Appointed as Minister of Agriculture 11months ago, Professor Sheikh Abdullah, in this interview with Sunday Vanguard’s Jide Ajani, Editor, Northern Operations; Favour Nnabugwu and Gbemiga Olamikan, presents government’s position on the huge challenges in a sector that employs 70 per cent of Nigerians. Abdullah laments that some states are still not meeting their obligations to farmers but reaches a point of consolation that things would get better.
He speaks about the commitment of President Goodluck Jonathan and the new policy being put in place to ensure that the benefits of subsidy on fertiliser really get to the farmers.
What is your assessment of agriculture in Nigeria?
The first thing we will talk about is the issue of coordinating or harmonising and sustaining policies. By this, I mean there are no separate departures in policy framework. Most analyses of policy environment in the country have some common phrases like “policy inconsistency, policy sommersault.” These are very strong negative assessments that informed my management of agricultural policy in the country. Attempts have been made to consolidate for the betterment of harmonising existing policy for their sustenance. There are differences between tactics and policy.
Policy has to go through instrumentation in terms of a gestation period for assessment but tactics can be instantaneous because it tends to measure the immediate action. Since my assumption of office, we have reduced the undulating things of agricultural policy. Much of what we pursue we find them to be an elongation of what exists. This administration that is about to end is a continuation because we have a moment of re-assessment. It is a continuity of Yar’Adua’s administration but the policies we are getting right so that at the end of the day we can appropriately feed our people. This administration is very committed to ensuring that there is abundant food for all.
Most of what you said appear esoteric, but how come this nation cannot feed its people?
Self-sufficiency is a goal and the thing about a goal is that when it is not achieved we will be searching first to achieve it. We, as a nation, are not food sufficient but that does not mean we cannot be. Giving what we have in our environment in terms of natural endowment, even the peace that we enjoy in this country is enough to say we have what it takes to be self-sufficient in food production. And, if we are so endowed, it becomes an aberration for us not being able to feed ourselves. But we will get there.
What are the challenges of food sufficiency?
We should ordinarily have the capacity to grow what we want and the capacity to sell what we grow…
Read the Agriculture Minister’s response and the full interview in tomorrow’s edition of Sunday Vanguard.