“Lagos the smallest, the richest, the oldest, untouched or divided since creation, most populous, most cosmopolitan, a state with vibrant energy; and its unique soul, highly receptive to both hard working and lazy people. Land of opportunities, in Lagos, fortune favours the brave. There are many cities across the World with Lagos as their names, but our own Lagos is the most promising Centre of Excellence. Welcome to the capital of prosperity,”
Fix Lagos and you fix Nigeria. Lagos is the microcosm of Nigeria where all communities across Nigeria have brought their respective prospects and problems to converge in the massive number of over 22 million on 3,577 sq km.
As there is a truism in an adage that “if hunger is removed from a man’s needs, his poverty is abated”, so true is the saying that, If Nigeria can overcome her food scarcity and agricultural insecurity, sustainable-comprehensive development in Nigeria will be accelerated. But, for this to occur, Lagos must continue on the path of sustainable food and agricultural revival.
Prior to the recent bold collaboration with Kebbi State that brought delights to many homes during the Yuletide and New Year in Lagos through the Sales of “Lake Rice”, the State was producing only 15 per cent of what its people consumed, spending N350 billion on rice importation-half of the bill on the commodity by Nigeria.
On a daily basis, 6000 cows are slaughtered at over N3 million, translating to N1.08 billion yearly. Even with its huge population and the high purchasing power of residents, Lagos until recently (with only 350 hectares of cultivable lands) had 53 hectares under cultivation.
Because of the strategic position of Lagos in Nigeria, one would think, Lagos would receive the biggest impact of Nigeria’s socio-economic dislocation. But God has been blessing us with a succession of visionary, energetic and competent leaders, who always achieved the unprecedented in their respective term.
Ambode swims against the tide of potential crisis to produce outstanding accomplishments, which have kept Lagos in the forefront of socio-economic and political development.
Yet, Lagos must produce spectacular results in all sectors, especially in food safety and adequacy and agricultural security. At this period of recession, the first in 20 years in Nigeria, we need leaders who are willing, able and eager to rescue the country, bring us out of recession and restore our past glory. Ambode is a shining example of such leaders.
Through uncommon policies, Ambode has been charting a new path towards achieving self-sufficiency in the food and agricultural sector, especially in rice, cassava, corn, sorghum, yams, beans, poultry, fishery and live-stock, complemented by businesses and industrial strategies.
He created the Office of the Special Adviser on Food Security to, among others, tackle food insufficiency, ensure nutrient adequacy, guaranty food safety, provide massive employment, stimulate relevant business and industrial value chains and fuel accelerated socio-economic growth and development in the State.
Ambode’s all-encompassing food security solution also seeks to inspire healthy competition and expand mutually rewarding agro-economy collaborations, not only in the Western Region states but in all other states in the country. The Governor believes that when food is adequate, harmonious relationship and peaceful coexistence – to further fuel socio-economic development – will continue to reign.
Ambodeism in agriculture can be seen in the proverb that says “don’t give me fish but teach me how to fish”. The empowerment of our people, particularly the youths, women and unemployed through partnership and networking with relevant stakeholders within the State, in the country and across the globe are germane in Ambode’s creative policies. In the next two years, Lagos is poised to scale up food sufficiency from the present 12 per cent to 25 per cent.
Our Governor sees no reason why a Nation blessed with lush rain forest and savannah should be spending billions on rice importation. For rice sufficiency in Lagos and for prosperity to her and other collaborating states, Ambode targets all arable lands in Nigeria.
“Lake Rice” initiative is a fine example of strategic collaboration, where comparative advantages of partners are combined to produce impressive yield. During the Yuletide period alone, Lagos sold 32,467 bags of 50kg, 32,539 bags of 25kg and 30,780 bags of 10kg “LAKE Rice”, produced and bagged by both States.
The comparative advantage to maximise production is important in the agrarian policy. In alliance with Lagos, Kebbi State brings to the table 600 hectares of arable land, as Ogun State in Egba, provides 500 hectares. In the same vein, the state has stepped up massive rice promotion drive, acquiring lands in other states for cultivation, especially in the Western Region.
In this network of mutually rewarding initiatives, Lagos is providing its massive market of 22 million people, its technical ability and its 32 metric tons per hour, state-of-the-art Rice Mill, recently procured from Buhler, in Switzerland.
The governor is determined to reach the maximum limit possible for rice cultivation in Lagos as well. He expanded the Imota Rice Mill to raise its capacity to 16 metric tons from initial 2.5 metric tons. A total of 100 farmers, mostly youths, are engaged in rice production in Epe under FADAMA III project; and in Avia Badagry, under Agric-YES, every year over 100 youths are trained for six months and practised for another six months.
At the end of tutelage, they received a loan (at five per cent), resources and technical support. Still under Agric-YES in Badagry area, Gov. Ambode is fusing socio-cultural realities of the region with agricultural opportunities to maximise gains, by strengthening people’s bond with their lands, building alliances with the people of Songhai farm in the Republic of Benin; promoting entrepreneurship and other economic value chains and encouraging friendship and fraternity of the people in Badagry with their kinsmen in Benin Republic.
Coconut has more than 300 derivatives, and in the past, coconut was a major export earner of the State. Hence, the Coconut Initiative is an area where Lagos still has a massive comparative advantage.
