Before the advent of crude oil, agriculture was the mainstay of Nigeria's economy. Then, the country's economy thrived; food was available and affordable. People, therefore, did not go hungry, except in extreme cases occasioned by a serious factor.
With the oil boom era, the country and its people shifted attention from agriculture to oil and gas. Subsequently, graduates of Agricultural Science, Soil Science, Agricultural Extension, Agricultural Economics etc., looked for white-collar jobs in banks and other seemingly lucrative areas, including oil and gas. Little did people know that those who remained in agriculture would today be raking in millions and billions of naira, as their products now grace both local and international markets.
This gives an impeccable signal that agriculture is, perhaps, more viable than other sectors. Also, it is an indication that well planned investment in agriculture is not a futile effort. It suffices that some Nigerian farmers have successfully built some shining legacies that need to be emulated and replicated. Most of them, as observed, are politicians. In this edition, LEADERSHIP Friday brings to the fore Nigeria's top ten biggest farmers.
OLUSEGUN OBASANJO (OBASANJO FARM)
Chief Olusegun Obasanjo is not only a retired army officer, former head of state and politician, he is also a successful farmer. He owns Ota Farm, which is also called Obasanjo Farms. The large farm was formally opened on October 8, 1979, a week after Obasanjo handed over power to a civilian administration on October 1, 1979. At inception, the farm took off as Temperance Enterprises Limited (Farming Venture). It later became Obasanjo Farms Nigeria Limited.
Obasanjo Farms indeed took off in grand style, indication that Nigeria's former president meant serious business. This probably accounts for the growth, expansion, sustainability and consolidation witnessed in the evolution of the farm, considering how it started and where it is now.
The farm took off with two layer houses containing 100, 000 birds each and five broiler houses of 12,000 each, in addition to two feed mills of three tons per hour each. The large farm, which has up to 7,000 workers started with four bulldozer operators. Today, Obasanjo makes up to N34million daily from Ota Farm, which has branches in Ibadan and Igbo-Ora, Oyo State. This is no small earning for the former president whose farm has played a significant role in the development of agriculture and food production.
Obasanjo also uses the farm complex at the Agbe L' Oba House, Ota, the Ogun State headquarters of the farm, to hold political and diplomatic meetings.
ABDULSALAMI ABUBABAKAR (MAIZUBE FARMS)
What makes General Abdulsalami Abubakar (rtd) significant today in Nigeria and beyond is not just his successful military career or the fact that he willingly handed over power to a democratically elected government in 1999 to usher in the Fourth Republic. He has a stake in the Nigerian agricultural sector, being the owner of Maizube Farms Limited, which is helping to cater for the food needs of many Nigerians today.
Maizube Farms Limited is located at Km 26, Minna-Bida Road, Minna, Niger State, where General Abubakar is from. The 500-hectare multi-product farm has both livestock and crop sections and today, it is proudly one of the stable sources of crop and animal products upon which Nigerians depend for food and other uses.
Just as General Abubakar gives appreciable time to his peacekeeping mission across the African continent, so also does he give a great deal of time and attention to his Maizube Farms.
MURTALA NYAKO (SEBORE FARMS)
Vice Admiral Murtala Nyako (rtd), the executive governor of Adamawa State may be more popular from the political perspective to many, but he is one of the most successful Nigerian farmers today. Few know that he is the owner of Sebore Farms in Mayo-Belwa, Adamawa State.
Murtala Nyako was born at Mayo-Belwa, to Alhaji Hamman-Yero, a notable merchant and Hajiya Maryam Daso who was keen on Islamic studies and herbal medicine, on August 27, 1943.
Nyako was born a cattle owner, as his mother had been allocated some cows for her offspring before his birth. So he started what has snowballed into an integrated commercial farm today as a cattle farm. Even throughout his career, in the Navy and in politics, Nyako was never distracted from developing and expanding his coast in the agricultural sector, the result of which is his success story today.
He commenced a sustainable crossbreeding programme of his local cattle with exotic superior sires in 1990 with very satisfactory results. He also got involved in the production of horticultural crops and his first commercial export of muskmelons to Europe, using a chartered aircraft, took place in January 1990. Nyako owns the largest mango farm in Nigeria, leading to his being popularly known as Baba Mai Mangoro (BMM). Exotic mangoes from his mango orchard of 50, 000 trees were first exported to Europe in 1993. He is also presently involved in the modern production of dates, passion fruit and bananas, pasture development breeding of Boer goats and farming.
Nyako is the president of the Horticultural Crops Growers Association of Nigeria, the Practicing Farmers Association of Nigeria and the Apex Farmers Association of Nigeria. He is the patron of numerous farmers' commodity associations in the country.
USMAN DANTATA Jr. (ANADARIYA FARMS)
The young and enterprising Usman Dantata Jr., who is married to Rukaiya Indimi, daughter of multi-billionaire Borno businessman Mohammed Indimi, is the president/CEO of Anadariya Farms. The large poultry farm, which is located in Tiga, Bebeji local government area of Kano State, was started by the late business sage of Kano, Alhaji Usman Sanusi Dantata of the Dantata dynasty, in the 1960s. Anadariya Farms thrived well in poultry produce. For instance, it was noted for exporting poultry birds and eggs to Saudi Arabia twice a week using a Boeing 747 plane.
However, after decades of activity, the farm experienced some challenges and stopped operations until recently, when Dantata Jr. came on board and injected viability into the large farm. The CEO came with refined vigour, to ensure the farm maintains a successful track record. He has a background in investment and banking and was a trader of various commodities in Europe before coming back to Nigeria. He also has a certificate in feed production and broiler management obtained in North Carolina. Suffice it to say that he had equipped himself with the necessary training before stepping into the business.
