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Vision 2020: Obasanjo’s Agenda, Dead On Arrival, Mere Joke – APC

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Programme Ruined By Complacency, Infrastructural Decay, Lack Of Human Capital –Soludo

Most APC, PDP Leaders Are Totally Incompetent – CUPP

Successive Governments Abandoned The Vision – -Johnson Chukwu, MD Cowries Asset

LUKMON AKINTOLA

LAGOS

Vision 2020: The Birth

In 2006 when Vision 2020 was conceived by erstwhile President Olusegun Obasanjo, the idea was genius-like, a magical route to utopia.

The need to plan on a noticeable growth pattern after almost 30 years of underdevelopment was really exciting such that it was quickly executed.

It was the same excitement that gripped Nigerians, especially those languishing in poverty. For this sect, Vision 2020, was the road to the promised land, as all they had to do was hold on and survive till 2020, and they would be home and dry.

For them, the country would have made a turn for good, and become the global destination for businessmen and women, one of the 20 largest economies in the world.

In the eye of the common man, simply put, the dividends of Vision 2020 would rid the country of all suffering, sickness, poverty, unemployment among other challenges. Such was the expectation from Vision 2020.

“They told us in secondary school then that by 2020 all would be okay, Nigerians won’t have to travel abroad again, we won’t have to import anything, we would be self-reliant, but I am married today with children, and it is all the same thing, in fact even worse, “ Bukola Ajasa, a Lagos-based lawyer told Saturday INDEPENDENT.

Drafted by some of the greatest eggheads from Nigeria and abroad, they toiled night and day for over nine months to achieve a draft of the document, before it was officially launched in September 2009.

Though considered ambitious by some, some insisted that if properly articulated and executed to its fullest capacity, and with other rightful indices in place, the policy was capable of turning Nigeria into one of the biggest economies in the world, making it consolidate its leadership role in Africa and turning the country into a significant player in the global political arena.

Why not, after all the country had already been recognised as possessing the biggest economy in the West African sub-region due to its resource endowment and coastal location. Indeed, such potentials made world powers.

Aside from this, there were provisions for almost all concerns in the policy, as the draft covered matters concerning special interest groups such as women, people with disabilities, media, labour, youth and what have you.

The policy was also robust, as it had the National Council on Vision 2020, National Steering Committee, National Technical Working Group, The Stakeholder Development Committee, the Economic Management Team and many others.

Despite all of these, there were however problems likely to affect the proper execution of the policy. The issues put were teething problems.

A country highly dependent on positive fluctuating crude oil prices, also lacking in infrastructure development, poor distribution of electric power, and a poor manufacturing industry among others, it would indeed be hard to achieve some of the goals of the policy with these issues.

But Nigerians who hoped to benefit from the policy were comforted by the fact that the target year was several years away.

Planning Stage

A policy well-drafted, its executors realised that for it to become a reality, it had to be broken down into sections, and hence there was the Building Solid Foundation stage. This was projected to last between 2008 and 2010. This stage was to see to the execution of the first two components of the framework, the National Council on Vision 2020 (NCV2020) and the National Steering Committee (NSCV 2020) by April 2007, with a review of the NSCV2020 and all current strategies and related documents. It was also supposed to refine the framework of the Vision 2020 development process.

Achieving the MDGS enroute 2020, was the next phase and it was also to run between 2011 and 2015.

By end of January 2008, the NSCV2020 was expected to set up the National Technical Working Groups, one in each of the key areas of national priority and all stakeholder groups were expected to establish their Vision 2020 Committees. The committees were to work closely with stakeholder vision committees to develop detailed action plans and implement strategies, and commence execution of stage one of the vision.

The third stage was tagged Becoming A Top 20 Economy By 2020, expected to span between 2015 and 2020. At this stage, the NSC would have developed detailed key goals and targets that must be met to achieve convergence with the projected position of the top 20 economies. The goals and targets would be cascaded into sectors and sub-national levels.

Actualised, Nigeria would have been a fantasy land flowing with milk and honey by 2020.

The Reality

But what obtains today is the opposite of expectations. Hardly has any of the goals in the vision been achieved. There is hardly qualitative education for the average Nigerian. Also, the state of the country’s infrastructure continues to decline, as there is hardly infrastructure to mobilise all economic sectors. Yet there is a lack of a manufacturing sector that can add at least 40 percent to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Nigeria can hardly boast of a health sector that can sustain life expectancy of not less than 70 years, a modern technologically enabled agricultural sector that fully exploits the vast economic resources of the country. All of these and more were the anticipated dividends of the Vision 2020 policy.

Though economists say that Nigeria is currently the 27th biggest economy in the world, there are hardly visible parameters to prove this.

