By: Abdulrasheed Ibrahim

There is this argument that democracy may be one of the best forms of governments but it cannot guarantee good governance. With the experience in this country in the past 25 years, one cannot but agree with that argument.

The journey to democratic governance in 1999 was not an easy one as those that initiated or midwifed that democracy cannot be said to be truly patriotic because if they were I did not see a reasonable ground why the country should not have been returned to the democracy based on the results of the June 12 1993 Presidential election which was part of the transition programme the country said to have spent billions of naira that eventually went to waste.

When IBB annulled the election and was forced to step aside, his leaving Abacha behind in the lnterim Government he put together was like leaving a lion among the sheep. One therefore then not surprised when Abacha struck.

Were it not for the sudden death of the maximum ruler, probably we would have witnessed the emergence of another sit tight African dictator in Nigeria as Abacha was determined to succeed himself in what the late Chief Bola Ige then called five fingers of leprous hand political parties put together by Abacha when he came to power.

The military politicians that truncated democracy in this country were the same beneficiaries of power for the larger part of the 25 years of democracy from 1999. Generals Olusegun Obasanjo and Muhammadu Buhari as elected civilian Presidents spent 16 years. When you deduct that 16 years from 25 years, the “bloody civilians” have ruled for 9 years.

One can say it without fear of any contradiction that in the past 25 years to be specific virtually all those that have ruled this country have not done well enough to justify what this country has been blessed with whether in terms of natural resources and human resources. 25 years is enough to transform a country positively if we have the right leaders that are brilliant, selfless, patriotic and visionary at the helm of affairs.

For those that may argue otherwise, please ask them, how many years did it take the leaders of the countries like Singapore and United Arab Emirate (Dubai) to positively transform their respective countries? Our country is a nation so blessed with vast fertile land and high population unlike some other developed countries, but unfortunately that population has not been properly deployed to the use of that vast fertile land rather great number of young people are today seen roaming and wasting about on the streets everywhere doing nothing positive.

Ironically, starvation is spreading across the vast fertile lands that if properly manage are capable of being used to produce abundant foods, crops and animal for consumption and industrialization. It is very painful that you now see many young Nigerians going about the streets picking waste and empty plastic bottles and cans whereas in other climes and countries where you have the right visionary leaders, these are young people that can be kept busy in various farm plantations and settlements doing one thing or the other to make the country very productive and boost industrialization.

The failure of those at the helm of affairs to do the right things are responsible for most of the problems facing the country today including the issue of the current food scarcity being faced by the people. There is this spurious argument being canvassed by some people that the food scarcity mostly resulted from the activities of the kidnappers and bandits.

My counter argument has been that if the right things and good government policies have been put in place for a long time there would not have been problem of kidnapping and banditry. Poverty, starvation and frustration are potent enough to push people into criminal activities.

The flamboyant life being lived by many politicians in the midst of people basking in hunger and poverty without adequate care for people is equally a contributing factor. This is the reason why the leaders must live by example by living moderate and simple life. If one may ask, even before the serious wave of kidnapping and banditry in the rural areas, to what extent has those in government make serious efforts and intervention in massive agricultural production and industrialization.

We will not stop referring to the BLUEPRINTS of the likes of Chief Obafemi Awolowo because most of the problems we are facing stem from the fact that most the contemporary leaders are not learning anything from these great visionary leaders. Once dwelling on the issue of agricultural development, the late Chief Awolowo said:

“It must be emphasised that our agricultural economy does not consist only of cocoa, groundnut, oil palm, cotton, rubber, timber , cashew-nut as some people on the Government Bench make it appear. Our export products, cocoa, cotton , groundnut ,et cetera, are of great importance as they are very big earners of foreign exchange with which we pay for our imports. They, therefore, deserve the utmost attention .

We must seek to increase in both their yields and variety and try to secure better prices for them in the world market.”

The above observation was made by Chief Obafemi Awolowo as far back as in 1961. At that time Regional governments unlike the present State governments were seriously involved in various farm plantations with farm settlements. This kind of venture has long been abandoned hitherto by various State governments that succeeded the Regional governments.

It was this attitude that marked the gradual collapse of industries and the industrial estates in Nigeria as there was no way those industries could be sustained without agricultural produces. Any country that neglects her agricultural potential cannot be industrially productive.

The large portion of foods being presently consumed in this country are majorly the efforts of farmers that still to a large extent rely on manual hoes and cutlasses without sufficient and serious intervention from those in governments. This has made agriculture very unattractive to many people particularly the young people. This trend has been on for long considering the view of the late Chief Awolowo when he said:

“A large number of our boys and girls are now leaving school and seeking employment .It is true that they will not under these circumstances, go back to farming as it at present being done by their fathers and mothers. Our methods of farming are still primitive and antediluvian .

The educated young people would like to adopt methods which are scientific and modern .Therefore ,it is possible to find jobs for these boys and girls provided agriculture is considerably improved and modernised .It is wrong for the Government to imagine that the only avenue for employment is industrialization.”

It is even worse today that the industries that can offer the employment are no longer there. Most boys and girls leaving schools this time around are not even interested in staying in the country but want to ‘japa’ to other countries to seek for greener pastures, even opting for odd jobs in those countries that they cannot do in their own country.

