Former President Olusegun Obasanjo says political leaders and not farmers should be blamed for Nigeria’s inability to attain self-sufficiency in food production.
He said this on Sunday at a lecture organised to mark his 86th birthday in Abeokuta, Ogun State.
Obasanjo expressed concern that Nigeria and Africa had failed to take advantage of advancement in science and technology for the development of the agricultural sector.
He asked Nigerians to blame the country leaders for lacking the political will to turn Nigeria into the food basket of Africa.
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Obasanjo said, “I believe that God has not created Nigeria as a basket case. God has created Nigeria for a great purpose. At independence, the world did not refer to Nigeria as giant in Africa, no, they referred to Nigeria as giant in the sun, Nigeria was more than giant in Africa, it was giant in the sun. But, not only have we not been giant in the sun, we have not even been giant in Africa. Some people called us giant with clay feet.
“So, that is not what God has created Nigeria to be, that is what we Nigerians have inadvertently or advertently made Nigeria to be.
“But, will Nigeria continue to be so, I believe no. So, we must continue to hold ourselves together, pray and understand all the factors and the elements that is making us to be not the giant, but the dwarf of Africa and how we can get out of it and I believe and pray that we will get out of it.
“Food security is very important and for as long as we are not reasonably self-sufficient in food and nutrition security in Africa, we are of course not doing the right thing for ourselves.
“Until Ukraine war, I really did not realize how much we in Africa, almost all of us in Africa depend on the Russians and the Ukrainians for wheat. Wheat which is use to make bread is only carbohydrate, are there no carbohydrate food stuff that can be produced in Africa that we can be self-sufficient in. I know some of our countries cannot produce wheat and this is the sort of thing that IITA has been doing.
“Science and technology have given us all that we need for food and nutrition security in Africa what is left is political will and political action.
“And if we fail not to have food and nutrition security we cannot blame our scientists, we blame our politicians and our farmers, but more of politicians than farmers because I have been at the two helms and I can tell you that the farmers are ready if they are given all the incentives and the encouragement that should be given by the politicians.”
Earlier in his lecture, titled: “The Complex Dynamics in Achieving Food and Nutrition Security in Africa”, the former Director – General of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Dr. Nteranya Sanginga lamented that, African countries despite being blessed with fertile land still spend billions of dollars importing food.
Sanginga disclosed that, Nigeria spends N11 billion annually to import food into the country.
He insisted that, the country must move from a consumption country to a producing nation, stressing that the action would help improve the goal of food and job security.