(Vanguard of Sunday, September 17, 2006)
My call on my colleagues in the media and elsewhere to let us think together to get this country launched and sustained on the path of growth was made after very serious contemplation. And this was after I had spent a weekend in Jos on an assignment that had nothing to do with politics or politicians.
There was this friend I met who had been there in government since the 70s and, as Nigerians would say, he has practically nothing to show for it. In other words, he did not steal public funds in spite of the fact that he had presided over heavy-duty corporations, if that description can give the picture of those corporations where there are lots of monetary cows to milk!
Surprisingly he is one man who believes so much in Obasanjo’s ability to fix this country that he was not ashamed to tell me that that was why he wanted extension of tenure for him.
It was then I asked him what would happen if OBJ died, which is a fact of life because having come, he must go. Does it mean we would have had a meteor just crashing into view, lighting up the sky, then disappear; and then darkness?
Does he therefore subscribe to what many OBJ lovers have said about him, that when he came back in 1999, he discovered that he had to start putting Nigeria together where he left it 20 years earlier!
So Shagari did nothing; and Buhari did nothing; and Babangida did nothing; and Sonekan did nothing; and Abacha did nothing; and Abdusalaam Abubakar did nothing! Haba. What a way to see things!
He quickly put in a sympathetic word for only one of those who came after Obasanjo, but for obvious reasons, I would not like to mention his name.
I knew the gentleman we were in Jos together was part and parcel of one of the greatest outings we have had since independence on the need to grow Nigeria and how we can go about doing it.
I thought I should get him to talk about what happened, and when he opened up, it became obvious that what I have always believed in is shared by another.
One man cannot have all the answers. It is therefore short-sighted to pray that a man lives forever so that the programme he is prosecuting would not be derailed. We all should be aware of what is there to be done and get committed to doing it. We would then have built a generation of performers because they know what to do and have been trained to do it.
Training a crop of leaders is not doing anything new. In other countries where people know where they are, where they are coming from, and where they want to go to, there is an understanding that you do not come into government to do what you like.
The understanding is not necessarily documented. It is the reason why government is there and if it does not meet the expectations of the people, that government must lose the next election.
It is usually something infused through the school system, a dream that was floated as you grew up; a dream you believed in and which focuses your every thought, every word, every deed. You see the whole wide world through that dream. It is more potent than religion; in fact it is a religious commitment to a way of life for your benefit and for the benefit of others.
Can we not look at a particular point of departure in governance so that whoever comes, he would know where the government that had left stopped and where the one coming will start, making adjustments as necessary? Is there no such take-off arrangement which can be sustained? Must we go to war because there is no one to continue the work of the President?
The way I see it, the dedicated army gunning for continuity does not seem to be willing to be persuaded that if we have a dream to promote and sustain Nigeria, this country will be better than those now leading us met it.
What every Nigerian needs is reflected in this picture painted in 1997 by a stakeholder in the Nigerian project.
He said, “I would like Nigeria to be a country where any Nigerian, regardless of creed, status and sex, wakes up in the morning in his/her dwelling, opens a tap and gets water to bathe, greets his neighbours on his/ her way to queue up for a bus that arrives on time to take him/her to a place of work. His/her children are also able to also depart for school, hospital, markets and playground only yards away from his/her locality.
“A Nigeria where in the evening everyone feels proud that the day has been legitimately spent in the service of the family and, through that, that of the whole family called Nigeria. And by so doing, a plan is being set in motion to build and to guarantee a future society, whose citizens are at peace with themselves and their fellows, think good thoughts for themselves and others including their leaders.
“A society where people have the moral courage and deep commitment to choose between good and bad, right and wrong. A Nigeria that promotes and brings out the best in her nationals through good and transparent leadership, judicious and egalitarian methods of reward and punishment.”
The gentleman was making a presentation to Vision 2010 Committee which 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.
I have not come across anyone who has anything superior to the work done over a period of 10 months, and in spite of what anyone may assert, Chief Earnest Sonekan must remain a national icon whose name cannot be missing when the future sets down to look at what Nigerians can do with planning.
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.
When Chief Olusegun Obasanjo assumed office on May 29, 1999, I believe he would have set up an implementation outfit of the laudable dreams of Vision 2010. But Abacha under whose regime the vision was produced was a leader everyone enjoyed running aground.
But what the President said he would initiate within six months of coming to office, that is by December 31, 1999 were all vision 2010 dreams. They included 18 critical areas of intervention —
The Crisis in the Oil Producing Areas; Food Supply, Food Security and Agriculture; Law and Order with particular reference to Armed Robbery and to Cultism in our educational institutions; Exploration and Production of Petroleum; Education; Macro-economic Policies – particularly Exchange Rate Management, etc;
Supply and Distribution of Petroleum Products; The Debt Issue; Corruption, Drugs, organized fraud called 419 activities, and crimes leading to loss of lives, properties and investment;
Infrastructure — Water Supply, Energy, Telecommunication, Ports, Airways, National Shipping, Nigerian Railways etc; Resuscitation of the Manufacturing Industries; Job creation, and creation of conducive environment for investment; Poverty Alleviation;
Housing – both Civilian Housing Programmes, and Barrack Refurbishment and New Constructions for the Armed Forces and the Police; ECOMOG; Health Services; Political and Constitutional Dialogue; and Women and Youth Empowerment.
It is only the unkind that would deny that the President has done a lot to address many of the issues, but if we accept that the programme that will grow this country is Vision 2010, even if domesticated, then we would be seen to be more organized if we fully appreciate “Where we are; Where we want to be; and How do we get there.”
My appeal is repeated that we play on big issues like the Vision 2010 and look forward to an issue-driven 2007 elections. The present face-off between Mr. President and his deputy will not help achieve what the Nigerian stakeholder wants to behold by the time we are 50 years old as an independent nation.
(Vanguard of Sunday, September 17, 2006 Democracy Watch: A Monitor Diary, Vol. 2, pages 198-201)