THE BABANGIDA ADMINISTRATION IN CONTEXT
“But Society, unlike biochemical processes cannot escape human influences. Man is what brings society into being. The prognosis is in the hands of those who are willing to get rid of the worm- eaten roots of the structure…..”
RETHINKING DEVELOPMENT: POLITICS AS VISION
The year 1985 marked a significant crossroad in Nigeria’s march to nationhood. It was a time in which the distrust of government by the enlightened sector of the population reached such a peak that the nation’s leadership had to resolve to confront the historically important issue as to whether or not Nigeria should continue its slide into economic and political chaos with all the attendant consequences. Furthermore, given the complexity, diversity and uneven nature of the nation’s development, would any set of solutions to the problem ensured the country’s coherence and unity? This was both a theoretical and practical issue. While on the one hand the matter bordered on the nature of the diagnosis and the appropriate choice of solutions, it also depended on the wiliness of the people to be taken along with the leadership. It depended too ultimately on the sincerity, deftness and commitment of the leadership at the helms of affairs. Thus, the nature of the problems and the capacity of the leadership to confront the issue decisively might have well depended on the leaders’ vision of a new society and their understanding of the relationship between economic and political problems which gave rise to a growing loss of self-pride and esteem.
Yet, Nigeria has always boasted of enormous human and material resources, a large measure of which has yet to be developed. What then was to be done? President Ibrahim Badamasi Babagida and his Administration, which came to office on the 27th of August, 1985 in a bloodless coup, opted to institute bold, corrective measures with a certain dose of unpleasant consequences commonly referred to as Structural Adjustment program. The program, hinged on a three-prong platform of economic reconstruction, self-reliance and social justice, was a by- product of some concerns.
President Babangida was concerned about the growing sense of helplessness and frustration which seemed to have pervaded the entire society. Secondly, given his abundant faith in Nigeria, the president was equally concerned with the need to transform a society that was known for its bubbling initiative, drive and optimism. The president felt strongly that it was possible to create a new society in which Nigerians were genuine masters of their own destiny. Thus, his response to these problems was to make government more responsive to and trustworthy of the genuine aspirations of the people. In a society like Nigeria, the solution laid, in part, in greater decentralization, deconcentration, deregulation and restoration of a national sense of self-esteem and pride. It also laid, in part, in the critical understanding of the political and economic linkages between Nigeria and the international system.
Would a set of carefully packaged policies and programs bring about a new society? No doubt, the success of any reform depended on determination and sincerity of a leadership and on the time available for the policies to germinate and stabilize. President Babangida was optimistic both about his role in history and his abiding faith in Nigeria. The success of his reforms, he reckoned, would depend ultimately on the continuity of his policies after his exit from government. But herein was the critical challenges of the transition process and the successor regime.
IBB’S VIEW OF DEVELOPMENT AS A DESIGN PROJECT
Governance is necessarily a design or artefactual project. It proceeds on the basis of some constitutive ideas or principles, their concrete institutionalization in economic, political and cultural structures, and a general commitment to these ideas and institutions by the citizenry.
Governance and development at this conjuncture of Africa’s political and economic history are inseparable. They interact and interface in a dialectical way. This is because of their shared concern with institution-building, democratization of political processes and structures, enhancement of system capacity, establishment of self-reliant political economies, and the expansion through them of the options and choices open to the citizenry as they seek to meet and satisfy their basic human needs. This has been the challenge of governance and development facing Africa.
It is in the context of this challenge that the Presidency of President Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida assumes contemporary significance and indeed constitute an agenda for development. But this agenda is testamentary and prospective; a bequest from the present generation to future generations.
The notion of a testament is significant in two inter-related senses for governance and development. First, it presupposes, indeed demands the exercise of Will, which is to say that man has a choice in the forms of institutions and structures of government that are available to him. The choice made and the basic ideas and expectations informing it are as important as the social forces that are contending for dominance in society. Secondly, there is the notion that governance derives or should derive from a social contract, linking one generation to the other; and imposing a large measure of accountability on the trustees of the testament. Great care should therefore be taken especially in the reproduction of the ruling class- the trustees- to ensure that the spirit and letter of the testament are not violated and abandoned. The notion of choices therefore relates primarily to laying the foundations for the execution to the testament, with particular focus on the catalytic role of political leadership in superintending the testament.
