Monday, 13 January 2014
(87): MINT: Reality or digression?
In mid-July 2008, the late President Umaru Musa ‘Yaradua went to London on an official visit. Just about a year after he took office, but still battling to improve the image of his government because of the unprecedented rigging that took place in the 2007 elections.
While many Nigerians were still angry with the outcome of the election which some analysts described as the worst in the history of elections anywhere in the world. Others were willing to give him the benefit of doubt because of the humility he exhibited in his inaugural address, by acknowledging that the election that brought him to power was imperfect. A diplomatic way of saying that the election was “rigged”, and he promised to do something about it.
The late President never lived to see his promise come to fruition, but at the time he took some steps to address the situation by constituting the Uwais committee on electoral reform, and his non-intervention in the Anambra debacle that showed the way out for Andy Uba, and the reinstatement of Peter Obi of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA). Sorry for the digression, but you know election fever has caught up with Nigeria as 2015 approaches, so it is difficult to avoid talking about elections.
As part of the visit by the late president, a presentation was organized by Chatham House. The event did take place, but not at the headquarters of Chatham House, instead it was hosted at the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), a building that at the time was undergoing renovation. I could hear Nigerians murmuring that our president was hosted in a building under renovation with the DANGER sign clearly written at the entrance. Sorry this is another digression, but sometimes you need to digress in order to make a point.
You know journalists are not popular with politicians especially if they ask the uncomfortable questions. So the journalists were given the back seats at the (RIBA) hall. Let me digress again with a short story. One day my wife was on her way to Nigeria, as she sat at the lounge waiting for the connecting flight at Amsterdam Airport, the person sitting next was a onetime Chairman of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), so he picked my little daughter as elderly people do with children, but on discovering that the father of this little baby is a journalist, he quickly dropped her, changed his sit and left without saying goodbye. Another digression.
Back to late Malam Umaru Musa ‘Yaradua. As the President walked into the hall and took his sit, he delivered a nice speech about the effort of his government. I think his speech writers did a good job, though they could have done better on his proposed development agenda. It was clear to many that ‘Yaradua understands where he was going, but there was doubt whether the cabinet he selected has the capability and the vision to effectively deliver on those elephant promises. The most striking part of the speech to me was when he mentioned that he wants Nigeria to join the league of the 20 Developed/Developing economies (G20) by the year 2020. Very ambitious vision. But the critical question is which of the G20 countries will Nigeria replace?
So it was time for the unpopular guys at the back seat, the journalists, to ask questions. I was hoping the chairman will not give me the same treatment the former PDP chairman gave my little daughter, and so I was lucky to have a chance to ask the president one simple question.
“Mr President, we had so many development plans and visions in the past, and many analysts believe that Vision 2010 drafted during the regime of late General Sani Abacha contains all the plans required for the development of Nigeria, why not implement it instead of starting another vision?”
I don’t think vision 2010 will address our development challenges, said the President. In fact the late General Abacha just brought a collection of people to produce the document. The President politely dismissed the question. Poor me, a bad student history, I should have reminded myself the nature of the relationship between the Abachas and ‘Yaraduwas before asking that question.
But that is what most administrations do in Nigeria, dismissing what their predecessors initiated. Ask Professor Pat Utomi about his experience when he suggested to Obasanjo to implement Vision 2010 immediately after Obasanjo was elected in 1999. Another digression.
So while we are yet to have a proper development plan which defines the direction of our country, Jim O'Neill, the gentleman who in 2001 coined the term BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) as the next economic power house, has another excellent idea. He has a new terminology called MINT (Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey) as the next global economic powerhouses. I think Jim O’Neill does not follow Nigerian politics very well; otherwise he would have waited until May 29th 2015 before coming up with this new terminology. Watch out, MINT will feature as an achievement during the 2015 electioneering campaign by Nigerian politicians, perhaps he might even be invited to Nigeria to deliver a lecture about the MINT miracle.
There is no doubt that Nigeria has the potential to be an economic powerhouse, and we hope it does become one. But is this prediction in tune with reality when Nigeria is compared with Mexico, Indonesia and Turkey, or is it an elusive confidence that is hanging on the balance, which may or may not be realized? Let’s have a debate before I digress again.