Revenue allocation must be on the basis of even progress and need

agricultureThe fourth is modernisation of agriculture

IN his contribution to the discussion on the Paper entitled AGRICULTURE AND RURAL DEVELOPMENT submitted by Professor H.A. Oluwasannu to THE CONFERENCE ON NATIONAL RECONSTRUCTION AND DEVELOPMENT IN NIGERIA which was held at Ibadan University in March, 1969, Professor Glenn Johnson said: ‘By 1985 GDP from properly managed agriculture, would probably make up about one-third of the total as contrasted to 55 per cent in 1966. Conservatively, that one-third, however, would be over twice as large as in 1966’.

In other words, by 1985, if properly planned and managed, agriculture should be able to contribute as much as £1,784 million to our GDP; that is, £179.4 million more than our total GDP in 1966.

If a foreigner says that this target is possible, we would be dolng ourselves much worse than injustice to say that it is not. Speaking for myself, I believe very much that more than this target is possible.

Indeed, a private projection with which I am associated puts our GDP by 1985 at £5,618.4 million., as compared with £5,353.4 million based on Professor Johnson’s projection. If it is assumed that one-third of the former figure is contributed by agriculture, this would result in £1,872.8 million; that is, £88.4 million more than Professor Johnson’s projection.

But to achieve any of these ambitious targets, Nigeria’s agriculture must be modernised and mechanised in a bold and massive manner. We shall need to invest heavily in tractors, mechanical ploughs and ridgers, fertilisers, pest control, irrigation, research into high-yielding grains and seeds, cattle pastures and ranches, fishing trawlers, etc. It is only in the pursuit and attainment of these targets that our oft-repeated desire to increase the productivity, and so raise the standard of living, of our peasantry, evenly throughout the Federation, can be realised. So far as the evidence reveals, however, none of the States, by itself, can afford anything near the seale of investment required to realise our legitimate desire. And the problem is extremely urgent for all the States and for the country, without exception.

It may not, for instance, be generally recognised that just now the level of poverty amongst our peasants throughout the country is almost equally high, in spite of the false and imposing facades presented by the town and city dwellers in some States. The average per capita weekly expenditure on food in our rural areas is 4/- for the West, 3/4d for the East, and 3/5d for the North. Any arrangement, therefore, whereby all the States can equally, rapidly, and in concert develop their agriculture should be preferred to the present haphazard and unco-ordinated individual efforts.

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The fifth is rapid industrialisation of each state

The important point to stress here is that if agriculture is properly developed in every State, agro-allied industries will automatically emerge, and a number of manufacturing industries would follow in their wake. In such circumstance, each State would stand to benefit, and the present trend of uneven location of industries would disappear.

Before I leave this topic, there is a popular illusion about industrialisation which I would like us to recognise with a view to discarding it. Any time public discussion turns on the question of reducing or abolishing unemployment, there is a common tendency among all of us to regard industrialisation as the most effective (if not the only) means of achieving the desirsble goal. But the reality of the situation is that, whilst industries, if properly planned, could only provide employment for a total of about 220,000 workers within the next twelve years or so, a properly planned agriculture can, by contrast, provide equally remunerative employment for at least 6,000,000 workers within the next five years. It is well to realise, before it is too late, that, for the next thirty years, manufacturing industries cannot cater for as many people as agriculture can, within the same period. It follows then that, if it is the ardent and burning desire of those of us now in the vanguard of public life in Nigeria to serve our age and, at least, the next generation, faithfully and fruitfully, our area of concentration, as between manufacturing and agriculture, must ipso Jacto be agriculture.




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