By Sunday Ogidigbo
The Stone Age did not end because stones finished, the relevance of oil will not end because the oil field ran dry. The economic crisis and woes being experienced by countries like Nigeria should be seen as a call to take concrete steps to begin to diversify our economy. Yesterday, cars that can drive themselves could only be imagined. Today, cars are not only driving themselves, cars are driving on water. Uganda, last week, unveiled a solar powered bus. Everything is indicating that the world is moving away from oil and exploring safer and environmentally friendly means of doing business. Crude oil clearly has no place in the future. As such, Nigeria must begin to seek alternative products to give to the world that can bring in more revenue than oil.
In our history, we saw our founding fathers trade in cocoa, groundnut, cotton, rubber, palm oil and so on. They funded their regional governments that built schools, infrastructure, media houses etc. They paid salaries of government workers; some even gave free primary to secondary education, and offered scholarships to deserving students to higher institutions, both at home and abroad.
The destiny of Nigeria is squarely tied to Agriculture. China is the factory of the world, the United States is the centre of innovation, and Nigeria is the food basket of the world. We are supposed to feed the world. Until we step into this role, our greatness as a nation will not emerge. Nigeria is a fertile land. I have pawpaw trees behind my house that grew out of the seeds we threw into the bush behind the house. I have harvested tomatoes from the same bush from seeds of tomatoes not consciously planted. It is time for government to take lead in the drive to farm for oil. The same energy channeled into drilling oil, a higher energy should be channeled into harvesting cash crops.
The need for food around the world will remain as long the sun endures. It makes serious economic sense to invest heavily in a sector where demand is sure. The population of the world will keep on growing. As long as there are people, agricultural products will be in demand. The government of Nigeria must start looking at supplying to the world market what our oil competitors like Iran cannot supply. We must explore how we would be that nation that is the biggest in all known agricultural produce, from food crops to cash crops. I am tired of hearing that Malaysia that took oil palm seeds from Nigeria is now the biggest producer in the world. The Federal, State, and Local government must unite to do everything to turn the oil palm belt of Nigeria (Edo, Delta, and Ondo) into an economic power that will make Malaysia look like child’s play.
It is time to farm our raw materials and process them too. Our cocoa farms should be feeding our chocolate factories. Rubber plantations should be feeding tyre making plants. We must maximise the value chain of all the crops that we grow. The poverty Nigeria and Nigerians are experiencing despite our great wealth in human and material resources are due to lack of judgment and understanding of our national purpose, identity and destiny. The oil boom became our national doom because the leaders did not understand that the oil was supposed to help us oil the wheels of our agricultural destiny. The United Arab Emirates discovered their national destiny as tourism. They went all out to oil the wheel of tourism from crude oil. Today Dubai is ahead of New York as the number one tourist destination in the world.
Nonetheless, let’s not lose hope. The first best time to plant a tree was 30 years ago, the next best time is now. Nigeria, now is the time to farm for oil. President Buhari, who came from his farm to become president, should know that the Ministry of Agriculture should get more attention than oil this season.
Sunday Ogidigbo is the Lead Pastor of Holyhill Church Abuja. You can connect with him on Twitter @SOgidigbo or visit www.sogidigbo.com
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