ast week on this space, I had interrogated the new Agriculture Promotion Policy in an article titled: “Ogbeh’s ‘low energy’ agric policy”. Not a few readers have since taken me on, expressing their disappointment that I did not do enough to review the content of the document.
But the point of the article is not to review the policy just for its sake, but to help call attention to the critical condition the country has sunken and proffer solutions. The policy in itself is not the end but the need to make our agriculture productive and profitable in the shortest possible time. In any case, a review of the policy in the traditional sense would take about half a dozen instalments. I wager that you don’t have that luxury of time just as we do not have such space.
But to reiterate, the document simply lacks the urgency of now, which is why one described it as ‘low energy’. And one had proffered one’s simple panacea on what is to be done: we need to stop the importation of staple food items almost immediately. With well-structured task forces we can produce all the rice, chicken, fish and tomatoes consumed here by Christmas 2017 with excess to ship across the borders. This should be the target of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD). But one is afraid to say that implementing that document as presented would take at least five years – and result is not guaranteed.
Without boring you with a rehash of last week’s piece, it is the same virus one found in the Agric policy that plagues the entire administration of President Muhammadu Buhari – a visible lack of urgency that sometimes borders on inertia. At a period that demands speedy response to key, targeted issues, it is utterly frustrating to notice little motion in the expected direction. And one must note that it is not about funding or a lack of capacity in the human administration, but a dire absence of adrenalin, that urgency to run.
While the PMB administration plans to reintroduce the ‘War Against Indiscipline’ (WAI), which was the president’s brainchild during his first coming in 1983, we will rather suggest a War Against Inertia. There is no doubt that PMB means well for the country and will love to see immense progress in his time, but he may end up achieving little if the presidency cannot diagnose the root of its problems.
Why is it that the more this administration tries to change things for the better, the more the economy and indeed the polity seem to sink deeper into mire. About one and a half years on, nothing seems to be happening and now we have drifted from a ‘technical’ recession to a full blown one.
Examples abound of a few quick things that could have been done and missed opportunities. One that came to mind first was PMB’s promise before his inauguration to float a national carrier. But a few months after he ascended to power, he told us that it was no longer his priority.
Yes it may not be the country’s immediate need, but it is sure a necessity. To the extent that government does not need to commit huge funds to it; it will curb foreign currency flight and indeed earn us forex; it will create jobs and catalyse the growth of our aviation industry. Not least important is that it would boost Nigeria’s image by emblazoning her name into the sky and across the world. It ought to have been done. In the last one year, Ivory Coast set up her national carrier; she cannot be better than Nigeria in any sphere; it may well be just the ability to get things done.
That ought to have been ticked off as one major accomplishment of this administration. It may also have helped resolve the miasma arising from keeping a large presidential air fleet, which has sure become an embarrassment in a time of economic depression.
If half of our foreign currency earnings are spent on importing petroleum products, one would have thought that the major mantra of the PMB administration would have been to refine by any means possible. An administration with eyes squarely on the ball would have set a target with timelines for ending the importation of petroleum products.
As it stands, Nigerians do not know what exactly is going on in that regard. We the people and the government too seem to be waiting for Dangote’s refinery to come on stream. But the trouble is that regardless of what Aliko has told us, his refinery will be ready when it will as he is not under any obligation to respond to the nation’s matters of strategic importance.
Imagine how reassured Nigerians would feel now seeing that work is going on day and night on projects to end fuel importation; knowing that there is relief in sight at a stipulated time. We expect that this administration would have listed the main guzzlers of foreign exchange and worked out radical measures to drastically curtail if not end their importation. If we no longer earn forex, then we must stop spending it recklessly. That we do not see drastic actions in this regard is nothing but inertia.
Let us close with the Chibok girls and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) matters. It is bad enough that PMB promised he would free the girls by December 2015, but not to be seen to have done anything is what riles the parents and agitators. A panel was to have been set up to reconstruct the entire Chibok affair – zilch. If any concrete attempts are being made to rescue the girls, we do not know and no one bothers to show us.
It is scandalous that Nigeria cannot manage her internal refugees. It signals an acute state of inertia that hundreds of thousands of our children are dying for lack of food under the watch of the federal government. Who really is in charge of the IDP matter? There must be an arrowhead and if he is not effective, he must be fired, pronto!
One wants to wager that the PMB administration suffers more from inertia (an unwillingness to take action) than a lack of revenues.
What Zuckerberg and Ezekwesili have in common
The straight one word answer is ‘genius’. To break it down further, they both share traits like passion, brilliance, empathy and the common touch. Mark Zuckerberg needs no introduction; he is the American founder of Facebook, while Obiageli Ezekwesili is a Nigerian chartered accountant, former minister, former World Bank vice president and co-founder of Transparency International. Today she is the Bring Back Our Girls (BBOGs) arrowhead. This week, the two iconic figures were in the news. No, they were on the streets. Mark was walking freely on the streets of Lagos in spite of the scare-mongering of the US government about how unsafe Nigeria is for her citizens. But all Mark cared about was to touch Nigerian youths in a special way to make them rise to the kilimanjaro of their aspirations.
At the other end of town, Oby rekindled the BBOG campaign by sealing her lips and sitting defiantly on the road leading to the Presidential Villa. All she wanted was to rid the government of its lethargy and make it act decisively to free the school girls held by terrorists.
It takes one man… or woman to change the world.