Ideas occupy a critical place in this design project. The articulation and application of ideas are partly, historically determined programmatic, goal-oriented, experimental and experiential. In other words, ideas define, shape and set the parameters for the design project. They relate it to the development imperative.
Rethinking development constituted the hall-mark of president Babangida’s agenda for development. The element of vision reintroduced into our political vocabulary, as a crucial component of design project. This development perspective ran through the Babangida’s presidency and for 8 years it defined and situated governance and development in Nigeria and Africa.
What provided the context for this perspective? How and under what circumstances was president Babangida given the perspective theoretical flesh and practical or policy programmatic muscle? And to what extent was his views as well as the policy content of the design project universalisable, i.e. replicable elsewhere, especially in Africa and the third world generally?
CONTEXT AS A DESIGN VARIABLE AND AS PROBLEMATIC
President Ibrahim Babangida’s interest and experience in governance and development predate his assumption of office as president of Nigeria and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces in August 1985. He had previously been involved in policy-making at the highest level of government: as a member of the Supreme Military Council under the regimes of Murtala Muhammed and Olusegun Obasanjo between 1975 and 1979 and from 1984 to August 1985 under the regime of General Muhammadu Buhari. His one year sabbatical engagement as a foundation participant at the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies, Kuru in 1979/80 provided him with a much-valued intellectual ambience for further reflection on problems of governance and development on his assumption of leadership of the country.
The insights and lessons he gained from these varied but interlocking experiences were put to advantageous use as he set out his leadership of the country. In a sense, therefore, the insights, physical and psychological components of the context within which to situate his view of governance and development.
Mediating the interaction between these bio-psychological variables and governance was president Babangida’s characterization of Nigeria’s political economy in the period between 1979 and 1985 as a fragile one, compounded by lack of will and vision, economic mismanagement and absence of commitment to fostering democracy by his predecessors.
This larger context must also be situated within a much broader materialist and historical setting. This setting was defined by the character and hegemonic thrust of the world capitalist system, the Post-World War II evolution of Nigeria’s polity and economy and contemporary changes in the global system especially changes in Western Europe and in East-West relations. It was the need to come to terms with this broader historical context and to resolve recurrent and apparently intractable problems of governance and development in Nigeria and Africa that set the parameters for president Babangida’s design project.
President Babangida’s studied and determined attempt to come to grips with this inheritance, especially, it’s more reprehensible and inglorious aspects, was often misunderstood as a blanket rejection of the inheritance as such. Nothing can be farther from the truth.
If context is a design variable in the sense identified above, it is nonetheless problematic. It is multifaceted and complex. Moreover, the problems posed by the protean and non-homological structure and character of context, defined as human society, for social and political engineering are legion.
President Babangida’s approach to this problematic nature of context was intellectual and consensual. The contextual problematical blueprints adopted for dealing with the contextual problem grew out of the national debate on the IMF facility and the political debate on a viable future political ethos and structure for the country, monitored by a political Bureau.
This intellectual and problem-solving approach to the inherited context of governance and development in Nigeria rested on the epistemological and policy-orienting assumption that contest and its sub structural and supra structural formations must constitute the foci of change, and that whatever attitudinal or psycho-cultural change that was also desirable must be predicated on structural and institutional changes.
One other aspect of this approach was that it was dynamic in a sense that it did not view social problems in isolation from one another or as if they were unrelated to other social phenomena. This had policy implications and it was what informed president Babangida‘s articulation of his Administration’s transition program as an integrated or organic one. On this view, whether economic restructuring should precede or come after political and social reconstruction does not arise. They must proceed pari passu, and so they ran until the last day of the regime.
The reform package of this Administration is constructed on two pillars. The first was on the economy which some had seen as being concretized in the Structural Adjustment Program. The second was the political program which had been articulated in the Transition to Civil Rule program. These two elements were mutually reinforcing, and which must be faithfully implemented for the successful construction of a new social order that was democratic, viable and self-reliant.
