An Address by General lbrahim Babangida. President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, Federal Republic of Nigeria at the Inauguration of the Political Bureau at Abuja on January 13, 1986
It should by now be clear to all that this Administration is firmly set on a course of Government by consultation with the people. Since my assumption of office, I have repeatedly reaffirmed my faith, and that of the Armed Forces Ruling Council, in the sense of responsibility of the Nigerian people and their responsiveness to challenges of whatever nature. Indeed, as a nation, we have repeatedly demonstrated these qualities whenever the occasion arose.
Only a few months back, the whole nation undertook the IMF debate and, after thoroughly considering the options, decided to forego the IMF Facility as well as accept to bear the consequential hardship and sacrifices. We were indeed encouraged by this debate. We were also gratified by the sincere and widespread support repeatedly given to this Administration, especially after uncovering of a plot to effect a bloody change of Government. I would like to believe that this mutual confidence between the people and government is due to an understanding that the intention and activities of government are geared towards the good of all.
We are gathered here this morning to continue this process by inaugurating the Political Bureau which I promised in my Budget address to the nation. Indeed, this morning’s ceremony is intended to “kick off”, as it were, the national debate on a viable future political ethos and structure for our dear country. I am happy that the search for a new political order is taking place at Abuja, the political capital of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
We are all familiar with the political conditions which brought about military regimes. Invariably military administrations have come about as a result of bad government; indeed, our present economic predicament can be attributed to the nature and practice of partisan politics.
It has contributed, in part, to the increasing cynicism and apathy of individuals, economic mismanagement as well as the apparent social chaos and disorder in our society. It has also adversely affected our capacity, as a nation, to realise our vast economic potentials. This Administration would therefore like to shift our attention to the need to create a relevant political system. Consistent with our stated philosophy of government, we are committed to popular participation in the process of evolving such a viable political order.
In commemorating our country’s 25th anniversary as a Sovereign State, I reminded the nation that what really lies at the bottom of our past dilemma is the absence of a viable political arrangement. The political history of this nation is partly one of disillusionment with politics and politicians. As you all know, the history of the past twenty-five years has been dominated by this political question. The search and solutions have hung around by this political system without adequate care of the supportive values. Our search has been to remedy immediate problems without sufficient attention to the long-term issues. Not surprisingly, our efforts so far only succeeded in producing inept and inherently unstable political arrangements, which have failed to syncronise our cultural ideals with our economic and political potentials.
To put it differently, apart from the immediate and more visible problem of salvaging our battered economy, our other task is to bring about a new political culture which, like a veritable fountain head, would bring forth a stable, strong and dynamic economy. Such an arrangement must enable us to harness the vast human and natural resources of Nigeria towards building a cohesive and self-reliant society. These ideas and values have already been clearly articulated in the fundamental and directive principles of state policy as enshrined in the 1979 Constitution.
This Administration is firmly committed to the realisation of these objectives.
Today, we commence the search for a new political order. The setting up of this Political Bureau is the first step. As part of the strategy towards evolving a viable political order, I expect the ensuing debate to capture the nature of the threshold of the transition process. In particular. I expect the debate to come up with suggestions as to how we can evolve a political system which can enable us to aspire to a predictable political life. I believe the time is now ripe for us to have a system which can guarantee an acceptable and painless succession mechanism. Finally, I would want the debate, as far as possible, to be rooted in a truly Nigerian political experience. Thus, I would expect the debate to identify and clarify issues in a manner as to ensure a higher political order that is capable of sustaining our enthusiasm for a healthy future.
It is important to point out, at this stage, that this Administration does not conceive the Political Bureau as an agency set up simply to serve the national political debate. The Political Bureau will do much more. In addition to guiding, monitoring, analysing and documenting the national political debate, the Bureau will provide an objective and indepth critique of our past political experience in order to serve as background information for the debate. It will also produce the blueprint of a new political model (or models) for the consideration of the Administration. It shall be its responsibility to eventually place options before this Administration as well
as work a realistic implementation programme for the agreed model.
Our primary political objective is to bequeath to posterity a new political order that can endure stresses as well as contain the competitive demands in our national life. Furthermore, the Bureau will ensure that Nigerians collectively secure for themselves a more meaningful political future through open and free debate. As an administration, we have stated our commitment to a decision-making process that will always be guided by the principles of discussion and consultation. We are committed to these basic tenets of democratic government, and we will adhere to it in order to remove the mistrust attached to the leadership by our people. We are convinced that we cannot truly make progress as a nation unless and until we collectively take our destiny in our own hands. We equally accept that the challenge of leadership dictates that government must remain responsive to popular wishes in order to foster a sense of greater belonging.
In this regard, it is important that all those who will contribute and participate in the debate need not be afraid to be both daring and imaginative. As you are well aware, we are committed to an order that will check the excesses of government and the abuse of power by the political leadership. We shall equally frown at a system in which a small group of individuals shall be allowed to misuse power to the detriment of our national aspirations. Simply put, the new arrangement must promote and enhance a self-reliant society.
