It is a risky path in African politics for any politician to be seen moving towards industrialisation. There are absolutely powerful interests that would do what it takes to stop such a politician on his or her track. In any case, those who promise industrialisation hardly ever get to win presidential elections on the continent. Although, sometimes it is treachery and greed of some African leaders, the reality of powerful interests against industrial transformation is never to be trifled with.
In Nigerian politics, there is scarcity of voices to be counted promising industrialisation. Only Prof Jerry Gana and Aminu Tambuwal have made industrialisation an issue before. Jerry Gana has been producing novel development strategy models for governments since 1983, including the Transformation Agenda he edited for the Goodluck Jonathan regime but which the regime was too incoherent to operationalise. In 2011, Aminu Tambuwal advocated manufacturing as the corner stone of national security and then as if he made a mistake, he has gone dumb on that line of advocacy since. It is not clear now if he governs Sokoto State on any such clear framework.
It is against this background that the pronouncement today by former Vice-President of Nigeria, Atiku Abubakar is interesting and inviting. From Portharcourt where he inaugurated what appears a whistle-stop stage of his presidential intent today comes the report that Atiku spoke with emphasis on industrialisation and economic revolution. That contrasts with his December 2017 outing at which he promised full employment for the youths but without indicating a clear development strategy. Instead of any clear strategy, he indicated nothing beyond a service sector driven economy given his then approving reference to the telecommunication reform in 2000 as carried out by the Obasanjo regime in which he was second in command.
Although the details of how an Atiku presidency would handle industrialisation at a time technology has changed a lot in that regard are not in yet, the mere mention could be a game changer in terms of compelling other aspirants and even the incumbent to take development strategy more seriously. The standard inference is that those who cannot encapsulate their development strategy in few words have no business being in the race.
Some people argue that nothing has undermined the Buhari regime as its lack of development strategy. While Nigerians were expecting what the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) called a New Beginning late 2016, Buhari went incommunicado for the rest of 2015 after being sworn-in in May.
Articulating the disconnect in a February 5th, 2017 posting, Intervention wrote under the heading “The ‘Diverted Mandate’ and the Essential Buhari Conundrum” as follows: The No Show in a ‘New Beginning’ is a natural, necessary follow up of the Super Tragedy. The Catholic Bishops Conference has the credit in terms of bringing this up as being at the heart of the Buhari presidency’s perceived failure. For a country that had experienced the level of degeneration and trauma that preceded Buhari but then invested its hope in one man, there could have been no better balm than the articulation of a ‘New Beginning’, a Social Charter that offered something for everyone. The logic would have been to renew hope, to re-establish faith in country and government through both certain tangible and intangible commitments as may have been determined by a rigorous social analysis of the moment. The spectre of hardship that has terrorised the poorest segment of this society since late 2015 is irreconcilable with the image of the president’s political personality as has been carefully constructed over time. That this is the reality and the president is not even able to deal with it at the level of rhetoric is the other evidence that the president has experienced the ideological equivalent of what Christians know as Pauline conversion”
When the Avengers started bombing and the regime started talking, it had already lost a lot of grounds. The alienation doubled once marauders took over much of the Nigerian space without the government being able to stop them, something it could easily have been able to do if it had been mobilising Nigerians on a New Beginning with something for everyone. It mistook the rhetoric of anti-corruption as all there was to the management of power. Only a year ago did the regime manage to come up with something like a development strategy which it called Economic Recovery and Growth Plan, (ERGP). But it lacked a theoretical underpinning and it was only a matter of time before someone came to scatter it. The World Bank did that in October last year before Bill Gates came to bury it last week by saying that it is about the economy but not about the people. The two concepts do not have the same meaning. The government had no idea Gates was going to transcend traditional diplomacy, speaking to the image of Nigeria from the analysis thereto by the University of Washington. They miscalculated. The long and short of it is that the Buhari regime has no development strategy. It has projectisation strategy, typical of Nigerian governments except Gowon and his Second National Development Plan.
Certainly, any politician who articulates how industrialisation will solve some of the problems over which people are fighting or bickering can go far in shifting the agenda of politics from the emptiness of today to the possibility of a more promising tomorrow. Only by doing so would neutralise those spending so much time imagining, propagating and implicating themselves in how Nigeria would soon break-up under the weight of ethno-regional incompatibility. Ethno-regional differences, yes; break-up, no. Qualitative leadership and governance can harmonise difference and differences!