MY last visit to Zaria, Kaduna State a couple of weeks back, just about clicked something inside me; because of my profession, my place of call was, naturally, the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU). A quarter of a century has passed since I stepped foot at ABU, and now, I just could not help it but be impressed by the strong association of ABU Zaria with agro-intellectualism, crop production through veterinary science. Really, ABU Zaria should be the locus of agricultural research and activities of Northern Nigeria.
This sense of organisation of ABU Zaria sharply contrasts the sense of desolation of the surrounding ambience of Zaria town, specifically, in my mind, the emptiness of the linear stretch, that is, the Jaji-Zaria plain; the pervading aura of loneliness and economic inactivity ought not be because the products of agro-spinoffs from the researches at ABU should have ensured that the plains surrounding Zaria town should not be remembered for their geological outcrop showings only.
As an Idoma man whose hometown is not particularly distant from Agatuland, I should be disconcerted that roving bands of Fulani herdsmen prefer Agatuland that is far removed from ABU, and thus far removed from plant scientists, far removed from animal nutritionists, and far removed from veterinary doctors. I am also at a loss to explain why these herdsmen prefer to displace the locals at Nimbo and Ohafia.
At Agatu, Nimbo, and Ohafia, the quality of beef raised by cattle constantly on the move is third-rate and the prospect for establishing a viable diary industry associated with these cattle is zero.
If these cattle were contained in ranches in the environs of Zaria (and other towns in the North with vast open landmasses not far from Zaria), a multi-billion naira industry would ensue because hardly any Nigerian identifies as vegetarian; the diary sub-industry spinoff is exactly what is needed to implement the free feeding programme that some state governments have conceived for elementary-grade schools and not some cooked rice and stew in take-away packs. A cup of milk and a couple slices of loaf would do wonders for school children. Overall, the economy of Northern Nigeria would spike because, much more than petroleum, meat and dairy products are needed for our very existence.
- Sunday Adole Jonah,
Federal University of Technology, Minna.