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Lucas: Buhari will do Nigeria some good by implementing APC manifesto on restructuring

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Prof. Lucas

Olabode Lucas is a retired Professor of Agriculture, public analyst, and columnist. He told Head, Southwest Bureau of The Guardian, MUYIWA ADEYEMI and ROTIMI AGBOLUAJE what government must do to meet expectations of Nigerians and the advantages in implementing the manifesto of the All Progressives Congress (APC).

As an agriculture expert, you are familiar with the security challenges of farmers in the Middle Belt, Southwest and in other places. How concerned are you in that regard with the implication for food security in the country?
IT’S unfortunate Nigeria has turned to this stage of insecurity. It was never like this before. In fact, one day I watched the damage done by the herdsmen in the Middle Belt, burning farms, silos, destroying people’s buildings. So, the implication to me is that: this is our food basket for the country. If the farmers can’t go to the farms, prices of food items will rise, there is no doubt about that. In fact, anybody who gives money at home must be hearing from his wife that things are very expensive. It’s because of this insecurity, the herdsmen and bandits.

In Southwest here, the classical case was that of Chief Olu Falae, who was driven from his farm. If you can do that to an eminent person like Chief Falae, you can imagine what is happening to ordinary farmers. Apart from insecurity, once lives are not safe it affects food production; it is going to affect pockets of everybody.

Workers are not well paid. Some countries where they pay small salaries to workers, their governments take care of other departments like education, health, but in Nigeria, you’re paying everything from your salaries. Now, with the increase in food prices, people are not given good governance. The first duty of any government is to ensure the security of its people. A government that cannot do that has failed. Let’s tell ourselves the home truth. That’s the problem. I don’t know why it is so difficult for the government to do; maybe, there are some vested interests.

Apart from banditry, as an expert in agriculture, will you say the country is on the path to diversifying fully into agriculture? Elsewhere, farmers are said to be among the richest, but here, it is hard to find young people wanting to go into agriculture as a business?
There are lots of problems concerning that. Let me tell you, it’s not for the lack of policies. Most of the policies are good and have been practiced successfully elsewhere. Green Revolution was a success in India, Nepal. The original idea of Peoples Bank came from Bangladesh. In fact, the originator won the Nobel Prize. Agric policies become successful elsewhere. It’s only when they get to Nigeria that they fail. Why is it that policies work elsewhere, not only in agriculture, in health, transportation, but fail when they come to Nigeria: Why? Corruption is a problem. All that is voted for fertiliser, half of it will end in ministry officials’ pockets or some of the people there. So, these are some of the problems.

Then you’re talking about why young people can’t go into farming. As long as rural areas are not improved, no young man will go to the farm. If we can improve the rural areas, have quality schools for children, health facilities and good roads. In developed countries as we know, people prefer to stay in rural areas than in towns. So, if our rural areas are decayed, we won’t be able to bring young people into agriculture.

Look at what Chief Awolowo did with farm settlements. Farm settlements in those days were like towns on their own. Facilities were there, people could live there, but now they’ve abandoned the places. So, the government, in order to attract young people has to embark on rural development. It’s the key to boosting agriculture and attracting young men into farming.

So, as long as Nigeria is not secure, with this banditry, kidnapping, and others, people will be running away from farms. In fact, people don’t want to travel now.  I remember some people who wanted to go to Ife from the University of Ibadan, they had to go and get security support. So this is the problem. With general insecurity, lives won’t be safe. The government must do more than what they are doing now to curb insecurity.

How do you see the restriction placed on food importation by the Central Bank and government?
My opinion is that we have been a bit careless, we have had unbridled importation in the past of all sorts of things. I understand that they import things like toothpicks to a country like Nigeria, which is well endowed agriculturally. Please, pardon me if I’m immodest, I’ve traveled around the world and I can count very few countries that are richer than Nigeria in agriculture, that are more endowed than Nigeria in agriculture. So, it’s high time they banned some of these things, but they have to do some calculations. It isn’t a wholesale ban. Like, if you ban wheat now, the bread price will go up because we don’t produce it. The wheat we were producing was more political. So they should look at things and it should be gradual because like tomatoes it comes from the North, I don’t see why we can’t have factories to be processing tomatoes. I understand they had factories processing tomatoes in those days in the North, I don’t know what has become of all those factories. We should be able to select those things we can produce and those, which are luxury. Why are we importing orange juice? We had been careless because when we had money, we didn’t know what to do with the money; we imported all sorts of things. I support the CBN restriction on Forex, but they should be careful.

