By MC SIRCHIBABA
The world is not smiling! Even the most pretentious of all beings will readily admit that times and things are no longer as easy as they used to be. Of course, these are not limited to Nigeria. South Africa recently got out of recession, the first in more than a decade while countries like Turkey, Spain, even, Venezuela, once the most oil rich nation on earth, are passing through chaotic socio-economic times. Yes, this is the world in which Nigerians dwells today; and by default, it is also the world in which the State of Osun has found itself!
It is with these in mind that Nigerians must commend Governor Gboyega Oyetola of Osun for taking the lead in efforts to impact lives through massive food production as well as reposition the economy through wealth creation-induced activities.
In a Keynote Address to the ‘2018 Farmers Open Day Festival’, tagged, ‘Odun Alagbinla’, Oyetola urged Nigerians to brush up their knowledge about modern techniques in Agriculture just as he promised his administration’s desire to boost agriculture and food security in the state. While reiterating his commitment to “take advantage” of its “agrarian-based economy to the fullest and make the state the food hub of Nigeria”, he vowed that government would, among other things, consolidate on the agricultural land expansion programme with an additional target of 20,000 hectares to the Land Bank. Already, more than 40,000 hectares have been given out under the scheme, and about 100,000 smallholder farmers have benefited from it. His administration also promised to establish nine new farm settlements with “integrated agricultural development on crops, livestock, fisheries and Comprehensive Farm Service Centres where farmers will have access to farm inputs, Extension services, information and market intelligence services.”
Oyetola lauded government’s strategic partnership and innovative implementation of collaborative initiatives with the International Institute of Agriculture (IITA), a development that has led to the enhancement of farming methods and improvement in yield with its attendant inflow of income.
Quite frankly, ‘Odun Alagbinla’ speaks to Oyetola’s positive way of introducing farmers to improved agro-inputs and modern farming techniques, which, irrefutably, has become a way of life in a world gone hi-tech. Good that this intervention is coming at a time the unemployment rate in Nigeria is fast climbing to the alarming 2 digits boundary. According to a report recently released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), the number of persons in the labour force increased from 85.1 million in the third quarter of 2017 to 90.5 million in the third quarter of 2018” while “the total number of people classified as unemployed increased from 17.6 million in the fourth quarter of 2017 to 20.9 million in the third quarter of 2018.”
Sad also to know that Nigeria’s crude oil, once respected for its sky-high rating, has in recent times become victim to consistent meltdown. Now, a barrel of crude goes for as low as $40 in the international market even as the number of barrels produced per day now fluctuates with stammering destiny. Sadder still, it is at a time the global significance of the proverbial cash cow is dangerously hemorrhaging, due, principally, to new discoveries in technology.
Suffice it to say that Osun has never been a “sleeping partner in progress” with other active stakeholders. In the last five years or so, government has implemented programmes like Osun Rural Enterprise and Agricultural Programme (OREAP) and Osun Broilers Out-growers Production Scheme (O’BOPS), all in a bid to shoot the state to greater heights agriculturally. So far, so impressive! Osun currently has the lowest poverty rate in Nigeria. It is also Nigeria’s most peaceful state; 2nd richest state and 5th largest economy, with its forestry sub-sector also 5th in the country. Besides, it is on record that more than 7,000 farmers from 500 cooperative societies have benefited from the state’s low interest loans under the Quick Impact Intervention Programme (QIIP). While support to large scale farmers has shot Osun into the 2nd position in the production of poultry, the Rural Access and Mobility Programme (RAMP) has within a short period of time constructed more than 400 kilometres of rural roads in the state.
‘Valet omnino facere valet benefacientes’! Now that handouts from the national government are no longer assuredly guaranteed, or reliable, Oyetola already has his thinking cap on, and has his job cut out for him. The import of his Address at Ago Owu in Isokan Local Government Area of the state is to reinvent Agriculture, so as to regain its pride of place, as it were, before the advent of the so-called ‘oil-boom’ era. For instance, a litre of palm oil now sells for as much as 400 in the market; as against a litre of premium motor spirit, pms, which currently hovers around N145.00. A profitable venture in Agriculture leads to improved revenues even as it helps checkmate the scourge of rural-urban drift. Innovative Agricultural initiatives, like those in display during ‘Odun Alagbinla’, will drastically reduce, if not totally eradicate, the menace and activities of kidnappers and ritualists who are marauding every part of the country nowadays.
Cash crops like Cocoa, Coconut, Rubber and Oil palm play significant roles in the generation of income, gainful employment opportunities to the rural economy and opening-up of the state for commercial activities, among others. Since hope leans on an anchor, Lagos and Kebbi have also shown how collaborative efforts between, and, among states can be profitable.
As fate would have it, 70% of Osun’s over-4 million people are farmers. So, it is time Osun stopped behaving like Peter whose shadow was healing the sick while the healer in him lacked financial dominion. But then, who says dear state cannot rear cattle for local consumption? Like the woman with the issue of blood who became whole on touching the hem of Christ’s garment, who says wanton destruction of lives and property, occasioned by farmers/herders’ clashes, cannot be curbed through Agriculture? If farms and farming could rescue South Africa from its recession, who says Osun cannot be in the forefront of Nigeria’s return to her enviable position as the ‘Giant of Africa’?
May the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, grant us peace in Osun!