This organic approach marked a departure from the political transition program the country had experienced under the Murtala Muhammed/ Olusegun Obasanjo regimes between July 1975 and October 1979. That earlier transition was primarily political, and little emphasis was given to a simultaneous and co-ordinate package of socio- economic reforms to strengthen and complement the political program. The focus of that earlier program, in other words, seemed to have re- echoed Ghana’s President Kwame Nkrumah’s injunction to Africans in the late 190s, ‘’Seek ye first the political Kingdom’’. The strength of the Babangida transition program, therefore, resided in linking economic reform organically with political reform in a coordinated effort to find solutions to problems of governance and development in the country.
It should be added that a further improvement on the transition program of the administration of President Ibrahim Babangida as a design project was the notion of a learning process which was later built into it. This enabled the regime to monitor closely the unfolding of the transition and on this basis to adjust and modify the transition, where necessary, without compromising its underlying philosophy or extending the program beyond its terminal date of. This explains why much closer attention was paid to the succession problem in a manner that would neither violate the sanctity of the electoral process nor erode the autonomy of the National Electoral Commission. The interrelated view of the transition as a political investment and as a bequest to future generations provided a framework for situating this interest in the succession problem, which was, at bottom, the problem of the caliber of the inheritance or successor regime. President Babangida made this point forcefully in a speech:
…. We shall continue to nurture to maturity the new political leadership which has been thrown up by our democratic experiment. We are convinced, more than ever before, that this new leadership is the bedrock of a stable democratic Third Republic. This Administration has invested so much in the emerging political system and, like good investors, it will do everything to protect its investment……..
The ban or disqualification imposed on certain categories of Nigerians and on specified past holders of elective party and public offices from participation in politics during or beyond the transition period, the proscription of the thirteen political associations that applied for registration as political parties in October, and the consequent establishment and nurture of the two grassroots democratic two-party system were all policy manifestations of the principled concern with the succession problem.
There was another dimension to the succession problem which had preoccupied president Babangida and his administration and which added a further departure from the 1975-79 transition program. This was the restructuring of the military in order to restore its famed but disappearing professionalism and to provide antidotal measures against military coups d’état in the future. The restructuring was also intended to create an enabling context or environment for democratic civilian rule to mature and consolidate. In other words, the logic of restructuring should be applied to the military as part of the wider restructuring of the country’s social and political institutions.
Addressing the 12th Graduation Ceremony of the Students of the Command and Staff College, Jaji against the background of the abortive coup by dissident elements of the Nigerian Army in April 1990, President Babangida made the following point:
“What is the grand strategic problem of our time? For me, it is how we can systematically shed the public policy loads which had taken the attention of the military away from the main task of defending society’s peace against enemies, both internal and external. We need to take the issue is internally a problem of load shedding; and externally, that of a transformation of political- economic system of our country.”
REDESIGNING THE INSTITUTIONAL BASE OF THE CONTEXT
The elements of context which should be targeted for institutional restructuring during the transition period constituted the core concern of the Political Bureau. The Report of the Political Bureau was to lay the groundwork, and indeed it was the blueprint, together with the ‘’Government’s and views and Comments on the Findings and Recommendations of the Political Bureau’’, for the transitional program. The general strategic approach to problems of governance and development, which president Babangida has adopted, was articulated as follows by the Political Bureau.
What was needed was not a hand-over program of the 1979 experience, but a broadly-spaced transition in which democratic government could proceed with political learning, institutional adjustment and re-orientation of political culture, at sequential levels of politics and governance. The redesign of the institutional base of governance and development in the country required the establishment of such critical and indispensable transition agencies as the Directorate for Social Mobilization, the National Electoral Commission NEC, the National Population Commission, the Code of Conduct Bureau, the Code of Conduct Tribunal, the Revenue Mobilization, Allocation and Fiscal Commission, and the Centre for Democratic Studies.
Also established were such ad-hoc consultative bodies as the Constitution Review Committee and the Constituent Assembly to fashion a new constitution for the country; and the Transition Committee, set up early in 1990 to husband and superintend the take-off stage of the newly-recognized two parties, the National Republican Convention NRC and the Social Democratic Party SDP. Mention should also be made here of the cardinal Public policy-related role which the Presidential Advisory Committee, PAC, established in 1985, has been playing during the transition period, particularly but not exclusively in respect of the economy.
