interviewBy Idris Ahmed
By January 2010, about four weeks from now, Nigerians will start feeling the impacts of the Vision 20:2020, the Chairman of the Business Support Group of the Vision, Alhaji Umuru Mutallab, CON, said in this interview. Vision 20:2020 sought to accelerate the pace of the country's growth & development and make it among the world's twentieth economies by the year 2020. Mutallab said for the Vision to succeed, the civil service must be carried along. He spoke on many other issues.
We have been hearing about Vision 20: 2020, can you tell Nigerians what exactly this Vision is? Is it realizable?
Vision 202020 is all about positioning the country to attain certain objectives between now and the year 2020.
It started during the tenure of former President Olusegun Obasanjo following the projections of Goldman Sachs which realises that countries like Brazil, Rusia, India and China have achieved phenomenal growth and said further that there are other sets of countries which if they put their acts together by the year 2025 would be among the top 20 economy of the world. Nigeria was among these countries.
The original target was supposed to be 2025, but by the wisdom of former President Obasanjo, he felt that given the enormous potential of the country, Nigeria should be able to attain the position by year 2020 hence, Nigeria Vision 20: 2020. So when the new President Umuru Musa Yar Adua assumed office, he set up structures under the able leadership of the Honourable Minister for National Planning Commission, Shamsuddeen Usman and charged him with the responsibility of crafting for Nigeria a well articulated Economic Transformation Blueprint. The product of which was recently approved by the Federal Executive Council.
You talked about structures, what are they?
These are institutional framework set up to oversee the development of the NV20: 2020 Economic Transformation Blueprint. There is the National Council for Vision 2020 which is chaired by the President himself with the Vice President, the Hon, Minister for National Planning Commission and others as members. The next is the National Steering Committee which is chaired by the Hon. Minister for National Planning of which I'm also a member. The Project Steering Committee, the National Technical Working Group consisting of 29 thematic areas covering Health, Education, Energy & Power, Corporate Governance, Rule of Law etc. The membership of the NTWGs was made up well meaning Nigerians who are experts in their various fields from both the public and the private sector. There is also, the NV20:2020 Business Support Group which I Chair, the MDAs, State Governments, Special Interest Groups made up of the youths, women, people with disabilities as well as Nigerians in the Diaspora.
Can you elaborate more on the Business Support Group?
The Business Support Group is an initiative of the National Steering Committee which as I said earlier, is chaired by the Honourable Minister for National Planning Commission, Shamsuddeen Usman. The BSG was inaugurated by the President in February 2009 and is purely a private sector arm of the NV2020 consisting of all the different Chief Executives in the various sectors of the economy. The BSG is mandated to provide technical support, publicise the vision, mobilise resources, and engender buy-in and acceptance by all Nigerians. Soon after the inaugurations, the Minister for National Planning set up the National Technical Working Groups which also consist of members from the Business Support Group, public sector, specialised groups and professionals. The BSG worked closely with the project steering committee, the co-ordinating consultant, Accenture, and all other concern groups to put together an all inclusive document that we can proudly call a Nigerian path to greatness.
Having said that, do you think that this Vision is realistic?
Of course it is possible provided we can get our acts together. And already, certain short term elements of the NV2020 have been imputed into the 2010 Budget....and so would be in the subsequent budgeting and implementation. The NV2020 should get a legislative endorsement as soon as the entire legal framework is done with.
What do you mean provided we can get our acts together?
When we visited the technical working groups during their work secession all of them were talking about implementation as a key factor to the realisation of the vision. The country as you are aware, has produced beautiful reports and recommendations on almost everything you can think of, implementation has always been the real issue. If we can implement all of the things we have done before, this country will be a paradise on earth. The emphasis therefore, is on implementation. If you look at the final report of the Vision 20: 2020, it articulate clearly, the three prongs of a stronger implementation and monitoring institution, which are, a legal backing to the vision, and adequate sanctions for non-compliance, and above all, the collective goodwill of our people, are all essential factors that would ensure that this vision is translated into reality for all Nigerians. The recent inauguration of the implementation committee also goes to show the seriousness of government. So, I believe it is realistic and do-able. Although, we have only ten years to go, a lot of things can happen in ten years. Take for example, where our telecommunication was six years ago. Overall, to borrow from the Honourable Minister, I believe that when committed people take action, positive change is more than possible and followership becomes all inclusive for our collective benefit and growth...and this is certain.
To what extent did Vision20:2020 borrow ideas from Vision 2010?
