Vision 20:20:20: A Tortuous Jaundiced Journey


This is usually a stock-taking session for governments, individuals and business concerns. For Nigerians in particular who have been anxiously looking forward to the 2020 as a magic year, a year projected to catapult the country to the lofty height of being one of the 20 biggest economies in the world, there could be no better time than now for a deep introspection into the past.

Tagged Vision 20:20:20, virtually all the critical stakeholders pledged their support for the initiative when the policy document was unveiled to the public about a decade ago. Like the previous ones before it, the slogan became a ding-dong in the government circle, as well as amongst enthusiasts of the policy. Given a faithful implementation of its development goal target, by now, the country should have been an arm’s length to the realization of its objectives of being among the 20 biggest economies in the world with the arrival of the New Year. But there is hardly anything to show for the prolonged campaign.

The past administration of the late President Musa Yar’Adua had declared the intention to pursue the lofty height. And in order to ensure that all stakeholders across the sectors participate in the policy formulation so as to guarantee ownership of the process option, which is sine qua non to successful development, 10 Special Interest Groups were formed and tasked with the responsibility of developing the vision document. The new development initiative took about nine months to produce by commissioned 1,000 economic and development experts. At the end of a prolonged rigorous brainstorming session, the policy document stated that: “By 2020, Nigeria will be one of the 20 economies in the world, able to consolidate its leadership role in Africa and establish itself as a significant player in the global economic and political arena.”

So elated was the then Minister of National Planning, Dr Shamsuddeen Usman, at the launch of the document in 2009 that he also enthused: “By 2020 Nigeria will be one of the 20 largest economies in the world, able to consolidate its leadership role in Africa and establish itself as a significant player in the global economic and political arena.”

As spelt out in the draft policy document, the processes and stages to achieving the target included, among other things, building a solid foundation between 2008 and 2010; achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) targets between 2011 and 2015, and the eventual attainment of one of the global best 20 economies in the world by 2020.

The eight MDGs target encompassed eradication of extreme poverty, promotion of universal basic education, gender equality and empowerment of women. Others include: reducing child mortality and improving material health, controlling of HIV/AIDS, malaria and other deadly diseases. It also sought to develop global partnership with other countries and ensuring environmental sustainability.

All of these were part of the vision of the New Partnership for Africa Development (NEPAD) which aimed at giving special attention to core economic, political and social variables to speed up development of backward African nations.

Interestingly, at the time of the policy declaration, Nigeria was 49th position in the world ranking, trailing behind countries like Poland, Norway, Austria, Taiwan, Saudi Arabia,   Greece, Denmark, Iran, South Africa, Argentina, Ireland, Thailand, Finland, Venezuela,   Portugal, Hong Kong, United Arab Emirates, Malaysia, Czech Republic, Colombia, Pakistan, Israel, Algeria, Phillippines, Singapore, Ukraine, among others.

The aspiration to surpass these economies was predicated on a consistent growth rate of 12. 5 per cent over a period of 10 years.

In addition to this, economic experts also say, it would require 11 years of steady growth rate of 15 per cent to reach four and a half times the original GDP, as the countries competing for 20th position then, notably, Switzerland or Indonesia, had a total GDP that was about four times the size of Nigerian economy.

Yet, the leading promoters of the Vision 20:20, especially the likes of Usman and Charles Soludo strongly believed that the goal target was achievable, given the country’s considerable resource endowment, human capital, as well as coastal location.

However, despite these potentials, the country’s trajectory in the past 10 years has been economic stagnation, declining welfare, insecurity, spiral inflation, unstable business climate, rising poverty, high child and maternal mortality rates, poor human capital development index, as well as lack of access to quality healthcare service delivery, among others. The combined effects of drop in crude oil prices and shrinking demand further added to the woes.

While countries like Israel generate a huge chunk of their foreign exchange earnings from agricultural exports, Nigeria still relies heavily on crude oil. Effort by the Buhari administration to diversify the economy away from over dependency on oil is yet to yield the expected dividends, making the country vulnerable to the vagaries of  international demand and price of the commodity.

Available indices further show that Nigeria still has a long way to go in its development effort. The term development in international parlance encompasses the need and means by which to provide better lives for people in poor countries. It includes not only economic growth, but also human capital development – providing for health, nutrition, education and a clean environment. The real essence of development is to bring about social change that allows people to achieve their human potentials.

The present socio-economic situation is a far cry from these realities, as the latest HDI value for 2018 is put at 0.534 – putting the country in the low human capital development category – positioning it at 158 out of 189 countries. Between 2005 and 2018, Nigeria’s value increased from 0.467 to 0.534, an increase of 14.4 per cent.

On poverty rating, Nigeria is today the poverty capital of the world. As reports say, “if it is unable to change its current trajectory, it will be home to 110 million people living in extreme poverty by the year 2030.”

The figure on child and maternal mortality rate in the country is even more griming. According to UNICEF, a woman’s chance of dying from pregnancy and childbirth in Nigeria is one in 13. In 2018, under-five mortality rate is put at 119.9 deaths per 1,000 live birth.

This worrisome trend, analysts say, is a product of poor implementation of the much touted development plan. Critics of the policy document identified lack of adequate investment in technologies, low priority attention on education, infrastructural deficits as major limiting factors to the realization of the objective of the vision 2020. To put the country on the path of steady growth, they say collapsed infrastructure would require no less than N3 trillion annually to fix over the next 30 years.