Although this proliferation of extra-ministerial departments and transition agencies was not without its own problems, their establishment had facilitated the progress of the transition program. Co-operation, rather than competition or conflict has been the ground rule. The learning process had been strengthened and its objective assisted through feed-back provided by one agency on the activities of another agency. It is in the light of these institutional innovations that the Babangida administration should be studied and objectively analyzed.
The presidency of General Ibrahim Babangida was dominated by five themes namely: political processes and institutions; economics and the development imperative; the military; the state and society; socio-cultural dimensions of development; Nigeria and Africa; and Nigeria and the rest of the world.
POLITICAL PROCESSES AND INSTITUTIONS
A common theme that runs through the presidency of General Babangida was the deregulation of the economy which the Structural Adjustment program (SAP) of President Babangida’s Administration has set out to achieve, among other objectives. Deregulation does not, of course, mean anarchy or a complete hands off or laisser-faire posture by the state. In the context of military rule, at the level of political processes and institutions, deregulation has meant gradual demilitarization and the opening up of the political arena to partisan party political activities after a period of proscription of such activities since the fall of the Second Republic.
The emergent political processes and institutions was premised upon liberal democratic theory, especially as this has been articulated in Nigeria’s intellectual history since the 1950s and concretely spelt out in constitutional documents and practice. The outline of this Nigerian adaptation of liberal democratic theory, reflecting what President Babangida himself has referred to as ‘’ settled issues or consensus’’ in Nigerian politics, is to be found in the sections of the 1979 and 1989 Constitutions of Nigeria which prescribe Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of state policy. Other settled issues or areas of consensus in clue Federalism and Presidentialism.
If liberal democratic theory provides the theoretical flesh for these processes and institutions, how have they been given practical or policy- programmatic muscle? The answer is provided by three recurrent policy measures. These were: (a) restructuring of federalism through further deconcentration of power, especially the extension of the home rule notion inherent in federalism to the local government as a third tier of government; (b) the reform and restoration of confidence in the electoral process and the establishment of the grassroots democratic two-party system; (c) and re-orientation of the country’s political culture in a way that is supportive and facilitative of a liberal democratic polity, and with emphasis on the catalytic role of different strata of the Nigerian elite and political class in bringing this about.
Let us take federalism. The Babangida Administration created two new states –Akwa Ibom and Katsina out of the then Cross-River and Kaduna states – in 1987, bringing the number of states in the federation from nineteen to twenty-one. And in 1989, nine more new states – Abia, Delta, Enugu, Jigawa, Kebbi, Kogi, Osun, Taraba, and Yobe – were created to make Nigeria a 30-State Federation.
Perhaps the most far-reaching changes effected in the structure and institutional form of Nigerian federalism by the Babangida administration are to be found in the local government reforms. More local governments were created in 1987, bringing their number to 453. The importance attached to local governments as the crucible of the new democratic experiment could be reflected in the number of elections to local government councils in the initial transition program; in the use of the ward level as the recruitment base for party membership; and in the extension of the logic of presidentialism to local government and his ‘’cabinet’’ or ‘’supervisors’’ from the legislative branch-the local government council and councilors.
More significant is the enhanced fiscal and political autonomy of the local government councils, and the consequent expansion of their statutory functions. Here again, as in much else in the transition program, the appropriate lessons are being learnt from the experience of the 1975/79 transition in the area of local government reforms, when failure to put in place the requisite institutions and structures on the ground before the handing-over process was completed, scuttled the local government reform of the Murtala Mohammed/Obasanjo regimes and led to institutional paralysis at this level of governance.
President Babangida’s presidency has in effect applied the logic of deregulation to the local government system. In this respect, the restructuring of political processes and institutions carried out at the local government level replicates the restructuring of economic and social institutions, typified by the establishment of the Directorate of Food, Roads and Rural Infrastructure (DFRRI, the Better Life Program (BLP) and the People’s Bank (PB). The aim of this focus on local government, in the words of president Babangida was ‘’.to bring government closer to the people and make development people-oriented. It is the plan of this Administration that political careers should commence from this level’’.
The establishment of the grassroots democratic two-party system was another policy measure which ran through the Babangida administration. The importance of a reformed party system was highlighted in the Report of the Political Bureau, which after thoughtful consideration recommended the adoption of the two-party option, with substantial funding of the two parties by government.
