Does Nigeria Really Need British Or Any Foreign Farmers?
The well-publicized invitation of British, Israeli, Foreign and White Farmers by the Kwarra and Ogun State governments is puzzling for many reasons and in many respects.
How come Nigerians are not protesting the importation of farmers, with the same fervor and vigor, with which they recently protested the importation of foreign medical doctors by Katsina State, particularly from Egypt? Why the double standards? If Katsina should not? Why should Kwarra and Ogun states?
It is even more outrageous to import farmers! Why import White farmers? When Nigeria needs to create employment massively in all the states? Why import foreign farmers? When the average Nigerian is a farmer, first and foremost, before anything else?
It is true that Nigeria needs foreign investments injection into the economy, to buoy domestic efforts or investments by Nigerians But I was, under the mistaken impression? That the emphasis should be directed toward areas or sectors where Nigerians do not posses comparative advantage, in skills and or resources! So Nigerians in 2003 cannot till the land?
Nigerians cannot use combine harvesters as some Nigerians did some decades ago? Nigerians used modern implements of large scale mechanized commercial farming, many years ago, even before the establishments so many Federal University of Agriculture! Do we now have less skills and abilities in Nigeria?
Secondly, Britain neglected or refused to implement the pre-independence Lancaster House London Agreement made with Zimbabwe, hence the imbroglio between Black and White farmers in Zimbabwe, emanated from British will to follow through with agreements she entered more than twenty years ago!, The Landless Black farmers versus the White farmers, who have all the lands, lands, that the Blacks, originally owned. Lands that Whites converted and summarily looted and usurped from Blacks for themselves.
Nigerian Foreign Policy (Erstwhile?)
Nigeria, under President Obasanjo's first coming, had a sound foreign policy, which made Africa its centerpiece and Nigeria sacrificed resources, immeasurably, to defeat Apartheid and domination from Maputo to Cape Town, Johannesburg and to Harare!
Landlessness is one of the remaining vestiges of colonialism is Southern Africa including Zimbabwe! The Boars and their other fellow Europeans grabbed lands in Southern Africa, from Black Natives who previously owned these lands!
The land issue, in disputes that are raging in Zimbabwe, are relics of White Supremacy and domination in Africa, particularly, in the Southern part, that was the last to be decolonized; Zimbabwe is a case in point, that dramatizes, these vestiges and relics of Blacks denied of their lands and rights in their backyards in Africa.... But the world has forgotten, and prefers to focus on Mr. Mugabe with all his faults.
Why then? would a Nigerian, any Nigerian nay African bring succor to these usurper-farmers from Zimbabwe in the name of foreign investments in Nigeria? Why would the government in Kwarra State, a PDP government, (state's rights and all?)
why will a PDP governor within the administration of the straight arrow anti-Apartheid President Obasanjo of yore, rescue these foreign farmers from Zimbabwe?
I am aware that Apartheid and White Supremacy has fallen in Southern parts of Africa, but should Nigeria and Nigerians rescues White farmers, who benefited from oppressing Blacks? White farmers who usurped Blacks' inalienable rights in the Southern part of Africa?
Africa is still the centerpiece of Nigeria's foreign policy and we should continue to stand up for the rights of all peoples of African descent? Is the oppression of Black Zimbabweans and the taking of their lands not reprehensible?
Kwarra and Ogun State's invitation to foreign farmers, therefore raise fundamental questions and issues, principal among which are, the domestic one, Nigeria's abilities and the foreign policy one.
Domestic Abilities To Produce Food
Nigeria is capable of growing abundant food for all Nigerians! Nigeria is capable of producing sufficient food for all Nigerians and even producing surpluses for the purposes of exports! Nigeria, many years ago, actually fed Nigerians abundantly! And additionally, Nigeria exported food from Nigeria's abundance, Nigeria, it must be said, has very favorable climate for planting or growing and producing any types of farm produce or products, yams, wheat, grapes for wine making, rice, potatoes, broccoli, lettuce, oranges, everything else in-between.
Nigeria has lush rain forests, grasslands in the Savannah, and desert in the arid and or semi arid regions! You can plant cactus in Nigeria's deserts like in Arizona, California and New Mexico USA.
Nigeria currently has hordes and hordes of unemployed citizens! Some of these citizens, have been unemployed for more than a decade! Among these unemployed Nigerians, are graduates of Universities in Nigeria and abroad, some of these unemployed graduates, are actually ironically, agriculture specialists, Specialists in Agriculture and Food Production and Food Processing.
