Food Production As a Political Issue

Submitted By: IDRIS DANKAKA Date: January 11, 2010, 11:39:47 PM Views: 2272
Summary: Nigeria is faced with real danger today as a result of the neglect of her agriculture. Conclusively, if we were blessed with good leaders they could have for decades now tried to have found a workable and lasting solution that would reduce the severity of the foreseen catastrophe.

                       Idris  Dankaka, Kano.

In a modern society, giving all its complexities, the provision of adequate food for the citizens of any country requires a major political commitment. The consequences of denying food production its due national priority have become only too clear in many African countries including Nigeria, which are today the laughing stock of the so called ‘’developed world’’. These African nations have become beggars without dignity and disgraceful recipients of food aid given by nations with all kind of intentions and vested selfish interests.
Food is one of the most important political issues of this generation, and must be raised to the top of our political agenda in the country. It becomes very clear that many governments especially in Africa keep well fed armies and politicians especially those visionless political office holders, but starving majority of its civilian populations.
During any war, political or democratic processes, the civilian has to be healthy in order to contribute its own quota to national development. During peace time too, a nation requires well fed, easily mobilizable civilians to turn the wheels of the economy and to contribute their best to national development. As William Cowper said, ‘’No man can be a patriot on an empty stomach’’.  Food production therefore is a cardinal area of interest and operation in any social mobilization programs.
 Food production and its security is a big politics. We have seen how food played a vital role in the resolved East-West cold war. The defeat of communism was largely due to the inability of the Soviet Union to develop a coherent and workable food policy. Also at the core of tension between the Soviet Union and the Baltic Republic was the question of food security. On the other hand, the US which has a very sound agricultural policy wielded a lot of political influence then, and still do, all over the world. It was her (US) food power which she used to bring the Soviet Union to its knees. At various times, the US threatened to with hold the sale of wheat to the Soviet Union in order to keep the latter in close check. The might of the political power of the United States of America can be traced to her agricultural might. For a long time, the US found the Japanese government’s protection of its rice famers very irritating.  In Australia sometimes ago, the management of sugar cane surpluses was a big political issue during the general election; and near home in Kenya, a member of a parliament from a farming constituency was going to lose his seat if he did not get the Kenyan government to get the Tanzanian government to   release some railway coaches for the transportation of their farm produce. Kenyan farmers were simply not interested in tolerating any excuses. Over two hundred years ago, during the revolution of 1789, the dearth of bread helped to toppled France’s centuries old monarchy. Even today governments can fall when lack of food leads to popular unrest. The first cry of the Russian revolutionaries in 1917 was not, after all, for social change but for “bread, land and peace”. There was also a political crisis in Egypt some times back as a result of sudden rise in the price of bread. Nearer home, there were similar unrests in some countries in the West African sub-region due to shortage of rice.
Here in Nigeria in the 40s and early 50s, the country has no problem feeding itself and exporting the surplus food and cash crops produced. Every region in the country specialized in the production of one or two major crops, whether food or cash crops, and together we were able to live in blissful contentment. So we had the groundnut pyramid in the north, the cocoa mountain in the West, oil palm and kernel heaps in the East and the rubber plantation in the Mid – West. During the period, our rural people could face up to any body and tell him to go to hell because they were sure of food. But these days because of hunger and the level of pauperization, they are selling their conscience and honor for a price especially during elections. The spirit of self determination cannot be sustained because of lack of essentials of life.
Things started changing after the discovery of oil in 1956 gradually than furiously. Agricultural production was abandoned and gradually it was discovered that hunger was staving us in the face in spite of the huge arable land and good weather.
But despite the seriousness with which the food issue is viewed in the outside world, it has never seemed important in Nigerian politics. Although some governments have tried to allocate resources to the agricultural sector and have came up with some well articulated agricultural programs among which were Green Revolution, Operation Feed the Nation, Back to Land etc. Our politicians almost in all cases lack the honest and genuine political will as regards policy implementation. The procurement and distribution of agricultural inputs such as fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides, improved seeds etc is based on serving some political interest. It is a business reserved for political party loyalists and associates, and these commodities hardly ever get to the famers at the right time and at affordable prices. The so called subsidies on agricultural inputs is only enjoyed by card carrying members of the ruling parties in the federal, states and local governments instead of the real and genuine practicing famers for which  the program is aimed at. The major beneficiaries are the so called large scale famers who contribute very little and even in some cases nothing to food security because they are mostly engaged in the production of Ostrich and apples which are not staple foods in Nigeria. Besides politics, other factors militating against an enhanced food production in Nigeria include among others, policy somersault, corruption, problem of budget implementation, and our attitude towards farming as it is regarded as a vocation for the illiterates in the rural areas who have nothing better to do. Other factors include climate change which results to a very serious environmental degradation, and the lack of the genuine political will. Nigeria since 1985, reminds one of the ancient history of Europe. One reads how the Barbarians invaded and destroyed nations, their people, culture, education and anything that was good. Our own barbarians are those who have destroyed and are still destroying the country through high degree of corruption and nepotism to perpetuate self interest against the collective well-being.
Due to the aforementioned factors militating against food production in the country, the Nigeria’s agricultural sector has suffered untold set back due to decades of neglect, greed and corruption. The present national food security is based on failed policies and outright manipulation of strategies by public office holders for personal financial gains. The present level of food production cannot sustain Nigeria as one politically viable unit. If we must survive as a nation, we must step up our agricultural production. It is most disheartening to note that instead of re-addressing our minds to our agriculture, we are commencing new oil exploration in agriculturally endowed states like Bauchi, Benue and Chad Basins, areas where investments in agriculture have been abandoned. Particular ecological zones of the country are best suited to particular crops and livestock. This provides the maximum opportunities for commodity exchange between the producing and consuming areas. In a well encouraged agricultural production, the different areas will interact economically, socially and politically. With the collapse of our agriculture, some parts of the country now fail to make their rightful contributions to our national economic system. Agriculture has been left as the worst casualty of the decades of gross mismanagement of our national economy. The situation is worsened by the fact that there is no effective plan on ground to salvage the sector despite the inclusion of the food security issue in the administration of Alh. Umar Musa Yar’Adua’s (ALLAH Ya bashi lafiya) Seven Points Agenda.
If we must survive as a nation, it is high time we carry out major and very serious restructuring of our agricultural system and locate agricultural activities to the appropriate zones which, in addition to the improvement of agricultural production, will also enhance economic, social and political interactions amongst the people of Nigeria. Those in the helms of affairs in this country most know that when the barest essentials of life are missing, there is a genuine discontent and very often real danger. Nigeria is faced with real danger today as a result of the neglect of her agriculture.
Conclusively, if we were blessed with good leaders they could have for decades now tried to have found a workable and lasting solution that would reduce the severity of the foreseen catastrophe.



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