President Babangida’s administration accepted the recommended two-party option. The newly-established National Electoral Commission NEC was empowered to register the two parties, oversee or monitor their activities, including their financing, in addition to its customary role of conducting elections. NEC was itself restructured both in its composition, structure and powers. The Babangida Administration decided on the novel and bold action of establishing two grassroots-based political parties, ‘’ one a little-to the right’’, i.e. the National Republican Convention NRC, and the other, ‘’a little-to-the left’’, the Social Democratic Party SDP.
But what does ‘’ grassroots’’ mean? In one respect, it referred to the membership and leadership recruitment base of the party system and what this meant was that party members join their parties at the ward level. The ward level was the nerve-center of the recruitment drive of the party system. It was from this level that the party structures were aggregated through the local government to the state level and from the state level to the national level, with each lower level being represented in the proximate upper level structure which also derived its own legitimacy from the fact that it sprang up from the lower level structure.
In a way, the prior existence of the ward level before any another level of party organization is critical here; for it is from the ward level that the local government, state and national levels derive their existence. Remove the ward level, and there will be no party; for that is where the members are; or expel the party leader at local government, state or national level from his membership of the party at ward level, and he no longer can lay claim to membership of the party and to the party office he occupies. This notion of grassroots’’ was elucidated by President Babangida thus:
…. The ward level is a critical level of the reformed party system. It is expected to be the nerve centre of your activities and operations. The concept of party membership in this system is membership at the ward level. As party leaders you should take an active inters in what goes on at your own various congresses… You must be actively involved in originally belonging and from which you derive your original mandate as party leaders. The aim of this ‘’grassroots’’ emphasis is, among other objectives, ‘’to democratize the party system, facilitate accountability and encourage broad-based and credible participation.
ECONOMIC REFORMS AND THE DEVELOPMENT IMPERATIVE
The development and implementation of policy programs aimed at restructuring the economy of the country on a more self-reliant and productive basis featured significantly during the Babangida administration. Significant they were as they touched upon the related issue of the spatial redistribution of the nation’s resources as between town and county, and specifically as between industry and agriculture. But there was also a sustained emphasis on nurturing the political and socio-cultural environment for this restructured economy. The discipline of the emergent polity depended on, and in turn was expected to strengthen the discipline which a restructured Nigerian economy was designed to impose on Nigerians. The logic of deregulation inherent in a liberal democracy was applied to the economy, without necessarily leading to complete laisse-faire or unfettered market forces.
It is important to note that in tackling Nigeria’s economic challenges Babangida was not unaware of the limitations imposed on his government and country by the nature of the world economy and Nigeria’s place within it. As president Babangida observes:
…We are aware that the extent to which African countries are affected positively and adversely by the policies and actions of the industrialized powers must be constantly weighed in our program design. We are, however, also acutely aware that, ultimately, it is our own domestic system which holds the real key to our national salvation. Whatever Nigeria is to achieve in the rest of the world, it must first make its domestic political economy viable and prosperous.
The background to president Babangida’s linkage of economic restructuring to problems of governance and development in Nigeria was to be located in the fragile monoculture political economy which his Administration inherited. But the roots of this inheritance ran deep in Nigeria’s colonial history, in the economic policies of the colonial administration and in the manipulation of the world price of primary commodities. It was also derived from the unimaginative and crass mismanagement of the economy, particularly under the Second Republic.
The Structural Adjustment Program of the Babangida Administration was as much an assertion of independence and rejection of IMF- induced structural adjustment policies as it was an attempt to find some home-grown solutions to the inherited political economy. As noted by Sam Oyovbaire and Tunji Olagunju, the effects of SAP have arguably ‘’been a mixture of economic boom, especially with restructuring and reorientation of economic activities economic production and consumption patterns on the one hand, and of social pains especially with hardship for the most vulnerable groups in the society on the other”. Admitting the pains of the SAP, President Babangida observed that:
“…in the pursuit of the goals of SAP, we are also sensitive to the pains and social consequences of effecting social and structure changes in our economic and political life. The result of this sensitiveness, especially after the SAP riots of 1989, is a series of ameliorative and palliative measures to cushion and provide relief from some of its more painful consequences on the poorest groups in the country. “
Reference has been made above to the grassroots dimension of the restructuring of political processes and institutions. The political empowerment of the local government was replicated at the level of economic and social reconstruction. This was evident in the proliferation of government agencies whose raison d’être was the provision of what President Babangida referred to as ‘’rural infrastructural and credit facilities’’. DFRRI, the Better Life Program, the People’s Bank, the Community Bank and the Federal Urban Mass Transit Program. According to President Babangida:
..all these rural infrastructural and credit facilities not only emphasize our deliberate effort at resource redistribution with a bias for the rural areas and the urban poor, but they also demonstrate the spirit of social justice which informs our public policies and programs.