A lot, the Vision2010 document was one of the baseline information provided by the coordinating consultants to all the thematic groups. There were also documents like NEEDS I and NEEDS II, The President's Seven-point agenda and the FSS 2020 report while also noting current global trends and global economic competition. They were all used as input into the Vision20: 2020 Economic Transformation Blueprint.
In clear terms can you tell us the real changes Nigerians should expect? Should we wait for the year 2020 before we start enjoying? What are the short and medium term benefits of the whole Vision?
The broad philosophical idea underlining the essence of the vision 20: 2020 is targeted at fostering sustainable social and economic development that will ensure the well being of all Nigerians- the key drivers being visionary leadership, sound macroeconomic environment, efficient institution, security and justice, adequate infrastructure, capacity utilisation etc. So to answer your question, Nigerians don't have to wait till the year 2020 to begin to feel the impact of change. If you refer to the document again, you will see that we have identified immediate areas of policy focus which include issues of rectifying the weaknesses of revenue allocation mechanism towards achieving a paradigm shift from " sharing the Cake to baking the cake", intensifying the war on corruption, expand investment in critical infrastructure, fostering private sector non-oil growth to build the foundation for economic diversification, investing in human capacity development to enhance national competiveness, entrenchment of merit as a fundamental principle and core values, addressing subsisting threats to national security and deepening reforms in the social sector and extending reforms to sub-national levels. The whole process has started already, but it will start aggressively by January 2010. Overall, I believe Nigerians will begin to feel the impact soon. In short, what is required now is the collective support of all Nigerians especially you, the media.
The first term of President is almost up and you mentioned that the Seven-Point agenda is part of the programme for the Vision 2020. We have not seen much in terms of power, infrastructure, security and the economy is almost coming to a halt. How do you intend to tackle this? And again when you said the implementation of the Vision start by January what exactly do you mean?
All these things will be incorporated in the normal annual budget of federal, state and local governments. Issues of education, power, agriculture, health and the rest will be addressed in the annual budget. As we go along all these issues will be looked at and addressed appropriately. The seven-point agenda you are talking about is part of the information that was used to draw- up projections like what kind of health programme is needed for Nigeria, what will be the GDP of the country be by 20: 2020 if we are to make it into the league of twentieth largest economy of the world, and what will be the required life span of Nigerians by then. All these are contain in the 20:2020 report that will soon be launched by the President....so most of the NV2020 components and statistics would be at the public domain after the formal launch.
How are you going to tackle the political maturity of the National Assembly to accelerate the whole process?
You raised an important question. Maturity they say comes with age and experience. Ours is a young democracy and I believe with time things will take the appropriate shape but they are also adapting very quickly to their roles and responsibilities as distinguished members. The Nigeria Vision 2020 had few of them as members at various levels of formulating these document and periodically up-dated the house on developments. We have their support and understanding and when its time to be counted, they'll surely make the numbers. Another thing that I keep emphasising on also is the civil service reform which is critical to the implementation of the programme and recent developments attest to that. We hope that as we go along with the reforms, things will turn out well. I am sure in the next five years things will not be the same. It has to be better, it will be better for all Nigerians and we have all stakeholders support.
Can you give us time frame so that Nigerians can be able to say that from so and so period when the Vision started we are able to achieve certain things?
The time frame is year 2020. Targets have been set for all the identified areas of growth and development and like I said earlier, Nigerians don't have to wait to the target date to begin to feel the impact. However, we all have a role to play to ensure the realisation of this noble objective. It will take the collective will of all Nigerians including you the media to make it happen. The vision is a Nigerian vision. The media, the farmers, the carpenters, academia, private sector, everybody and everyone has a role to play.
What is your experience of heading the NV20:2020 Business Support Group?
Personally, it has been a fulfilling and challenging experience to which I feel deeply honoured. I was also privileged to have an active secretariat made up of vibrant, dedicated and hard working young men seconded from the private sector by the various organisations; Oceanic Bank, First Bank, Fidelity Bank. My gratitude goes to these organisations and all those who have supported us financially and otherwise. I would also commend the Minister of National Planning Dr. Usman Shamsudeen for the drive and passion he has exhibited in the formation and implementation of the NV2020 policy document. I would also thank His Excellency, Mr. President, the Vice President and members of the cabinet, State and local governments, the private sector for their enthusiasm, support, commitment and sacrifice in ensuring that an economic transformation blueprint is put in place for the further development and growth of our father land. The Nigeria Vision 2020 is a noble cause and by the Special Grace of the Almighty Allah...all would come to light. The Political will is there, the resources (human and natural) abound and the people too are more than willing...so let us come out of shell; as a people, a country and believe. We can do it. Nigerian 2020 is possible. Thank you