Last week, I finally laid my eyes on the Transformation Agenda plan of the Goodluck Jonathan government. I thank my Nigerian compatriot who dredged it up for me.
This document is the most important one in the current government. That is why it is frightening that the government has made no effort to publicize it. Why is the constant reference to the propaganda tool if you have faith in the masterplan?
A dream must have a plan, otherwise you might as well sleep on. That is why savvy Nigerians have been asking for the Transformation Plan, if it existed, to be made public. Without it, Mr. Jonathan’s transformation was no more than an election gimmick.
The first major figure in the administration to herald its coming was Mr. Anyim Pius Anyim, the former President of the Senate who is currently the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF).
Mr. Anyim, a Special Guest of the United States ambassador, Mr. Terence McCulley, during his country’s 235th independence anniversary last year, felt compelled to clarify Nigeria’s future.
Sensing sharp darts in the eyes of Mr. McCulley, Mr. Anyim broke into the transformation song, and swore that Nigeria had embraced the idea of good governance. He bragged that when Mr. Jonathan unveiled the Transformation Agenda, it would reveal “major institutional changes” that would plug Nigeria’s corruption loopholes and opportunities for corruption.
Two weeks after that, President Jonathan lambasted Nigeria’s “embarrassing” rating in the Global Corruption Index. Corruption, he said, was “the monster that we need to confront and defeat, in order to raise the country’s integrity profile.”
To that end, he said he had asked the country’s anti-corruption bodies to probe the activities of all Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), beginning in 2007.
Just weeks later, on August 25, 2011, the Coordinating Minister of the Economy/Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, described the government’s economic priorities. The major thrust of the economic agenda, she told the media, was “jobs and pro-jobs growth,” and the Transformation Agenda and the “Vision 20:2020 blueprint” would remain the bedrock of the economic agenda.
Two months later, the Minister of National Planning, Dr. Shamsudeen Usman, made an even more remarkable forecast about the Transformation Agenda, affirming that it would change Nigeria’s ethical nothingness.
“In all societies, if you don’t have control systems that catch and punish those who steal funds, they will continue to steal…These are part of the structural issues that would be addressed by the Transformation Agenda…” he said. “We have to emphasize the rule of law, judicial system and the policing system. When you know that there is 99 percent chances you would be caught when you steal and 100 percent chances that you would go to jail, you won’t steal.”
Note that the SGF and the Ministers each referred to the Transformation Agenda in the future tense. There was no doubt that it was on the way, which is why I thought that it would arrive with considerable affirmation.
But not only has the Transformation Agenda sneaked in under cover of darkness, it contains none of the properties with which Mr. Anyim and Mr. Usman invested it. There is nothing new, let alone extraordinary, in it. There is nothing transformational about it.
If anything, the so-called Transformation Agenda is disturbing, and it is easy to understand why the government has been hiding it: it offers none of the critical war schemes necessary to go to war, let alone to win.
It does not even mention corruption by name, let alone by character. Contrary to the wild advertisements I have just cited, it does not drag corruption into the street for a fight or into a corner for a mugging.
Furthermore, it is partly-based on the so-called V-202020. But we now know that that V is for Voodoo, not Vision. In March this year, the former Governor of the Central Bank, Professor Chukwuma Soludo, who was also a member of the Obasanjo Economic Team along with Minister Okonjo-Iweala, unveiled its emptiness, explaining that it had arisen from a report on the BRIC (Brazil; Russia; India; and China) countries in 2005. The report included Nigeria among the Next11 (N-11) countries, and predicted Nigeria could be among the 20 largest economies in 2025.
“We were reviewing the report with the President one morning and we noted that some of the parameters used by Goldman Sachs such as GDP rate were far less than the actual growth rates for Nigeria as at 2004 and 2005,” Soludo said.
“[At which point], President Obasanjo said, in that case, Nigeria could reach the goal much earlier. At the televised national dialogue between the public and private sector on that day…Obasanjo enunciated the Vision 2020. We all know it is not achievable… it remains a wish list. The numbers simply do not add up. At best, it is a good slogan and an interesting joke.”
Yet the Transformation Agenda is largely based on that joke, that one day of madness and the collusion and connivance of those who perpetuate the fiction that there is substance and quality in it.
That brings me back to the here and now, and to another fiction: the allegation that Nigeria is beset by several problems.
Nigeria has one problem, corruption. It is at the heart of the atrocious governance and incompetence that is dragging Nigeria down.
It is this monster, to borrow from President Jonathan, which explains why even the Transformation Agenda arrived late, unacknowledged, uncelebrated, and it all seems normal.
Of greater concern, it is a thing of shame, but not a surprise, that after the heavy billing given to it at the highest levels of the government, the plan says nothing about how Mr. Jonathan intends to “confront and defeat” the monster he identified.
Double Minister Okonjo-Iweala preached “jobs and pro-jobs growth” knowing that the same monster that ate up the National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS) awaits the “transformation” ruse.
Where are the control systems Minister Usman said would guarantee that when you steal, you are going to jail?
Every Nigerian knows it: what we lack is not a plan. It is a lack of heart. We suffer a dearth of men, a lack of integrity and a lack of passion for our country.
We have never lacked a good plan. Olusegun Obasanjo’s NEEDS was remarkable, on paper. But it failed and was abandoned because we lacked the men and women to implement it. Better still: on account of our lack of the men and women needed to implement NEEDS, the plan collapsed.
The tragedy is that every other plan, including the so-called transformation plan, is destined to suffer the same fate. Regrettably, it is our fate to worship accomplices who masquerade as prophets.
Where are we? Nigeria, under Mr. Jonathan and his Transformation Agenda, has no chance unless the President is ready to lead by example. Since he is deathly afraid of declaring his assets, however, that primary door appears to be closed. The irony is that unless he opens it, everything else, especially his Transformation Agenda, amounts to an empty sermon.
It is an iron law of life that you cannot lead others if you cannot lead yourself. But imagine if Mr. Jonathan had just such a platform and a little bit of courage. He would call people by name and they would answer. He would lift a finger and Nigeria would rise with it. When he breathes in, Nigeria will breath out.
But now, each time he says “Transformation,” all those people in the streets, all the people without water or homes; all the people about to be wiped out by Boko Haram or by unemployment or by kidnappers or by hunger, or by government liars, are going to reply in loud unison: “Transparency!”