06.07.2019 Feature Article

Nigeria Needs Robust Agriculture and Food Security Policies Urgently

Nigeria Needs Robust Agriculture and Food Security Policies Urgently
06.07.2019 LISTEN

Any nation which cannot feed her citizens faces existential threats.

The inability of the former Union of Soviets Socialists Republics (USSR) to feed her citizens was a catastrophe more powerful than the nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl.

Hunger, or famine was the catalytic implosion which ended the USSR as a single corporate political entity which was headed by Russia. The USSR's reliance on other nations, notably, America became a national security fatal flaw.

Any nation which relies on other nations for her food security has mortgaged her National security and best interests.

Any nation which relies on food relief from other nations, could have such a weakness exploited by her competitors, with the consequent usurpation of her geostrategic and hemispheric influence.

Therefore, depending on what Nigeria does by way of robust agriculture, food production and food security policies, hunger and famine could pose existential threats to the continued corporate existence of Nigeria as one nation.

This is more threatening than some other variables like religion and ethnicity.

Nigeria is a nation facing existential threats from many angles, including and particularly, Nigeria's inability to be self-sufficient, self-reliant and self-sustaining regarding food production, food processing, storage and distribution.

It is the case that Nigeria can, and is capable of having food abundance. Nigeria has the population, the climate and the terrain. Nigeria has rain forests, Savannah grasslands, arid and semi-arid lands, deserts, rivers and oceans.

Nigeria is tropical and a good percentage of Nigerians have been involved in farming, but, quite unfortunately, subsistence farming which employs primordial and antiquated labor- intensive farming methods, instead of mechanized, automated and large scale commercial farming.

Agriculture and Food security policies for Nigeria are extremely urgent and critically crucial at this time for two interconnected reasons, Global warming and population explosion.

Population Explosion is an extremely urgent national and continental challenge

Nigeria's rapid population growth or expansion has created a myriad of challenges for the Nigerian society.

Mass unemployment, particularly amongst university graduates has blossomed into a National security challenge, from prostitution, advance fee fraud and other social vices to violent crimes such as armed robbery, kidnapping, human trafficking and death through mass migration.

Food is surely expensive in Nigeria, and yet, life is so cheap!

Thousands of Nigerians are in mass migration out of Nigeria due to unemployment or the inability of the national economy to engage those Nigerians productively.

There are currently, as a consequence, thousands of Nigerian citizens in the failed nation state of Libya.

These Nigerians are trapped in the lawlessness of a failed state Libya, as they use Libya as a passage or gateway to Europe and other parts of the world in search of elusive greener pastures.

Population expansion and overstretched national resources to cater for Nigerian citizens, the misallocation and mismanagement of resources, corrupt practices and the absence of national priorities, have combined to exacerbate the current national insecurity which is being felt nationwide in Nigeria.

All of the above can get worse, due to the expected exponential population explosion which Nigeria will soon experience.

The population of Nigeria is expected to reach between 400 and 450 million in the next 20 years from Nigeria's current population estimate which is approximated to be, between 180 to 200 million people!

Thus, Nigeria will need to produce twice the amount of food, goods and services, facilities, amenities and public infrastructure to serve what will in 20 years be twice the population size of this year, 2019!

There is presently no policy in place focused on addressing and avoiding a head-on-collision with a plethora of these foreseeable consequential expansions and explosions.

Global Warming and the ubiquitous Fulani Herdsmen

Fulani Herdsmen have always been part of the Nigerian and West African ecosystem. There was harmony between the crops farmers on the one hand, and the herdsmen, or animal breeders on the other hand. This is not to suggest there were never disagreements!

We have to stipulate upfront, that there are expected disagreements between humans, as part of human interactions globally. What has changed however, is the nature, extent and stridency of disagreements and arguments between crop farmers and livestock farmers.

As a child, growing up in Nigeria, I witnessed firsthand, interactions between Fulani herdsmen and local crop farmers with local communities as the Herdsmen traversed the Nigerian landscapes without acrimony.

Damage of farm crops by straying cattle were resolved quickly and amicably.

I witnessed local women provide large bowls and basins into which water was fetched, from public taps, which were plenty, and at four taps per mile or within every two poles, and the cows drank, while the herders gave monetary compensation to the owners of the basins.

The process was mutually beneficial. All sides were happy with the transactions as the cows had their thirst quenched which was good for the cows and their owners or herders, while the women whose basins were used, were happy with the sudden income.

Animosities and Acrimonies or the politicization of food and everything else Nigerian?

