There have been renewed calls for Nigeria to diversify the economy. For many years, individuals, groups, economists, and even governments have been preaching to us on how crucial it is for us to look beyond oil as our major (and only) source of external revenue. Many have called for the government to lead the country on total re-dedication to agricultural development. Nigeria was largely self-sufficient in food in the 1960’s. Our history boasts of past years of groundnut pyramids in northern Nigeria, Cocoa House in Ibadan, built using revenues from cocoa export, and many other amazing achievements through agriculture. We were self-sufficient in food and even earning revenues from agricultural exports to other countries.
Things changed when we discovered oil and became too dependent on this resource as the economic driver of growth, export income, and development. We diverted our attention to oil. We abandoned our farmers. Yields stagnated. Investments in infrastructure were redirected. Rural communities slid into poverty. Under our watch, our ecosystem was destroyed in the Niger Delta for the sake of oil. We became a food-importing country, consuming only and depending on other countries that take their agriculture seriously. We spend billions of US Dollars a year importing food items such as wheat, rice, sugar, and fish. What a shame and it is doubly embarrassing to learn that we even import toothpicks!
The gospel of economic salvation cannot be preached without due regard to agricultural development, especially at a period when crude oil price is crashing and seems intent on getting to the level from which the commodity is harvested.
We must formulate and drive policies that can stimulate that sector. Agriculture is the major and most certain path to economic growth and sustainability. It is the mainstay of mankind; therefore, wise nations all over the globe give it a priority by developing and exploiting this sector for the upkeep of their teeming populations through the earning of revenue for development purposes; as well as employment. This is the way we must go. The whole machinery of government must be at the forefront of this march.
Nigeria’s economic development will become realistic with the total resuscitation of the agricultural sector. This will propel the sector to produce food to feed our people. The injection of vigor into the agricultural sector will also hasten the creation of self-reliance, self-contentment, and self-sufficiency that will translate to national sufficiency. An adequate supply of raw materials for industries, increased foreign reserve; and the increase in the export of non-oil commodities and improvement in the standard of living of the masses are issues that a revitalized agricultural system can provide. Generally, it will improve the revenue generation of our nation and discourage our over-reliance on oil and gas to power our economy. Rural employment/development; and the control of urban migration and general development of other sectors of the economy will be the positive chain reactions of an improved agricultural sector.
The country has had a history of agricultural prowess in the past, so, if it could work then, it surely will work better now, if judiciously and positively articulated. Not turning to agriculture will simply imply our continuous dependency on crude oil and unnecessary reliance on importation of goods that could have otherwise been manufactured in Kaduna, Aba, Nnewi, Ibadan, Port Harcourt, Kano and Onitsha and most of our fast-growing new cities that are now completely dependent on imports to survive.
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