By Tony Eluemunor
Vision 20-2020 must be the greatest lie any President or Prime Minister ever told to his country. It was a national swindle for the project had no foundation whatsoever as it was not based on any solid reasoning and so should not have been embarked on “at all at all” as the bus stop man would add for emphasis, often with a shake of the head to illustrate his anger, at something that should not have taken off.
How did it even occur to the government headed by former President Olusegun Obasanjo? In expounded that puff of smoke, that mirage, that nonsensical make belief, that lie of the worst order, that fantasy, that national delusion, that hallucination, that the government of the day had promised that Nigeria would be among the world’s 20 most developed economies by this year. The name, Vision 20-2020 implies that.
Yes, that self-deception was foisted on us by 2005. By then the Third term gambit had bewitched Aso Rock’s heart and soul. Any lie that could be dreamed up to bewitch Nigerians and get them to support the Third Term nonsense was welcomed at the top most offices in the land. Hey, if Aso Rock was ready to bribe national legislatures with the hefty sum of N50 million, with some collecting N200 million, why wouldn’t any lie that could advance the accursed Third Term project be given wide wings with which to sour?
Yet, why did it not occur to Nigerians that the proposal was defective from the start? Sweden, Belgium or Saudi Arabia, depending on differing indices were on that 20th position by 2005.
Really, on what foundation was that project based? Which study recommended it? On which projects were such hopes based?
Dear unfortunate brothers and sisters, all that hoopla ensued when Goldman Sachs published its Global Economics Paper No: 134, authored by Jim O’Neill, Dominic Wilson, Roopa Purushothaman and Anna Stupnytska, listing Nigeria among what it called the Next 11 countries: Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Korea, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Turkey and Vietnam, to come after the first 11 termed the BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India and China) which had in 2003 been projected to become the world’s leading economies by 2050. Yes, 2050 if they got certain indices right!
And believe it or not, Godman Sachs warned on page 11 that “only Korea and Mexico are serious candidates that are large enough and plausible enough to lay claim to a BRICs-like impact.” It added: “Nigeria, Bangladesh and Pakistan all score poorly. Nigeria’s standing, in particular, highlights the large amount of work needed if it is to have a serious claim in achieving the potential growth outlined in the new 2050 projection.” Or please note this too from the Goldman Sachs:”Of the other countries we look at, only Mexico and perhaps Korea have the potential to rival the BRICs economies that we excluded initially because we view them as already more developed. Mexico ís favourable demographics and scope to catch up place it among the BRICs in terms of economic size by 2050.”
Did you notice the operative date? 2050! But Obasanjo went ahead with the vision 20-2020 national swindle. Third Term was in full swing and any lie could do; and such lies poured out as torrentially as the River Niger flows… . $13 Billion electricity project, rail reforms, school reforms, etc, all went on simultaneously and haphazardly. Even the national confab which Obasanjo had once called an anathema was organised. Yet, Nigeria got no tangible benefit from any of them.
Yet, Goldman Sacs had warned: “Nigeria and Indonesia emerge as interesting prospects, but they face serious fundamental weaknesses in the conditions that we identify as necessary. Each of the countries in the N-11, Korea and Mexico excluded, faces its own specific dilemmas, and perhaps unlike the four BRICs, they are not close to the heart of current and likely future globalisation developments. That does not mean that these other countries cannot achieve their own BRICs-like aspirations indeed several probably will but the probability is lower and their potential ultimate size is smaller.”
Truth is that Obasanjo’s administration and the subsequent ones never surmounted Nigeria’s “specific dilemmas.” Power problem was not fixed. Education was not enhanced. Manufacturing did not increase, instead, industries died or moved out of Nigeria.
And Obasanjo’s successors still did not learn any lesson from the hopelessness of their pursuit which was actually a march of folly. The late Harvard University History Professor, Barbara Tuchman, in a book, The March of Folly described folly in government as the pursuit of something that had proved to be unachievable during the time of that pursuit. Yet, the late President Umaru Yar’Adua sang the Vision 20-2020 mantra everywhere, until his bitter end. In 2008, he was chairman of the National Council on Vision 20-2020 while Honourable Minister/Deputy Chairman of the National Planning Commission as the Chairman, National steering Committee. Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, his successor, sang the same song, saying that agriculture would take Nigeria to that promised land.
Compared to the people of Sweden or Belgium which Nigeria wanted to replace as the 20th world’s best economy, Onyenekenwa Cyprian Eneh pointed out that “the vast majority of Nigerians are ill-fed, ill-clothed, ill-housed and ill-educated. They live in the rural areas characterized by massive underdevelopment. Poverty is the basic malady of Nigeria which is involved in misery-go-round, as part of the slum of the world economy.” And the 3rd country Nigeria wanted to overtake as the global 20th strongest economy may be a mono-product country like Nigeria, and depends on the same crude oil, but unlike our Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), that has posted loses for years, Saudi Arabian Oil Company, Aramco is the world’s most profitable company with 2018 revenue of $355.9 billion. That is more than the combined revenues of Exxon Mobile, Royal Dutch, Shell, BP, Cheron and Total. And it has 268 billion barrels of proved oil reserves as against Nigeria’s 37.4 billion barrels.
Ene wrote in 2010 in the Asian Journal of Rural Development, Volume 1. 10 years later, Nigerians can’t even move freely for fear of kidnappers and sundry bandits and the debate is whether we have not joined the ranks of failed nations. So much for the Vision 20-2020 deception!