Frank Nweke, a former minister of information and culture, and director general of Nigeria Economic Summit Group (NESG), appraising the assumptions of the document had this to say: “Based on the team’s projections using the International Monetary Fund, IMF, World Economic Outlook database, Nigeria cannot achieve its aspiration earlier than 2035 unless the pace of the country’s economic growth is faster than the current rate.

“Saudi Arabia will be the 20th largest economy in the world by 2020, with a GDP (gross domestic product) of US$1.2 trillion in purchasing power parity (PPP).

“Nigeria, on the other hand, would be the 27th largest economy in the world by 2020, with a GDP of US$864 billion in PPP; falling short of being the 20th largest economy by a GDP of US$316 billion.

“Therefore, to become the 20th largest economy by 2020, Nigeria needs to close a US$730 billion gap starting now.

“Beyond the need to ensure local oil refining capacity in Nigeria, we find a compelling need to diversify away from the mono-productive oil base.”

In another perspective, a former Minister of Transport and chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Ebenezer Babatope, linked the failed aspiration to lack of unity of purpose, as well as declining ideal of participatory democracy.

His words: “I don’t think we are anywhere near the objective of being one of the 20 biggest economies in the world because the basis of development of any country is hinged on unity of purpose and action of those who make up the nation. But believe me; the Buhari administration is not purposeful enough to lead us to that direction. No hope, no unity of purpose.

“If the Jonathan administration had continued in power, there would have been unity of purpose on the part of government to ensure that the objective is vigorously pursued. I am still a member of the PDP and I hope to remain there till the end of my life. But the PDP we have now is a purposeless political party. No goal, no vision. Jonathan would have done well, but what we are seeing now is medicine after death.

“Again, this country would have developed, if people had been allowed to choose who to govern them democratically. We can’t expect other economies to stop working because we want to expand our own economy. Nobody waits for anybody. For as long as this country does not allow people the freedom of choice, we will be wasting out times.”

The National Chairman of the UPP, Chief Chekwas Okorie, in his own analysis, described Vision 2020 goal target as an ambitious objective, which was inherently riddled with unrealistic assumptions.

He, however, expressed optimism that the economy would experience steady economic growth in the new fiscal year, despite the numerous challenges confronting the present administration.

He declared: “That was an ambitious objective. Clearly, indications are not looking positive as to attain that lofty objective of being among the first 20 biggest economies in the world. We also have to appreciate that there is a transition from the previous government to another that felt it inherited a very disastrous situation.

“For those of us who are quite optimistic about things, year 2020 will experience an economic growth that is based on definite projection even by private people. For the first time, we are now experiencing substantial electricity generation, whereas the problem is in distribution. I am looking at 2020 as a year of quantum leap in economic development. I can see increase in revenue generation, I can see budget discipline. That is why I am very optimistic of what is to come. Achieving the objective of being one of the 20 economies in the world is a tall order, but there is a steady progress towards that.

“What is looking good for the country is the fact that this government has resolved not to start new projects so that the old ones can be completed. That has given direction to the issue of infrastructural development in the country.”

In a sharp contrast to Okorie’s optimism, a communication and policy analysis expert and former Commissioner for Information in Rivers State, Dr Tam George, blamed the sorry plight of the economy on lack of visionary leader, noting that “Nigeria is nowhere near the attainment of sustainable development.”

According to him, what should be the major preoccupation of those in government now is how to rescue the country from the brink of collapse. In his outburst of emotion, he lamented: “Nigeria is nowhere near the attainment of sustainable development because of poor leadership and lack of vision at all levels of governance.

“We have a situation where people don’t have access to potable water. We have the 2020 budget that shows a total lack of focus in terms of priority that we should have when it comes to developing the country. We have governors who seem to have completely abandoned governance. We have lawmakers who seem to measure their performance in terms of loyalty to the executive rather than loyalty to the people of the country.

“If you look at all the variables that ought to exist before we can talk of meeting development targets, the country is not there yet. That is why we continue to lag behind in terms of investment in education, investment in the justice sector, investment in health.

“If you check all the 774 local governments we have in this country, hardly would you find primary health centres where people can go immediately sickness strikes.

“So rather than talking about development, what we should be focusing on is how to prevent a complete state collapse because that is what faces us. There is no reality on the ground for us to say this is how we can generate the momentum for the achievement of any vision. There is a complete absence of governance at the state level. Budgets are never implemented; they are simply rolled over to the next year.

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“Civil society is politicised, fragmented and weak. What we are witnessing simply is the prospect of state collapse. There is a lack of state capacity to meet the basic needs. Minimum wage of N30,000 is not paid in most states. The Federal Government itself has not fully implemented it. We are still the headquarters of extreme poverty and the World Bank has said that in 2030 another 25 million Nigerians will join already 90 million people in extreme poverty.

So, rather than vision 2020, what we should try to avoid is the compete collapse of the state itself. There is complete hopelessness, there is no security, there is no accountability. People simply resort to self-help.”

While concerned stakeholders unanimously agreed that the Vision 2020 has already eluded Nigeria, there is also speculation that the government might be considering Vision introducing another long-term development plan to guide its programmes and activities.

How far this would go is a matter of debate for the future.