As the controversies generated by the April general election continues, where the popular opinions in the North is that the election is not free and fair as is portrayed to the outside world while the southern section of the country see the election as bringing to an end the North clinch on power. An attempt is made in this piece to see how this new Jonathan mandate (what ever your opinion of its) will impact the northern agriculture and from there the whole of its economy. The last election is very unique when compare to any previous election, as it brought into the limelight the major division in the country’s super structure, that between the Christian South and the Muslim North. The unambiguous differences between the densely populated urban live found in the South and the sparsely populated but mostly rural live that is dominance in the North. This can be clearer when one makes a careful analysis of the post election violence, its genesis, the distribution of the youth who undertook it, and the different victims of the riot. Post election riot of this nature has (in the past) been linked with the South, especially the South West (taking into cognizant the post election riot that occurred after the general elections of 1964, 1983 and the June 12 election), the last one coming from the North of all places has come as a surprise to many analysts. To my knowledge Jonathan has not put in place any concrete master plan for the transformation of our agriculture, what we have in the last one year is short outbursts and promises to calm minds given during conferences and interviews. To have a grasp of the non importance of agriculture in Jonathan agenda, just have a look at his 2011 budget, the percentage given to the sector and the areas where the amount is to be spent will tell you more about his government. Many people are of the view that agricultural sector will not witness any serious transformation in the next four years of Jonathan government, as they believed that he will be preoccupied with the attempt to reverse the injustice people from his region believe were meted to them. His own part of the country that produces most of Nigeria’s crude oil has no agricultural base, the little agriculture they have has been killed by the oil industry. For example, unlike Obasanjo (who himself is a farmer) Jonathan is not known to have practiced any serious agriculture, though he got his degrees in Zoology or it is Botany? Being in possession of degree in a field is not a guarantee that the area of study will benefit thereafter; we have in Nigeria PhD holders in engineering that have not invented a needle. But still much depend on the composition of his next cabinet because as the Hausa man will say ‘ba a mugun sarki sai mugun bafade’ (meaning there is no bad ruler but bad courtiers).
While in many countries around the world agriculture is held in high esteem and protected like defense sector, the reverse is the case here in Nigeria. Successive administrations have neglected the sector focusing instead on how to spend the easy money that is coming from the oil sector. In what is belief to be oil curse Nigerian government inclusive of its people have become lazy people who have blinded themselves to the numerous opportunities that exist around them. Not very far from us, South Africa that is believed to be the largest economy in Africa, still earns substantial amount of its foreign exchange from agriculture, despite the fact that they are the largest producer of Gold in the world. Economies like Argentina, Brazil, Holland, Thailand to mention just a few that are far ahead of Nigeria still depend to a larger extent on agriculture. With population of over 150 millions people, I do not know of any country with the size of our population that neglected its agriculture the way we do. With population of this size our preoccupation should have been not only to feed this people but how to export the excess we produce so as to make this people (majority of whom are farmers) occupied. Nigeria’s agriculture still produces over 40% of our gross domestic product (GDP), asks yourself this simple question, does it get up to half of that number from the allocations from our annual budget? I was on the road from Kano to Maiduguri when the last post election violence caught up with me, from what I have seen with my own eyes, most of the rioters we encountered on the road were rural dwellers who depend on agriculture for their livelihood; but because they do not have anything better to do they poured on the street. To me any explanation for the cause of the last post election violence that do not address economic factors is nonsensical, the cause is not religious neither it is ethnic only that some victims of the riot happened to come from other parts of the country where the rioters belief PDP (the party in power) is strong. Northern rural dwellers (majority of them farmers) belief the government in Abuja is the main reason for their poverty. As I said at the beginning, while the South is mostly urban the North is dominated by rural dwellers, to prevent any future occurrence of social disturbances PDP’s government must do something about this sector that provides job for the teeming rural people. We should not forget that it is the same rural dwellers that are pouring into the cities, not only in the North but inclusive of the South, looking for something to do; and have so far become the habitual first recruit for any disturbance to the law and order in this country.
(Published on Gamji.com site on 1/06/2011)