There are different theories regarding the security situation in the country. Some think it is herdsmen, others say bandits are responsible. How do you see all of these? 
When it first started we were talking of Fulani herdsmen. Some people on the other side of the political spectrum said no, it’s not true. When they now see people who have been kidnapped especially when the Professor at Ife who was kidnapped and identified his kidnappers, people now begin to realise who they are. Even our leader, Bola Tinubu said he couldn’t see the cows if they were herdsmen. He said they are not Fulani but the victims said they are Fulani people. I’m not saying there may not be some miscreants who want to take the advantage, but Fulani people are committing the bulk of this crime. Let’s tell ourselves the home truth. The killers of the daughter of our revered father, Pa Reuben Fasoranti, were identified. We have to be careful. Nobody is trying to politicise this thing but the facts on the ground will help in proffering solutions. Victims know those who kidnapped them. I don’t know the political or economic motive behind it, and it has taken our revered monarch, the Alaafin of Oyo to cry out. So these are some of the problems. Alaafin of Oyo can’t say something if he is not sure. So, this is my own view.

Will you say the Federal Government is doing enough in tackling insecurity?
I don’t think we can give a pass mark to the Federal Government in the effort to curb insecurity because the atrocities began in the North, to be specific, in Benue State. And so far, the attitude of the President hasn’t been encouraging. When people went to him he said they should go and live in peace with their neighbours. But when they killed Fulani in Taraba State, in Mambilla, he visited the place first. So, there are some partisan attitudes towards these killings. Unless the Federal Government is unbiased, then people won’t have that confidence in the ability of the Federal Government to curb this insecurity.

So, until we have an even-handed attitude to this thing, it will still be festering in our country. That’s where a leader is made. History beacons to President Buhari now to go the whole hog and do things that won’t make him a sectional leader. Leadership is a problem in this country. If we have a leader this country will change. A leader who is unbiased, who everybody can say this is my leader, not a Fulani man or a Yoruba man. Chief Obasanjo Obasanjo nearly came to that level, but for some personal flaws he messed it up. I’m sorry. Obasanjo could have been what we used to call Joshua Nkomo of Zimbabwe, father of the nation, but with his Third Term agenda and penchant for vindictiveness, he messed it up. Obasanjo, I think, was someone God created to come and lead Nigeria but because of personal flaws, he messed it up. Although he’s trying to make some amend now, it’s a bit late.

Does that mean Buhari is yet to offer that national leadership the country needs? 
With greatest respect: No! Before he came in, I was skeptical because of some of the things he used to say. They said he led a delegation of Fulani people to confront former Governor Lam Adesina here. His views on herdsmen, Islamization, Sharia and all the things didn’t give me confidence, but as I said in one article, the APC propaganda blunted that perception of him and he got the support of everybody. He said he had changed, so, we gave him the benefit of doubt. I don’t think Buhari has lived up to expectations of people.

To me, he hasn’t lived up to my expectations and the grassroots people to are complaining about the cost of living, the grassroots people who are looking for the way to send their children to school, the poor people who can’t get minimum wage are disappointed. Not only people like me. Well, I’m not expecting anything from any government as far as they pay my pension. So, I don’t have any problem with anybody. Yes, if he is doing well, I will support him.

If you are to score this government, what will it be? 
I’ll score it four out of 10 points. That’s 40 per cent. They have made some improvements in some infrastructure, agriculture but he messed up when he wanted to export yams without planning.

But on things that unite us, Nigeria is more disunited than before. Your party said it would restructure this country, it’s in APC manifesto, I’m not making it up. Even when people now started to cry that this was your policy, they set up the El-Rufai Committee. Its report isn’t yet implemented, whereas the problems we are having in this country, whether we are selling oil $1,000 per barrel, will not go away. Until we have true federalism where people can grow at their own pace, we won’t be going to Abuja to look for money or orders from Abuja as they used to do during the military. Nigeria will never make it. Our association is a bit suffocating that is the problem.

So, your party got to the government through this manifesto, up till now, in his second term now, he has not touched it. He said our problem is the process. What’s the process? Let’s sit down and whatever people may say about Jonathan’s constitutional conference, Confab 2014, there are some good things there, which we can use. I don’t support that we should have more states. That’s rubbish but there are other things. Even for the mere fact that Nigeria’s money, millions of Naira, was used, it is not good for the President to just throw it into the dustbin. He said he wasn’t going to look at it and I don’t think he has looked at it. Your political enemy can have some good things for you.

As I wrote in one article in the USA, Nixon used Democrat Colleen as his Treasury Secretary. The same thing Clinton used Coael as Defence Secretary. That’s how the presidential system is run. Your political enemy can have something good, which you can examine. But when you say I’m not going to look at that and throw it into the dustbin, that’s not good enough. Our problems: insecurity, if we have regional or state police it may help to douse this insecurity. So we have to restructure. We can’t run away from it but when we have a President who says he doesn’t believe in it, I think we will be in that situation for the next four years.

Do you have some words for the opposition? 
I hope the PDP has learned its lesson. It did well in the last election, winning Bauchi, Sokoto, Adamawa, Oyo, and Zamfara was a bonus for them. So, for opposition to still be intact after four years, I think the party has a future. I hope they will be able to change people’s perceptions of what happened before. Because too many people, PDP is a party of anything-goes, corruption, even though we can see now what APC is doing with corruption. APC is corrupt.


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