Dr. Mike Omotosho is the founder SHI Logistics. In this interview with KEHINDE OSASONA , the supply chain expert bares his mind on his projections for Kwara State, the Muhammadu Buhari agricultural policy and his grouse over Nigeria’s food deficit status. Excerpts.
What is your perception of the Muhammadu Buhari administration’s agricultural roadmap, tagged ‘Green Alternative’?
I think it is a welcome development. The emphasis on agriculture in Nigeria is key to economic growth and a step in the right direction, because there has to be a lot of focus on agriculture and the time to stop paying lip service is now. This is another opportunity to exploit the comparative advantage we have in Nigeria in the area of agricultural production. Having said this, there is also the need for improvement on information dissemination to the predominant farming populace.
For instance, the Central Bank of Nigeria is making loan available, how do people get to know that such is available to access and expand their farming business?
We are also aware that the Bank of Industry, SMEDAN, and Bank of Agriculture are also making money available and a lot of people do not really know about this. Also, the Agricultural Insurance too is necessary at a time like this, when the climatic condition is unpredictable. So, all these entities must work in tandem so that the dot can connect. That way, we can be sure that people would get the full benefit of what agriculture has to offer.
By now, we should be a food exporting nation after our own people would have been well fed. I am particularly looking at us engaging youths productively and massively and we should let it be a continuous thing over the years
Can agriculture truly drive Nigeria’s economy?
My answer is in the affirmative. You see, when you empower the small medium enterprises in agricultural business to The Point of agro processing, we would begin to calculate how much foreign revenue we can get via post-harvest processing. So what that portends is that opportunities are numerous. Don’t forget that agriculture is one of the few sectors where you can from nothing get so much. Look at okro for instance, within 40 days, you begin to harvest.
So, if you survive several years without employment and here you have just two months to plant okro seedlings and then begin to see it mature, why won’t you do that?
You can now see that when more and more people begin to do that, the economy would be driven by agriculture. With that will unemployment rate reduce or not? Mark it, community cannot change when just one corporation comes in, it is the ripple effects of how efforts made cascade all the way down that actually drives the economy. Imagine a corporation coming in, recruit young able men, and with its arrays of equipment, begins work and most importantly sourced its raw material within the vicinity, chances are that such enclave is on the verge of enhancing food production and the country will be better for it.
Nigeria has been classified by the Food and Agriculture Organisation as a food deficit nation, are you not worried about this classification?
As it were, we need to get more people to take action. I mean a clear departure from what we used to have. By now, we should be a food exporting nation after our own people would have been well fed. I am particularly looking at us engaging youths productively and massively and we should let it be a continuous thing over the years. Yes, the idea of investors coming in is not bad, but the effect would not be felt like we revolutionise agriculture ourselves.
Today, as I speak, there are off-takers everywhere, such that drudgeries and wastage that usually associate with agricultural productions would be a thing of the past. Imagine an offtaker who is the processor, the distributor and all that. For me, it would be a double point approach, such that while we are encouraging foreign investors, we would also be encouraging local producers.
Good still, very few people would be keen at looking for job in banks, oil companies and telecoms entities. One of the largest rice plantation in Nasarawa State is owned by a young man. Look at Usman Dantata, he is also doing fine as a poultry farmer; as a matter of fact, he export some of his produces outside our shores.
Also there are Green Houses farming sprouting up across the country today, which is also very rewarding. What these imply basically is that we need to move from talk to action and make Nigeria a food surplus nation. Our status must change.
You once contested for Kwara State governorship. What would have been your projections for agriculture if you had won?
I have always maintained that with little effort you can get so much from agriculture. During my campaign for governorship, not only did we trained women on dry season farming, we ploughed land for them and assisted them with inputs like seeds and fertilizer and we then allow them to make fortunes through it. That is the beauty of empowerment, because it is sustainable.
After that, we did not leave them to their fate, but we also followed it up to be sure that they were stable in farming business. The truth is that I am not comfortable with Kwara State government’s agricultural policy.
Like the Basanyi Farms Initiative, where I held sway as chairman, the model is appealing and it is supposed to be a prototype of the type of farming that we should be engaged in. Stakeholders involved in the project stand to learn some new things or earn money through what they already know by my own estimation.
In your opinion, what does the N91 billion allotted to the agricultural sector in the 2017 budget portend for food security in Nigeria?
I think this time, the amount being provided for in the annual budget, if well implemented and spent purposefully, would likely give the desired result.
With the 2017 budget accrual to the agricultural sector, we should be able to mobilise the relevant stakeholders to come in so that we would know what opportunities to tap and move on from there.
So, for me it’s not about the figure, but how well we are able to utilise it for effective result. My annual agricultural lecture is designed to thrash out some of these knotty issues. Last year, the incumbent governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, was a keynote speaker and this time around, we are going to have the Ooni of Ife, Oba Enitan Ogunwusi, who has also done some exploit in agriculture, as a keynote speaker. There will also be a group of panel discussants and other stakeholders like IFAD, CBN, among others. AgroNigeria will also be featured. So it is going to be an interactive session.