The governor is poised to revive and scale up the coconut projects across all the value chains, as 180 kilometre stretch of coconut groves are available for planting of 30,000 seedlings, as three community-based micro-processing centres have been installed.
This move will not only stimulate coconut industry (like in the Philippines where coconut earning and coconut products can be compared to our receipts from petroleum) but will also improve the coastal environment of the region.
Ambode’s agrarian revolution is far reaching, involving the entire food and Agric-business spectrum. Under the Agric Youth Empowerment Scheme (Agric-YES), over 500 youths have been trained in poultry and fish farming, as from the first quarter of the year, over 1500 crates of eggs are being harvested every day, 2,000 broilers hatched per month and 18 tons of fresh fish harvested per cycle.
The Entrepreneurship Centre Initiative provides continuous advisory services to farmers through seasoned representatives in all technical areas of agriculture. There is also the Estate Initiative; there is Commercial Agricultural Development Project (CAPD) initiative, under which 315 women were trained, 51 of them were empowered in poultry, rice and aquatic value chain.
There is Agric-Input Supply Initiative and Rural Finance Institution Project (RUFIN), aimed at strengthening the capacity of farmers capacity while increasing access of poor rural farmers to financial services under the State Agricultural Programme (SAP) and Cage Culture System as well as the Oyo Cattle Fattening partnership in Ejio, Oyo State, to address the beef needs of Lagosians.
God has a reason for giving us Ambode at this crucial time. His Excellency the Governor of Lagos State, through the spirit of Ambodeism – a mix of social, moral, competence, commitment and vibrancy, clothed in spiritual principle – has been implementing agrarian policies that are novel and bold, to achieve the extra ordinary results. We need to set us on the path of sustainable socio-economic development and bring back our lost glory.
For, it is not a fairy tale, but true, that Nigeria was once, one of the few nations under the sun, considered as giants in agriculture, in the pre-Independence era and two decades after.
Nigerians were agrarian, with a strong spiritual bond with the land, firmly rooted in cultures. The linkage sustained by traditions-in folklores, songs, drums and dances. A premium was on the land, as harvests were celebrated with pomp and pageantry.
A nation blessed with a clement weather, fantastic river systems and an extensive coast line, our nation was one of the best for habitation on the planet. In those periods, foods, vegetables and fruits – fresh from the Farms – were plentiful, nutritious, safe and affordable.
In our sufficiency, everyone was fed to contentment, while merriments were rife in the ambience of surpluses, safety and security. In our abundance, concord and harmonious coexistence reigned – a proud, warm, welcoming agrarian nation was in peace amidst reassuring prosperity.
And, all was well indeed. In order to fully benefit from this ‘paradise’, one had to be in Lagos; hence millions relentlessly flocked here to enjoy a better quality of life and fulfil their dreams.
Check out these facts and figures: from 1960 to 1970, agriculture sustained the Nigerian economy as the main foreign exchange earner, contributing about 76 per cent to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The country was the largest producer and exporter of Palm oil and Groundnuts.
With the ability to export 47 per cent of her products, Nigeria contributed 18 per cent to the World’s total exports and remained a major force to reckon with regarding such other cash crops as rubber, cotton, citrus and peanuts.
From the 1970’s, Nigeria entered the era of ‘Petrol-dollars’ and the abandonment of land and agriculture for white and blue collar jobs, as well as menial ones in Lagos. The adoption of cosmopolitan and predominantly foreign ways created more bubbles with unbridled recklessness and fantasy, to the detriment of our Agrarian lifestyle.
Then came the burst, with a vengeance, and we were never prepared for the shock of the rupture. Increasing unemployment, job losses, business and factory closures, shortage of electricity, galloping inflation and dropping incomes, disenchantment with communal interests, family failings, environmental damage, humanitarian crisis, heightened insecurity and spike in crime and rising corruption – Nigeria has lost its paradise.
We are Giants no longer on the World stage, but Lilliputians among nations, reduced to importing food and agriculture products from around the World! Yes, it is true that lots of agricultural initiatives advanced in the past failed to achieve meaningful impacts.
In 1972 General Yakubu Gowon established the National Accelerated Food Production Programme; in 1976, General Olusegun Obasanjo introduced the “Operation Feed the Nation”; President Alhaji Shehu Shagari put forward the “Green Revolution” in 1979 and the Buhari/Idiagbon Regime came with “Go Back to Land Initiative” in 1984.
But the Man Ambode is a different breed, with correct attitude and energy (Ambodeism). He does big things in unusual ways and does them with the fear of God and love of the people in his heart. Ambode is planning to make agriculture profitable and attractive, well beyond subsistence level by applying appropriate technology and technique, with first class transportation network, state of the art logistics including storage facilities and continuous improvement of the value chain businesses.
Ambodeism will facilitate sustainable food production, poverty reduction and job creation for teeming Lagosians, and set Nigeria on the path of durable peace and prosperity. Gov. Ambode’s agricultural policies are like a rising tide that lifts the “Ship of State” to sail with the people to the Promised Land.
Through excellence, he is giving all that is required, and will not stop until the glorious days are back. As the burden of one’s own choice is not felt, excellence is his passion – the spirit that propels the person of Ambode to extend frontiers at all times. A flower blooms more than once, Lagos State and Nigeria will survive and be great again.
By Dr. AbdulHakeem AbdulLateef, Hon. Commissioner, Lagos State Ministry of Home Affairs