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HOW NOT TO DIVERSIFY THE ECONOMY

People are telling us persuasively from government quarters that reverting to agriculture is the only way to diversify the economy, and that to diversify is to stimulate the economy. It is a lie. It is not true. This is the teaching of an ignoramus.
Now is the time we need the skills of economic experts most. But we have come to reap the unsavory fruit of the unbaked products of our educational system, especially in the field of economics.  Nigeria thought it won’t have repercussions when ignoramuses were allowed to claim academic titles they did not merit. Apart from the fake certificates and titles universities in Nigeria dish out, people with no discipline at all wake up and attach academic titles (Dr., Professor, Honorable etc.) to their names. They have never read any book, written any theses or dissertations, sat any tests or exams. Some did not see the 4 walls of a classroom.  Those people are a cult now and they are in top positions where policies are made. Some may become governors and may win elections as presidents or become heads of state by hook or crook. Without being verified for their claims, people are appointed to do what professionals otherwise should do and they bring their ignorance to bear on the system. When we are too hungry for knowledge, it is too bad that ignoramuses have to be our teachers. Teachers feeding you the wrong things which you swallow hook line and sinker! The consequences are there. They are right here now.
To diversify is to develop into a wider range of things. It has an aim, which is to open avenues or opportunities for more income and reduce risks of failing. If you add one more route or activity, you have   not diversified the economy. That is the first fallacy to be debunked.
To diversify we have to take the economy in totality and put investment into abandoned or neglected areas. Diversification is needed in agriculture itself and in various other sectors of the economy, which is not the case. What is being done is a selective (unwholesome), narrow-minded dumping of money meant to favor one geographical and economic area and people, to the exclusion of others. This is not what we need. It is not all encompassing and cannot give us the result we want. Given the uncontrollable corruption in the land, there is no guarantee the money will get to the farms and the farmers in the hinterland where it is to be utilized.
Agriculture can never replace oil as the cash cow. You have a long waiting to do for seeds to germinate, grow and mature to be harvested. This slow nature of agriculture has to be acknowledged and taken into cognizance. It was not done. Whatever you say or do about agriculture, it is human beings who have to drive the sector. Human beings will go into our vast, snake-infested bushes to clear them for planting. The human beings include young girls and women of nowadays who have never farmed in their lives. Millipedes, centipedes, lizards, cockroaches, earth worms and such harmless things scare the daylight out of these people. Do you expect them not to run away, never to turn back, at the prospect of seeing the first snake in their lives? Yet they are expected to be the foot soldiers and field marshals to wade into the thick forests and prosecute the back to land policies. On this score alone the collapse of the policies can be considered a high probability.
I don’t know the motivation that will make our young people go and pick the hoe and the machete and the axe to go and face the drudgery of the dirty work in the farm. Farming means self-denial. It is hardly a pleasant work. Those who enjoy it must have been introduced to it early enough at young age. Those who join later soon see the nasty evidence or mark of the tough work on their hardened fingers and palms and their wrinkled faces. They go into it only because they cannot help it. Farmers bear the ugly marks of their selfless devotion to the ghastly work they do to feed the nation. In countries where agriculture contributes meaningfully to the economy, farmers as part of their motivation are exempted from taxation, can afford the best cars, live in exquisite homes, and can be said to be among the rich. The farmer above all, carries the high ideals of freedom and loyalty to society. This is how it is in the developed world we try to emulate. But here farming is encirclement in poverty of the worst kind. Once in, there is no way to get out of it.
Nigerians who are willing to join in this, I am sure, are not many. So the human resources for the agricultural revolution we have in mind won’t be easy to find. This is an aspect that has been taken so much for granted. Secondly, agriculture will not be developed in isolation. Those being driven out of their cozy offices to go and farm will be drenched by the rain, because there is no house there to  them. They must go to toilet in the open fields with all the risks involved especially for females. They will have no water to bath, wash their clothes, cook, at home and to drink; no food to eat or place to rest. Modern farms have all these provisions made. There will be no roads to the farms. There is no communication or transportation. Movement must be on foot, with the things to be carried to the farms. There is nowhere to charge phones; no available medical care in case of injuries.
Besides, the farmers have no skills at all. This must result in low productivity. There are no plans for that, we have seen, anyway. Many must, for that reason, abscond. Preparing the land for cultivation is a lot of labor and a demanding task. The farmer must be equipped with appropriate footwear and working implements or tools. There must be official budgetary provision for that. However, there is no such thing. Does this leave anybody in doubt that government has not done any homework before embarking on this project? It has not done any thinking whatsoever. It is not ready.
On a serious note, the development of a diverse and comprehensive pattern of industrial economy in the regions, which I think is what we mean by resorting to agriculture, will depend to large extent on massive infrastructural investment on communication, rural roads, education and power network, etc. To a certain degree, it will also depend on the social sector, and what income will accrue to the farmer. In short, what we are in danger of under-estimating is the cost. Where is the funding coming from? Who will disburse it honestly, incorruptibly? More importantly, farm lands are not there for the asking. There is fertile, uncultivated land everywhere. But the owners are holding tightly to their lands, unwilling to gamble about its use and ownership. Not even the government can dare to enter any land, even if it is just for rent for a season. When the government deals with this problem can it then talk of bringing agriculture to the center of its economic diversification plan.
The governments in Nigeria seldom talk of aspects like forestry, fishery, diary, livestock, horticulture and others as agriculture. Nor do they talk of cooperatives, mergers, marketing, processing, preservation, banking and other organizational structures associated with modern agriculture. It is as though agriculture is just the planting of yams, maize, cassava and a few fruits and vegetables. The high technologies in it, the research and innovations do not seem to matter. Let’s then remind them. But sorry, these are highly academic issues that only competent people can handle. Available people to handle them are sidelined, unmotivated and discriminated against. They stay far away from the saddle. Their attitude is that of withdrawal and passivity. It is only by having in place persons who know the subject matter that we can hope to solve the problems. The economy is not a matter for the small minded nit wits we have in power. They can’t handle it. Taking even the rosiest view, the Nigerian economic situation will get worse before anything miraculous can happen to make it better. Whatever may happen to the agric sector, it is hard to see how that will impact the free-fall of the naira value, the unemployment situation, the decay in the education sector, the corruption in the land, the general insecurity and the high cost of living. A new dimension to it is that growing lack of confidence in the government may have political consequences that will bring pressure on the government to have cause to lose confidence in itself and withdraw or throw in the towel before its due time. To resist it Buhari will need better officials in his cabinet, a better strategy and a great deal of luck.

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