September 14, 2020

FG and the Illusion of progress

By Peter Egwuatu

“On the other hand, he said, Nigeria’s Vision 20:2020 was an articulation of the long term intent to launch Nigeria onto a path of sustained economic development.

“The ERGP shared this vision, which ensured that we exited recession in 2017 and sustained growth until the recent global economic challenges occasioned by COVID-19.” – President Buhari,  Daily Independence, September 10, 2020.

  One of the saddest things about governance in Nigeria at the Federal level is the monumental amount of ignorance on which policies and programmes are based. The reference to two absolute disasters – Vision 20:2020 and ERGP – in what was to be justification for the measures recently announced is the clearest demonstration of what can happen to a nation in the new millennium headed by small minds.

An effective leader in the world of today, with its bewildering changes, must have first of all been well-educated far beyond West African School Certificate. Furthermore, he must read volumes to keep abreast of multiple global trends. Even eight distinctions obtained in the West African School Certificate Examinations, WASCE, are no longer sufficient. Any leader parading such qualifications already belongs to the past – not the future

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  It is possible there is nobody among those who drafted the address for Buhari was anywhere near the birthplace of Vision 20:2020 in 1993. Nigeria Economic Summit Group, NESG, cobbled together by Chief Ernest Shonekan, who was Head of Government under President Babangida organised the first week-long meeting of the leaders of the Public and Private sectors including Organised Labour, Academia, key parastatals, etc. That was in 1992, and to the best of my knowledge, it was the first such attempt to get the leaders of all sectors of the Nigerian economy to work together for the development of the economy.

One of the facilitators invited to the Summit was a Malaysian economist. I was a participant – representing the Nigerian Institute of Management, NIM. One lasting testimony of my attendance at NESG-1 can be found in  Vanguard Book of Quotations,  VBQ, p. 26 – “It does not matter if the cat is black or white as long as it catches rats.” That was the Malaysian’s way of warning Nigerians against our “Federal Character” principle which he felt certain will retard progress and development. Today, 28 years after, a glance at the list of our security chiefs is all one needs to know why insecurity worsened since 2015.

The same Malaysian economist was the one who opened our eyes to visioning. He went into great details to discuss how Malaysia developed their Vision 2020 and was able to get the entire country behind it. Very soon, Nigerians hardly ever original in their thinking, corrupt leaders and ignorant docile populace allowed one government after another to ensure that Vision 20:2020 was a complete failure.

But, that catastrophe was predicted by us at  UniJankara  in 1992. Please read what I wrote on April 13, 1992 and you can easily see why this government is praising a long term programme which was a fraud and failure from the first day and why we have arrived in 2020 on the brink of greater calamity.

Truth is constant; only the falsehood beloved by governments and the complaisant elite are ruining our lives.

“Thinking the Unthinkable Year 2020 – April 13, 1992.

“We should all worry about the future because that is where we are going to spend the rest of our lives”. (Charles Kittering).

“Focus instead on the year 2020. This is the year, or thereabouts, when something really catastrophic might happen in this country called Nigeria, if it still exists as a unit. Its continued existence is not guaranteed and the transition to civil unrest now being midwived by the two “wisemen” in charge is cause enough for concern. But the year 2020 is when an economic implosion might occur which will shake Nigeria PLC to its foundations. Those of us who can reasonably expect to be around then should feel concerned from now.”

This prediction was made in 1992 as a minority report on the pages of Vanguard Newspaper while others were praising government for a wonderful achievement.

We are in 2020 now. How many of those who promoted Vision 20:2020 can still repeat what they said then? I am repeating my words today.

But, before we stop, follow me down the sad history of visioning in Nigeria.


Abacha and Vision 2010

Military President, General Sani Abacha, was impatient for results; he also needed something with which to deceive the elite. So he shaved off ten years for the attainment of the vision – which included Nigeria becoming one of the 20 largest economies in the world. He rashly launched Vision 2010 Committee. Surprisingly, most of the elite queued up to be invited to join in a weeklong deliberation which was actually a waste of time and money.

Dutifully, a communiqué was issued which was almost a carbon copy of the Vision 20:2020 document. Convinced it was self-deception of the worst kind, and perhaps unpatriotic, I sat out Vision 2010.

Abacha died in 1998 without taking any of the measures recommended. Naturally, Vision 2010 followed him to the graveyard.


Vision 20:2020 Revival Under two PDP Presidents

Obasanjo wisely ignored Vision 20:2020 prescriptions for rapid and sustainable economic and social development for eight years. Yar’Adua came into office and after a lacklustre first year was persuaded to revisit Vision 20:2020 by his Minister of Finance, Dr Shamsudeen Usman, and another Committee formed which faithfully rendered a report. Yar’Adua died without anything done about the recommendations of the Committee. Again, I wrote several articles that Vision 20:2020 was a hoax foisted on Nigeria.

Jonathan briefly toyed with it; but quickly dropped it.


Fast Forward to the Present

“The more things change, the more they remain the same.”

If the ERGP shared the same vision as Vision 20:2020, as claimed by   Buhari, it is easy to understand why both the fraud called Vision 20:2020 and the Economic Recovery Growth Programme, ERGP, introduced in 2017, are   leading to the current economic catastrophe of 2020. Obviously, somebody forgot to tell Buhari that contrary to his claim, ERGP made several promises which were not fulfilled.

Among them, it was designed to create 15 million jobs and to result in Gross Domestic Product of “four per cent in the first year and reaching seven per cent in the final year [2020]. In no single year was 4 per cent growth achieved. And as we stumble towards December 2020, negative growth is certain and not the 7 per cent we were asked to expect. Already the second quarter growth was negative, -6.4 per cent. Even the FG is warning about the third quarter result. It is clear that government is running out of cash. Inevitably, 2020 will end with overall negative growth. Five million more Nigerians will descend into poverty.

Those who wrote the script for Buhari to read have done the President a disservice. The Nigerian leader has been portrayed as illusory, at best.