President Babangida also expected the private sector to play the role of revitalizing and restructuring the economy. The policy thrust was a call ’’….for collective action and harmonization of efforts by both the public and private sectors of the economic’’ in what was intended to be ‘’a joint partnership for socio- economic progress.”
The economic policy program of the Babangida administration recognized the important developmental role of the Nigerian Stock Market ‘’as a major source of long-term capital for industry, ‘’Nigerian experiment in privatization and commercialization’’, and the administration’s receptivity to expatriate capital and investment in the county, particularly in agriculture and agro- allied industries. The message was that ’’… the field is wide open and all genuine and serious investors are welcome to join hands with Nigerian entrepreneurs in setting up viable business ventures….’’
THE MILITARY, THE STATE AND SOCIETY
Another area which occupied the attention of the Babangida administration was the role of the Military in the Nigerian society and beyond the transition. The conception of the Armed Forces Consultative Assembly (AFCA) as a complementary forum for governance during the transition period; the role of the Armed Forces in securing the electoral process; the critical task of harmonizing defense policy objectives with national economic realities; and the need to link national security as an objective with issues of human dignity, economic development, human rights and personal freedom were all deliberate policies by the Babangida administration to offer interesting and provocative perspectives on the place of the military in state and society which, in going beyond the limited thrust of conventional analysis of the role of the military in African politics, offered fresh and imaginative insights on the conditions for preventing a relapse into and perpetuation of military rule in Nigeria.
SOCIO- CULTURAL DIMENSIONS OF DEVELOPMENT
Perhaps more than any regime in Nigeria’s political history, the Babangida administration laid emphasis on the creation of the supportive and enabling socio-cultural context for the nurture of institutions and processes brought about by the political and economic restructuring. The emphasis was on the simultaneous socio-cultural re-orientation that the emergent political and economic order demanded. Here again, the role of the elite strata in state and society was important. The focus on youth and on the universities drew attention to the need to target upon and reform institutions like the family and educational systems whose basic raison d’être was the reproduction and circulation of the elite as a force of social change. This also touched on the role of women in the socialization process. But there was also another reason for emphasis on women. This was the imperative of participatory democracy and the need to bring the women-fold in to the mainstream of governance and development. Relevant transition agencies and institutions involved in this conscientization process include, among others; MAMSER, DFRRI, the better life program, and the National Commission for women.
NIGERIA AND AFRICA
The Babangida administration laid emphasis on the linkage between foreign policy and economic development and growth, through the alignment of domestic economic problems and reforms with the country’s foreign policy goals and objectives. Under Babangida Nigeria’s African policy was linked with the imperative of development and governance in their interlocking domestic, continental and regionalist dimensions. The role of leadership in forging and fostering development was a common theme in the foreign policies of the Government as was the impact of global changes on governance and development.
It was in this light that president Babangida pointed to the relationship between peace and stability in Africa; called for a Marshall Plan for Africa; proposed positive group action to resolve continental and regional disputes and among others. The message was clear and testamentary: Africa needed a new vision of a Renascent Africa, one in which domestic political and economic restructuring provided the springboard for regional and continental cooperation. President Babangida came out unmistakably at his best when he re-invoked Pan-Africanism as an ethos of development in Africa and linked this up, in the spirit of the early Pan- Africanists, with the African Diaspora.
