July 13, 2020

Agenda 2050: A new thinking with citizen participation and inclusion

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By Ariyo-Dare Atoye

IT turned out that it is not the battle of  atomic bombs or World War III as projected by some historical pundits. The pre-COVID-19 world you knew has been permanently altered by an unseen invader, a novel virus. Much like what happened in the post-World War II, every serious nation is now engaged in a new critical thinking. Innovative and smart ways are being adopted by organisations and serious-minded individuals, about doing business and offering services. New ideas, new perspectives and planning are crystallising to birth a world of the new normal, post-COVID.

“But unlike the post-Hitler era that gave rise to the arm-race and industrial military complex, the latest shift will be about the health system, the economy and new national plans and global orders. For Nigeria, arguably, there is no better time than now to prepare for the next and most audacious phase of our nationhood.

Notwithstanding our failure to stick purposefully to plans for decades, we must still plan. That is why plan to develop the Agenda 2050 by the Federal Government, through the instrumentality of the supervision of the Ministry of Budget and National Planning, is a matter of inevitable survival.

Our current experience is peculiarly novel in the sense that in practical terms, the onslaught of this virus has now openly exposed our long-ignored shared heritage as a nation to dire straits where no one is actually safe without the other. And without sounding callous or immodest, coronavirus could also have been a blessing in disguise, because we are all now conditionally trapped together to critically reason about our collective existence for the first time since 1960.

From the ruling class to the middle-class, down to the lower class, coronavirus has made an escape route impossible. Sadly, but instructively, the social media have now validated a popular local saying: ‘We all die here.’ But we do not have to perish as a nation or get to the point of ‘all dying here’. All we need to do is to get our priority right.

This is because not in the strangest of thoughts had anyone contemplated a situation where a rich Nigerian with a valid passport and visa would be unable to travel for medicals. This is the bitter-mindful situation we have found ourselves. It is a global reality – medical tourism has stopped, at least for the meantime while global systems are striving for a discerning and resilient health system.

Nigeria has got to make the most of the current situation and avoid the mistakes of the past. This is why the foresight of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration to emplace a long-term perspective plan to aid national development must be commended. More commendable is the sagacity of Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, Prince Clem Ikanade Agba, for making a case for an inclusive plan for Agenda 2050.

At a time when critical thinking is forming around a “post-COVID world” and influencing future arrangements, Agba has elected to anchor the next national plan on a new thinking that centres on inclusiveness and ownership. Most instructive about this new phase is the role of the organised private sector as the driver, while government only serves as an enabler. This new approach will certainly make Agenda 2050 to be different from others.

The Minister has promised a planning process that would be inclusive and participatory with the full involvement of the sub-nationals (state and local governments), major political parties, the National Assembly, representatives of women organisations and youths, the physically-challenged persons, religious groups and other relevant stakeholders. The magnitude of this kind of representations that cut across the broad spectrum of stakeholders brings to the development of Agenda 2050 and the two Medium-Term National Development Plans (MTNDPs 2021-2025 and 2026-2030) a clear sense of ownership from the people and collective responsibility.

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The Minister’s clarity of thought is quite encouraging. According to Agba: “The aim of this all-inclusive approach is to have a true national, and comprehensive National Development Plan, where we use our diversity as our strength in the development of our economy.”  Put differently, this is also an agenda that could be used to kick-start the restructuring phase of the Nigerian state by the Buhari administration.

Our diverse natural resources could be exploited in a restructured Nigerian state to strengthen the nation’s governance infrastructure as well as responsible and competitive management of our public finance. Once fidelity is kept to that philosophy of accountability to the collective, the common saying that our strength is in our diversity can therefore resonate well with the context of restructured Nigeria.

Nigerians are eager to see a new commitment from the Central Working Group of the 2050 Agenda headed by Special Adviser to the President on Finance and Economy, Mrs Sarah Alade, and the Steering Committee chaired by Sir Atedo Peterside and co-chaired by the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed with members drawn from various sectors of the economy, including six governors representing the geo-political zones.

Already, the various Technical Working Groups in charge of different thematic areas have been categorized under three groups for ease of coordination and inauguration: Human Capital and Natural Resources, for Group – One; Infrastructure and Business Environment, Trade and Technology, for Group – Two; and, Agriculture and Water Resources and Cross Cutting Issues, for Group – Three, respectively. This is quite strategic and reassuring.

These Technical Working Groups have been saddled with the responsibility to develop the thematic areas of two new Medium-Term National Development Plans (MTNDP 2020 – 2025 and MTNDP 2026-2030) and the long-term national development plan, christened “Nigeria Agenda 2050,” designed to produce successor plans to the current Nigeria Vision 20:2020 and the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP 2017-2020), which would both come to an end in December 2020.

This cannot be just another economic blueprint. In my previous article on the subject matter, titled: “The fundamentals of an enduring national development plan,” I said: “It is obviously looking like Minister Agba now has a symbolic timeline to work with – to give Nigeria, its first development plan pivoted on a national ideology, by 2020 (now 2021). I dare say that the team of experts assembled by the government is more than capable to develop post-COVID-19 medium and long-term perspective plans that will be faithfully implemented by the entire country.

I also noted in the last piece that: “Nation-building requires a comprehensive national development plan; and, Nigeria, which is still an evolving entity, is earnestly yearning for a governing ideology to become a well-defined nation-state.” Of course, after 60 years of independence, Nigeria must now, as a matter of conscious effort, put in place a comprehensive plan that has “the capacity to accelerate the attainment of various regional and global Agendas, including the AU Agenda 2063, ECOWAS integration Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals 2030.”

Although, the Federal Government has since inaugurated the Technical Working Groups (TWGs), the tasks assigned to them are however enormous: “to review existing plans, policies, programmes and projects in their thematic areas; conduct SWOT analysis of  their thematic areas/sectors; review the assumptions, parameters and forecasts used in the previous sectoral plans and align them with current realities; and consult relevant Ministries, Departments and Agencies in their thematic areas for the relevant data.

The overall objective, according to Minister Agba, is “to shape and mould the future into an image we would prefer which should not be limited by the prism of the present or by whatever may be in fashion at any moment.” No one knows what lies ahead after COVID-19, but the plan must definitely learn from the present experience to give the country a workable road-plan capable of taking it out of its many intractable problems and economic quagmire.

Atoye, Executive Director, Adopt A Goal for Development Initiative, contributed this piece via [email protected]