Govts use agriculture to steal in Nigeria —Obasanjo

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has decried the direct involvement of government in agriculture, noting that it had been with an ulterior motive “to steal.”

The former president, who averred that government at all levels has no business being directly involved in agricultural production, saying such practice in the past was as a reason for corruption in the agricultural sector in the country.

Obasanjo made these statements while delivering the first eminent person’s business lecture of the University of Ibadan School of Business (UISB) in partnership with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), held at the International Conference, University of Ibadan, on Saturday.

During the lecture entitled “Agribusiness: Time to act is now,” the former president, who traced the historical development of agriculture in sustaining the country’s economy, posited that it still remained the largest employer of labour if well harnessed.

He said, “in the past, the greatest bane of agriculture had been lack of continuity and consistency in government policy. Maybe, the present situation in which we found ourselves in our economy and the low prices of oil will be a blessing in disguise; to wake us up to the reality of agriculture as the mainstay of our economy and as a renewable system of production compared to oil and gas.

“Agriculture cannot be practised without government support with good policy and incentive. But government being a direct producer has never worked and it will never work in agriculture.

“In recent times, government leaders have made government to go directly into agricultural production and it has been an ulterior motive for stealing. I have seen a poultry house of a state government’s poultry production with two-weeks-old birds on the floor and the floor was as clean as if you haven’t put any bird there. No faeces, no water dropping. It was devised by the governor of that state for the purpose of stealing and he stole.”

Obasanjo, who had earlier listed the challenges facing agriculture in Nigeria, called on government to focus on provision of “infrastructure for storage, stability and ability of pricing in agricultural commodities, agricultural financing to be kept at single digits rate of interest,” among others.

He then advised that agricultural business must be glamorised in Nigeria to attract youths, counselling practitioners and governments to adopt and adapt best practices from within and from outside Nigeria.

Obasanjo also said that the fall in prices of oil at the world market, which he said might be a blessing in disguise, has contributed to economic hardship and collapse in businesses, noting that to overcome these challenges, “all hands must be on deck to practically embrace agriculture and not just on papers.”

Earlier in his speech entitled “Contextual Foundation for Eminent Persons’ Business Lecture,” chairman UISB, Professor Ademola Ariyo, said the lecture would be an annual lecture by “universally acknowledged as really eminent persons in any of UISB  areas.”

The vice chancellor of the University of Ibadan, Professor Idowu Olayinka, while speaking, affirmed the institution’s determination to contribute its quota to the development of agribusiness in Nigeria.