Until last week, I did not realise that Nigeria still had a dream by the name of Vision 2020. Please, do not blame me, the slogan that I have heard government people repeat frequently in the past couple of years is the “Transformation Agenda of this administration”, I have heard so much of that that I assumed that the agenda for transformation has swallowed up the vision for the big year.
But that opinion changed when I heard Vice President Namadi Sambo speak once again about this almighty vision for which a lot of notable Nigerians have made inputs. Sambo, while at the closing ceremony of the 19th edition of the National Economic Summit, organised by the Nigerian Economic Summit Group(NESG) and the National Planning Commission in Abuja encouraged the need to diversify the Nigerian economy especially through agriculture and how that would contribute to the attainment of Vision 2020.
Vision 2020’ was launched in 2009 as an economic plan aimed at positioning Nigeria to become one of the top 20 economies in the world by the year 2020
The vision planed to combine the National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS) of the Olusegun Obasanjo administration and the Seven Point agenda of the Yar’Adua administration to: Stimulate Nigeria’s economic growth and launch the country onto a path of sustained and rapid socio-economic development and place Nigeria in the bracket of top 20 largest economies of the world by the year 2020
Parameters to measure the attainment of this goal, according to the policy document would include a sound, stable and globally competitive economy with a GDP of not less than $900 billion and a per capita income of not less than $4000 per annum. The health sector is expected to sustain life expectancy at 70 years and reduce the burden of infectious diseases to the barest minimum, an educational system that provides competent manpower and opportunities for citizens to attain their maximum potential as well as a peaceful, harmonious and a stable democracy amongst others.
I have however been wondering whether our leaders have the capacity to deliver this vision to us anytime in the next 20 years, not to talk of 2020. To start with, I believe that setting the 2020 target itself is either borne out of some attempt to hoodwink Nigerians into thinking that something tangible was going on in the polity or the failure of people in government to realise the huge demands of such a promise, especially given the enormous burden of undervelopment that Nigeria has carried almost forever.
Fundamentally for example, this country of over 160 million people has battled to increase power supply beyond the 4000megawatts mark in the past 14 years. That is not to talk about the shambles that our roads are, the unparalleled difficult terrain under which we do business as well as the fact that corruption is literality a Nigerian citizen.
As devastating as the systemic inefficiencies listed above and many others to the attainment of Vision 2020 and the chance that Nigeria would ever attain development, by far more worrisome is the country’s attitude to the development of its human capital. While it is true that all round the country, there are ongoing efforts to reduce the country’s infrastructural deficiency at different levels of government, and that infrastructure is a very integral part of the development process, it is my humble take that the level of education and state of health of the human beings in any society as well as what is being done to improve same, speaks a lot about the country’s readiness for development.
As the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo said in a speech, titled: “Man is the sole dynamic in nature” which he delivered at the Convocation of the then University of Ife in 1974: “The crucial point, which I want our rulers, planners, and official advisers to bear in mind, is that man is the sole dynamic in nature: and that accordingly, every individual Nigerian constitutes the supreme economic potential which this country possesses…” he then went ahead to demand free education for all Nigerian children as well as the offering of preventive and curative medical facilities in every part of the country so that every man would be sound and ready to contribute to the development of the country.
Researchers looking at the experience of Some Asian countries including like India, Pakistan, India, Republic of Korea and Malaysia, which incidentally has worked at a Vision 2020 since 1991 noted in a paper entitled “Role of Human Capital in Economic Development: some myths and realities” that: “a nation needs to have a minimum captious mass of at least 70 per cent or more literate population. What this means is that if an overwhelmingly large number of people in a country are literate, even with simple basic education as being able to read newspapers, this may open up the minds of the masses, possibly make them more enlightened workers and perhaps institute some element of discipline in them. These are, of course, some of the essential prerequisites for a large organized production to run efficiently and for leading to rapid growth. Through mass literacy, better prepared healthy workers and conducive investment friendly government policies”
Malaysia also regularly re-assessed its educational needs, prioritising according to its needs, such that at different times, the country has found itself giving priority to Applied Sciences, Applied Arts programmes, Research and Pure science. With this determination by the end of the 1990s, literacy rate in Malaysia was 90% while life expectancy was 72 years! It took well over 20 years of persistent investment in education and health care delivery for Malaysia to attain this level of accomplishment.
While Nigeria talking about overtaking countries like Italy, Indonesia and possibly South Korea in 2020, university lecturers have been on strike for close to two months now. 11 Million Children are out of school without any clear cut strategy to stop that tide; well over one million young boys and girls cannot get into higher institutions yearly and ethnic and religious distrust permeates the land.
Things are not better on the health front. As we speak, perhaps only Kwara and Lagos States have any community health insurance policy which takes care of the common man. The National Health Insurance Scheme is underperforming while about 53,000 Nigerian women and girls suffer mortalities or morbidities from child birth annually. According to Save the Children UK, seven out of every ten children die before their fifth birthday while almost half of Nigerians die before they get to the age of 60.
One major difference that I noticed between Nigeria’s Vision 2020 and Malaysia’s Wawasan 2020 is that while the former is focused on economic growth, the latter is principally about the development of its people, apparently with the understanding that only a developed populace could engender a economic prosperity. Wawasan 2020 aspires for a united Malaysian society, a fully moral and ethical society, a scientific and progressive society, a fully caring society, an economically just society in which there is a fair and equitable distribution of the wealth of the nation and a prosperous society with an economy that is fully competitive, robust and resilient. In attaining all of this, it gives priority to the enlightenment and development of its populace and that has yielded tremendous results. On the other hand, Nigeria’s Vision 2020 seems to be more concerned about economic growth over and above the development of its human capital. This is, to my mind the reason why that vision would not be achieved and why, unless government at all level begin to pay attention to the development of our people, we may never really attain national development.
Adedokun, a Lagos based PR consultant, wrote in via [email protected] You can follow him on twitter @niranadedokun