With the high rate of unemployment in this country, agriculture is capable of providing solution to that if those at the helm of affairs can wear their thinking caps and do the right things as suggested by Chief Awolowo several decades ago when he said :

“Agricultural development will also be an avenue for employment for our young people .It is agreed, therefore, that the foundation of our national prosperity as has been said by the Minister himself rests on agriculture, then it must be agreed also that the foundation must be well and truly and solidly laid.

It would be shrinking its duty; indeed one of its primary duties, if the Federal Government were to pass the entire bulk of agricultural development on to the Regional Governments. The Regional Governments in my view, are doing their very best in the task of improving our agricultural economy. But their best needs the bold, imaginative and enlightened support of the Federal Government if that best is to be good enough for our people.

This will help the Regional Governments to develop and diversity the economy of our country and promote the welfare and happiness of our people.”

As things stand today, what agricultural diversity are the contemporary State governments, the successors of the Regional governments are involving in that requires the bold, imaginative and enlightened support of the Federal Government?

There is this funny argument by some people that animal rearing or husbandry is private business that the government should not be involved. If the Government should not be involved in any business or agricultural business, what should the people in Government be involved in? Should they be diverting the government’s earnings into their private pockets to later build their private business empires as being done by many politicians that have left the government?

Such kind of spurious argument prevents leaders that are not brilliant from doing the right things that will bring prosperity and happiness to the people. If people are basking in poverty and starvation, do you expect them to be praising the government in power?

The President as the leader of the country will continue to receive the stones of criticism from the people for the failure the States’ Governors who are in custody of the land but refuse to agriculturally exploit the comparative advantages in their respective States.

If the Governors cannot think or reflect on that by using their brains, the President as leader must challenge them to do that because it will not be good enough for the Governors continue going to Abuja to collect oil revenue without themselves being productive in their respective States.This reminds me of the promise made by President Tinubu after being sworn in on 29th May 2023:

“Rural incomes shall be secured by commodity exchange boards guaranteeing minimal prices for certain crops and animal products .A nationwide programme for storage and other facilities to reduce spoilage and waste will be undertaken.

Agricultural hubs will be created throughout the nation to increase production and engage in value-added processing .The livestock sector will be introduced to best modern practices and steps taken to minimize the perennial conflict over land and water resources in this sector .

Through these actions food shall be made more abundant yet less costly .Farmers shall earn more while the average Nigerian pays less.”

How will this promise come to pass and reality if the President is not ready to tell the Governors the home truth on the need to massively revive the agricultural sector? Are the Governors not the ones in charge of lands and closer to the rural areas?

While some Governors suppose to the thinking about how to revive various foods and crops plantations and farm settlements to boost agricultural production and industrialisation, some are talking about acquiring farm lands in villages to build what they call “Smart Cities” as if that is what will bring employment and foods on the table of those being governed.

It is a good thing that the Senate of the National Assembly is intervening to pass a law on open grazing as sanity needs to be brought into the incessant farmers and herders conflicts. The irrational act of allowing animals to be roaming about everywhere must be checkmated.

They must be confined to specific places around the country so that they will not stray to destroy or eaten up the foods and crops being planted by the farmers. There is the need to establish ranching points in different parts of the country where necessary to prevent unnecessary encroachment on the farm lands.

I have argued somewhere else that it will not make sense opposing the open grazing and the establishment of ranching points at the same time. There must be ranching points to prevent open grazing.

The government both at State and Federal level must be ready to invest heavily on agriculture generally while the local governments are assigned the supervisory role .

Government must encourage people who are seriously interested in farming of various kinds (not ghost farmers) to form co-operative groups or societies to enable them to have access to the government facilities that will be strictly deplore into the agricultural activities and not to other things else. There must be rules and regulations on the ground that if violated there must be serious sanctions.

If some of these things have been put into practice in the past 25 years with serious commitment on part of the successive leaders, honest this country would not be where it is today where almost everyone is complaining of starvation and high cost of foods.

Another problem with many of the people in government is that they are not usually attentive to suggestion and advice being offered by many Nigerians who are not privileged to be in power but have been offering advice and suggestion through various media that ought to be heeded and taken advantages of by those in government. For instance a Nigerian farmer predicted as far back as in the month of February this year that there was going to be scarcity of peppers and tomatoes in the markets between the month of May and June this year which actually came to pass.

Rather than the advice and suggestion being taken to checkmate the scarcity in advance everybody including those in government went to sleep until the gnashing of teeth came.

Some Nigerians are very funny people that sometime when they argue you begin to wonder the source of their reasoning and thinking .

This is a country that already has 36 States and Abuja, the Federal capital territory, but how many of these States are viable and capable enough to sustain themselves without depending largely on the allocation that comes from the Federal Government?

With this you still see some Nigerians clamouring and agitating for the creation of more States. There is another call for the reverse to the Regional Governments and I wonder how this is possible without altering the present States’ Structure. If the various States’ governors with the President of the country can get it right, they can corroborate within the old geographical structures to make positive and meaningful contributions that will aid the rapid development of the country known as Nigeria.

May the knowledge, patriotism and wisdom prevail among contemporary leaders!

•Ibrahim can be reached via:

18th June 2024