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Imperatives of development planning

Nigeria’s longest serving military leader, General Yakubu Gowon, at the 2010 Conference of the Institute of Directors, brought back to the fore the importance of long term development planning to ensure the smooth and sustainable development of the country.

This call became necessary in view of trends in the past three decades when each of the eight different regimes that have directed the affairs of the country aborted plans, programmes and even projects started by their predecessors while starting new ones which, invariably, ended up being abandoned.

Gowon told the Directors that as the head of the federal government, he was involved in completing parts of the development plans set up by the political leadership of the First Republic. Then he proceeded to initiate his own 2nd and 3rd National Development plans.

That regime’s strategic planning and implementation approach coincided with the period of the first oil boom in Nigeria. Even though the General was famously quoted to have said that the problem of his regime was not money but how to spend it, it is on record that, through his approach of short and long term planning, the bulk of the physical infrastructure which the nation still enjoys (though the bulk of them have already collapsed due to lack of maintenance and upgrading) were built during his regime.

The various flyover bridges and major expressways in Lagos and most parts of the country were constructed during that period when Nigeria had just come out of a horrendous civil war.

However, as soon as the military regime that overthrew him took over power in 1975, it turned its back on the existing development plan. It threw away the baby with the bath water in the true Nigerian tradition of condemning all actions of a preceding regime, irrespective of` their laudable contributions to the progress of the country.

In turn, the civilian regime of Alhaji Shehu Shagari was also unable to continue from where the Murtala/Obasanjo stopped. The ugly trend continued even to the present, where the three regimes produced at the federal level by the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) led by Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, Alhaji Umar Yar’ Adua and Acting President Goodluck Jonathan, could not carry out any rolling plan in its eleven years in power.

While Yar’ Adua reversed most of Obasanjo’s decisions and plans and started his Seven-Point Agenda, Jonathan has turned his back on Yar’ Adua’s 7-point Agenda, option for a revised three-point agenda.

We still have a good prospect of redeeming our nearly four decades of truncated development planning efforts, as the Ministry of National Planning, whose erstwhile Minister, Dr Shamsideen Usman, was reappointed after the recent cabinet dissolution, is almost ready to publish the Vision 20-20 strategic plan.

It is a mere revision and upgrading of late General Sani Abacha’s Vision 2010. If adopted by succeeding regimes, the Vision 20-20 will help Nigeria in attempting its ambitious target of becoming one of the twenty most developed economies in the world.

Let us outgrow on-and-off again approach to development planning, for as they say, a nation that fails to plan plans to fail.


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