Nigerians for reasons best known to only Nigerians, are not in a hurry, it appears, to join the global debate of the clear and present danger in the Global warming phenomenon!

In the last seven years, in Nigeria, I have not heard on Radio, Television or read in the newspapers discussions regarding many topical issues, including the dire circumstances which Global warming could inflict on the world and Nigeria in particular.

Similarly, I never get to hear or see discussions about regular medical checks or Prostate Cancer screening for adult males over 40 as topical debates or adverts by pharmaceutical companies!

Often, I wonder whether Nigeria is a geopolitical space, where national culture or pastime encourages everyone to sleepwalk onto a precipice regarding all matters of national importance.

A quick example is the failed state status of neighboring Libya. Thousands of Nigerians citizens are trapped as refugees in war torn Libya with thousands already repatriated by the Federal Government of Nigeria.

Yet, if you want to know about Nigerians trapped and dying in Libya, you will have to rely on foreign media like Al Jazeera, CNN, BBC or SkyNews etc, not Nigerian television networks, radio or newspapers or Nigerian diplomats of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or Diaspora Directorate!

It is obvious that the lives of Nigerian citizens are not considered important by the different strata of governments in Nigeria or the generality of the citizenry and the mass media; Otherwise, why the profound absence of concern for those Nigerians stuck in the warzone which Libya has become?

In my lifetime, I have witnessed several failed attempts by governments in Nigeria to create, or bolster Agricultural and Food security policies.

There was, in my childhood days, Agriculture Extension Services. These were operations undertaken by Federal and State government officials which involved interactions between government officials and a variety of farmers - Cocoa farmers, Rubber plantation farmers, and crop farmers.

There were free or subsidized farm inputs, which ranged from farm equipment to supplies or enhancers such as fertilizers.

Subsequently, there were broad policies, which I supposed were well intentioned, but, were nevertheless abysmal and woeful failures.

Some Nigerians of my generation will recall Operation Feed the Nation or OFN during the Olusegun Obasanjo military administration which was then quickly followed with the Green Revolution by the Shehu Shagari administration.

There currently exists in Nigeria, banks established by the Federal Government of Nigeria, dedicated to the facilitation of Agriculture, Commerce, Mortgage and Industry etc.

It cannot be the case that these banks were established to favor only Hausa-Fulani or Fulani Herdsmen. During Operation Feed the Nation, and Green Revolution, the Government of Nigeria established River Basin Authorities, Owena Basin, Rima Basin, Sokoto Basin Authority etc.

Politicization of Foods, the Politics of Cattle Grazing and Political Food Fights?

Quite clearly, it is not true, that participation in the productive processes which is the national food chain of Nigeria has been a private affair, and should remain a private affair.

Furthermore, there is nothing in the laws in Nigeria which prohibits, forbids and proscribes any ethnic group(s) from Cattle herding or Cattle ranching. A Yoruba, Igbo or Hausa person and the garden variety herder, the ubiquitous Fulani can also be participants.

Rural Grazing Area is said to be the full meaning of RUGA. There is nothing in the Constitution or statute which insists or makes it mandatory that an Edo person has to become Muslim or marry a Fulani woman, before participation in RUGA settlement or Cattle colonies.

It is the same way that a Nigerian does not have to bear DANGOTE as a last name in order to sell cement. The wasted tears and wasted emotions surrounding RUGA are just a waste and wasted tears don't make flowers grow! These wasted tears and unnecessary hysteria have not addressed the causes and effects of Global warming, population explosions in Nigeria, and possible solutions.

Nigerian governments have frequently involved themselves in helping private enterprises succeed, in various sectors, agriculture, industries etc. Accruing benefits and beneficiaries from government support of productive enterprises were nationwide.

It therefore a disingenuous and outright lie, to politicize any proposed support for animal husbandries, livestock farming and, or ranching as a targeted Federal Government largesse for Fulani herdsmen, predicated on the fact that President Buhari is a Nigerian Fulani, and as a matter of course, he is partial to the Fulani ethnic group and Fulani Herdsmen.

A Nigerian does not have to be of the Fulani ethnic group to enjoy beef, Suya, Kilishi and the rest of what constitutes protein in the Nigerian Food Chain!

As an unapologetic red meat eater who is over 40 years old, and despite the science which discourages red meat eating at my age, I have to confess that my meat eating enjoyment is not a favor to the Fulani by me or from me.

I love meat and it could have been sold to me by a Tiv, Urhobo, Igbo or Ogoja seller.

