From Japa to Japada: Greening the Nigerian pasture (2) by Olatunji Ololade | TimeTestedNews

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If President Bola Tinubu truly seeks to make Nigeria habitable to all; if he wishes to create an enabling environment for individuals and enterprises to thrive, then he must avoid the mistakes of his predecessors. The Presidential Villa shouldn’t subsist as our Versailles. 

The presidency should no longer serve as a theatre of ruinous artifice. Agreed, the government thrives the world over as a performance theatre rippling with courtiers, but Nigerians no longer wish to be patronised by leeches. Nigerians do not wish to be handled by courtiers. They want leaders that truly serve their interests.

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Governance has been a farce for too long. It’s about time we experienced true change. First, there must be an immediate moratorium on the cloying manoeuvre oft deployed by every ruling party to portray itself as the only change agent with a bleeding heart and the capacity to reform the country.

The incumbent administration must shun inclinations to make a show of its Social Intervention Programmes (SIPs) as some grand gestures to the impoverished, the displaced and other casualties of misgovernance, whose plight successive leadership have exploited through embarrassing lifeboats.

President Tinubu could institute governance that finds less need for populist initiatives and curtails brain drain (Japa) in one breadth. To achieve this, he could commit to providing food security and a more pragmatic, Nigeria-specific educational system.

Ensuring food security will guarantee Nigerians access to decent, affordable nutrition, and generate employment opportunities. A Nigeria-specific educational system will furnish the country with the quality of brains, labour and a citizenry rightly psyched to drive patriotic, all-inclusive growth – but this is a discourse best served at a later date.

And, yes, technology is just a part of the mix, a very crucial one no doubt but it shouldn’t be cuddled as his administration’s magic vase. Nigeria’s socioeconomic crises can never be resolved by simply rubbing a digital lantern to make a genie appear. Technology isn’t the silver bullet to all our troubles.

Rather technology must be seen as an aid to boosting agricultural economy and industrial productivity. We cannot best the more developed societies of the world at technological innovations. Thus Tinubu’s administration must control its fascination with technology and instead focus on Nigeria’s strengths: 82.0 million hectares of arable land of which 34 million hectares have been cultivated so far, natural resources (of which a greater percentage are illicitly exploited), and our under-exploited entertainment and education sectors.

While a few Nigerians earn a decent living in overseas’ medical and educational sectors, many more are doing grudge work sweeping the streets, picking oranges on rural farms, cleaning toilets, doing security work, and washing the anuses of mental patients in hospices, irrespective of their training and academic qualifications.

Many of them could be gainfully employed in Nigeria’s agricultural economy with appropriate incentives. Agriculture employs about 70 percent of the country’s population thus it can be used to drive sustainable growth through a value chain that turns raw commodities into processed goods for domestic consumption or export.

Tinubu must fund the diversification of agriculture to make it more appealing to a vast youth population that is spiritless about farming but might be attracted to processing, marketing, and other business opportunities along the value chain.

Agriculture could be our game-changer. Who says Nigeria can’t feed the world? The wellspring of wealth is agricultural surplus, the ability to feed more than one with the labour of one. Agricultural surplus built the groundnut pyramids of the north and the cocoa plantations of the southwest.

It was the mainstay of Nigeria’s economic independence. Nigeria was a leading agricultural economy in the 1950s, being the largest producer of palm oil, groundnut, cotton, and cocoa globally. The sector employed over 70 per cent of the labour force and accounted for as much as 62.3 per cent of the nation’s foreign exchange earnings while contributing over 60 per cent to Nigeria’s GDP.

Challenges of poor land tenure system, deficient irrigation, climate change, low technology, land degradation, high post-harvest losses, and poor access to markets, to mention a few, currently stifle agricultural productivity.

For instance, between 2016 and 2019, Nigeria’s cumulative agricultural imports stood at N3.35 trillion, four times higher than the agricultural export of N803 billion within the same period.

With population explosion and the government’s renewed drive to boost food security, agriculture has become increasingly crucial to our survival as a nation. But caught between the womb walls of the crude oil creeks and the I.T revolution, Nigeria lives imprisoned in starvation’s bower.

In the wake of food inflation and other hardships accentuated by the fuel subsidy removal, President Tinubu declared a state of emergency on food security, in July, and instructed that all matters about food and water availability and affordability be included within the purview of the National Security Council (NSC). These measures were to be followed by an immediate release of fertilisers and grains to farmers and households to mitigate the effects of the subsidy removal.

Also, on July 13, the President wrote to the Senate seeking approval for an $800 million palliative loan from the World Bank, to fund a Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) facility that will provide 12 million impoverished households N8,000 per month for six months.

But the plan was dismissed as unrealistic as it pits the citizenry’s low purchasing power in yet another futile  battle with rising inflation (pegged at 23 per cent) and increasing cost of accommodation and transportation. Based on the Transport Fare Watch data, uploaded by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) on August 12, 2023, the average transport fare within major cities has increased by 97.88 per cent and the average cost of a kilogram of beef stood at N2,653.02, indicating a growth of 27.55 per cent. Tinubu has since instructed a review of the scheme to N15,000 per household.

In the immediate term, he also expressed his plans to reactivate land banks starting with 500,000 hectares of already mapped tracts, to boost food output. Nonetheless, the citizenry demands instant relief.

Greening the Nigerian pasture is not achievable in a sprint or marathon. Think of it as a cross-country run. It is not a race winnable in four years. But who cares? Tinubu made Nigerians promises. Hence Nigerians ask, albeit impatiently: “Where is the abundance that he promised?”

Going forward, his administration must de-emphasise a culture of public governance dependent on lifeboat solutions; to truly empower the citizenry, his administration must actualise a stable electricity supply and a better road and marine infrastructure; he must also revive the agricultural economy, get the refineries working.

Systems thrive by their human elements thus Nigerians humanise our systems and dehumanise them. The President must be wary of the human factors that hinder the successful implementation of most policies and SIPs.

Former President Muhammadu Buhari initiated the CCT, TraderMoni and N-Power resulting in alarming fraud running into billions of naira.  Likewise, former President Goodluck Jonathan’s  administration’s  SURE-P was hampered by massive corruption.

Fast forward to 2023 and Tinubu, as President, bears the unenviable credit for removing fuel subsidies while sustaining the SIPs that he inherited from Buhari’s administration.

No matter the degree of sophistry deployed to validate or invalidate their sustenance, let’s hope they do not subsist as futile, lifeboat remedies to socioeconomic problems. Let’s hope they become needless to us.

Source: The Nation