Saturday, October 10, 2015

What is the Nigerian Dream? (Thoughts on the Importance of a National Vision)

You may have heard of the American Dream. It has powered the aspirations of Americans for generations and fueled America’s rise to world-dominance. It unites Americans in the belief that they can achieve prosperity through hard work, regardless of social class or other limitation. Experts now argue about growing inability to achieve the Dream, but still agree it unites Americans in a shared vision of abundant possibilities.

Shared visions have repeatedly demonstrated their ability to unite people and drive countries to greatness. Neil Armstrong walked the moon in 1969 - only eight years after JFK first sold the goal to Americans. Singapore transformed rapidly under Lee Kuan Yew’s visionary leadership. My Vision, a book chronicling Dubai’s transformation from fishing settlement to foremost tourist destination, has inspired many young Nigerians.

Why then is Nigeria yet to unite behind a common goal for sustainable development and economic growth?
“We have all the attributes of a great nation. We are not there yet because the one commodity we have been unable to exploit to the fullest is unity of purpose. This would have enabled us to achieve not only more orderly political evolution and integration but also continuity and economic progress.” - President Muhammadu Buhari, October 1 2015. 
The President could not be righter on this one: Nigeria has not fully exploited unity of purpose! If anything, the political class has sought to divide us even more for selfish reasons. There are few things that unite Nigerians across social divides, and these things tend to be fleeting - like the Super Eagles contesting in an international tournament.

What then do we need to do?

First – the APC government must craft an engaging vision for the future of Nigeria. It is not enough to state, “By 2020 Nigeria will be one of the 20 largest economies in the world”. What does this mean for the child on the streets? We must address more fundamental questions. What kind of nation do we want to be? What do we believe in? What do we want to achieve?

Second – the government must sell the vision to Nigerians. The seven point agenda and Vision 2020 were never truly national visions. We did not ‘own’ them. They were never ‘our’ goals; they were always ‘their’ goals. Buy-in is important. If citizens don’t take ownership of the vision, its execution will suffer. It is about time the government unleashes the capacity of the people to do business and create wealth!

Third – the government must build functional and independent institutions. This will ensure continuity. Key agencies like the NNPC, EFCC, Nigeria Customs Service, INEC and so on – should follow process and perform their functions with quality – regardless of who is President or which party is in power.  Nigerians should not have to worry that a new administration will derail actualization of the national vision.

We’re four months gone, and there’s no visible economic policy or national vision. However, Buhari's Independence Day address indicates he is aware that we suffer from lack of a common purpose, so we look forward to seeing things move faster on this front in coming months. Four years is not as much time as it sounds. The Buhari-led government must get to work quickly, or Nigerians will be baying for blood at the next elections.

PS: Go here to read Dele Olojede's Ten Big Ideas: An Ambitious Agenda for Nigeria's new Leaders.

1 comment:

  1. Great thoughts Brother. I strongly agree with ALL the above. I just look forward to a country where everything works, honestly.