But how did Nigeria as a country get it wrong, how did all of the promises of Vision 2020 die, bearing in mind that almost all the BRIC nations covered by the Goldman Sach’s report which initiated the Vision 2020 policy are now leading economies?

The Problems

Former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Chukwuma Soludo painted a clear picture of the futility that Vision 2020 was from the start when he created the impression in an article that the concept wasn’t adequately researched and studied before its total execution.

Soludo, who was also one of the think-tanks of the planning process of Vision 2020, narrated how he drew the attention of then, President Olusegun Obasanjo, to a Goldman Sach’s report on the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, and China), and the next 11 countries expected to have the largest economies by 2025.

According to him, the report had speculated a lower growth rate than what Nigeria had between 2004 and 2005. Soludo, in his article revealed that Obasanjo’s conclusion following his mention of the growth rate was that Nigeria could even achieve the vision by 2020, hence the conceptualisation and adaptation of Vision 2020, as against an unbiased position by Goldman Sach’s report.

As if that was not bad enough, the Vision 2020 policy was officially unveiled to top-level government officials that very day. This was done without any recourse for the validation of the Goldman Sach’s report, and indeed independent research by elite stakeholders to confirm the possibility of such a report being adapted in Nigeria, and to what scale.

In 2008, while speaking as guest speaker at the 6th Convocation of Babcock University, Ilishan, Ogun State, Soludo revealed the failure that the vision was likely to become when he said: “If Nigeria is to achieve the quest of becoming one of the global economic powers in 2020, the country must radically change its complacent attitude to work and decisively tackle the problem of infrastructural decay.”

Soludo also said: “We must be ready to work for 72 hours in a 24 hour day if Nigeria is to achieve the 2020 vision of becoming one of the great economies in the world.”

He also advocated for the development of a robust human capital base, adding that the country would need to establish structures that would empower Nigerians to develop their potentials.

On his part, Johnson Chukwu, Chief Executive Officer, Cowry Asset Management Limited blamed the failure of the policy on a lack of continuity, adding that there was no government to pursue it, as respective governments after the policy had evolved have been coming with their policies which were not aligned with the Vision 2020 policy.

Chukwu said: “If you look at Vision 2020, the performance target that was defined, I would think that most of the targets were observed in abeyance, they were observed in abeyance. If you look at the target in terms of educational coverage, we have never had this number of school-age children who are out of school. At the last count, we had more than 13,000,000 out of school-age children. In terms of poverty, the number has been more than 34,000,000, more than 40 percent of the nation’s population. In terms of housing deficit, we have not made any progress because we still have more housing deficit, we have about 17,000,000 housing deficit currently in the country. In terms of eradication of communicable diseases, maybe one or two like meningitis are said to have been eradicated. Maybe, on that front, we can say we have eradicated a few of the communicable diseases. So, that could count as a positive. In terms of infrastructure, we have not done well. So, on a score of 1 to 10, one could say most of the targets set for Vision 2020 were not met.”

Explaining the failure of Vision 2020, Chukwu said he doubted if anyone was ever focused on Vision 2020 after it was launched. According to him: “Each government has had its policy. The Yar’adua government came up with its Seven-Point Agenda. Then under Jonathan, they had the Transformation Agenda which was not exactly aligned to the Vision 2020 policy. Under the Buhari government, we have the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan. On that basis, I will say none of the governments that came after the evolution of the Vision 2020 plan was focused on driving it.”

Asked if the policy was too ambitious, Chukwu disagreed, stating that the issue was the absence of a Nigerian government to drive the policy. “If you look at the plan, there is no doubting the fact that should it have been achieved, the country would have leapfrogged in terms of social-economic development,” he concluded.

Detailing why the policy and others subsequently made by governments of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) failed, National Publicity Secretary, All Progressive Congress (APC), Mallam Lanre Issa-Onilu said: “Part of the problem we have in this country is to put policies in place and not execute them or implement them haphazardly or half-heartedly. Obasanjo, who put the policy in place, how much of structure did he put to ensure the fulfillment of that vision? And the same thing you have under him, we had under subsequent PDP governments. They can’t see anything through because they have never focused on governance. They have focused on some other primordial issues, and are concerned about self-aggrandisement. Otherwise, why didn’t Yar’adua whose government was also a PDP government continue with the Vision 2020 policy? He abandoned it, even Obasanjo didn’t lay any foundation for it. How much of structure did he put in place for the transformation agenda? The next government came, the Jonathan government, and did not have anything to do with it, rather, it came with its transformation agenda. How much of transformation did we see under him? We only saw a few people whose lives were transformed by a form of massive stealing of public funds that they took, and they became overnight millionaires. And don’t also forget that even the millennium goals was also under the PDP government, and you know that Nigeria performed woefully because even that which was an international benchmark; we never met any of them. So, we are not surprised that nobody remembers that vision because right from President Obasanjo who put it in place, the whole thing was a joke. It was just a mere joke. It’s only now that you have a structured approach to governance. You can clearly define what this government is doing, and progressively you can see how it is advancing in terms of infrastructure, in terms of providing security. Obasanjo saw no vision, and if you can’t see any vision, you can’t implement one.”

