Big Dreams and Grand Ambitions Nigeria’s Vision 2020—How far?

The target year, 2020, is here and it is worth asking how much of Vision 2020 has been actualized. How have Nigeria’s development indicators compared with those of advanced countries, the first 20 of which Nigeria had aspired to join by 2020?

In 1970, the Yakubu Gowon administration came up with its policy for reintegration, rehabilitation and reconstruction (3Rs), as a major development plan after the Nigerian Civil War. Despite the ‘No victor, no vanquished’ declaration that ended the war, what followed the war were an abandoned property saga, the capping of Eastern bank savings at £20, and indigenization decree which further marginalized some already kobo-less, jobless and homeless citizens. The decree was the Nigerian Enterprises Promotion Decree 1972 aimed at effecting changes in the ownership structure of multinational corporations in Nigeria and providing opportunity for indigenous capital to have assertive control of the economy.

The Gowon administration prepared the Second National Development Plan (1970-1974) with five (5) main national development goals. These were building: ‘a free and democratic society’; ‘a just and egalitarian society’; ‘a united, strong and self-reliant nation’; ‘a great and dynamic economy’; and ‘a land full of bright opportunities for all citizens’. The plan was received with such fanfare that, in 1973, it was endorsed as the necessary foundation for the Nigerian National Policy on Education first published in 1977. Until the mid-1990s, National Development Plans would take centre stage of government planning.

Today’s Nigeria

50 years have passed since the Second National Development Plan (1970-1974) was launched. And yet, kidnappings for ransom, cultism, ritual killings, child abuse and neglect continue to ravage Nigerian cities, towns and villages. Human rights abuses, extra-judicial killings, injustice, impunity and insecurity abound. The Boko Haram insurgency and farmer-herder conflicts continue unabated. Life in Nigeria has become one of uncertainty, worry and anxiety, with the country as divided along tribal, religious and political cleavages as it has ever been. Nigeria’s economy has remained weak, given our just exiting an economic recession. The future appears just as stunted: the International Monetary Fund (IMF) forecasts 2.5 per cent as economic growth rate of Nigeria for 2020 and 2021, a rate below the average of 3.5 per cent for sub-Saharan Africa.

At the launch of Nigeria’s Vision 2020 in 2010, the exchange rate was 155 naira to a US dollar. Today, the rate is at least N306 to a US dollar. This translates to lower purchasing power. A self-reliant Nigeria, like Gowon’s Second National Development Plan described, means that citizens are able to look inward and harness natural resources for the benefit of all. But this has not happened. Rather, the Gini index that measures inequality grew from 40 per cent in 2003 to 43 per cent in 2009. Regional inequality is exemplified by 81 per cent of the population being poor in Sokoto State, while the poverty incidence is 34 per cent in Niger State—both states being in the North West.

Launching Nigeria’s Vision 2020

In 2005, research by American, Jim O’Neill, and his team at Goldman Sachs predicted that, by 2025, Nigeria would be in the league of 20 top economies. Following this prediction, then-president, Olusegun Obasanjo, spoke of a development dream he called Vision 2020. In 2007, President Obasanjo signed a development plan with the target, ‘By 2020, Nigeria will be one of the 20 economies in the world, able to consolidate its leadership role in Africa and establish itself as a significant player in the global economic and political arena.’ In 2008, then-Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Professor Charles Soludo summarized the vision as Nigeria ‘becoming the next China’. The next year, the Yar’Adua government launched the NV2020 campaign.

As usual, the plan was well-packaged. A National Council on Vision 2020 (NCV2020) was the apex body of the operational and institutional arrangements for Vision 2020, while President Yar’Adua was the Chairman. The Council would approve the core national priorities intended to guide the process; ensure the quality of plan document, appropriateness of targets, and feasibility of strategies; review progress and give further direction; ensure the active involvement of all relevant stakeholders; approve the framework for resource mobilization from private and other stakeholders; approve a comprehensive planning framework for annual budgets and medium-term plans; and issue any other desirable directives.

