Nigeria without oil: Aregbesola’s model
FOLLOWERS of style and policy drive of Governor Rauf Aregbesola of Osun State should by now know that he holds two programmes tenaciously dear to his heart –Education and Agriculture — out of the six policy thrusts of his administration. These are deliberate programmes and schemes that touch directly the lives of ordinary people who have borne the brunt of anti-people policies of the previous administrations. Little wonder that the people of Osun are elated at every point with the progressive execution of these projects with applause and fanfare.
Interestingly, Aregbesola who has thought through his agenda before assuming office knew the import of the double-barrelled schemes – education and agriculture – in the life of any economy. Investment in human capacity building, comprehensive education and other enablers like agriculture and job creation are the surest routes to conquering endemic poverty, arresting rural-urban migration, armed robbery and other societal vices that have been plaguing the country in the recent past. This is supported by statistics across the globe which show that those involved in obscene crimes are in the majorly school group-outs, jobless folks and idle minds who in turn vent their frustration on the society that made them criminals! It’s truly so. “No one is born a criminal, the society made them”.
It is this same lack of purpose, direction and ineffectual policy, coupled with the ruinous adventure of the military, callous looting and politicians’ brazen corruption that have been responsible for the backward march we are witnessing today. We are worse for it as a nation; grasping with the problem of unemployment, contending with armed banditry and kidnapping and now, the dreaded Boko Haram insurgency. Beyond the terror group’s tenacious avowal that the driving principles behind their blood-curdling onslaught on the Nigerian state is inherent in the Islamic belief system to torpedo the country and turn it into an Islamic state. It has since been revealed that the underlining factor is a bottled-up anger against the state that has abandoned the vast majority of the populace, the northern folks in particular, to wallow in abominable poverty due to lack of positive education and orientation.
Ogbeni’s purpose in governance is clear: To use the state’s resources to improve the lot of the greatest number for the greatest good of the downtrodden who are not in a position to rescue themselves from the throes of excruciating poverty and unemployment. He has practically demystified and divested his administration of such wastefulness, a feat now loudly celebrated by those who initially wrote him off as an alien without a base or link to the people at the grassroots. Ogbeni believes that without the people, even those in government will find it difficult to cohabit in peace. This is what most Nigerian politicians have not realised, as it were, that it is in their enlightened self -interest to govern for the people and reduce the wanton abdication of responsibility to the electorate. For Ogbeni, free education, job creation and the like are the irreducible minimum any government worth the name can offer.
The governor didn’t disappoint his audience and the beneficiaries alike while bidding farewell to the first set of 20 youths out of the 40 sponsored by the state to Germany on a special agricultural training to remain focused while abroad
and ensure that they justify the investment of the state as the trip was cost over N64 million. Aregbesola gave the admonition during a send-off ceremony for the 20 youths being sponsored to Germany for advanced training in agriculture and food production technology in State of Saxony-Anhalt, Germany. He explained that his administration’s commitment to making agriculture more modern is one of the major reasons for sending them to Germany. This venture, no doubt, will increase food production for local consumption as well as exportation.
The training is in continuation of his government’s drive to revolutionize agriculture in the state under the Osun Rural Enterprise and Agriculture Programme (O’REAP). The administration is providing the necessary infrastructure and support for farmers by supplying them with inputs such as improved seedlings, fertilizers and fumigants among others; giving them hundreds of thousands of hectares of already prepared farmlands.
Aregbesola administration is also liaising with reputable local and international partners – such as the Institute for Agricultural Research and Training (IAR&T), and International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA), at Ibadan – for assistance in the area of technical knowledge which will boost production and make farming easier, more interesting and more profitable. There is no gainsaying that it is necessary to add value to agricultural practice by applying advanced knowledge in science and technology. Also, the governor has granted another N1 billion loan to 992 co-operative groups for increased production, productivity and wealth creation in order to ease accessibility to food by poor families. Cumulatively, the government has spent N3 billion on agriculture this year alone, having given N2 billion earlier to 2,000 co-operative groups before.
