris is contained in the statement about his personality that he makes friends easily and has built a vast network of friends in the military, in the intelligentsia and in all sectors of socially active society. It was Marshall de Villars who once prayed: “God, save me from my friends – I can protect myself from my enemies”.
The Nigerian elite class, unlike those of countries like Japan, Malaysia and Indonesia, thus has a lot to answer for the failure of the country to develop and progress. Instead of seeking to build and inherit “a united, strong and self-reliant nation and a great and dynamic economy”, the elites exploit what Yahaya called “the malignant tripod of ethnicity, regionalism and religion” to derail any forward movement on either of these fronts. Their actions have not been limited only to the Babangida regime. They have continued to be obstructionist even to the present day. Why, for instance, do we have regional “mafias” instead of national “mafia” if the objective is to promote development? For in matters of development, the whole is always greater than the sum of its parts. A flourishing and dynamic Nigeria will benefit any region or group of states more than any attempt to close up around what it calls “its own regional interest”.
The present state of Nigeria is almost like the story of the two boys who were following a cart carrying a harvest of apples. One apple accidentally fell from the cart without the owner noticing. Instead of the two boys agreeing to share it between them, they fell to quarrel about ensuring that neither of them has a share greater than that of the other. Whereupon, a clever rascal got to them and having heard the cause of their quarrel, decided to share the apple for them equally. So, with his teeth, he broke the apple not unexpectedly into two unequal parts. The boy to whom the smaller part was handed protested and the rascal offered to bite off the excess from the share of the other boy. In the process, this became smaller than that of the protesting boy and caused the other boy to protest. This ding-dong disagreement went on until, of course, the rascal ate all the apple. The fractiousness of the Nigerian elite class has already caused the nation dearly. It is time the elite come together either through a National Conference or any other forum to deliberate on how they can work closely together to ensure that Nigeria rises up to her manifest destiny of being not just the most populous but also the wealthiest nation on the African country.
This two-volume publication cast IBB a visionary like the Biblical Moses who initiated the process of moving the children of Israel from slavery to the Promised Land flowing with milk and honey. In spite of his vision and his resoluteness, he never got to the land with them because their pig-headedness as a people had caused him to sin against God. But the process and the movements had to continue to their logical conclusion. IBB has launched the twin reform of enthroning democracy and promoting the free market economy (another word for capitalism) in Nigeria with their ethos of honesty, hard work, diligent, competitiveness, and innovativeness. The myopic perception, the corruption and the fractiousness of the Nigerian elites can only delay the maturation of the reforms; they cannot prevent their eventual outcome. But if the elites together were to embrace and actively promote these twin reforms, then Nigeria can hope in the not-too-distant future to take its rightful place as a mighty nation to be truly regarded and reckoned with in the comity of nations.
I cannot end this review without referring to a very perceptive explanation offered to a young man who wanted to know why Nigeria should not be a socialist country; indeed, why it should not continue as it is with government and its bureaucracy directing society and the economy as they have been doing without bothering about ideology. In explaining the difference between the various political beliefs, it is worthwhile to quote the definitions offered by Sir James Hanson. For him, Socialism is a system of government where if you have two cows, the government takes both of them and gives you milk. Bureaucracy is a system of government where if you have two cows, the government takes both of them, shoots one of them, milks the other and pours the milk down the drain. Capitalism or the free market economy, on the other hand, is the system of government where if you have two cows, you sell one of them and buy a bull. Clearly, capitalism in this category requires that you are prepared to be entrepreneurial and be willing and able to work for the productivity that flows from the mating of the bull and the cow and the increase in material wealth that comes on the need of this process.
For me, the two-volume publication-IBB: A Heritage of Reform-represents a testimony to elite failure to date. Certainly, the Nigerian elites have not shown themselves as worthy inheritors of the reforms of the visionary leader. But, as some anonymous writer once observed: “failure is not defeat. It only comes from getting a little experience”. Or, as Chief Obafemi Awolowo, one of Nigeria’s founding fathers once put it “the glory is not never falling, but rising each time you fall.” The Nigerian elites are surely in dire need of rising from their present prostrate position. It is my fervent hope that all those who will read this book will find in it the lesson for our elites to help raise our nation to the level of a dynamic economy and a democratic society where no man is oppressed. I commend this book to all who care for the greatness of this country and thank you all for your attention.