By Moses Nosike
If the tragic history of Nigeriaâ€™s march to nationhood has taught Nigerians anything at all, it is how to build a deep mistrust for their leaders. Every intention of the government, no matter how noble, revolutionary or novel is regarded with suspicion from a safe distance, often in anticipation that it might turn into a farce.
When it came into being earlier this year, the Vision 2020 project was seen from a similar perspective. But the Committee members were not daunted by the cynicism of those who felt that anything good could come out of Nigeria and that Nigerians are indeed capable of thinking their way out of the many problems the country faces on its path to nationhood. And now, they have crafted what many people are beginning to see as a revolutionary blueprint that will leapfrog Nigeria to reckoning in 2020 and these are possibly why they may be right.
Unlike the Vision 2020 Committee, General Sani Abachaâ€™s Vison 2010 which has created needless credibility problem for fresh attempts at visioning in Nigeria began its quest with three fundamental questions – Where are we now? Where are we going? And how do we get there? On the contrary, Vision 2020 takes impetus from the infinite possibility of change; a belief that Nigeria is not a basket case, that much good could be done in 10 years and that any vision worth its salt should find anchorage within the global context.
Not expectedly, the actual visioning begins with a hypothetical wish to attain nothing less than S900billion in GDP, and a national per capita-income of not less than S4000 per annum by 2020 – a seemingly lofty but highly achievable objective. But before some meaningful assumptions could be made about the future of Nigeria, the Committee had to make a candid admission that Nigeria has been a big disappointment so far as a result of â€œinadequate planning in almost all critical areas: power, energy, transportation, housing, healthcare, education etc.
The Vision 2020Â Committee members all agree that â€œNigeria is at a crossroadsâ€, but has to choose from three illustrative destinations: Armageddon, Nirvana and Eldorado. Of course, Armageddon is not an option with its â€œextreme view that the world will implodeâ€. Nor did they choose Nirvana – a future made possible through the â€œdeployment of human and artificial intelligence to solve most of mankindâ€™s basic problems.â€ The clear choice and perhaps the reasonable choice is Eldorado â€“ the amazing nexus where dreams meet opportunities.
The optimism ofÂ the Committee members on the capacity of Nigeria to make a clean break from the present dead end and leapfrog into Eldorado is firmly rooted on some hard facts of life. The Vision document cites with glee the erroneous conclusions drawn on what were once considered impossible but have now become important parts of everyday life that life without them is inconceivable.
There are so many instances where people whose opinions on certain issues were highly regarded at a time came to the end of their genius and wrongly drawn conclusions which were later disproved by manâ€™s limitless capacity to re-invent his world. The Visionâ€™s document credits one ofÂ the most profound and of course most ridiculous of such self-limiting statements to a certain Commissioner of the US Office of Patents who magisterially declaredÂ in 1899 that â€œeverything that can be invented has been inventedâ€. Today, the world knows better.
Similarly Lee De Forest, the famous American inventor with over 180 patents who is touted to be one the fathers of the electronic age with the invention that aided the addition of sound to motion picture is credited with an even more damning false conclusion in a field where his genius had manifested most. De Forest had magisterially declared barely 83 years ago that â€œdespite the TV being theoretically and technically feasible, I think it is not commercially viable.
I donâ€™t see people sitting in their living rooms, looking at an image in a square boxâ€.Â Ken Olsen, co-founder of Digital Equipment Corporation USA who is renown for fostering engineering innovation and whose valuing of innovation and technical excellence spawned and popularized techniques such as engineering matrix management that are broadly employed today throughout many industries was said to have erroneously argued in 1977 that â€œthere is no reason for any individual to have a computer in their homeâ€.
Expectedly, his prediction fell on a dry parch of earth and has since been scorched by the soaring fire of human imagination and inventiveness. The Vision document has many other such self-limiting predictions that have fallen short of present realities, a clear statement that however seemingly hopeless the Nigerian condition might seem ,thereâ€™s enough reason for dreams to sprout and blossom.
To drive this message home, the Vision document points out that positive change is not only possible in Nigeria but realizable within the shortest possible time. What is however sad about the human condition is that we are too quick to get used to ideal situations, too swift to adjust to a favourable weather that we often forget what the unpleasant past once felt like. But the Vision document reminds us that less than 10 years ago, Nigerian telephone services were something only the rich could afford.
Ownership of the analogue telephone box was a status symbol and the boxes would sit regally in the living rooms of the affluent as proof that they had crossed the poverty line. With a population of over 150 million people, only 500,000 Nigerians had telephone lines. But today the story is different. No fewer than 60 million lines exist in Nigeria today. The same case scenario applies to the Automated Teller Machines (ATM) that has brought so much relief and ease to financial service delivery. Yet its history is not older than five years. The Visioners also recall that roughly ten years ago, Nigeria was not only the curse word of Africa but a debt-ridden country where dreams died young. The story is different today. The rule of law was a