Just as the march of time remains inexorable and maintains its course, so the ‘Eldorado’ year of 2020, has come at last in reality. Placed in context it is the timeline for one of Nigeria’s most recent perspective development plan – the Nigerian Vision 20:2020, which was launched in 2004 by the administration of President Olusegun Obasanjo, and intended for fast tracking the transformation of the country to be ranked among the largest 20 economies of the world. In specific terms, as one of the 20 largest economies of the world, the country should by this year be recording a consolidated GDP of at least $9 trillion with a per capita income of at least $4,000.
However, contrary to these dream conditions, the country’s estimated GDP as at the end of the first quarter of 2020 is $500 billion, (about 11% of the expected figure) while per capita GDP is $2,396 for January 2020 – that is equivalent to 19% of the world’s average. Besides the foregoing, Nigeria with a population of 200 million reportedly has 91.8 million poor (45%), which makes her the world’s poverty capital, having overtaken India with a population of 1.4 billion and 73 million (5.5%). Put in clearer terms, the year 2020 has caught Nigeria as having failed to implement the Vision 20:2020.
With such a wide discrepancy between expectations and reality as well as the unflattering conditions of living for the citizenry, even at the commencement of 2020, it is to say the least that all is not well with the country and its development plan implementation regime. Just as well, when the foregoing realities are considered along with the routine, uninspiring stance of some government officials who act as if in denial of the desperate real life circumstances of the country, the situation leaves the concerned observer to wonder where the country is presently headed.
Incidentally the Vision 20:2020 dispensation itself was a successor to an earlier Vision 2010, which was launched by Nigeria’s late maximum ruler General Sani Abacha in 1996, with the hope that in 14 years from then, Nigeria would have moved to a next level with higher standard of living for the citizenry. However just a few years into the course of Vision 2010, the Vision 20:2020 dispensation came as an improvement on the context of the earlier Vision 2010, by redirecting the former’s focus to specific targets for the respective tiers of government to execute. Hence Vison 20:2020 fostered the delineation of the plan targets into National Economic Empowerment Development Strategy, (NEEDS) for the federal government, the States Economic Empowerment Strategy (SEEDS) for the states and the Local Government Economic Empowerment Strategy (LEEDS) for the local governments.
It is significant that both visions were launched with considerable fanfare along with humongous stocks of human and material resources, with the expectation of 2020 being the ultimate magical year of deliverance for the country. However, given that failure in any enterprise commences when targets are not met, it goes without saying that both visions failed, as their respective targets were largely unattained, leaving telling lessons for the country with respect to the fortunes or otherwise, of planning exercises in Nigeria.
A key lesson from the serial failure in development planning in Nigeria is the country’s laid back attitude to such infractions. Meanwhile, it is also not likely that the failure of the country to meet designated development plan targets attracts much concern from the powers that be. Little wonder that since 1946 the country had engaged in one development plan exercise or the other, with each achieving only salutary dividends. And just as old habits hardly die, the same pattern is playing out with the recent Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) which was launched by the Muhamadu Buhari administration in the wake of the 2016 – 2017 economic recession, and is yet to manifest the definitive features of a roaring success it was intended to be, in order to reverse the effects of the recession and place the country on a winning track.
Seen in perspective therefore the year 2020 has come, with Nigeria hardly disposed to run as planned. The country has arrived at the 2020 timeline with less than optimal level of dividends from its decades-old planning efforts. The associated mismatch between expectations and reality has led some Nigerians to call for extraordinary measures including prayers for the country. This is not surprising in a country of legions of self-appointed prayer warriors of every shade of religion swarming around the place. This is even as from the ranks the same prayer-loving Nigerians come the looters of the common patrimony of the system. Hence just as prayers can be remedial in some situations, it needs to be considered if a man who shoots himself in the foot can justifiably expect to be healed miraculously through prayers. Is this then not the state of affairs with the country and its planning efforts? Have Nigerians not actually shot themselves in the foot only to deny themselves of traction in development enterprise?
If the answers to the questions are not in the affirmative one could ask other questions in order to position the country’s dilemma in a more appropriate context. For instance, how can a country execute long term perspective plans when its common patrimony is routinely frittered away with bare faced impunity by members of its leadership community? In the face of the hemorrhage of such scant resources, from where would it get replacement to prosecute development plans? Just as well, it may be asked if the leadership of a country routinely ignores legality and due process in executing administrative issues and indulges in divisive tendencies, how can national cohesion be achieved among the component parts who may be nursing mutual mistrust and acrimony.
Juxtaposing the diminished dividends of development planning exercises in Nigeria – courtesy of the state of affairs in 2020, with the long history of such exercises, the strenuous efforts that have been invested in them and the humongous resources which have been deployed accordingly, it is difficult not to finger the human attitudinal factor, as the offensive piece of the jigsaw that distorts the structure. Put in clarity, successive generations of Nigerian leaders have yet to believe in the merit of a changed Nigeria; with even the present ones only interested in maintaining the status quo to facilitate their access to the pool of scum where their predecessors also tapped from. And until such a dispensation gives way to a change process, where national interest enjoys primacy, hardly can a reformed country in the mould of the collective dreams of right-thinking Nigerians come to be.
As things stand presently, the country is still in search of a leader that can drive such a process through.
Meanwhile this is wishing all readers of ‘Penpoint’ column a prosperous 2020.