A National Steering Committee on Vision 2020 (NSC2020) was the engine for the visioning process. This Committee was created to develop a methodology and guidelines for all ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs), private sector and other stakeholders to drive the vision; propose a comprehensive plan; and propose appropriate goals and targets.  Furthermore, the NSC2020 would examine the linkages among plan, medium-term plan and annual budget, recommend an inclusive monitoring and evaluation (M&E) mechanism, commission in-depth research, and make any other recommendations.

The State NV2020 Stakeholders Committee, the MDAs and Other Stakeholder Visioning Development Committee consisted of 20-25 groups of about 25 eminent persons with interest and knowledge on the subject area. The Vision 2020 Development Committees served as forums for building consensus on issues. The committees were also responsible for preparing sectoral inputs for the Vision 2020 plan. In particular, the major Vision 2020 stakeholders included (1) state governments, (2) MDAs, and (3) key institutions. Each stakeholder had an ‘inclusive competent committee’ that featured public sector and non-state representatives. The mandate of the Stakeholder Vision 2020 Development Committees included examining background papers on thematic areas from National Technical Working Groups (NTWGs), in-depth review of position papers, preparing feedback reports to the National Stakeholders Committee (NSC), generating sectoral and other related inputs; and undertaking any other assignment from NSC.

The NTWGs comprised of a maximum of 25 groups of experts for identified areas of specialization drawn from both public and private sector practitioners with expertise in the subject area. It provided technical support to the NSC. The report of the NTWGs serves as input to the work of NSC and the stakeholder groups. Other terms of reference of NTWGs included developing background papers; articulating key economic issues; defining proposed policy targets, objectives and priorities; preparing guidelines and template for communication on progress (COP); working with and assisting stakeholder groups in preparing their documents and COPs; reviewing and evaluating COPs of stakeholder groups; working with consultants on specific research study; providing regular technical briefing updates by NSC; and undertaking any other assignments from NSC.

The National Planning Commission (NPC) under the auspices of the National Council on Development and Planning (NCDP) held 25-26th June, 2008 a joint meeting at the Concorde Hotel, Owerri, Imo State capital with the theme, ‘Vision 2020: Harnessing Nigeria’s Potential for Wealth Creation and Poverty Reduction.’ The Israeli Ambassador to Nigeria, Moshe Ram, gave suggestions on how to actualize Nigeria’s Vision 2020. According to the Israeli envoy, Nigeria’s dream of becoming one of the 20 leading economies by the year 2020 is not a pie in the sky. For this dream to become a reality, the country must go back to the basics: agriculture. Similarly, then-mayor of London, Mr. Alderman David Lewis, explained that for Nigeria to achieve its Vision 2020 objectives, authorities must pay significant attention to human capital development issues. He added that Nigeria’s Vision 2020 would not be realized without quality education.

A Poorer Nigeria?

The target year, 2020, is here and it is worth asking how much of Vision 2020 has been actualized. How have Nigeria’s development indicators compared with those of advanced countries, the first 20 of which Nigeria had aspired to join by 2020? In 2018, Nigeria was declared the poverty capital of the world, and in 2019, Nigeria also became the world capital for open defecation, with increasing slums and worsening water and sanitation facilities. Poverty is connected to food. Indeed, the thresholds for determining that someone is poor were originally calculated as the budget necessary to buy a certain number of calories, plus some other indispensable purchases, such as housing. A poor person is, essentially, someone without enough to eat.

A poorer Nigerian society in 2020 than when Vision 2020 rolled out means food-insufficiency has gotten worse, notwithstanding much taunted agricultural programmes. Up to 70 per cent of Nigerians were reportedly food-insecure as at 2018. Despite expanding access to educational facilities, many young Nigerians leave institutes of higher education with little or no marketability, employability and self-employability. Nigerians live in urban slums and rural areas characterized by massive underdevelopment. The ambitious and utopian Nigeria’s Vision 2020 has come, experienced several policy reversals, and gone the way of its predecessors. Nigerians must resolve to avoid the eight deadly monsters: wealth without work, pleasure without conscience, knowledge without character, commerce without morality, science without humanity, worship without sacrifice, politics without principle, and right without responsibility

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