When We Are 50 — 6

(Vanguard of Sunday, October 15)

We were looking beyond the indices of the West in deciding which government has been improving in governance and curbing corruption to address our problems last week.  I was saying that there must be more to it than mere fear that our people who ensure that money belonging to the community is safe in their care are the same people who pounce on government money and celebrate doing so.

The money is said to belong to government and you are foolish if you do not use the opportunity you have to take it.  Which means that we have not been sold on the fact that the so-called government money is community money, and that it demands a handling as serious and committing as the culture money we never attempt to misuse.

My argument therefore is that we have a lot of work to do to persuade office-holders that they owe as much duty of care in public office as they do when they attend to their family needs.  In pushing for development therefore, I believe we would have a better and more credible and dependable anchor than a government institution.

The National Planning Commission is therefore not my type of body that should anchor the growth proposals of our government.  The Vision 2010 proposals are preferable, and it is not too late to examine them before the President hands over power to the next man or woman who will occupy Aso Rock.

Vision 2010 is different from NEEDS (National Economic and Empowerment Development Strategy) because NEEDS misses out on the basic things that Vision 2010 addresses, which include what would amount to a restructured relationship between the different tiers of government, like relocating certain key areas of responsibility to the states and local governments and funding them adequately through revised revenue allocation arrangements.

What I am saying is that a political empowerment programme is more important for us, and should be a prerequisite for or the basis for a successful economic empowerment programme.  In other words, decongest the political space and economic deregulation is automatic.  The structures you set up to drive the growth programme will then hold.

NEEDS is trumpeted as Nigeria’s home- grown poverty reduction strategy. It is supposed to have been the product of “wide consultative and participatory processes” which would make NEEDS “not just a plan on paper,” but “a plan on the ground and founded on a clear vision, sound values, and enduring principles.”

What attracted me to the NEEDS programme was the claim that as a medium term strategy, 2003 – 2007, it “derives from the country’s long-term goals of poverty reduction, wealth creation, employment generation and value re-orientation.”  But nowhere did I see any reference   to the country’s long-term goals.

And although NEEDS is supposed to be “a nationally coordinated framework of action in close collaboration with the State and Local governments… and other stakeholders to consolidate on the achievements of  (1999- 2003) and build a solid foundation for the attainment of Nigeria’s long-term vision of becoming the largest and strongest African economy and a key player in the world economy”, I did not see any antecedent efforts that constituted the foundation on which we built when we started the journey from 1999.

In writing and campaigning for Vision 2010 being the foundation for our take-off, I did not ignore what NEEDS has been trying to do.  I say NEEDS did not seem to recognize that there was Vision 2010 which has a broader base of consultation and a better claim to being homegrown.

No one pretends that NEEDS is a Federal Government proposal for growing Nigeria.  It is “essentially a federal government programme,” the authors of NEEDS rightly claim, but that “it is fully owned by Nigerians” is debatable.

Ownership of a programme cannot be sustained on the fact that  “the President and his cabinet fully endorse the programme; the National Assembly and the National Economic Council (NEC) which comprises all the 36 governors of the states have also endorsed the programme; various private sector stakeholders, NGOs, and Civil Society Organizations have also endorsed the NEEDS.”

So what?  The fact that it is a programme groomed in the offices of officialdom is reflected in how it came to be.  The 35-member committee that drafted the NEEDS document comprised  “Ministers, representatives of Ministries and Agencies, President of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria; President of the Nigerian Labour Congress; Chairman of the Coalition of Civil Society Organizations; the Nigerian Economic Summit Group; etc.”

The proof that it is not an all-stake-holders programme is revealed in the acceptance that  “further consultations are planned in the near term to get further inputs from major stakeholders that have not yet had a chance to contribute to the NEEDS, and thus ensure a fully participatory approach to the NEEDS design.”

What of Vision 2010?  As we saw in part 2 of this series, the Vision 2010 Committee was set up on November 27, 1996.  There were 248 members, including 25 foreign stakeholders residing in Nigeria. They had 14 areas to look into but what they had to gun for was the development of a blueprint that would transform Nigeria and place it firmly on the route to becoming a developed nation by the year 2010. For 10 months the team worked The Committee considered 750 memos from the public.

There were presentations from guest speakers, brainstorming among committee members. There were 12 workshops, 57 external workshops and specially commissioned studies.  Fifty-three sub-committees and eight clusters of sub-committee covered 13 critical success factors, 17 economic issues, six general issues.

Their dream was that by the year 2010 when we would be 50 years old, our country would have been transformed into “a united, industrious, caring and God-fearing democratic society, committed to making the basic needs of life affordable for everyone, and creating Africa’s leading economy.” This process should start with the launching of the Vision 2010 by the Head of State, Commander-in-Chief. The launching address should convince every Nigerian that this time around, government was committed to implementation of plans.

The structures that would ensure the continuity of Vision 2010 or NEEDS would therefore no doubt be determined by what constituted such structures.  While the NEEDS programme was a Federal Government developed programme for the people and provided for government to facilitate its take-off and execution, for which the President seems to be looking for who would carry on from where he stops,

Vision 2010 had more elaborate provisions for sustenance of the programme.  For the proper implementation of the Vision project, provision was made for two institutions — the National Council on Nigerian Vision (NCNV) chaired by the Head of State, and The Nigeria Vision Foundation (NVF) to be run as a private institution.

The NCNV would be established as a statutory body and would, among other things supervise the implementation of the Vision; ensure harmonization of existing policy measures with the Vision objectives and strategies; ensure effective and consistent dissemination of the Vision to institutions and the wider public; establish strategic alliances and continue the process of continuous dialogue and consensus building with specialized constituencies such as traditional rulers, religious organizations, the Civil Service, private sector operatives and non-governmental organizations; and co-ordinate and monitor all inter-sectoral related activities spanning rural development, poverty alleviation, water supply, urban and rural environmental sanitation, health, education, agriculture, control of population growth, electricity supply, communications, transportation, etc.

If Gen Abdul Salaam Abubakar’s transition government had had sympathy for the Vision, he would have done one key thing requested by the Visioners and that is that the National Council on Nigerian Vision should be one of the Federal Commissions in the Constitution which the President would have had a constitutional obligation to compose within one year of his being in office.

By May, 2000, we would have had a functioning statutory body that would ensure the implementation of the Vision Project and all stakeholders would know, in respect of every aspect of our lives, where we are, how we got there, where next we want to be. And the quarrel over succession would have been minimized. We end this series next week with a practical case study.

(Vanguard of Sunday, October 15, 2006, Democracy Watch: A Monitor Diary, Vol. 2, pages 212-215)

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