Op ed

Vision 2020 and Seven-Point Agenda: Any connection?

I CONSIDER it appropriate at this juncture to take a closer look at the two key buzzwords that have in recent times been ingrained in the polity in order to ascertain whether or not there is any connection between the two. The link or otherwise between the two would give insight into whether or not the Yar’Adua administration would be able to achieve these grand agendas. The two fashionable catchphrases are “Vision 2020” on one hand and the “Seven-Point Agenda” on the other hand.

Is the Seven-Point Agenda a vehicle for achieving Vision 2020? Or, is the Vision 2020 the target of the Seven-Point Agenda? Are the two altogether different ballgames? What is their relationship?

Except these issues are analysed properly and the link clearly established with the modus operandi, I’m afraid nothing is going to be achieved at the end. We shall most likely be refraining on these buzzwords in speeches by government officials and at the end they will fizzle out without anything to show. We have in the past had similar slogans that achieved nothing but left the citizenry in worse off condition. The question is whether or not President Yar’Adua could turn the sod for a new beginning. The past is gone and gone forever.

The Vision 2020 began to gain acclaim since May 29, 2007; the day President Yar’Adua made his inaugural speech in Abuja. A vision in this context is “an image or concept in the imagination” of the President. It is not reality but something that could guide decisions and actions to make it happen. On this note, Vision 2020 is a grand concept, which the Yar’Adua administration has adopted. Its goal is to make Nigeria one of the 20 most developed economies in the world by the year 2020.

There can hardly be any Nigerian who would not cherish a country transformed dramatically from the present undignified level of mass poverty and underdevelopment to a haven of peace, progress and good living. There is nothing wrong in having such a vision. Corporate organizations have their visions, which they pursue in all their dealings. Individuals and nations alike do have vision. It is stated biblically that a people without vision perish.

The former president Olusegun Obasanjo first muted this idea based on foreign expert permutations on Nigeria’s economic prospects to the year 2020. The permutation is based on assessment of the abundant human and material resources available to the country. The projection is that if these resources were properly managed and channeled to set economic goals, Nigeria has the potential to become a great economic power by the year 2020. But this projection is not a gospel truth. It is conditional. It is the circumstances in the country during the period that would make this goal realizable or not. It was not made as a singsong or a goal that would come to the country by magic or mere refraining it.

Incidentally, President Yar’Adua mentioned the phrase in passing during his inaugural speech in reference to former President Obasanjo’s achievements. Vision 2020 was not presented as a blueprint on which government actions would be based. It is important to underscore this point. Hear what the President said, “Many of us may find it hard to believe now, but before you assumed the presidency eight years ago, the national conversation was about whether Nigeria deserved to remain one country at all. Today we are talking about Nigeria’s potential, to become one of the 20 largest economies in the world by the year 2020. That is a measure of how far we have come”.

The President was obviously making a passing reference to Obasanjo’s idea of Vision 2020 just the way most government officials now hinge their speeches on the Vision. This explains why there is no document on Vision 2020. But that does not mean that one cannot be developed. It is the way the Nigerian public have carried the Vision that have implicitly heaped a huge responsibility on the Yar’Adua administration, which on its part has embraced it. My concern is how to make the idea work for the good of the country irrespective of how it came about.

The next issue is the 7-Point Agenda, which is a bit different from the Vision 2020 in the sense that President Yar’Adua and his ruling PDP made campaign promises to the electorate prior to his becoming president. These campaign promises are what the president implied in the 7-Point Agenda during his inauguration.

On his inauguration day, President Yar’Adua said, “Our goal now is to build the greatest accomplishments of the past few years. Relying on the 7-point agenda that formed the basis of our contact with voters during the recent campaigns, we will concentrate on rebuilding our physical infrastructure and human capital in order to take our country forward. We will focus on accelerating economic and other reforms in a way that makes a concrete and visible difference to ordinary people”.

Like the Vision 2020, the now acclaimed 7-Point Agenda was not presented as a development blueprint. President Yar’Adua had made promises like the other presidential candidates in the other parties. Having been declared winner of the elections and was being inaugurated, he made mention of his promises and reiterated his resolve to fulfill them to honour the people that elected him.

Ideally, the promises the President made ought to have been part of the development agenda of the PDP, which is the ruling party. I don’t think that the President was presenting a completely different agenda from what his party already has. That, again, explains why there is no working document or development blueprint on the 7-Point Agenda.

Based on the foregoing, Vision 2020 and the 7-Point Agenda should be married together. There should be a connection between the two. The Vision should serve as the target of the 7-Point Agenda. In this way, the two would form a coherent whole on which the administration’s decisions and actions could be based. It is foolhardy biting what we cannot chew.

Developments since the Yar’Adua administration was inaugurated seem to confuse Vision 2020 and the 7-Point Agenda. This is because there is more emphasis on the Vision than on the Agenda. It is good to clarify that the Vision is the target while the Agenda is the substance for achieving the target. The Agenda is where the decisions and actions for achieving the Vision lie.

A recent advert in The Punch of Tuesday, May 20, 2008, pg. 21, from the Presidency committed this blunder. The advert titled, “Nigeria Vision 2020”, was inviting proposals from experts and professionals “To support the Nigeria Vision 2020”. A national steering committee on Vision 2020 was earlier constituted. There is no mention of the 7-Point Agenda in the advert even though the thematic areas covered what is entailed in the Agenda.

It is clear from the advert that the 7-Point Agenda has been subsumed under the Vision 2020. It gives the impression that Vision 2020 is the main thing. If the Vision has become everything, where does the Agenda fit in the gamut? There is need to clarify where the Agenda fits in the programme. Can the Vision be a plan unto itself? The Yar’Adua administration cannot achieve Vision 2020 within four years but it can bring some fundamental changes in the life of the people and the economy. This is what the people want from the President.

The Vision is a long-term project but the 7-Point Agenda is there to address basic immediate development need afflicting the nation. President Yar’Adua promised to address these issues within his four years in office. But by emphasizing the Vision more than the Agenda is like putting the cart before the horse and there can be no movement in that arrangement. Vision is vision whether it is made by an individual, corporate body or a nation. The Agenda should be the plan of action.

Finally, the need to develop every nook and corner of the country is the underlying cause of political agitations. There is much disparity in development across the federation and this is why there are agitations for more states and local government councils. Development does not entail indiscriminate sitting of industries, hospitals, roads and bridges. This may be an integral part of it. Planning is the key to effective and integrated development. For this to take place, there must be a planning unit or framework.

What is the framework for the 7-Point Agenda-Vision 2020? Is the planning/implementation going to be based on the states or local governments? There must be such framework. You can’t plan for Nigeria as a whole but you can bring together the plans of the composite units to make a national plan. If the Agenda-Vision would work, every state and local government area must have a plan on which to implement it. Failure to do this, the whole idea would go the way of its predecessors.

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