1 October 2017

Nigeria: Reviving Agriculture - Why Northern Govs Should Declare State of Emergency

Photo: Daily Trust
(File photo).
opinion

Agriculture has been historically recognized and acknowledged as the most legitimate and labour incentive source of generating incomes for sustainable livelihoods, food security and self-sufficiency, since the dawn of human civilization.

This tradition has made agricultural pursuits and farming to stand out as the most popular and spiritually fulfilling vocation and ordained occupation of human choice and an economically rewarding investment platform in the world, since the days of Adam and Eve, in the Garden of Eden, which others coin as Garden of Bliss.

In fact, Nigeria and Nigerians depended on agriculture and farming, as their favourite vocation of preference and relevance. That dominant status made it the nation's live wire, before the discovery of fossilized petroleum products.

Many of the social and developmental historians confirm, that, Nigeria's vast land mass was the major natural blessings that largely excited, attracted, seduced, and tempted the British colonialists "to invade the country", as it were, and transformed it into their main supply conduits. This was in order to feed their budding economic empire, triggered by the emerging industrial revolution as well as the competitive quests for trade expansion outlets and territorial monopoly, throughout out Europe, against their European and other global rivals, using Nigeria's diverse agricultural produce, as handy raw materials for their textile mills and other manufacturing industries and companies, in those early years of imperial powers.

To actualise and sustain this economic mission, Northern Nigeria was targeted as a critical location and most viable agrarian environmental hub they identified, as an ideal command post, convenient for their British support commercial cartels to thrive at the time, due to its vast and limitless resources.

It is an important raisons d'être and valid logical conclusion to also assert the obvious facts, that, given these prevailing dimensions and comparative exposure and proactive advantages, our founding fathers were not ignorant nor unaware of the auspicious role and strategic importance of agriculture , as an organic economic stimulant and profound promoter of grass root prosperity , as well as its attendant rapid socioeconomic empowerment impacts in the larger society.

This could be attested to easily, by the presence of numerous agricultural ventures and infrastructures bequeathed to us by our past leaders, which they had expected us, as their loyal and responsible heirs, to reconstruct, fast track, as well as developmentally introduce our own visionary modules, modifications and modus operandi to qualitatively enhance their scientific and technological thresholds.

It is gratifying to note here, some of the most laudable agricultural inspired achievements and set pieces in Nigeria.

This include the magnificent Cocoa House in Ibadan, which for me, remains an incredibly unique edifice, which only a great thinker with a passionate and sympathetic mindset for the rural farmers, like the late Chief ObafemiAwolowo , could have metaphorically engraved, as an iconic visual epitaph, to glorify the importance of agriculture and magnify the dignity of agricultural labour, as well as the towering status of all farmers, not only in Nigeria but across all the nooks and crannies of the deprived world of the peasant farmers .

The same passion gave birth to Sardauna's legendary groundnuts sculptured pyramids, poised as super architectural towers, hovering over the skylines of ancient city of Kano like the elegant ancient Egyptian original it adopted its identity from , which site now hosts the imposing erstwhile Bank of the North Towers in that ancient city of commercial fame.

Moreover, as an evidence to project this opinion, this historical overview of our past agricultural efforts in the country will vindicate and showcase the shining examples of how our forebears made agriculture and farming, their topmost business preoccupations.

The construction of multipurpose River Basins, Dams and Farm Mechanization Centres, plus Irrigation Technology Incubation masterpieces, conceived and constructed to meet our local needs and promote agricultural growth and services through maximizing our numerous water resources outlets in the country, since the North was politically structured and carved into provinces, were developed by the great Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna of Sokoto and Northern Nigeria's First Premier, informed by his burning desire , leadership drive and passion to prove his commitments towards reducing the prosperity barriers of the rural poor in the North," a place with the highest population of the wretched poor beggars, itinerant Almajiri hordes and other unacceptable brands of abandoned , uncared and unguided multitudes", in the country , at large.

The Yandev Farm Centre in Gboko, Benue State, in North Central part of Nigeria is a living example of this Gamji broad agenda for food security and rural farmers' empowerment legacy. The people and government of Benue State deserve a national honour, as the most responsible community for keeping Sardauna's passion and hope alive and deservedly, earned the honours of being called "Farmer's Kingdom", and the state covetously crowned "The Food Basket of The Nation."

This Sardauna's passion and emphatic sympathy for the rural peasants led to the establishment of his Rural Agricultural Development Scheme, which was eventually inherited and adapted by other generations of leaders; from General Gowon's dams and integrated Irrigation Technology Projects, using Bagauda and Tiga Dams in Kano, as take off models.

Thereafter, each succeeding government fused and regularized additional features; from Shagari's Green Revolution programmes, General Obasanjo's Operation Feed the Nation-OFN formula, chronologically upgraded and improved upon, up to General Babangida's innovative and trendy inputs.

Unfortunately, death had robbed the country of President Umar Musa Yaradua's celebrated inputs, conceived as one of the most elaborately defined and imaginatively designed community targeted and comprehensively fashioned, all year round and multipurpose agric scheme, tagged RAISE, an enchantingly promising acronym that stands for, Raising Agricultural Inputs in a Sustainable Environment.

It was conceived to service all the over 25- 30 River Basins water resources clustered farming environments throughout the country and to be nourished and natured by some integrated and self sustaining backed up nucleus of educational, health delivery, power generating and marketing centre, as well as ,pools of preservation and storage facility systems, "harmonised as an agricultural, one spot value chain rural plaza complex" with elaborate living accommodations, training camps, designed to global standards with irrigation and extension services field facilities, for both staff , trainees and local residents ,which was budgeted at 6Billion Naira per River Basin Belt in the country: nonetheless, this proposal never survived beyond its conceiver's demise, which like all the past great concepts before it, were meant to support our quest for everlasting templates that can locally enhance the capacity of our rural communities, particularly local farmers in the country.

This dream was also prematurely aborted, leaving Sayyadi Abba Ruma, a demoralised and poor Agric Minister, ending up as a mere Tax Collector and hapless Treasurer for Goodluck Jonathan's flamboyant and braggadocios incoming Minister, Mr. S.A Adewumi, who is reported to have allegedly lavished a large chunk of the budget for his master's sophisticated Presidential re-electioneering stunts.

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