President Olusegun Obasanjo has said successive governments in Nigeria do not continue or implement good policies and programmes of their predecessors because of the intent to perpetrate corruption and greed.
Obasanjo, who pointed this out yesterday at a high-level dialogue on the 2014 Africa Progress Panel Report at the ongoing AfDB annual meetings in Kigali, Rwanda, also said poverty was the choice of African leaders because he believed no country should be poor given the opportunities God had created for every nation and its people.
He said: “Why do we go for new things after a government has started one? Greed and corruption! If you say you are starting a new policy or programme, substantial kick-backs would be added to it.
“God has not created anybody and not put them where they will grow what they need. Poverty is the choice of our leaders, no country should be poor. The opportunities are there that we are not taking advantage of. It is our fault.”
The former president argued that the Operation Feed the Nation (OFN) programme which his government initiated when he was the military head of state between 1976 and 1979, to encourage and increase local food production and reduce imports, should have been continued by the succeeding civilian government led by former President Shehu Shagari. He added that rather than continue to implement the ‘laudable’ programme, the successive government, in its wisdom, created a new one called Green Revolution.
The Green Revolution, he argued, was not successful after all.
According to him, “The successor government said it didn’t like OFN because operation in the name sounds military and it created another programme and named it Green Revolution. At the end of the day, it neither had OFN nor Green Revolution.”
Essentially, the panel discussion yesterday was centred on the 2014 African Progress Report (APR).
The report is an annual publication of the Africa Progress Panel (APP). It draws on the best research and analysis available in Africa and compiles it in a refreshing and provocative manner. Through the report, and as part of its overall mission of promoting transformative change in Africa, the panel makes viable, policy recommendations for African policy makers who have responsibility for Africa’s progress, and for international partners and civil society organisations.
Part of the highlights of the report is an urgent need to promote import substitution to cut Africa’s $35 billion food import bill. This, it said, would require measures to cut tariffs and non-tariff barriers to regional trade, eliminate transport cartels, and develop marketing infrastructure.
Obasanjo, who is a member of the APP along with notable personalities and leaders like the former UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan; President of Transparency International, Peter Eigen; wife of the late Nelson Mandela, Graca Machel, and others, posited that there was the need to encourage local participation in agriculture in Nigeria and other African countries.
He believed there was no reason why African countries could not feed their people and export to the Western world.
While noting that agriculture should be seen as a business and not a development, he lamented that in the midst of modernity, African farmers were still living in antiquity given their approach to agriculture.
Besides, he said after many years, access to finance had not changed for farmers in Nigeria pointing out that the few who managed to have access to finance got them at very high costs.
“When you make money available to farmers at between 18 per cent and 20 per cent and we are beating our chests. How do you expect them to make profit? There is no way they can make profit except they are producing cocaine.”
He challenged the Minister of Agriculture, Adewunmi Adesina, to tackle commercial banks in this area and ensure that they make financing to agric and agro-allied businesses at low interest rates.
Speaking earlier, Adesina said commercial banks’ facilities to farmers in Nigeria to procure fertilisers increased to $500million in 2013 from $100 million in the previous.
Besides, he added that the federal government would devote 10 per cent of 2015 budget to agriculture from the current 5 per cent.
He also said Nigeria is 80-85 per cent self-sufficient in paddy rice in just two and a half years.
Nevertheless, Adesina believed there is a lot of potential in the agriculture sector and expressed the need to unlock the potentials.