By Dr. Umar Ardo [phd]
As a public policy concept, the Goodluck Jonathan’s Transformation Agenda, hopes to attain the objectives of the Vision 20:2020 of the Yar’adua/Goodluck administration. Its central aim is to transform Nigeria into a developed nation to the position of being at least the 20th Economy in the world by the year 2020. Given the fact that the current (and in the reasonably foreseeable future) global economic order is dominantly capitalist; it presupposes that the Goodluck’s Transformation Agenda for Nigeria will be realized within the ‘natural’ laws of Capitalist Economic Growth.
For any country to prosper within this system, more in terms of goods and services must leave its shores than comes in; and more in terms of money and infrastructure being put into the country than being put out. That is what all players in the global scene will be competing against each other to attain. In such a competition, success is achieved through the quality of goods produced and efficiency of service rendered. The question one may rationally ask is this – “Is Nigeria, or better still the Goodluck regime, capable of enunciating the requisite policies and creating the essential skills and conditions to transform Nigeria’s competitive drive to the level of attaining a 20th position in the operating World Economic Order within the next 8 years”?
Before we get to answer this question let us quickly define what this really entails. This means, technically, opening the doors of the Nigerian Market to the world and Nigeria gaining access to the world market. This means one thing – competitiveness! – i.e., Nigeria competing with the rest of the world in the delivery of goods and services to Mankind.
First, it means that Nigeria must be able to open its domestic market to the influx of foreign goods and services with local Nigerian companies favourably withstanding the onslaught (i.e. competing favourably against the foreign companies).
Second, it means that there will be at least 20 Nigerian companies competing favourably in the delivery of quality goods and efficient services with the FIRST 20 ECONOMIES IN THE WORLD. It means having, for example, Nigerian Metallurgical Companies, Nigerian Pharmaceutical Companies, Nigerian Construction Companies, Nigerian Oil and Gas Companies, Nigerian Banking Companies, Nigerian Insurance Companies, Nigerian Auto Mobile Companies, Nigerian Shipping Lines, Nigerian Air Lines, Nigerian Tourists Companies, Nigerian Consulting Firms, Nigerian Communication Companies, Nigerian Agricultural Companies, Nigerian Textile Industries, and such other similar corporations (20 of them) investing and competing favourably in their businesses in USA, China, Japan, Germany, California, Britain, France, Canada, India, Brazil, Sweden, Russia, Australia, New York State, Holland, Denmark, Ireland, South Korea, Taiwan, Czech Republic, Spain, Italy, Belgium, South Africa, Singapore, Malaysia, Israel, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, etc. Such Nigerian companies must be able to get onto the soils of these countries and compete favourably there (breaking even; or simply put, making profit).
Third, virtually the entire global economic process is knowledge-driven (i.e. the application of Arts, science and technology). Thus, for Nigeria to achieve first and second above, the country must have to make a major break-through in science and technology, administrative and organizational skills, and indigenizing same for the profitable use of the Nigerian entrepreneurs on the domestic and global markets.
Fourth, like a chain connecting every aspect with the other, these policies and processes must be conceived and implemented via a sincere and purposeful leadership produced by an honest and conscientious political class through a free, fair and just democratic process, and passionately supported by an enlightened and politically conscious citizenry.
These four elements must have to be attained to bring about such monumental changes for Nigeria to surpass others and emerge among the first 20 Economies of the world.
With this in mind, we can now go back and attempt to answer the question earlier posed – i.e. “Is Nigeria, or better still the Goodluck regime, capable of articulating the requisite policies and creating the essential skills and conditions to enhance Nigeria’s competitive drive to the level of attaining a 20th position in the operating World Economic Order within the next 8 years”?
Taking the two extremes first; while the pessimists would say, “impossible”, the optimists would say “yes, Nigeria and the Goodluck regime can”. To be blunt, I belong to the former group; let the latter group ( if there are, come out and argue their case convincingly); on my part, and without any apology to anyone, I will argue for where I stand.
For the pessimists, we will be looking at the necessary 4th element as the basis for answering the question in the negative; that is, the current Nigerian political class and society and the Goodluck regime do not possess the basic qualifications for attaining this feat to transform the country. In the first place, the Goodluck regime is not produced by an honest and conscientious political class through a free, fair and just democratic process, and is clearly not passionately supported by an enlightened and politically conscious citizenry. As is obvious to all, the Nigeria of Goodluck regime long lost cherished traditional values of upholding truth and honesty, of hard work, respect for elders, and of being each other’s brothers’ keepers. Ethics had similarly crashed, as the issues of rightness and wrongness of both leaders’ and people’s conducts and national ideals have become distorted.
Within this metamorphosis, politics also altered its cause, occasioned by lack of good governance, dishonesty and corruption within the leadership. New political classes and power blocs have correspondingly emerged with little or no regard for moral principles and ethical values. Some may claim, albeit rightly, that the current Nigeria’s political class that is supposed to drive the process is congenially dishonest, incurably crooked and therefore incapable of doing anything right. Consequently, leaders’ and people’s attitude and conducts are being conditioned less by ethics than by self-interest, and what is morally wrong has today paradoxically become politically right. Politicians steal elections even before the ballots are cast, and today, in spite of what the leaders say, peoples’ votes don’t count. What all these mean is that the Nigerian national psyche has been crooked. Can the product of such a system achieve such a feat? The pessimists doubt it!