All efforts to get the reactions from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) failed as the National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan neither picked his calls nor replied the messages sent to him.

Mallam Issa-Onilu, while evaluating the Change Agenda of President Muhammadu Buhari said: “We are supposed to be building on an existing foundation. But there is no existing foundation. You lay a foundation on infrastructure road maps. You lay a foundation with economic blueprint. You lay a foundation by putting in place a security strategy for the country. None of this was available in 2015. Now you can see clearly that Nigeria is becoming a massive construction site in terms of road, railway, waterways, and airports. And nobody can deny this, and it is in every one of the 36 states of the country including the Federal Capital Territory. So, people can follow the map, they can follow the graph, they can see what is going on. People in Lagos know that in a few months, they can take a modern railway to Ibadan, Abeokuta. People in Kwara know that in three years, it will be their turn. People in Kaduna know that after Kwara, it will come to them. The same thing in the coastal area of the South-South and southeast and also in Maiduguri. In the same way, we are having gradual and steady developments of road networks. And we knew what the security condition was before this government took over. If you were living in Abuja in 2015 and you are still living there now, you will know what I am talking about. You know half of Abuja was barricaded because of the tendency of someone bombing a public building; many of the roads were divided into two. We don’t have that anymore. There was a time in Abuja that you couldn’t just walk into a mall. If you are walking into one, it is with your heart in your mouth, but today you can walk into any mall without thinking of anything. There are still challenges, a lot of challenges, but nobody can deny that we are not making progress.”

Analysing the successes and failures of Vision 2020, spokesperson of the Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP), Ikenga Ugochinyere said: “The vision is a total failure because if it had achieved any single thing, Nigeria wouldn’t have been the poverty capital of the world. We wouldn’t have been among the top 10 nations that are not secured. There is no way that if Vision 2020 had worked the banditry activities you are seeing in all parts of the country would be in the increase that is impossible. If vision 2020 which had a component that had to do with economic empowerment had worked and a greater number of people were pulled from the poverty level to a certain economic level, they wouldn’t have been involved in all sorts of petty crimes. Today, we have more petty crimes than we have ever had in the history of Nigeria. Young people are getting involved in all sorts. Even in Vision 2020, there is no room for educational revolution, then what happens to educational enrolment? Enrolment has dropped and about 13 million Nigerians are out of school. So, if you look at all the components that have to do with securing the nation, economic empowerment, education for all, they are a total failure. This thing is becoming a yearly ritual that the government comes with one stupid vision or the other. I call it stupid vision because they have no plan of building institutions that will sustain those visions. When a new government comes, they abandon the vision, which is one of the challenges. We are already hearing the present government talking about a Development Plan which is not a part of what we had in vision 2020.

“All these development plans, when a new government comes are thrown away. Those projects are not continued because everybody wants to play to the gallery, and the institutions are not there. And that is why we as the opposition have been shouting that it is better to have a strong institution than to have a strong leader. Whosoever might have proposed Vision 2020 might have been a strong leader, but now he has gone; now you have nonentity as leaders at different levels. So, there is no way that those visions can be implemented. And this continues to be a style with which they keep looting the resources of the people. There is not going to be an improvement with the kind of leaders that we have, not just because President Buhari is incompetent which is not in doubt, but other leaders at different levels. Most of the leaders in the PDP and the APC are totally incompetent. So, how do incompetent leaders drive a vision? They don’t even know what a vision is asides from giving Wheel Barrows and Sewing Machines as empowerment. And that is why we said in our 2020 message that the future of economic development in the country and accountable leadership rest with the people. The people should stop being cowards and rise up against these leaders who are stealing their resources. Rise against any leader who is breaching the law. That is the only way that we can have a sustainable vision, if not politicians will continue to make decisions for you and continue to steal your money.”

However, a paper by the duo of K. Asaju and A. Albert titled ‘Vision 20: 2020 Realities and Challenges’ identified issues such as low development of science and technology, inadequate infrastructural facilities in terms of good roads, power, low level of industrialisation, lack of budget, policy inconsistency and continuity as challenges that hampered the actualisation of the policy.

The duo also listed ineffective human resources development, high rate of poverty and unemployment, high rate of corruption, and lack of good governance as other challenges of the Vision 2020 policy.

A failed policy, the implication is a worsening country, even as the dream of being one of the 20 largest economies stares the nation from millions and millions of miles afar.

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