Why will Kwarra State, Ogun state or any state for that matter import farmers or experts in farming?
I now wonder what, an unemployed Nigerian graduate of Agriculture and Food Production or Processing or Agric Extension Services, who also have a thorough familiarity with the local conditions in Nigeria, the vagaries of our climatic conditions and the drawbacks of subsistence farming methods?..... Will say to the importation of any foreign farmers, by Kwarra state or any state?
Why should we relegate the local farmers and the Nigerians with expertise in mechanized or large scale farming/commercial farming be relegated to the background, in favor of some foreign farmers? What do the foreign farmers know that we do not? Why should any Nigeria hold any White Zimbabwean or British farmer cousins, on a high pedestal or exulted?
Why do some Nigerians seem to believe everyone is better than a Nigerian expert? Give a Nigerian medical doctor the right equipment and environment, and she is as good any good medical doctor gets! Give Nigerian doctors the equipment and electricity that the direly need, and no government official has to junket to overseas "medical check-up" or treatments, thereafter, they could just tell us, it is a vacation.
Give a Nigerian farmer the tools, resources, (subsidies a la US and EU!) Give the Nigerian farmers/farm entrepreneurs liberal bank loans to purchase modern machines for mechanized-commercial-large-scale-farming, voila! Nigerian farmers know the neighborhood too!
Let the Nigerian in Burutu or Bomadi or Epe be helped in starting large scale fish ponds/fisheries, Let the Nigerians in Benue and Kano be helped in large scale production of groundnuts/peanuts, Let the Nigerian in Kaduna be assisted in large scale Cattle Ranching, Let the Nigerian in Ondo be assisted in the large scale production of plantains and Cocoa, Let the Nigerian in Abakaliki be enabled to embark on large scale rice production, etc, etc.
Recently, I wrote articles urging governments at all levels in Nigeria, to make agriculture a priority, additionally, I also emphasized the importance of investing in agriculture in Nigeria, when I urged particularly wealthy and notable individuals in Nigeria, to invest in Agriculture, then, as now, It is my strong belief, that the government and the organized private sector must play a joint role in investing in agriculture or food production in Nigeria.
Agriculture and food production are very essential to Nigeria's survival and progress, it is crucially important and the federal and all state governments need to elevate agriculture and food production to a national security issue! Nigerian farmers need to form more lobby groups, while strengthening the ones that are already in existence.
It is my belief, that a nation that cannot feed itself, a nation that cannot produce food in its abundance, or relies other nations, to feed itself, has its priorities wrong; The former USSR, a former world super power crumbled, as it could not feed itself! USSR had WMD, Nuclear, atomic and had colonized part of space in orbits, but the USSR always relied on mortal foes, such as the USA was, at the time, to USSR, for grains and other food supplies.
The Americans and Europeans are not greater or better farmers than Nigerian farmers and for that matter, the farmers in the former USSR, what happened and which is still happening, is that, the USA and EU sees agriculture and food production as a national security issue!
The USA and EU, therefore massively subsidizes agriculture and food production, they realize the importance of agriculture and food production, that is clearly the explanation for the plentiful-ness of food in the USA, and that is why the agriculture and food production sectors are heavily subsidized by the Americans and the Europeans.
Agricultural subsidies by American and European governments are the stuff that the World Trade Organization frequently debates!
And even just this week ending September 13, 2003, WTO Conference in Cancun Mexico, Agricultural and food production subsidies by America and Europe is the most contentious of all the issues on the WTO agenda for the attendees at the conference, conferees and protesters or anti globalization forces, have roundly attacked farm subsidies practiced by America and their European counterparts.
Hence, it was reported that "The trade talks on Mexico's Caribbean coast have been hit by a North-South split on issues ranging from rich nations' massive farm subsidies "
"Poor and developing nations said it was far too soft in pushing the United States, the European Union and other rich countries to slash the $300 billion in subsidies they hand out every year to their farmers."
Indian Commerce Minister Arun Jaitley led condemnation of the plan, saying it ``arbitrarily disregarded views and concerns expressed by us'' and ``does not lend itself to any meaningful dialogue.''
Nigerian governments, at all levels, must accord agriculture, the priority and pride-of-place, that agriculture rightly deserves! Handing over agriculture and food production in Kwarra state an Ogun, to the British farmers or some other foreign investors, is probably not in our national security interests! In the name foreign investment or globalization, shall we now invite foreign sanitation experts to pick up our garbage in Lagos? Instead of providing Lagosian the money, equipment and other resources to clean up Lagos?