Let us also see it from the viewpoint of the huge capital, technological, organizational and ethical outlays involved, and which Nigeria also currently lacks and does not seem ready and able to attain.
Besides, economic and social developments take place only in an atmosphere of peace and political stability. Both are lacking in Nigeria today, and there does not seem to be a clear foreseeable plan and will on the part of the government and the ruling Party to bringing them about. If the government is thinking that a continuous and consistent public propaganda on the Transformation Agenda of the government will bring about the needed peace and stability, then the government is putting the cart before the horse; it is only when there is peace and political stability that the Transformation Agenda, whatever it means, can be implemented, the above 4 critical elements can be attained and the objective of the regime may be realized.
Without these key elements then, the pessimist would reason, how could the country make it?
Secondly, as a pessimist, I will not fail to also look at the reality on the ground as well. If the pace of comparative economic growth and infrastructural development of Nigeria in the past is anything to go by, then I will be more entrenched in my position. In the past, it would seem that Nigerians saw all kinds of economic and ethical policies and visions aimed at putting their country on a respectful footing as a real economic and regional power in the world – the National Development Plans, the Indigenization Policies, Industrialization Plans, Transfer of Technology Policies, Operation Feed the Nation, Austerity Measures, Ethical Revolution, WAI, Commercialization and Privatization Policies, SAP, MAMSER, Vision 2010, MDG, EFCC, ICPC, NEEDS, Vision 20:2020 and now the Transformation Agenda. We also heard of huge capital outlays for the establishment and provision of national railway lines, shipping lines, power supply, Inland Waterways, Road networks, refineries, Iron and Steel Industries, educational and health schemes, etc.
But the more we talk on industrialization the less industrial we become; the more we try to indigenize our businesses, the more foreign companies take firm hold of our local markets; we started importing more food than before the days of Operation Feed the Nation; we started spending more in public service than before the days of Austerity Measures; ethics and moral decadence have taken hold of our national life more than before the institution of the policy of Ethical Revolution; we are more indiscipline now than before the days of WAI; we are a thousand times more corrupt today than before the days of EFCC and ICPC. In effect, therefore, our policy formulation and implementation have woefully failed us – the more we enunciate them the more we achieve their exact opposite. What a paradox! Today, in spite of these policies, Nigeria is still a non-industrialized nation, the country can still not feed its populace and is a huge food importer, its domestic market is still dominated by foreigners, its technology still rudimentary, the country is the second or third most corrupt nation in the world (whatever the right index is), the country is still yearning for dear foreign investment and not investing abroad, and the poverty rate of Nigeria is at 76% height.
In addition, today Nigeria has no national Air Carrier, no national Shipping line, no functional railway line, no power supply, no functional refineries, no Iron and Steel Industries, no good road network and no Inland Waterways. All of these have been attempted by past governments with colossal amounts of billions of dollars expended. Also, we were not so long ago told of the huge debt relief the government secured for the country. That if we pay the sum of N12 billion dollars to our foreign creditors we shall be relieved of the chucking debt burden and shall save the monies from debt servicing for developing our economy. We paid the colossal amount alright, which represents the largest amount of money ever paid by a developing country to the developed countries in the history of Mankind, yet we are still trapped in the vicious debt cycle – the promises of economic boom after payment turned out to be a ruse. To all intents and purposes, it would seem that virtually all of our policies are today monumental failures. Hence, over half a century since independence, Nigeria is still stagnantly underdeveloped, with all the attendant traits – illiteracy and ignorance, poverty and deprivation, famine and starvation, epidemics and health crises, child mortality and low life expectancy, corruption and dishonesty in public service, weak institutions and bad leadership, decaying infrastructure and moral decadence, crime and violence, civil unrest and genocide, electoral fraud, or simply outright threat of state failure.
As I earlier said, it would seem virtually none of those policies achieved the objectives for which they were formulated. How then could the objective of the Transformation Agenda be attained? Besides, the Goodluck regime has not even attempted to give us a clue as to how it will drive the agenda. I need to be convinced. Where are our optimists, please let them come forth with their argument and convince the pessimists. We still have 8 years to go. Does President Goodluck Jonathan still believe in the Vision 20:2020 policy and is willing to pursue it or does he have something else better and more realistic to give Nigeria in his Transformation Agenda? Mr. President, Nigerians are waiting not to hear from you, because to talk is cheap, but to see what you can achieve. We are still awaiting the fresh air you promised us; it has not yet started blowing across the country.
Yet, with our rich aptitudes and talents of large populations, huge physical energy reserve, and abundant untapped natural resources, Nigeria can seize the positives of good governance to overcome its challenges and attain rapid material development. This can be achieved by getting these talents expressed, the energy released and those resources harnessed. I believe this to be the key solution to Nigeria’s development problem in the new global reality. This calls for creative alternative public policy perspectives and strategies. Plainly, in my view, it is the lack of clear understanding of the issues confronting us as a people over the years by our policy makers (either by default or design), itself therefore leading to poor policy choices and implementations, that inevitably led to Nigeria’s developmental failures.
Dr. Ardo Writes this Article from Abuja