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Youth rage and the Nigerian state – part 2



A nation plans to succeed. It maps out the path of its ambition in its detailed national development plan – social, economic and political. The plan is its road map. It spells out the development goals of the nation over a given period – five, ten or 15 years –and details what the nation needs to do to achieve something within that given period.

There is no magic in this. It is a set of challenges that must be tackled to move the nation forward in its process of development, no matter how slow it might be. More importantly, it is the product of hard-headed thinking cast on the marble of intellectualism. The importance of the national development plan is that it is about the nation’s tomorrow. And this being so, it is primarily about the leaders of tomorrow, the young men and women on whom the mantle of leadership must necessarily fall – whether we, the old codgers, like it or not.

Young people need to know what the future holds for them. They are not supposed to discern this from the scattered promises of politicians but from an articulated road map that makes the future something they should look forward to with hope and confidence. Our country has had a surfeit of national development plans or development strategies since independence in 1960. Between 1962 and 1981, we had four national development plans. Our first national development plan was issued two years after independence in 1962. Eight years later we had the second national development plan, 1970 – 74; the third national development plan ran from 1975 to 1980; and the fourth national development plan from 1981 to 1985.

As is often the case with our country, the strategy for national development, the primary purpose of an articulated national development plan, soon became a matter of experiments and experimentation. We abandoned development strategies in search of a development formula. The first of these experiments, also called perspective planning by economists, was the introduction of the three-year rolling plan in 1990, repeated in 1998. The second major experiment was Vision 20-10, later rechristened Vision 20-20. You would think poor vision was our national affliction. The third was the National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy, famously known by its acronym, NEEDS. It went all the way down to the state and local government levels with the respective acronyms of SEEDS and LEEDS.

Perhaps, the best known of these national development plans was the second national development plan, 1970-74. And that, for two good reasons. Firstly, it was our first indigenous national development plan drawn up by Nigerians for Nigeria. The authors were our first eleven British-trained technocrats, who appreciated the problems of our country and offered informed perspectives on how best to approach or solve them in the context of the meaning of our national independence. Secondly, the plan was ambitious and comprehensive. It did not raise false hopes in a quick fix. It challenged Nigerians to take the destiny of their nation in their hands in all areas of human endeavour – in broad terms, social, political and economic.

Its philosophy reflected our national development ambition and rested on four pillars, namely, a strong and self-reliant nation; a just and egalitarian society; a land of bright and full opportunities for all citizens and a free and democratic society.

To be sure, this lucid expression of hope did not constitute a development strategy as such. But it was important for the plan authors to underline the results they hoped the plan would achieve at the end of the day. Imagine what our country would be today if its objectives had been achieved.

At least two fundamental points can be made about these national development plans and development formulae. Firstly, their collective primary objective was to help lift our country from the bottom of the pack as an under-developed nation into a developed one, given its enormous natural and human resources. Each was intended to address those problems that hobbled us and free the country from them.

NEEDS, for instance, had the primary objective of wealth creation. Its most well-known ambition was to either eradicate poverty or, at least, reduce it. But the good money thrown at the bad problem neither eradicated poverty nor reduced it. Nigeria post NEEDS, SEEDS and LEEDS is clearly poorer than pre-the policy hailed by its authors and implementers as the father of all development strategies.

Secondly, each raised our hope in the country for a better, if not a glorious, tomorrow. I do not think we have realised the hope. Our aspiration still remains mired in one step-forward-two-steps-backward. And that is the wahala.

It leads us to raise the logical question: with at least six formidable national development plans and formulae, why is the country still playing catch up with the Asian tigers, none of which can boast of the degree of our mineral and agricultural resources?

I do not raise the question because I pretend to have the answer. But I believe we can all see that we have to pay a high price for our inability to make these development plans meet our national aspirations and turn the nation into a strong and self-reliant nation; a just and egalitarian society; a land of bright and full opportunities for all citizens and a free and democratic society.

Some cogent reasons could be adduced for this. The first is the corruption of the system. Here I do not talk of financial corruption but rather the corruption of the system that tends to blind us to what is best for our country. The second is the mortality rate of our national policies and programmes. Each Nigerian leader believes his true legacy rides on his cynically ditching the policy or programme enunciated and pursued by his predecessor in office.

We are marching forward in disarray, development-wise. Our current development efforts are disarticulated. There are no linkages in our sectorial development. Education, the pivot of modern development, is in such a sorry state that it cannot drive, as indeed it should, our national developmental ambition. The managers of our national economy are trying to do the impossible with isolated sectorial development in the absurd hope that the nation could emerge from these disarticulated plans to rub shoulders with the celebrated Asian tigers.

The real price we pay is that we are unable to give our young men and women real hope in their own future and the future of our country. In the circumstances, youth rage is inevitable. When the opportunities are circumscribed by promises unfulfilled; when hope in a better or greater tomorrow withers on the bough of me-first leadership at critical levels; when the young man who tries to make a sense of his place in his own country butts his head against the granite of societal insouciance and when the state tends to look on askance while the people are lied to and exploited, you need not ask why it pours when it should only be raining.

I dare say no more.


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