Ahead of a con­sti­tuted fed­eral cabi­net

Daily Trust - - OPINION -

Ihave had few wor­ries about Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari’s se­lec­tion of Min­is­ters mainly be­cause have al­ways be­lieved that the ef­fi­cacy of power, mea­sured by the ad­vance­ment of the na­tion’s cit­i­zens is largely de­cided by the ef­fi­ciency of the man on whose ta­ble, the buck stops. Change can come and in deed does come out of the stoic re­solve of the strong leader. Thus I am com­fort­able that the team se­lected by Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari is worth a trial. Should they take af­ter Pres­i­dent Buhari in char­ac­ter of in­tegrity and re­spon­sive­ness to the Nige­rian con­di­tion, work­ing dili­gently on enun­ci­ated poli­cies, the de­sired change will take place.

I had feared that in re­ac­tion to the Saraki ver­sus Code of Con­duct Tri­bunal Saga, we might have a dis­tract­ing stand-off be­tween the Sen­ate and the Ex­ec­u­tive. My fears dis­solved when I no­ticed that the Sen­ate for some cu­ri­ous rea­son, was not thirsty for blood, be­sides, the Min­is­te­rial nom­i­nees, pre­pared for bat­tle, each gave a good ac­count of them­selves and im­pressed the na­tion. From Kachukwu to Dan­bazau, from Da­long to Amina Mo­hammed, from Lai Mo­hammed to Udoma Udo Udoma, and on to our young up­start from Adamawa Mo­hammed Musa Bello, one could not but see the promised fu­ture, and the loud state­ment of our po­ten­tial. Any Nige­rian is good, what mat­ters is how the cit­i­zen is led. The mien of Pres­i­dent Buhari will de­ter­mine how his min­is­ters and in deed cit­i­zens be­have. It is for this sim­ple rea­son that I do not wish to touch the over beaten topic of Min­is­te­rial Nom­i­nees.

Chal­lenges fac­ing the na­tion have been iden­ti­fied. In­ter­nal se­cu­rity is on top of the pile, given the deadly in­sur­gency the North East has suf­fered. Nige­ri­ans agree that the back­bone of the in­sur­gency has been bro­ken, with the armed mus­cle of Boko Haram clearly de­graded, as not to be ca­pa­ble of tak­ing any more ter­ri­tory to de­clare a so called Is­lamic State. It is not yet the end of ter­ror and Nige­ri­ans must un­der­stand that ter­ror is only one com­po­nent of an in­sur­gency. It is usu­ally the last to be de­feated. It is di­vine prov­i­dence that the spate of bomb­ings is low ebbed. A de­feated in­sur­gency in other na­tions with ex­pe­ri­ence as ours deals far worse in­flic­tions on those coun­tries. It is agreed, Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari al­ready scores highly on the bat­tle against the in­sur­gents, in spite of the deadly ter­ror strikes. One expects a change in the tac­tic of the Armed Forces, one that re­lies more now on in­tel­li­gence gath­er­ing, with cit­i­zen co­op­er­a­tion and par­tic­i­pa­tion. The cells of the bombers will be routed one af­ter the other, if cit­i­zens co­op­er­ate and pro­vide leads to mas­ter­minds.

With sta­bil­ity achieved, the next chal­lenge is the econ­omy, dev­as­tated as it is, by the er­ro­neous de­pen­dency on only one rev­enue source - oil, to the aban­don­ment of all oth­ers, namely Agri­cul­ture, Solid Min­er­als, Tourism and in­deed in­ter­nally gen­er­ated rev­enue. State Gov­ern­ments hardly even think of the per­sonal in­come tax of its con­sump­tive so­ci­ety, miss­ing out on a fun­da­men­tal de­vel­op­ment com­po­nent. Once the Min­is­ters are in place, Nige­ri­ans ex­pect a clear eco­nomic pol­icy di­rec­tion that pro­vides for a switch off from oil to the other al­ter­na­tive sec­tors, and in as dra­matic a fash­ion as the col­lapse of oil as the eco­nomic main­stay set about.

Audu Ogbe is be­ing spec­u­lated to take up Agri­cul­ture, for he has quite some rev­o­lu­tion­ary mas­tery of this field. He will be off to a cit­i­zenry shocked by the pol­icy som­er­sault on the ban­ning of the im­por­ta­tion of rice. It is sad that Nige­ria is caught at cross­roads. With the ban, the lo­cal farmer is pro­tected and en­cour­aged to pro­duce more, whereas with im­por­ta­tion, our com­mu­ni­ties de­prived of pur­chas­ing power lose both ways. One sees an ur­gent need to ad­dress the Agri­cul­tural po­ten­tial and who­ever be­comes Min­is­ter will find the large foot­print of former Min­is­ter of Agri­cul­ture Dr. Ak­in­wumi Adesina. Un­der him, and in the midst of a de­bil­i­tat­ing gov­er­nance mal­func­tion, Agri­cul­ture in Nige­ria made no­tice­able im­pact on the polity. There must be re­stric­tions on im­ports of agri­cul­tural items. The two tiers of Gov­ern­ment, Fed­eral and State ought to work in har­mony to pro­mote agri­cul­ture. There were spe­cific mod­ules that Dr. Adesina put in place that ought to be en­hanced and sus­tained. The mod­ules mea­sur­ably re­duced the na­tion’s food im­port bill at a point from 2.3 tril­lion to 1.8 tril­lion, sav­ing the coun­try 906 bil­lion. That is why many con­sider the pol­icy som­er­sault on rice im­por­ta­tion more as a vic­tory for the mer­chants against the peo­ple. The rea­sons ad­vanced by Gov­ern­ment are con­sid­ered as flimsy and the re­ver­sal un­sus­tain­able. It was laugh­able that same time as the pol­icy ban­ning rice im­por­ta­tion was be­ing re­versed, Pres­i­dent Buhari was an­nounc­ing at a fo­rum that his ad­min­is­tra­tion was re­solved to make Nige­ria self-suf­fi­cient in food pro­duc­tion with the ca­pa­bil­ity to ex­port 10 mil­lion tons of grains and pro­cessed food by 2019. Cer­tainly not by un­ban­ning the im­por­ta­tion or dump­ing of for­eign rice into Nige­ria.

The pro­posed Agri­cul­tural Equip­ment Hir­ing En­ter­prises (AEHEs) which is a pri­vate sec­tor-led mech­a­niza­tion pro­gramme ex­pected to in­ject a to­tal of 6,000 units of trac­tors and im­ple­ments, 15,000 power tillers, 20,000 plant­ing and post-har­vest equip­ment to mech­a­nize an es­ti­mated 4 mil­lion hectares of land na­tion­wide, will amount to noth­ing with­out a ca­pac­ity for equip­ment use and main­te­nance. From the on set, a work bull com­po­nent should of­fer farm­ers oxen, ploughs and carts, a fea­ture they are tra­di­tion­ally ac­cus­tomed to and can be com­mit­ted to serve all year round. This will boost pro­duc­tion at costs to the lo­cal peas­ant farmer, that will com­pete with those of mech­a­nized farm­ing na­tions.

Once Min­is­ters are in place, the sce­nario be­comes that of “ready, set, go”. Gov­er­nors must ad­dress com­mod­ity pro­duc­tion if need be, with mod­i­fied com­mod­ity boards that guar­an­tee to buy up the farm­ers’ pro­duce and save them from the drudgery of stor­age and mar­ket­ing. Es­sen­tially the chal­lenge is to shield the farmer from the dis­place­ment brought about by low priced im­ported com­modi­ties.

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