Sen. Abdullahi Adamu is the chairman, senate committee on agriculture, in this interview with RUTH CHOJI, he said that calls for the federal government to declare a state of emergency on the economy is not necessary. He also spoke on some other issues.
Farmers are worried that young people don’t seem interested in farming, what will it take to entice them?
I am a lawyer, I am in parliament today but I am more proud to be identified with agriculture today because I am a farmer, it provides me self-employment and reinforces my independence as a person. Nobody can see it as a product of corruption. I am aware of the fact that my generation who are in agriculture are ageing, their knees are beginning to buckle and nature abhors vacuum. Unless and until we can sensitise our youths to take interest in agriculture, we have no guarantee that after us, there will be another generation that will be interested in farming or there will be succession. I believe that the predatory form of agriculture we do today is not attractive to the youths. The answer is modernisation and mechanisation. We must find a way and introduce massive mechanisation in agricultural operation, meaning we must get farming equipment and implements. We have to get tractors, planters, harvesters and machines to spray our field. When you get this and an assured market with prices, the youths will become interested in agriculture.
There are also fears that the crises between the farmers and herdsmen in some agrarian states might lead to low production output by farmers, do you share such views?
I believe that there is a problem, but there is also over politicisation of the issue. We have black spots and we condemn in the strongest terms, farmers and herdsmen clashes and some people are killed or get maimed for life as a result of the conflict. It is a two-way traffic. The herdsmen too get killed depending on where the crises takes place. What you are seeing is a breakdown of traditional control mechanism. Before I was born and I am now 70 years old, there have been clashes or incidents of herdsmen with farmers clashes, like in a situation where the cattle strays into the farmer’s farm and destroys crops. We had the traditional institution who have a matured way of identifying these crises and it was properly managed with a smiling face and hand shake. But with increase in population and desertification that leads to migration of herdsmen to other parts where they have greener pasture, it becomes absolutely unavoidable. So what I don’t like is the way we have amplified the problem. We had a public hearing on the issue sometime around June and somebody stood up and said in his place, 900 people were killed. For God sake, how can somebody who is matured and responsible come out and say such things? If you take a census of farmers in his village, you won’t get 900 farmers. So who is that person trying to fool? Or is it because you want them to stop the fight against farmers and herdsmen clashes, you go to London and demonstrate, or go to Washington or go to Bonne to demonstrate using a Biafra flag in the course of the demonstration. What do you make of it?
Coming back to the national assembly, the House of Representatives has been enmeshed in crises on budget padding, what is your take on this?
I am a bit disappointed with what I am seeing and hearing and I believe that whatever was the case, there could have been a little bit of maturity in handling the case. It was a little bit embarrassing to the national assembly because whatever image that affects the house, affects the senate. I believe that after all these noise, someone somewhere will have to sit them down and talk reason into them. But it is bad press for us.
Since the secretary to the government came out to say Nigeria doesn’t have enough funds to implement the budget fully, some have suggested borrowing, do you share such views?
I am in agreement with anybody that says such things. We don’t have money and the expectation of the populace is too much. So we can borrow and commit the funds to developing infrastructure to drive the economy. America, with all the number one status they enjoy in the world, also borrows. If you hear the huge figure they are indebted to, you will be surprised. But nobody talks about it because the loan they take, they put it to proper use and people see the result in terms of benefits to the economy. You can borrow and put your house in infrastructure like railway and the rest, inject capital in solid minerals and agriculture because it will bring dividends. People will see these things and know that they are working.
The economy has gone into recession and some are worried that we might not come out of it soon. Do you harbour such fears?
Obviously, as a member of this government, if I say I am not worried, I will be irresponsible. I am very worried because no matter what I think today, the ultimate state of the economy lies with our people, the government. The people from whom we canvassed votes had legitimate hope and aspiration that we will deliver. Unfortunately, the situation on the ground is such that, it will be difficult and dishonest to say that these promises will be fulfilled now. But I gain consolation in the fact that, the head of the government, President Buhari has himself acknowledged the suffering of the people and he shares in the pains of the people. He assures them as well as I will do as a member of the government, that I share in their pains. I have reasons to believe that government is doing its utmost to get us out of the woods. Yes, people are saying we should stop complaining because it is just one year, three months in office but the real situation is that, you cannot say that the state of the economy we inherited has no role to play in what is happening now.