NIGERIA AND THE REST OF THE WORLD
The Babangida administration developed what could be described as economic diplomacy or the economic thrust of foreign policy towards the rest of the world. There was the concern with South-South Co-operation and Southern Africa was viewed in its globalist context. The place of the OAU within such extra-continental international organizations as the UN, the Commonwealth and the Non-Aligned Movement also received attention. The debt problem was yet another important issue which received important attention. Also providing an important link between domestic, regionalist and continental governance and development problems on the one hand, and the wider global system on the other, was the recurrent concern with and focus on the reform of the global economy. Major points in this linkage included the following: the creation of the appropriate international economic and political environment for governance and development, and without which domestic economic and political restructuring would be seriously and gravely flawed; the need for the developed world to play a leading role in removing impediments to the growth of the world economy and the establishment of appropriate mechanisms for the stabilization of world primary commodity prices and the reform of the IMF and the World Bank to make them more responsive to the development needs of Africa and the Third World. The importance of this focus for development theory was that, while emphasizing on the critical internal or domestic factors that impinged on governance and development, it also sensitized us to the limiting and constraining external environment which must be taken into account in analyzing the development process. It was because of this interrelationship between domestic and international structures and processes and the problem it had posed historically for African development and governance that President Ibrahim Babangida argued for collective and multi-pronged global action as an expression of international solidarity in response to the cripplingly complex and vicious syndrome of African and Third World under-development.
PRESIDENT BABANGIDA’S AGENDA FOR DEVELOPMENT IN COMPARATIVE PERSPECTIVE
There is a fundamental need to revisit the Babangida administration in its globalist dimension. In other words in what respects was the transition program of the Babangida Administration a model for the rest of the world, and particularly for Africa and the Third World? This becomes a relevant question to pose in view of the current global concern with democratization and the retreat from big or dominant government.
In Africa, the move towards multipartyism in countries that are as ideologically disparate as the Ivory Coast and Mozambique, and the collapse of hitherto highly communist political economies in Eastern Europe were both concrete manifestations of a wave of democratisation in the world at the time.
It is important to underline the fact that the Nigerian experiment under President Babangida was well under way before the overt manifestation of the developments in Eastern Europe. What needs to be pointed out also is that the Afrocentric or rather home-grown character of the Nigerian experiment under President Babangida which was much more pertinent and relevant to Africa than exotic models. In what ways was this the case?
To begin with, some African countries had shown active interest in the democratisation process in Nigeria. This interest was manifested at official levels through delegations and special emissaries sent from countries like Ethiopia, Ghana, Benin Republic, Sudan and Chad, to mention a few, to study specific aspects of the transition. The federal structure of the country was also viewed by some African countries as offering a possible solution to their own ethnic conflicts.
The rural development strategy built into Nigeria’s version of SAP did arouse considerable interest outside the country. The Better Life program, the opening up of rural roads and heavy investment in rural infrastructures as well as the extension of credit facilities to the rural areas offered themselves as export models to other African countries, and as an alternative development strategy to urbanization. At the macro-economic level, the Babangida Administration’s policy of privatization and commercialization also attracted a great deal of attention outside the country.
At the level of political restructuring, the bottom-up grassroots approach to party formation, interestingly, commanded great interest at both theoretical and practical levels, as providing a uniquely African version of how to institutionalize participatory democracy and inculcate the twin ethos of responsibility and accountability among protagonists in the political process. The manner in which a reformed and competitive electoral process was incorporated into the transition program was held up as providing a model for other African countries to follow.
President Ibrahim Babangida could be described as a radical leader who, from the policy conception and implementation of his Government sought to bring back the common man, the neglected rural majority and the backbone of Nigerian and African society, into the mainstream of politics.
As has been pointed out, President Babangida’s radical liberalism manifested itself in three basic areas. First, he believed that the whole point of political and economic restructuring was to bring about a highly participant and democratic political system. Secondly, it was also intended to bring about equity in the allocation of resources, hence his emphasis on social justice. Thirdly, he consistently and assiduously pursued the objective of decentralization and deconcentration of decision-making processes, believing that it would not only constitute a learning process but also give citizens multiple access to power structures. In short, the political credo of President Babangida reminds one of this apt passage from Frantz Fanon’s Wretched of the Earth:
“The people must understand what is at stake. Public business ought to be the business of the public. So the necessity of creating large number of well-informed nuclei at the bottom, crops up again. Too often we are content to establish national organizations at the top and always in the capital.”