On the balance, Aregbesola has a policy designed to allow households have reliable and sustainable access to nutritious and healthy food as well as export to sub-Sahara Africa countries.
“We have adopted a multi-pronged approach to achieving this objective. On one hand, we are providing the necessary infrastructure and supporting our farmers with inputs. This requires supplying them with inputs such as improved seedlings, fertilizers and fumigants among others; reviving the old farm settlements that were the hub of the agricultural miracles of the Obafemi Awolowo era; opening up our rural areas by an aggressive campaign of road construction and rehabilitation to facilitate easy accessibility and movement of goods from farms to markets; and the linking of farm produce from Osun to the huge market in Lagos via the Lagos-Osun Rail Logistics System,” Aregbesola said.
The governor is committed to having young graduates learn about agribusiness and build leadership skills. He has provided opportunities for people to work as food producers, farm and ranch managers, in crops, soils, plant, animal, food and nutritional sciences, horticulture, new product development, strategic planning, marketing, management, and other careers. The youths need to satisfy their preferences in a changing world and be open to new ideas. The governor expects them to have several skills so as so to improve and enhance mechanized farming and food processing business.
In another note, Aregbesola, a few days ago received reports of the famous 98 UNIOSUN Medical Students who were sponsored to V.N Karazin Kharkvin National University in Ukraine to complete their disrupted medical programme in the state-owned university before he assumed office as governor. Addressing the Transfer Committee of UNIOSUN, the Osun helmsman said the decision to send the stranded medical students of the Osun State University to a foreign university to complete their medical studies was borne out of the conviction of his administration’s resolve that no sacrifice would be too much to secure a better future for “our children if we hope to build a great nation of our founding fathers’ dream. “
Chairman of the Transfer Committee, Dr. Simeon Afolayan, commended the governor for the huge amount spent to keep the hope of the students alive. Afolayan revealed that more than 115 students of the UNIOSUN now pursue their academic programme in Ukraine because of the tremendous support of Aregbesola’s Administration. He noted that, “despite the fact that not all the 115 students are of Osun State origin, Aregbesola’s government, in its magnanimity sponsored the students without any strings attached. This means that the students did not sign any bond with the government.
The students had had their programme stalled due to non-availability of a Teaching Hospital for the state university at the time. Aregbesola said that his government facilitated the transfer of the students because it believed that a responsible government must fulfill its part of a pact entered into with the people irrespective of which person or party in power signed the agreement in so far as governance was a continuum.
Last year, the government spent about N162 million to bail out 87 medical students to be able to continue their programme in Karachi University. But for his intervention, they would have had their dreams of becoming doctors aborted. It should go without saying that he has kept faith with these children, their parents and guardians towards realizing their life-time ambition. The governor used the occasion to clarify the point that of the 98 students for whom provision was made in transfer scheme, 87 of them eventually took the offer as parents of the remaining students had made their own different arrangements.
From the start, Aregbesola is conscious of the fact that the only way to escape the wrath of economic collapse in the near future is to reposition the wobbling or/and primitive economy. He said that in our quest to enter the club of 20 most economically powerful and viable nations by 2020 – the UNESCO set target – we have to look inward and reduce our dependence on cheap petro dollars which are the reason for the virtual abandonment of agriculture that was the nation’s economic mainstay before and after we gained independence in 1960. Even at that, it is inexplicable and shameful that as a nation we have been unable to feed ourselves adequately!
Survey is replete right about now that our oil would no longer be crazily sought after by the U.S. and China, the major importers of the bulk of the nation’s crude oil, since they have devised mechanisms to strike the depth and core of their own oil reserve, effortlessly. That is if the oil wells didn’t dry up before then! The challenge before us is either we embrace agriculture, wholesale, or we will start drinking our oil in five years time.
•Erasmus, a social commentator wrote in from Lagos, Nigeria.