Tuesday, July 14, 2009

How Futuristic Are We?

A major problem in the country’s development process seems to be the simple fact that successive policy makers have not been futuristic enough. This lack of foresight, has invariably led to the virtual collapse of the nation’s economic and social infrastructure.
If properly executed, the beauty of this Administration’s Seven-Point Agenda and Vision 2020 would be that we planned to be where we are and worked hard to be there. Nations, like individuals, have dreams, but there must be clear plans to achieve them.
The argument is not far-fetched: If proper cognisance had been taken of population growth and the future demand for electricity, we would perhaps not be in this sorry state.
If it had been properly envisaged that the volume of goods and persons to be transported around the nation would be so much, it would have long been appreciated that road transportation also would not be enough. And perhaps the rail transportation would not have been allowed to die.
This lack of vision manifests in so many areas of the nation’s development. Not only is it visible in the area of urban planning, it is also noticeable in road development, provision of water and electricity services, healthcare delivery and even education.
Most of the service failures Nigerians experience today could have been avoided if adequate provision had been made for future population growth and changes in taste during the conception and execution stages of the projects.
For instance, the concept of Abuja, the nation’s capital is fantastic and its founding fathers deserve kudos for the city’s aesthetic splendour. But unfortunately, the beautiful city has started showing signs of decay, an affliction that was one of the reasons for the relocation of the seat of government from Lagos in the first place.
Abuja is already becoming congested with pockets of slums rearing their ugly heads in many parts of the city. This is the ugly consequence of lack of foresight by the city planners and designers who only conceived a mega city for the upper class with scant consideration for the dwellings of the low-income earners who must necessarily serve the big civil servants, politicians and policy makers. The result is that unexpected shanties are beginning to sprout in the well laid out neighbourhoods of the city centres.
Apart from this, it is rather too early for a city like Abuja that is less than 20 years old to start experiencing hiccups in water and electricity supplies, traffic congestion and other service failures that are associated with older cities like Lagos, Port Harcourt, Kaduna, Enugu and Kano.
It would appear that while designing the capital city nobody projected for the population growth to take care of the future utility needs of the city dwellers.
If these could be said of a relatively new and supposedly well planned city, the plight of older settlements in the country should not be too surprising, even though it is avoidable, given adequate planning and sustainable maintenance culture. Most cities are spreading fast, stretching available amenities beyond their limit.
In the area of education, there are clear indications that we are never prepared for the growth of children population. Classrooms, where they exist, are congested.
The planlessness also manifests in the difficulty of secondary school leavers to gain admission into the universities. Indeed, this remains one of the unresolved riddles of our time.
Even in the field of sports, our dimming fortunes could be blamed on our ad-hoc approach rather than serious planning for sporting events. While many countries start preparing for the next Olympic Games from the day the torch of the on-going one is extinguished, Nigeria goes to sleep. We are fond of hurriedly assembling our national teams on the eve of crucial competitions whereas long-term training, acclimatization and other things are required for optimal performance.
To be sure, no nation can grow without proper planning. We therefore call on our leaders to always have their eyes on the future when conceiving projects. Ideal leaders are visionary people who have clearly defined goals and mobilise the population towards the achievement of such goals.