By Ugochukwu Alaribe
ABA—AGRO industrialist and Chairman of the Association of South East Town Unions, ASETU, Chief Emeka Diwe, has said that Nigeria needs a sustained revival of its agricultural sector to boost development in the nation. He lamented that Nigeria’s failure to make use of the opportunity of the oil boom to revive its agricultural sector is responsible for the low level development in the country.
In an interview with South East Voice in Aba, Diwe called for what he described as concrete actions to make changes in the agricultural sector, stressing that Nigeria had never been serious with the revival of the agricultural sector.
He said; “To boost food production and sufficiency and employment, Nigeria needs to revive her agric sector. There must be concrete and well planned efforts to achieve this. There are lots of inconsistencies in policy formulation and implementation in the agric sector. No proper planning. This has to change if we are serious about revitalizing our agric sector.
The issue is that Nigeria’s problems are self inflicted. What did we do with the gains we made from the oil boom? If we have used the opportunity presented by the oil boom, we would not have suffered what we are suffering today. Development is a process. Once it is abridged, you must go back to the point where the mistake occurred to get it right again.
The problem is that Nigeria jumped a phase in her development process. That mistake is still troubling us today. Unless we go back and start from we missed it, it would be difficult for the country to witness the level of development we all desire.
Diwe insisted that Nigeria jumped a level in her development process and suddenly saw money from the oil boom in the 1970s but could not deploy it to continue the natural course of development it began with.
“Remember what made Malaysia what they are today is the palm seedlings they got from Nigeria. But we are nowhere today in the area of palm production? Nigeria’s development was agro based up till the late 1970s when we made the costly mistake of abridging it.
“What brought it about? It was the oil boom. Nigeria suddenly stopped the natural course of development she had taken up, jumped the level and entered into artificial level of development which was based on importation. Nigeria just jumped into a level which she was ill prepared for.
Remember that the then Head of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon, retd, said Nigeria’s problem was not how to make money but how to spend it. If you take a look at the situation as at that time, we did not even know what development was all about and how to get it.
“After independence in 1960, we started well with some measure of development. Then, you had the groundnut pyramid in the North, palm produce in the East and cocoa in the West. Until we go back to agriculture, we will continue to go round in circles Government must increase its annual budget for agriculture, not these half hearted policies.
“If we got it right then, we would have been somewhere now. It is simple economics, if you are not able to produce, then you cannot develop. You don’t need to be a professor of Economics to know that. That level we jumped in our natural course of development in the 1970s is still hunting us. The oil boom confused us. Until we go back and continue from where we stopped the process, we won’t see the level of development we all desire.
“The discovery of oil has been a curse than a blessing to Nigeria. We now use money to buy what the development would have earned us. Most countries that have oil are more developed than Nigeria. It is no surprise that from the 1980s, our economy started going down.”