Govt uses agric projects to steal – Obasanjo
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo on Saturday said government had the role of helping agricultural development through policy making and incentive. But he noted that direct involvement in production had been discovered to be a channel for stealing. Obasanjo said this in Ibadan, Oyo State capital, at the first eminent persons business lecture organised by the University of Ibadan’s School of Business and the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture. The ex-president said the drop in the global prices of crude oil and the reality of the present economic situation in Nigeria could be a blessing in disguise. According to him, the situation can lead Nigeria to the reality that agriculture has the capacity to successfully drive the nation’s economy. The lecture, which had the theme, ‘Agribusiness: Time to act,’ had in attendance the Pro Chancellor, UI, Umar Mustapha; Vice Chancellor, UI, Abel Olayinka; Emeritus Professor Oladipo Akinkugbe; and the representative of the Oyo State Government, Oyewole Oyewumi, who is the state’s Commissioner for Agriculture, Natural Resources and Rural Development. Obasanjo said, “In the past, the bane of agriculture in Nigeria was lack of continuity and consistency in government policy. Maybe the present situation in which we find ourselves in our economy and the low price of crude oil may be a blessing in disguise to wake us to the reality of agriculture as the mainstay of our economy, and as a renewable system of production compared with oil and gas which are being depleted. “Let me emphasise that while agriculture cannot be practised without government support in terms of good policy and incentive, government as a direct producer has never worked and it will never work in agriculture. “Where in recent time government leaders have made government to go into agricultural production, it has been with ulterior motive for stealing. I have seen a poultry house of a state government with two-week-old birds on the floor and the floor is as clean as if you have not put anything there; there was no water dropping or any waste. “It was designed by the governor of the state for the purpose of stealing and he stole. That must not continue to happen.” While lamenting youths’ preference for riding commercial motorcycle popularly called okada instead of engaging in purposeful economic activity like agriculture, Obasanjo pointed out that one of the ways of making agriculture attractive was by making it glamorous. The ex-president also urged the Federal Government to ensure price stability in the sector and provide adequate infrastructure for transportation and storage facility for farmers.