Bago, changing the face of agric in Niger state

Governor Umaru Bago of Niger state comes across as a focused and determined leader. The herculean task of pulling all the stops in positioning Niger state as an agricultural hub remains his preoccupation. The positive energy towards bringing about the seismic change has endeared Bago to many. He seems so passionate about his goal which he’s pursuing with evangelistic zeal.

Interestingly, he has attracted a big market in Lagos state through a partnership aimed at leveraging individual strength. I was bowled over by his health insurance for farmers and their families which is an eloquent expression of the premium he places on them.

He has deeply immersed himself in the initiative while throwing the requisite resources in driving it, into reality. Niger state has all it takes to rule the agricultural space. Governor Bago has practically thrown down the gauntlet to his contemporaries with the same agricultural potential.

The initiative is coming at a time of grave food insecurity challenge with food prices hitting the roof. The current challenge underline the necessity for food security to be placed in the crosshairs.

The Bago’s ambitious attempt has inspired not a few disquisition on the general state of agriculture in the country and the great work required in positioning it as a ladder for socioeconomic development. Clearly, it is not about aggregating all the requisite resources. There’s necessity for an interplay of leadership, deliberate policies and commitment in driving the important sector out of the cul-de- sac.

Nigeria is still struggling to change the default picture of agriculture. The current level of agricultural operation is inadequate to meet the need of a burgeoning population that has been projected to hit 400 million in 2025. The reality is that agriculture needs to be taken seriously. Everybody needs to be on board vis-a-vis food production.

It is evident that agriculture remains the low hanging fruit in turning the fortune of the state and by implication Nigeria around. The idea of matching technology, modern equipment, irrigation and practices with broad suites of inputs alongside political will is a strong enough force to nudge the state towards the path of agricultural transformation that will bring about an uptick in production, provision of employment, improved income, reduction of poverty levels, steady food supply and improved revenue to the state. In addition to incentivizing the growth of agribusiness that will cash in on the plethora of opportunities. Broadly, it is an open sesame to the enhancement of food security and stable food prices and contribution to better nutritional outcome.

Agricultural development is a precursor to economic development. It is instantiated by the structural transformation which many developed or high income countries have experienced. It was a transition from a lower to higher plane of development.

The journey was characterized by the steady decline in the share of agriculture in both employment and GDP as labour and other resources were reallocated to manufacturing and the services sectors. And, it was characterized by urbanization, income growth and poverty reduction. As income grew, huge expenditure on non-agricultural goods increased.

Nigeria, like other African countries, has failed to neatly follow the path. The share of agricultural and manufacturing sector to GDP and employment has significantly declined. While the service sector continues to be in the lead. And, it is easy to see that not a few of the jobs provided by the sector are prejudiced against a lot of people owing to being characterized by the deployment of technology and skills. The sector will require a lot of doing in developing the capacity to carry the weight of the staggering number of the unemployed. Agriculture has an indispensable role to play on this score and in the question of inclusive economic growth.

Remember, agro-processing remain largely untapped. And, it is interesting, that agro-processing is a component of the Bago’s initiative with a hub strategically located proximate to the airport. The centrality of agro-processing is undeniable. So, improved productivity of agriculture builds the input base for agro processing which inspires industrialization along the value chain with concomitant advantage of sustainable growth of secondary products for export, job creation and poverty reduction.

The Bago’s ambitious plan for agriculture development should be supported as it fits snugly into the President Bola Tinubu administration’s agenda for agriculture. In the final analysis, it is the responsibility of Bago and his team to ensure that the plan works because the administration will be judged by the success or failure of the ambitious agricultural transformation attempt.

Abachi Ungbo,

Kaduna, Kaduna state

[email protected]