This wealth of experience and pool of relevant knowledge may have been the reason for his decision to expand the services and operations of the farm to include a hatchery, production of broilers and layers, the production of feeds and the processing and sale of poultry products. Anadariya Farms produces above 3, 000 broilers weekly. This is one of Nigeria's most viable farms, with its growing, diverse agricultural activities.
SIR JOSEPH I.A ARUMEMI-IKHIDE (OJEMAI FARMS)
Another modern farm with high level of activity and making great impact within the nation's agricultural space is Ojemai Farms Limited owned by Ojemai Holdings. The farm, which is located in Edo State and owned by Sir J.I.A. Arumemi-Ikhide, the chairman of Arik Air, was established in 1984 with interest tilting towards livestock production. It took off as a local producer of pork and turkey meat. However, as years past by and business expanded in the farm, there was the need for expansion of scope of operations.
This led to new interest in production of broiler, catfish, fish fingerling and other forms of animal produce. The farm has grown to become one of the biggest farms in Nigeria and one of the nation's prides in the agricultural sector.
ARINZE ONEBUNNE (JOVANA FARMS)
Prince Arinze Onebunne is the successful managing consultant and CEO of Jovana Farms, located in Mushin, Lagos. Onebunne specialises in the farming of animals such as grasscutters (greater cane rats), rabbits, quail, antelope, guinea pigs and fish, and so on. His high profile level of animal farming has taken him to over 30 states in Nigeria and to other countries as a seminar facilitator, advocate, training personnel and empowerment speaker.
The founder of Jovana Farms is also at the vanguard of modern fish and livestock farming in Nigeria, which is considered a fast growing and lucrative subsector of the nation's economy today. With his vast experience and engagement in training and mentoring prospective animal farmers, he earns millions of naira not only from sales of animal products, but also from consultancy charges. Onebunne also carries out feasibility research, site survey and farm construction projects, as part of his professional services.
DR OLATUNDE AGBATO (ANIMAL CARE SERVICES KONSULT)
Dr Olatunde Agbato, a veterinary doctor, is the founder and president/CEO of Animal Care Services Konsult. Agbato, a graduate of the University of Ibadan (UI), became a viable player in the agricultural sector with the establishment of the company known commonly by its shortened name, Animal Care. The company has interests in commercial poultry production, commercial livestock feed milling, aquaculture, manufacturing, and procurement and distribution of animal health products. The company also undertakes provision of expert services for people with interest in animal farming, but who lack the know-how.
Animal Care was founded in 1979 and is located in Ogere Remo, Ogun State. The company concentrates majorly on poultry and veterinary services. It has continued to grow and has a subsidiary called Funtuna Farms, which is a poultry farming operation unit. Furthermore, it has a fish farm operation unit.
Agbato has over the years distinguished himself as a veterinary doctor cum farmer. He is a fellow of the College of Veterinary Surgeons of Nigeria; fellow, Farm Management Association of Nigeria; member, International Egg Commission, and has received many awards of recognition. Agbato is, indeed, one of the farmers who have sown under the sun and can now reap their harvests.
ABDULLAHI ADAMU (NAGARI INTEGRATED DAIRY FARM)
Nagari Integrated Dairy is one of the farms currently being operated in the country on a commercial level. It is reputed to be one of the largest single integrated dairy farms in Africa. It covers 1,200 hectares of land and has 7,000 Holstein cattle. In view of the quality of the products it churns out, the claim that it is among the top suppliers of high quality farm and dairy products in Africa is justified.
Alhaji Abdullahi Adamu, a former governor of Nasarawa State and now a senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, is the man behind Nagari Integrated Dairy Farm. Although his fame on the political scene has overshadowed his agricultural exploits, Abdullahi can be described as an accomplished farmer. The success story of Nagari Integrated Farm is the result of the enterprising nature of this farmer, lawyer, engineer, technocrat and consummate politician.
Over the years, Nagari Integrated Dairy has invested in research and development, and in state-of-the-art dairy farming technology. The company has developed its own proprietary dairy farming expertise and methodologies. This has made it a benchmark for the efficient production of high quality dairy products.
ALHAJI WAHAB IYANDA FOLAWIYO (FOLAWIYO FARMS LIMITED)
Folawiyo Farms Limited, located on Yinka Folawiyo Avenue, Apapa, Lagos, was incorporated on October 4, 1985. It carries out integrated agricultural production, with branches in several states in Nigeria. It is owned by renowned business tycoon, philanthropist and the Baba Adinni of Nigeria, the late Alhaji Wahab Iyanda Folawiyo.
In matters concerning agriculture, Folawiyo Farms stands tall in all aspects. They are into livestock farming, fish farming, flour milling, agro-chemical production and distribution, agricultural consultancy, development and engineering, production and supply of agro-pesticides, farm tools, fertiliser services, horticulture, and so on.
Folawiyo's journey to greatness began back in 1957 when he founded Yinka Folawiyo and Sons Limited, an import and export business empire that includes holdings in shipping, banking, construction, agriculture and energy. It is therefore not out of proportion to say Folawiyo's business concerns traverse the entire length and breadth of the Nigerian economic terrain.
PETER ADENIYI (ANU-OLUWA FARMS)
Mr Peter Adeniyi, perhaps, did not understand fully the fortunes he was sowing to harvest when he founded Anu-Oluwa Farms in Ibadan, the ancient capital city of Oyo State. The farm, which has special interest in poultry and egg production for the Nigerian market, has become one of the largest farms in Nigeria.
The farm also sells livestock feeds and materials, table eggs, day-old chicks, point of lays, fish and fish fingerlings and livestock vaccines. Adeniyi is one of the most successful farmers in Nigeria.