As you ye well know, every socio-economic order has a political arrangement appropriate to it. It will be the duty of the Political Bureau to suggest the blueprint that will promote meaningful socio-economic development of our country. However, and it is important to emphasise this, both this Administration and the Political Bureau will have to operate within parameters set by the will and aspirations of our people, as well as the historic requirements that Nigeria should emerge, in the shortest possible time, as a modern State of World Power Status. Therefore, you must see the search for the new political order as the launching pad for the New Nigeria: prosperous, humanist and stable at home, a nation that possesses real capability in the African context, and one that commands and compels respect in international affair
Today tne majority of our people must begin the process of altering the course of our history for the better by debating and discussing our way forward. Let the search for a new political order be the starting point for forging that collective consciousness. It is a matter for every Nigerian. It is a matter that touches on the stability, peace and progress of our nation. I urge you all to participate in earnest in the debate. It is therefore the additional responsibility of the Bureau to sensitise and energize the ordinary people towards the search for this order.
I would like to warn that this Administration does not want a regurgitation of the political models of the so-called advanced countries of the world. If this were our desire, we would not have wasted your time and ours, by inviting you here. Rather, we would simply have turned to the many volumes and various encyclopaedia on these alien constitutions and political models. That should not be your way forward. We share neither the political history nor the political culture of these lands. Our demographic settings and social structures differ vastly from theirs. We presently lack the sophisticated and advanced industrialism that provides the economic foundations for these alien political models.
At this juncture, I wish to make it abundantly clear that the ensuing debate is not an open invitation for partisan politics. it is a collective search for a new political order; it is a call for a country-wide debate in order to illuminate our path towards the search. It is neither a call for political party formation, nor the assertion of claims and plea for leadership on behalf of the people. It is certainly not a call for post factor wholesale justification for past systems and their operations both of which have failed us as a nation. The exercise is a call to all Nigerians to search, identify and select options that can lead this country to better heights.
This search will be conducted by a Political Bureau composed of men and women of ideas and experience. I expect the Bureau will carry Out the assignment by canvassing the view and opinions across the Federation. You should bear in mind that our country is blessed with experienced and seasoned politicians, administrators and industrialists. I implore you to tap and utilise their collective experience for the good of our nation. The Bureau is also empowered to make adequate administrative arrangements including the creation of zonal centres in order to enable it reach as many people as possible.
I want to make it quite clear that government does not intend to abandon its responsibility in this regard. We will not tolerate the emergence of ‘leaders of thought” for any hamlet, village, town, local government area or community, state or any combination of parts of sections of this country. The ban on partisan political activities and political parties is still in force and shall remain so until the AFRC has taken a decision on the report of the Political Bureau.
The debate can, of course, be carried out by socio-economic groups; professional associations can and should also participate. In short, participation must be completely divorced from partisan leaning. It must not seek to muzzle or even harness individuals’ views in the name of providing leadership at the grassroots. In order to enhance wider participation therefore, I hereby lift the ban on the Medical Association and the National Union of Students.
The Political Bureau shall comprise the following —
S.J. Cookey — Chairman Oye Oyediran Mrs. Hilda Adefarasin
E.O. Awa Tunde Adeniran Mrs. R. Abdullahi
A.D. Yahaya S.E. Oyovbaire Ola Balogun
Haroun Adamu Bala Takaya Edwin Madunagu
Ibrahim HaliIu O.E. Uya Abdullahi Augie –
Paschal Bafyau Sani Zahradeen Executive Secretary
In the course of my Budget Speech, I identified a number of factors which have contributed to our political instability. I would like the Bureau to regard my Budget Speech integrally with my present address as key notes for their work.
I hereby inaugurate the Political Bureau with the following terms of reference —
(a) Review Nigeria’s political history and identify the basic problems which have led to our failure in the past and suggest ways of resolving and coping with these problems.
(b) Identify a basic philosophy of government which will determine goals and serve as a guide to the activities of governments.
(c) Collect relevant information and data for the Government as well as identify other political problems that may arise from the debate.
(d) Gather, collate and evaluate the contributions of Nigerians to the search for a viable political future and provide guidelines for the attainment of the consensus objective.
(e) Deliberate on other political problems as may be referred to it from time to time.
Finally, I wish to reiterate my promise in the Budget Speech to the effect that this Administration will not stays day longer than it is absolutely necessary. Your assignment must therefore provide time-sequences for the transition to be achieved (by October 1, 1990).
I would like to end this address by commending you to Allah’s guidance. You are about to embark on a difficult assignment, but I believe there is no greater satisfaction than a call to serve one’s country. It is a call to duty. It is my hope that the new political arrangement would enrich our faith and rekindle our hope in the future of this great country.
Good luck end God bless.