The Founder/Chancellor of Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti (ABUAD) in Ekiti State, Aare Afe Babalola (SAN), has urged governments at all levels to invest more in agriculture to create jobs.
Babalola said Nigeria can overcome poverty, hunger and unemployment, if governments invest in agriculture, which he said holds a better promise than white collar jobs.
He warned that Nigeria could be listed as a beggarly nation, if government policies are not favourable to the Agricultural sector.
The eminent lawyer spoke at the weekend at the grand finale of this year’s Afe Babalola Agricultural Expo (ABA-EX) on ABUAD campus in Ado-Ekiti, the Ekiti State capital.
Babalola noted that Nigeria is bedevilled by “grinding poverty, spiralling unemployment and insecurity” because of the abandonment of agriculture.
A farmer in Emure-Ekiti, Mr. Clement Ogunsakin, got a cash prize of N1 million from Babalola as this year’s Ekiti State’s Best Farmer.
Forty-seven other farmers in the 16 local government areas got N5 million cash prizes to be invested in their agribusinesses.
Other farmers, who benefited from ABA-EX cash largesse last year presented their farm produce to the ABUAD Founder in appreciation of his gesture to them.
The eminent lawyer said he was disturbed by the rate youths embrace commercial motorcycling instead of farming.
He said: “The unwholesome situation has suddenly and sadly made Ekiti State the headquarters of Okada riders.”
Babalola suggested that agriculture be made attractive to youths so that the sector would give them fulfilment.
According to him, organising the exhibition every year is his contribution to identify with farmers.
He said: “It is imperative that we revive agriculture to ensure that Nigeria regains its lost glory in that all-import realm and in the overall interest of the people. Any nation that pays little or no attention to agriculture does so as its own peril and risks becoming a beggarly nation.
“I am, therefore, appealing to those in white collar jobs to have gardens at the back of their homes while government should encourage small, medium and large scale farming for different categories of people.
“As part of its community service, ABUAD and its founder, as stakeholders, in 2014, embarked on this crusade to renew people’s interest in agriculture with the overall aim of reviving it.”
Babalola urged the Ekiti State government to establish agriculture offices in the 16 local government areas so that farmers can get inputs at subsidised rates, particularly modern farm implements.
The eminent lawyer said farming with cutlasses and hoes will dissuade youths from embracing the occupation.
The Chairman of ABA-EX 2018 Local Organising Committee (LOC), Prof. Adeolu Durotoye, urged the state government to partner Babalola to make agriculture the mainstay of the economy.
Durotoye said the exhibition also gave farmers the opportunities to get credit facilities from financial institutions, like the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Bank of Industry (BoI) and Bank of Agriculture (BoA), whose representatives attended the event.
The Permanent Secretary in Ekiti State Ministry of Agriculture Mr. Dare Abegunde said the Agriculture sector is key to the actualisation of the Vision 2020 proposition of the Federal Government.
Abegunde said: “The Federal Government’s intention is to make Nigeria joins the comity of 20 most developed nations across the globe. This can’t happen without technology value chain in agriculture, which requires production, processing and marketing of agriculture products.”