The government we are leading is not a government of angels, it is a government of Nigerians by Nigerians for Nigerians. We did not have a good and realisable appreciation of the state of the economy when we were taking over. The hand over note from Jonathan’s government to Buhari’s government did not help matters. If there was anything in the handover note, it didn’t come early enough for it to be used by the transition committee. There was so much falsehood in the little they presented, so much so that it was to our shock that the treasury was the way we inherited it. Yes, we have assumed office and we bear the burden of governance. We are not shying away from it. This is an open government. We are trying to solve the problems that have bedevilled the economy and we have been telling the people where we are now.
What will it take for Nigeria to get out of the woods?
Government is collective responsibility. The person who you entrusted with the ultimate responsibility for governmental is President Buhari and I believe he has his thumb on the pulse of the economy, he has got advisers on the fiscal policies, advisers on monetary and micro economy of the country. He is got advisers on the productive and social angles of the requirement of government. I believe strongly that the question should be asked from the people directly involved in the primary act of governance to take responsibility. Let every minister take a critical look at each and every ministry from the point of view of the mandate the president has given to get us out of the wood. What is the assessment of each ministry and minister? It is not too much for one to begin to ask questions from various ministries. This is the target and if they have not met up, let them tell us why.
Should the FG declare a state of emergency on the economy?
I don’t believe we need any state of emergency. We can find ways of making the system more disciplined and the government more concerned with the people. What do you hope to achieve with a state of emergency?
A foreign magazine once described the Buhari administration policies as foolish. Do you share such views?
I am not bothered about what a foreign paper said about this government but I feel it is very rude. I believe in the freedom of the press. They first said we should not vote Buhari. If they were acting as good Samaritans in the interest of Nigerians, then Nigerians would be worried but it is not right to say that. Supposing a Nigerian gets up to say to Mrs. May, their prime minister that her policies are foolish? I don’t believe it is a fair comment and I believe it bothers on irresponsibility with them. Nobody should look at what we are doing and say, it is foolish.
There has been a renewed agitation for restructuring, do you think it will solve some of the problems that have bedevilled us?
I respect anybody’s views. We are a family and in a family where there is freedom, people are entitled to know their problems and to give us an evaluation on how they can come out of their problems. If somebody feels that the solution to our problem is for us to restructure, then they should give us a general definition of what they really want to restructure, whether it is the state, economy, is it the form of democracy or our practice of federalism that you want to restructure. We need to know exactly what they want. I am, not afraid of restructuring. But it is vague. People just talk about it to score cheap point. I want them to be a little more specific. What is it they are looking for with restructuring? But just to be shouting restructuring, restructuring is just polluting the environment. Some people are talking of restructuring, that they have even started talking of secession. I am old enough like Nigeria. I turned 70 years in July. I was an adult when the civil war took place. I was already an adult when the first republic was toppled and I was already an adult when successive government took power in Nigeria. Who could comprehend and follow the trend and know what led to the civil war?
There are some war mongers who don’t know what a real war is, they think it is just a picnic to go to war. They provoke people with wrongs, forgetting that you can go about your agitation. You have a right to pursue a goal that is legitimate to you. It is one thing to agitate for something but it is another thing for Nigeria to grant you your desire.
Take a look at some of the pictures of the Biafra adventure. Some of them over-exaggerated the media campaign of the war but what we see in pictures and cinemas of the times were genuine situations. The kind of suffering, restlessness and hunger, when people said in war, hunger is an instrument of war, we don’t want to have another civil war. The army officers will tell you that no nation will go to war twice and survive. I am not a soldier but I have heard it from them and I believe it. We are not stopping people from agitating but do it within the confines of the law.
But don’t you think this agitation could lead to our disintegration as a nation?
I do believe Nigeria will remain one. I don’t care about anybody’s noise. We have problems with some aspects like fiscal federalism but, you don’t do it by intimidation. Who are they? What makes them think they have a right and we don’t? I believe we can sit down as one family and table our grievances. The issue of minorities has been in this country as old as constitutional government in Nigeria. It has always been alive in our constitution and the leaders of the minority group did the best they could but they didn’t resort to what we are now seeing like the avengers. What are they avenging? Who hasn’t got an issue to avenge? People should stop taking others for granted. Buhari was a general and he didn’t get it by sitting in the office and getting promotion. He has the experience. Buhari is only being humane. It is not his normal demeanour, but because this is democracy and he wants to give people enough room to express themselves therefore, people should not abuse that privilege.