It is cultural in Nigeria to wish your loved ones a prosperous new year. There is nothing wrong with having such lofty aspirations. Of concern is that, lately, this culture has crept into governance and development. Our leaders wish us a hunger and poverty-free new year. They extend it to make statements of intent without any plan to translate the aspiration into concrete results. It is normal to hear, “We shall have stable power this year”, and “lift 50 million Nigerians out of poverty this year “. What is lacking is a measurable plan built on an overarching vision to achieve this goal.
The art of wishful thinking is shared by our government and people alike. It is one of two things among the people: either a resignation to a culture of long disappointment or a relapse into habitual superstition. The belief is that Somehow things will be alright. For the government, it is a surrender to routine and a lack of creative and deep thinking.
Our leaders wish us a hunger and poverty-free new year.
“Wishful thinking” as a state strategy refers to adopting optimistic views without a realistic or well-founded basis. While optimism and hope are essential for motivation and national morale, relying solely on wishful thinking as a state strategy can have significant drawbacks, especially in governance and policy formulation. State strategies need to be grounded in realism, evidence, and comprehensive planning to address the complex challenges faced by Nigeria effectively.
Relying on unbridled optimism, hedonistic fatalism, and political gimmickry in governance leads to negative consequences. State actors often misconstrue campaign promises or budgets as strategies, reflecting a vicious circle of bad choices and failures in government outcomes. This approach contributes to the current issues in governance and political craftsmanship.
Nigeria requires a comprehensive national vision, strategy, goals, Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), and actionable plans spanning federal, state, and local governance. Past attempts like the first to fifth National Development Plans and Vision 2020 lack coherence. A disciplined, transparent, and consistently executed plan, driven by data and evidence, is imperative for effective development.
Universally, we acknowledge that a goal without a plan is wishful thinking, our bane. Wishful thinking and boisterous slogans have never resulted in tangible results – compelling vision, planning, and diligent implementation of projects do. Across government MDAs and at the subnational level, we must go beyond manifesto thinking to strategic thinking and planning.
Throughout history, nations like China, Singapore, and South Korea made significant leaps with visionary leaders and evidence-based, realistic plans. An executive presidential system necessitates a political and business action plan. Whimsical, unplanned reactions pale in comparison to a well-articulated strategic plan judiciously executed for national benefit, as seen in successful examples globally.
Most 36 states and local governments need actionable strategic plans, not political gimmickry. The prevailing practice is to embark on projects based on convenience, political exigency, and personal interest and wish they could translate to holistic, sustainable development.
The first major drawback of relying on wishful thinking as a state strategy is that it often leads to overestimating the ease of implementing policies or achieving specific goals. The runaway inflation and the problem of insecurity in Nigeria are good examples. From all indications, the previous administration misdiagnosed the national security threat posed by non-state actors, terrorists, and bandits as just a herder vs farmer conflict. This misdiagnosis created a problem of resource application. The government misdirected both human and capital resources to resolve this conflict.
As seen in recent times, the insecurity issues in Nigeria are multifaceted, hydra-headed, and humongous compared to a linear causal narrative of herder vs. farmers’ clashes. Nigeria cannot wish away insecurity. We must have a realistic diagnosis of the security situation, understand the multidimensional aspects of the problem, and put together a robust, actionable strategic plan to achieve the goals we set for our national security.
Unrealistic optimism causes misallocation of resources; relying on wishful thinking rather than analysis leads to inefficient resource allocation. The 2024 National and state budgets faced criticism for preposterous allocations, prompting calls for revisions. While budgets don’t constitute a national strategy, they reflect spending plans. Criticised budgets hinder effective resource allocation for Nigerian development. If filled with frivolities, they impede progress. Efficient allocation requires realistic assessments, crucial for Nigeria’s development.
Furthermore, the economic consequences of wishful thinking as a strategy are all around us: cost of living crisis, collapse in the value of the Naira to USD, food insecurity, infrastructural decay, and an increasing perception of economic doom that permeates the system. Wishful thinking leads to economic policies not aligning with the actual economic conditions, potentially resulting in economic downturns or crises – the public is disillusioned and is quickly losing confidence in the government.
Relying on wishful thinking can hinder effective long-term planning and jeopardise the country’s future stability and growth. At this auspicious time when this administration is wooing foreign investors, it behoves the government to provide a clear vision, strategic direction, and goals and implement policies and actions that will inspire confidence that Nigeria is on a trajectory to developmental growth in the midterm to long term.
Commendably, some federal parastatals, state governments, and LGAs, especially Jigawa, have presented strategic plans and KPIs. Notably, the Jigawa state government stands out for its comprehensive approach, including performance agreements and policies aligning with strategic goals. To enhance development strategy, I advocate evidence-based state planning, emphasizing research and transparency. Accountability at all government levels is vital for a robust and effective developmental approach.
Third, strategic actions and policies must undergo comprehensive risk assessments. This involves identifying potential obstacles, considering worst-case scenarios, and developing contingency plans. A situation where policies are not adequately thought through may devastate people’s economy and quality of life, for example, the ill-fated Naira Redesign. Finally, strategies should be adaptable to changing circumstances, adjusting based on real-time feedback and evolving challenges.
Optimism and hope are essential, they should be complemented by realistic assessments and evidence-based strategies and a coherent plan.