Nigerian farmers used to export groundnuts, cocoa and many other farm produce and products, Nigerians from all regions and states are or (were?) accomplished farmers! Whatever we did, we knew farming, first and foremost! Are we now too educated and too sophisticated for our own good? Nigerians are now too educated and sophisticate to farm? Farming need some respectability! A starved PHD holder is a dead PHD holder.
Talking about Nigerian farming, Nigerian farmers, perhaps I should remind governor Bukola Saraki, and his counterpart in Ogun state that our president, his boss, is prominent Nigerian, who is also a known experienced farmer of the OFN fame... grow your own food governor! Take a cue from the former governor of the MidWest state now Edo state, Dr. Osaigbovo Ogbemudia, took farming to new heights in Nigeria, and that was about thirty years ago! Mechanized, large scale and commercialized and all! President Obasanjo and Governor Ogbemudia are of the PDP, your political party! Consult them! They certainly will not recommend flying in, some white farmers!
I hope not.
Governor Ogbemudia turned Agbede and or Warrake farms in his state into farming wonderlands at the time, he successfully ran farms, these farms were known nationwide in Nigeria, I even went there as a child on a school trip! Perhaps Governor Saraki should talk or consult with the former governor of the MidWest?
The best hands for agricultural and food production services can also be found in the Department of Agriculture of the University of Maiduguri! I recall with pride, witnessing their diligent research efforts, geared toward the production and preservation of local Nigerian foods and delicacies from Nigerian farmers! I witnessed their efforts in the prolongation of the shelf-life of Nigerian farms produce and products! They conducted enormous amount of research then, in the Agriculture Department of UNIMAID.
I am also certain that, the above efforts in the University of Maiduguri, that I have alluded to, may be identical in many Nigerian Universities' Agriculture Department, and more particularly so, in the many Federal Universities of Agriculture?
Nigeria has many Universities of Agriculture and food production, Nigeria also boasts of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture or the IITA in Ibadan, and what about what used to be known as Nigeria Institute For OilPalm Research or NIFOR?
And more than all of these?
Nigeria has able-bodied under-employed and under-utilized farmers, and scores of unemployed citizens, who could be equipped to go into farming! There are scores of unemployed graduates reputable Nigerian and foreign educational institutions, Nigeria has decent local farmers that could best any British or Zimbabwean farming techniques or skills! Are Nigerians now waiting for white farmers to teach Nigerians how to make better kunnu? or Ogbono soup?
Nigeria need to harvest some of Nigeria's best brains, to resuscitate agriculture and food production, this will also generate employment for Bakassi Boys, Area Boys and their friends, the Almajiris! All these Nigerians gainfully employed, will cease to be part of Nigeria's socio-economic challenges.
Nigeria needs to commercialize agriculture and food production, Nigerians need to take more active interest in large scale mechanized farming, the governments at all levels, and the organized private sector, need to encourage and lead these efforts.
Nigerian Banks should set aside, a decent percentage of say, 10% pre-tax annual income, for agricultural and food production services, Nigerian Banks, should enthrone Agric Loans with VERY LIBERAL lending conditions, for mechanized-large-scale-commercial farming and food production.
KLM, South Africa Airways, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic etc etc, took over the operations of Nigeria Airways, but all these did not save our National Airline! Why do some Nigerians always defer to Oyinbos as the solution to all our problems? Have the Indians, the Chinese and every other foreign not taken over the operations of the Nigerian Railways Corporations in the past? How is the NRC doing now? Nigerian leaders and all Nigerian citizens should be told emphatically, that Nigerians are as good as anyone else and that given the right environment, money/resources and freedom of actions, Nigerians will solve our national problems, Nigerians will do better at righting the wrongs in Nigeria, because Nigeria is ours, we have a stake in the outcome of what happens to Nigeria, we know the terrain and neighborhood better than any imported experts! Given the chance and resources and freedom of actions, I will run the best farm that governor Saraki of the great state of Kwarra has ever seen! I know more about Nigerian farming, than I know legal principles or computer technology! And I love Kwarra state more than New York.
What Nigeria lack and what Nigeria needs, so desperately, in Agriculture and Food production, (pretty much every where else!) is the WILL, the DETERMINATION and FOCUS, to produce food! Nigeria does not need to import White or Purple farmers, whether from Britain or Zimbabwe.
Paul I. Adujie is a Nigerian Lawyer and an Information Technology Professional.
First Published in September 2003