There is the issue of elite failure in Nigeria. This is a matter from which we cannot escape since no society can do without elites, that is, leadership in the large sense – a strategic minority whose key functions, given their training, background, recruitment and location in the top collections of government, bureaucracy, academia, private sector, military, media, etc. is to guide society to better meet presenting challenges. Thanks to Prof. Mabogunje, the problematic may be posed in the following way.[Akin L. Mabogunje, “A Testimony to Elite Failure in Nigeria”, in B. Y. Muhammad (ed), Echo of Reforms, Open Press Ltd Zaria, Pp. 23 – 42]. There exists a seeming contradiction in a situation where Babangida’s regime is held to have failed in both in the prosecution of the economic program of installing a free-market economy and in the establishment of an enduring democracy in Nigeria, whereas at the same time Babangida himself is perceived as someone who cannot fail in anything that he sets his mind and heart to achieve.
The seeming contradiction was researched by Prof. Mabogunje as follows: There was immense opportunity for transformative productive action in the Babangida administration’s economic re-engineering response to the challenge of severe decline in national resources. These opportunities were utterly lost by the elite. In essence, “Babangida overrated the elites” since it is their key role to lead society to better meets its goals. The failure is thus that of elite failure in grasping the abundant opportunities for creative response inherent in the reform program. The elite instead frittered away precious opportunity “complain(ing) 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… For such elites, therefore, the new culture of productive endeavor as well as the stabilizing coupled behavior of policy-makers, which SAP sought to build into the system, required discipline yet lacking among them”. “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”. (Mabogunje, Pp. 39 –40).
He concludes that “IBB has launched the twin reforms of enthroning democracy and promoting the free-market economy….in Nigeria with their ethos of honesty, hard work, diligence, 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 those twin reforms, then, Nigeria can hope in the not-too-distant failure to take its rightful place as a mighty nation to be truly regarded and reckoned with in the comity of nations”. (Mabogunje, P. 41).