Ex-President Muhammadu Buhari in May 2023 launched a long-term national development plan as one of the quick takes toward his exit from power. The Nigeria Agenda 2050 (NA 2050) was expected to ensure that the country achieves a per capita GDP of US$33.328 per annum. This expectedly, according to the government, will place the country among the middle-income economies in the world at the end of 2050. It has the futuristic agenda of Vision 20: 2020 which was intended to place Nigeria among the 20 most industrialised countries in the world. The initiator of vision, President Umaru Yar’Adua, expected Nigeria to be part of G20 in 2020 when finally concluded and implemented. Of course, it remained a vision today as the Nigerian leaders that succeeded him did not have such a dream.
When launching the Agenda 2050, former President Buhari explained that the plan has the vision of a dynamic, industrialised and knowledge-based economy that would lead to inclusive and sustainable development for the country. Realising that the agenda was coming rather late in his administration, he hoped that successive governments would find the content of the plan useful in the delivery of electoral promises.
The need for guided development through a national plan had been advocated even before the Buhari government came to power given the high level of economic development witnessed in the post-civil war era when a national development plan was the trend. The adage, “He who fails to plan, plans to fail” remains as relevant today as it was yesterday and will be tomorrow. Nigeria has benefitted from national planning in the past as there were ordered development up till 1985 when the last five-year plan was truncated for a two-year Structural Adjustment Programme plan, an initiative of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. In those days, five-year plan was regarded as long-term. Not anymore. A long-term plan today is a minimum of 10 years.
Of course, after the SAP and rolling plans, there were Vision 2010 and Vision 2020 in which the nation invested lots of human and material resources as national plans but which were never implemented as such. Instead, they were supplanted by some ad hoc programmes like National Economic Empowerment Development Strategy; a seven-point agenda and a transformation agenda. Recently, there is the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan which is likely to go as the medium-term framework of the Agenda 2050.
The importance of a national plan cannot be overemphasised particularly for developing economies. Jhingan, an acclaimed development economist, opined that planning remains the only option for meaningful socio-economic and political growth and development. It is not only fashionable but desirable in developing countries where market mechanisms work imperfectly. According to Obadan, a good or standard national development plan should have some fundamental features like comprehensiveness in nature in the sense that roles of public and private sectors are included; the desired economic objectives and targets as well as priorities with costs and benefits are clearly identified, as well as documentation of a full range of projections or forecasts about the behaviour of the economy over the planned period and beyond.
The Millennium Development Goals and its successor the Sustainable Development Goals produced as global development plans under the auspices of the United Nations were designed to encourage the developing countries to prepare national plans for guided development, just as the African Union’s ‘Agenda 2063,’ a 50-year continental development plan also shows the importance of development plans as guide for management of scarce resources to promote development in individual countries.
In preparing the national plans, it was assumed that countries would borrow from the ideas and contents of the global and continental development goals while taking cognisance of individual country’s resources. They were also to help those countries that do not have manpower to prepare national plans to have a guidepost. During the preparation and finalisation of the plans (MDGs, SDGs and Agenda 2063) many countries, global and continental organisations, as well as civil societies were involved. The idea was to make the countries own the plans. It is what is referred to as “planning with the people” rather than “planning for the people.”
The plans were finally discussed and approved at various General Assembly meetings attended by leaderships of all countries involved. The enduring processes involved in the production and monitoring of the implementation of the plans, particularly the MDGs and SDGs, which include peer review, created awareness among enlightened citizens of the world. The issue of inclusive growth or development inclusiveness, where no one is expected to be left behind, is derived from these plans.
Agenda 2050 became a reality after lots of persuasion and efforts. It is believed that the output is homegrown. That is, it was prepared by Nigerians for Nigerians. At a point in the preparation, the government wanted the Bretton Woods twin multilateral institutions (World Bank and IMF) to take charge of the preparation to which the local experts objected and the exercise was stalled for some long period. Eventually, the government has to yield ground and allow local experts and institutions like the Nigerian Institute for Social and Economic Research to prepare the plan. But it is still a plan for the people, not with the people.
The administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s 2004 National Economic Empowerment Development Strategy, a medium-term development plan that focused on Nigeria’s commitment to sustainable growth and poverty reduction went through a log of presentation. It was organised by the government for comments by various segments in the Nigerian public space including organised associations like NACCIMA, Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, Nigerian Economic Society, labour unions et cetera for general recognition and acceptability. It has, as input, the joint staff advisory note from the IMF and the International Development Association, an arm in the World Bank Group. The NEEDS was based on three pillars, namely, empowerment of Nigerians with improving social service delivery; economic growth through the private sector; and enhancement of effectiveness and efficiency of government. It was also meant to devolve to the state and local government levels as SEEDS and LEEDS.
A long-term national plan like Agenda 2050 must be owned by the people but we cannot expect everybody to be involved in drafting such a plan. The launched Agenda 2050 plan can be regarded as a draft until it is widely discussed and passed by the National Assembly. In this connection, the plan requires public discussion starting from the organised local community level, various recognised producer and consumer associations, labour unions, et cetera with each making inputs before it finally gets to the legislation stage for further wide discussion and final authorisation.
In that final stage, it becomes a national aspiration document such that if there is change in political party at the central level, the development goals remain while the route to achieve them may change based on the party ideology or modus operandi. The wide discussion will also assist the government in identifying national areas of priority from the standpoint of public contributions. A development plan that goes through such mills is referred to as “planning with the people” and owned by the people. That is the achievement of inclusive and sustainable development which creates ‘we feeling’ among the populace as the original intention of the plan and will make accomplishment of the macroeconomic objectives of the plan easy.