Self Sufficiency in Food Production: Why Bago Is Ahead of His Time


By Hamza Waziri

April 1, 2024

On the 5th of February 2024, Nigerians, particularly, the leaders, woke up to the disturbing news of a protest against the high cost of living in the country which was first staged by women in Minna, the capital of Niger State, and later joined by the youth.

The protest did not come to visionary leaders like Farmer Governor Mohammed Umaru Bago of Niger State as a surprise, because he had the premonition that such a thing would happen sooner or later if something was not urgently done to abate the biting economic hardship in the country.

However, what was hard for many economic experts and public commentators to digest was how a protest against the high cost of living in Nigeria would begin in Niger State, particularly in Minna which has been turned into a construction site and has created a lot of job opportunities for the citizenry. Moreover, the government of Farmer Bago has been able to revert payment of State civil servants salaries to 25th of every month promptly instead of the first week of the succeeding month which used to be the practice in the past, even as local government council staff are happy these days as the issue of payment of salaries on a percentage basis is being resolved.

Albeit, for Farmer Governor Bago, the protest is a blessing in disguise, as many are beginning to see the reason for making agriculture one of the topmost economic priorities of his government and why he had to take the name, “Farmer Governor” to correct the negative impression that some people hold about farmers as the poor or downtrodden in the society.

Farmer Governor Bago had envisioned that the state needed to overhaul its decaying infrastructure, however, for sustainable development, agriculture had to be placed at the top of the priority list of his government, not only to guarantee food security but to create job opportunities for the teeming youth and enormous wealth for the state government through the agricultural value chain.

Farmer Governor Bago after being sworn in as the governor of Niger State embarked on a journey to create “a new life for Niger” vigorously searching for development partners within and outside the country. He was not deterred by the side comments of the naysayers as he remained focused on what he wanted to accomplish. Lo and behold, ten months after, no less than five thousand pieces of agricultural equipment were assembled at the Bola Ahmed Tinubu International Airport, Minna, the Airport which has been remodeled into a “Special Agro-Processing Zone” in the state and is projected to be the largest in Africa.
In the Airport Free Zone, 2,000 hectares of land have been cleared already for the cultivation of fresh vegetables, fruits, meats, and other dairy products for exportation.

Speaking to the press after inspection of the Airport in preparation for the state visit by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to Minna, Farmer Governor disclosed that Niger State sells about half a million cattle weekly, noting that the agro-processing zone will allow easy exportation of frozen meats instead of live cattle and also create value-chain as well as employment.

He said the 2000 hectares will be expanded to 10,000 hectares of land for further agricultural activities in the Airport Free Zone.

Little wonder, the president and other guests at the commissioning of the Special Agro-Processing Free Trade Zone and farm equipment held on the 11th of March 2024 had no option but to pour encomium on Farmer Governor Bago for taking the bull by the horns.

President Tinubu said “We have seen the level of commitment here. We have seen leadership. The success of any leader will depend on the ability to do what needs to be done when it ought to be done. It is now time for us to address the challenges and make Nigeria an economy of opportunities. We must care for our people; and re-orient our people. I do not see why Nigeria cannot feed all students in its schools.

“I am equally here to partner with you to banish hunger. You are doing the job. And I must support you; it is mandatory as Nigerians. When we read newspapers, some of us are confused about whether to abuse the past or the present or to make excuses for the future. But that is not in my dictionary. I think action now, re-engineer the finances of our country and steer it on the right path”
Did you think the president’s statements were just mere rhetoric? If you think so you are wrong. The president was prompted to reveal his mind as he realized that part of the significance of the Minna Special Agro-Processing Free Zone, included, Connecting the Rural Agricultural Communities to Urban Development, the Processing, Production, Packaging & Distribution of Agricultural Commodities (Cassava, Banana, Flour, Rice, Pastries, Yogurt, Milk); Providing Readily Available Market for Farm Produce and Turning Agricultural Waste into Wealth as well as Increase Household Incomes & Foster Job Creation in Rural Communities for Youth and Women. There is also the factor of Poverty Reduction, Food Security, and Speedy Economic Growth.

President Tinubu was so impressed with what he saw on the ground and was quick to urge Bago to maintain the lead and continue to be the pace-setter for the country.

Other governors at the ceremony seized the opportunity to tell Nigerians about the efforts they were making in their various states to move from subsistence farming to mechanization as they all concluded that agriculture was the sure banker to our survival.

Experts believe Farmer Governor Bago is on the right track to the mechanization of farming as farmers are being given all the necessary support to boost their production while nonfarmers are encouraged to go into farming as all they need is land and the government is ready to provide farm tools and the profits could then be shared with the government and as for those who have no lands they can check in the agricultural value chain, that between production process to the finished product and see how they could participate.

Economic analysts have described Farmer Bago as a “Smart and Visionary leader” whom they suggest is building a free and financially independent Niger State for the future. They believe that if Nigerlites heed the Governor’s call for support, his plan to draw 140km length of water irrigation to the Special Agro-processing Free Zone from Shiroro dam, and provide substantial power to the airport city project which he hopes will attract a lot of investment into the state, to make Niger State an Agricultural hub of the Nation, can be achieved.

As a last word, Farmer Governor Bago’s agricultural revolution is coming to fruition. Niger State is working towards feeding itself and the nation, therefore, all hands must be on deck as the state has begun a remarkable process of year-round farming, and the best time to key into the policy is now.

Hamza Waziri

Coordinator Press Affairs to the Farmer Governor Bago

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