All Nigerians eat Fulani reared or grown cattle.
All Nigerians should be concerned with where foods come from, all Nigerians should be concerned with the welfare of those who produce our foods and other things we use for creating our health, wealth and happiness.

We may, and should learn to appreciate those responsible for creating what makes our lives interesting or good.

Additionally, in the midst of louder and louder complaints against Cattle herdsmen with reported negative interactions between crops farmers and herder farmers, including videos of cattle trespassing into primary and secondary schools, reasonable expectations were that there would be collective sighs of relief.

When and if, some remedial measures were undertaken by government, including, establishing virgin spaces for herders, just so that their incursions and negative interactions with Nigerian populations nationwide, would be reduced to a minimum.

There is such a Cattle colony or grazing ground, Abattoir and Cattle-Livestock Market in and around Bayelsa Palm formerly RISO Palm.

This has quietly worked well in Yenagoa, even as many other parts of Yenagoa are labeled No Grazing! The benefits have been reduced interactions between humans in high density populated areas in Yenagoa and Cattle, as the cows are in these Bayelsa Palm outskirts which is a low density population area.

I have observed set aside lands in Benin City, Edo State, around Ikpoba Hills on the outskirts of the city, where Cattle herders are far from the madding crowd and known interruptions cease.

RUGA appears to me to be an attempt by the Federal Government to stem the tide of crises between herders, livestock farmers and crops farmers, by removing cattle from the current rather contentious and volatile interactions or incursion into human populations throughout Nigeria.

RUGA should have been seen as an attempt by the Federal Government to confine cattle to remote localities thus ending cows mingling with the general population.

RUGA was an attempt at problem solving, whether it is cattle ranching, cattle colonies, RUGA or whatever the nomenclature thereby ending the now, all-too-familiar contentious interactions with human populations.

Political disdain or hatred towards President Buhari has morphed into disdain and hatred towards all Fulani. As a consequence, the Fulani herdsmen have been demonized as terrorists, kidnappers and an occupation force or land grabbers! Fulani has become a curse word!

The Muslim, Catholic and Protestant armed robbers and kidnappers in neighborhoods, where the predominant people are Muslim, Catholic and Protestant adherents, all now pretend to be Fulani Herdsmen!

Kidnappers and Armed Robbers on East-West Road from Elele to Rumuji to Emuoha axis now have the veneer of Fulani.

There is so much dishonesty, subjectivity and negative politicization of our National insecurity, which has become a clear and present danger of extreme and absolute urgency! Nigerians know themselves, Nigerians know who the thieves are, who the thugs are, and who the armed robbers and kidnappers are!

All Nigerians should demand that all strata of governments in Nigeria should address mass unemployment, particularly amongst university graduates, who are now flooding into the pool of internet fraud, prostitution, mass migration, kidnappers, political thugs for hire, militancy, Boko Haram and other insurgencies!

Shrill-shouting Hausa Fulani, Fulani herdsmen as solely responsible for Nigeria's social maladies, decadence and sundry malaise, just because the current president is Fulani or that some take delight in expressing their disapproval or dislike of President Buhari, will not make the current Nigerian insecurities which are widening and spiraling out of control, suddenly evaporate.

Insecurity could remain with us in Nigeria, perhaps on an even worse scale, well after President Buhari completes his second and final term as a civilian president.

It is therefore best, to debate, plan, implement or execute policies honestly, openly and transparently, instead of the current scapegoat of Fulani herdsmen, as the one-size-fits-all cause and diagnosis of Nigeria's nationwide insecurities!

Kidnappers, robbers and sundry wrongdoers from the multitude of churches and mosques in the neighborhoods on Ife-Ibadan Road and Benin-Ore Roads are now hiding behind the facade of Fulani Herdsmen Bogeymen!

The American government is prodigious in its support of farmers and all those engaged in food production, processing, storage and distribution.

America has robust agriculture and food policies. America has food strategic food reserves, just as it has strategic petroleum or energy reserves!

America has grain silos which are deployed strategically to positively affect prices of farm products for farmers and make it possible for the average person in America to afford food, but, without discouraging farmers as a result of too low market prices for farm products.

It is thus a win-win all around for American citizens.

In the current trade war between America and China, American farmers are caught in the middle, as China relies on imported Soya Beans, Pork, Chickens etc.

I wonder therefore, why, in view of the enumerated active vigorous involvements by government in Nigeria in agriculture and food productions nationwide, some Nigerians appear to still think that government involvement in agriculture and food production is new and a favor to the Fulani alone.