23rd May, 2011
The revelation that Nigeria now depends on many countries for the supply of staple foods that could be produced locally is a shameful development President Goodluck Jonathan must urgently address.
Nigeria has depended on Thailand for rice for so many years but it is unthinkable that the nation now imports beans from Burkina-Faso, depends on Spain for tinned tomatoes and China and Sweden for rotten fish. It is worrisome that a country with a population as large as Nigeriaâ€™s does not have food security.
The neglect of the agricultural sector by successive governments has resulted in a situation where there is overdependence on food importation to meet local demands. It is appalling that Nigeria spent $12 billion between 2009 and 2011 on food importation. With vast arable land in the country, Nigeria has no business importing rice, beans and tinned tomatoes. The nation also has vast aquatic resources for fishing and fish farming.
If these are properly harnessed, Nigeria could feed the whole of Africa. But our lazy leaders prefer the easy way out by relying on the importation of virtually everything, including even toothpicks. Experts have said that of the 36 natural resources God has given to man, Nigeria has 34 in commercial quantities. So why canâ€™t we feed ourselves?
Every government that had come to power had always paid lip service to harnessing the nationâ€™s agricultural potential to feed the teeming population. Rhetorics have never put food on the table of the people. Rather, weâ€™ve seen billions of foreign exchange going down the drain through food importation with the attendant hunger and poverty it continues to breed.
If President Jonathan wants to make a difference in the next four years, one area he must focus his attention on is the pursuit of an aggressive agricultural revolution. Rural farm settlements should be revived immediately.
We witnessed Obasanjoâ€™s Operation Feed the Nation when he was military head of state between 1976 and 1979. It was later rechristened Operation Fool the Nation when it turned out that the programme did not achieve the desired impact.
This was followed by President Shehu Shagariâ€™s Green Revolution which was also a colossal failure as his ministers were more interested in importing commodities that could be produced locally than pursuing the agricultural programme of that administration.
Self-styled military president, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida also came with his Directorate for Food, Roads and Rural Infrastructure, DFRRI, to boost food production and rural development but this also came to naught as corruption undermined it.
There is no reason why the vast majority of Nigerians should go to bed with empty stomachs when God has blessed this nation with fertile land. The challenge therefore is for President Jonathan to make a remarkable difference by engaging in aggressive mechanised agriculture in the next four years. He can do it if he musters the necessary will.