Lewu Since the time that I left the University of Ibadan, (the Great UI), in 1972 and joined the noble diplomatic service of Nigeria, I have not stopped thinking of the fate of our country in the comity of nations.
Over the years, Nigeria has been grappling with one problem or the other and never seems to have a respite for relative peace and enduring happiness.
My colleagues and I had great visions in 1972 when we joined the Nigerian Foreign Service, of a country that would rival, if not surpass, many advanced countries of the world in socio-economic development by the year 2002, some 30 years thence.
Our visions were based on the expected shrewd utilization of the vast resources of Nigeria and the love for our country.
We were inspired by the patriotic zeal of our senior colleagues and bosses and were, therefore, determined to work assiduously towards the realization of our visions.
We were perhaps too idealistic, naïve even, to assume, that we could do it alone, without the leadership of the country having similar visions and the commitment to actualize them.
Here we are, 46 years later! Those of us who had visions that Nigeria would likely be developed and catch up with, if not surpass Britain and others by 2002, are, to say the least, disappointed that our dreams have not come to pass.
Perhaps, it could be that the leaders of Nigeria since the 1970’s had limited visions that could not go beyond the 20th century; and so, many of them designed development plans that did not exceed four to five years each, and which did not dovetail into each other.
They were never consistent.
Each succeeding plan was befallen by policy somersault, and thus, were not designed to prepare the nation to transcend into the world of globalization and techno-political economy of the 21st century.
The worst of the various inconsistent development plans was the infamous Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) which impoverished the Nigerian people, widened the gap between the few rich and the poor masses as a result of the massive devaluation of the naira, which has worsened since SAP, and which brought very high inflation and socio-economic hardship on the country and its people who are still wallowing in abject poverty and despair.
“Vision 2020” could not come to the rescue as it was an unrealizable dream and a mirage; neither could the National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS) nor the Transformation Agenda lift up the country into the 21st century internet and cyber technology.
We know now that much of the financial and other resources needed to transform the economy ended in the pockets of some politicians, civil servants and in heavy accounts of contractors and commissioned agents.
Countries like India, South Korea and Malaysia which were on the same socio-economic pedestal with Nigeria in the 1960’s and early 1970’s bypassed Nigeria and launched themselves into the 21st century.
Nigeria on the other hand was exalting itself in self-deception or delusion of an economy with ever-flowing oil money.
It did not prepare for the 21st century high technology that seemed to have suddenly arrived unannounced and overran the country with cheap products through globalization.
A new technological age had dawned and resulted in rendering the country into an import-dependent nation.
Nigeria’s future cannot be built on petroleum, nor on the oil money.
Now is the time to dream new dreams or visions of high technology and creativity which will be articulated in a development plan that would be religiously implemented and result in an effective diversification of the Nigeria economy that will be 21st century compliant.
It will, therefore, require a genuine paradigm shift in the country’s vision and development planning process of the country’s leadership that will focus on the acquisition of high technology and massive investment in human development capital and infrastructure.
These are the factors that will enhance the capacity of the country to produce more than it consumes and export the surplus at internationally competitive price.
Nigeria has the fortune of being abundantly endowed with resources which countries like Switzerland, Japan or Singapore are dreaming of.
Yet, these countries are centuries ahead of Nigeria in so many respects due to their vision of long term strategy of huge and continuous investment in human development capital, science and innovation, infrastructure and in the state-of-the-art technology.
With these assets, they convert imported raw material into goods and services to build formidable domestic and export markets.
The Asian Tigers, acknowledged universally as emerging nations, have taught us the crucial lesson that the sky is the limit to any country’s development, if it is peaceful and has patriotic, visionary and determined leadership that is focused, willing to be industrious and incorruptible, as exemplified by Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore.
Even with a limited resource endowment, such leadership, if it allows the rule of law to prevail, sustain a free market economy, facilitates foreign direct investments and operates a system based on meritocracy, can unleash the productive capacity of a nation.
Nigeria certainly needs peace, not killings and self-serving politicians, but incorruptible leaders with great vision.
Nothing less will rouse Nigeria from its slumber and make it live up to the expectation of being the giant of Africa in the 21st century.
In the run-up to the 2019 General Elections, what should pre-occupy the minds of Nigerian politicians, therefore, is how to conceive and promote a new vision, a paradigm shift from the current ways of conducting business; a vision that will create, promote and advance the spirit and substance of the technological age of the 21st century that catapulted Singapore, Korea, China and Malaysia to emerging industrial economies.
The country’s leadership should not wait till elections are lost or won before drawing up an appropriate development plan.
Lessons should be learnt from the long delay by the federal government in coming up with its Economic Recovery and Growth Plan, 2017-2020, which should have been launched immediately after the government assumed power for a four-year term ending in 2019.
So far, the public has not felt its impact, and there is no assurance of its continuity if the mantle of leadership falls on a different political party in 2019.
By now, it is expected that the major political parties that hope to form a new government, including the ruling party, should have in place an economic think-tank/ expert group to draw up an appropriate national development plan that would lift Nigeria out of the league of the world’s poorest countries.
Such development plan should contain measurable set objectives or goals with benchmarks that will indicate progress in plan implementation, and should have built-in mechanisms for monitoring and evaluation.
All in all their vision should encapsulate the will, determination and commitment to actualize strategic goals of the 21st century technological advancement, which will usher in diversification of the economy, creation of wealth and equitable distribution of that wealth, eradication of poverty and corruption, attainment of socio-political justice, and enduring peace and prosperity.
Dr Lewu is a former Nigerian Ambassador to Brazil, Paraguay and Bolivia