By Jide Osuntokun
We are overwhelmed with bad news all the time about Nigeria, so the occasional good news that isn’t catchy should be spread and celebrated. This is why I was so delighted with the ârice pyramidâ that Governor Kayode Fayemi and some of his colleagues showed to the Nigerian people a few days ago. It just shows what the determination and fiscal support of the Central Bank of Nigeria can do to accelerate agricultural production in Nigeria.
It is heartening to note that the federal government has decided to help all states in the country produce rice for domestic consumption and for export. This initiative, we are told, will not be limited to rice only but to other agricultural products such as cocoa, maize and cassava in the case of Ekiti. We hope that the CBN will also provide loans to producers of yams and potatoes as well as those who grow onions, peppers and tomatoes. There is nothing unique about rice production, it’s just that our people prefer the easiest way to satisfy their taste depending on the polished rice of Asia and Latin America, especially when we were flooded with petrodollars. Now that there are clear signs that the influx of dollars with which we have engaged in imports of all kinds of consumables is not going to last forever, we are gradually returning to our sense of sustainable economic development.
It’s not just Ekiti who is witnessing this rice revolution. Several northern states, some of which once grew rice, are going back in time to determine their present and future. Indeed, in the near future, states should depend on what they can produce to survive, because in the case of Ekiti, for example, we are not going to allow anyone to take the money generated by our sweat for support another state under the rubric of federalism. It will be the one who does not work will not eat! This crass way of putting it is what economists have called “fiscal federalism” which the apostles of “non-negotiable unity” have said will not happen. This unit can be “non-negotiable” now because of the easy money we get from oil commissions and because of our dependence on the oil that God has put under our soil.
The inhabitants of the Niger Delta are right to campaign for “control of resources” even if it is by geographical accident that the oil is found under their soil. In the same way and by the same logic of âcontrol of resourcesâ, the populations of Sokoto, Zamfara and Osun can claim their gold and the populations of Ogun, Bauchi, Benue and Enugu should be able to claim their limestone used for cement. No state is totally lacking in economic resources, whether mineral or agricultural, it is the oil dependence of the last 60 years that has blunted our brains and our initiatives. The time has finally come to go back in time to achieve a sustainable present and future.
I grew up in colonial Nigeria where we were totally self-sufficient in food. We haven’t imported any food as far as I know. Rice was not our favorite dish in this country. In my part of the world, we ate rice sparingly at Christmas, Sallah, New Years and Easter. We didn’t fancy mouth watering rice while waiting to eat rice on holidays. Whenever we ate rice it was the locals from Nupeland, Abakaliki and Igbemo in Ekiti. The preparation was so laborious because of the presence of stones in the rice that the housewives preferred to cook something shorter. For us in Ekiti and Ijeshaland nothing went better down our throats than pounded yams and okra or efo laugh. In the East and BÃ©nouÃ© region, pounded yam was also queen. In the north where people ate of them, It was not of them shinkafa that people ate corn-based tuwo and if they wanted to eat of them shinkafa, they bought Nupe rice or rice from the southern states.
I remember those of us who grew up in Ekiti in the 1950s were forced to eat eba apparently because there was famine or shortage of yams. I remember one of my brothers whose mother had to whip him to eat because he said he couldn’t swallow the eba because it was not smooth like pounded yams! Of course, then we got used to eating eba with a lot of grunts and growls. I am writing all this to let the young generation who want to bankrupt our country with imports of food products and especially rice, know that this consumption of rice is a recent fad. People are killing themselves smuggling rice across all of our porous borders, making indigenous efforts to grow rice futile and unprofitable. Hopefully, new efforts by states like Ekiti to increase local crops to 1.5 million metric tons per year are achievable. To achieve this utopia of food security throughout the country, the old extension service unit of our agriculture ministries should be reorganized where it exists or brought back to where it has fizzled out in our crazy times. oil and waste. This is important if loans are to be made to local farmers as stakeholders.
I remember a few years ago during Obasanjo’s time as the military head of state when he launched Operation Feed the Nation (OFN), a component of the program was providing loans to farmers to increase their area and agricultural yield. One of my uncles in Okemesi asked me if it was true that the government was going to give him and other farmers money to increase production. I replied in the affirmative. He stunned me by saying that as soon as he got his loan he would buy a truck and go into a trucking business and leave the grueling farming to Obasanjo and his government. My uncle completely misunderstood the government’s intentions and plans. All my explanations fell on deaf ears. I was very happy to hear Governor Fayemi explain that his government would buy plows and tractors to help farmers plow the soil. Grueling hoe and cutlass farming is what prompted young farm boys to step onto today’s okada and kidnapping businesses.
When I was a professor in London Ontario, Canada, some of my graduate students went back to join their fathers on the farm because farming was profitable and more rewarding than white collar jobs in the cities. I pray that there will come a time in this country where agriculture will be more attractive to young people than banking and the civil service. But the security situation has implications for the agricultural sector.
I want to illustrate this point with two personal experiences that are close to me. A classmate of mine after reaching the rank of director in the Federal Ministry of Commerce sometimes retired prematurely in the 1980s and went into farming somewhere in Akure apparently on a large scale using oil. borrowed money and its gratuity. He was very happy with himself and the work of his hands and those of his ploughmen. A few days before the harvest, huge trucks followed by armed men arrived from then-Bendel State and harvested all of its crops and drove out its security guards. He was broken! He didn’t know what hit him, but he was encouraged not to give up. He repeated his planting and tightened his security, but the same invasion and looting of his crop occurred. In order to keep his sanity he took his family and left for New York where he has stayed ever since and I sincerely hope he had a happier life there.
The second example was my brother. After retiring from Leventis Motors as a sales manager sometimes in around 2000, he acquired a large area along the Osun River near Ikire and embarked on agricultural production. He planted yams, plantains, cassava, palm trees and et cetera. He usually had huge yields because his farm was well watered by the river. Local people watched him for about a year or two before starting to harvest his crops which they did not sow overnight and quickly ruined him. He then died of depression and grief.
Need I say that no agro-industry can survive without security. This is where the issue of cow farmers comes in. Will a paddy field or cassava plantation be allowed to generate profits when federally protected ranchers invade the farms to eat the crops before they are harvested by their owners? All reasonable people have suggested that the primitive open grazing should stop, but our president says there were grazing routes in the 1960s gazettes and his attorney general should find them for him so that the grazing routes could be reopened to facilitate the private enterprise of livestock owners. While the United Arab Emirates, where cattle were raised in the past, sends rockets to Mars, we spend all of our time debating cows and where they should feed.
Fayemi, without much noise and fanfare, sets the example of herding in Ikun Ekiti by resurrecting a ranch that previously existed that provided milk and meat in the ancient western region. There were also such ranches in Fashola / Oyo and Iwo and other areas. We drank fresh milk at the Ibadan GRA in the 1950s and 1960s. We can repeat this phenomenon in Ekiti. Afe Babalola University should be interested in whether its students drink fresh milk, as should authorities at EKSU and other secondary and tertiary institutions in the state and beyond. The Germans have a saying “Alles ist moglisch” which means that anything is possible. With Ekiti being the center of knowledge and with a knowledgeable governor like Fayemi, it’s time we started applying our knowledge to production.