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Boko Haram Is The Effect Of Dwindling Economy, Not The Cause, Says Morounfoye

Published by Guardian on Sun, 16 Sep 2012

Kwara Has Set The Pace For Others On How To Revamp Agric SectorTunji Morounfoye is the commissioner for Information, Kwara State. In this interview with ABIODUN FAGBEMI, he said Kwara is on the path of showing the way to economic growth to other states in the North.Can we really describe Kwara State as being in the North'YES, Kwara state is in the North and precisely it is in the North Central geo- political zone. Again, the state Governor (Alhaji Abdulfatah Ahmed) has a seat in the Northern Governors Forum. No other seat is given Kwara outside this zone, so the state is in the North. In fact, it is a gate way between the North and the South.There are insinuations that the economies of the 19 Northern States are not doing fine, added to the challenges of insecurity. Do you notice that trend in Kwara'To start with, economic conditions of the 19 states of the North had been in comatose since the advent of oil in Nigeria. We should not trace it to the unfortunate emergence of the dreaded Boko Haram sect. The oil boom suddenly became the oil doom. This is evident from the sudden disappearance of groundnuts pyramid from Kano, a commercial nerve centre of the North. I know what I am saying because I grew up in Kaduna with constant visitations to kano. Again, where are those clothes factories in some of the states of the North' The decline had started steadily since the advent of oil and that is where we are right now.How then do we then fix back the moribund economy'There is no need for us to do any panic fixing. Besides, it is not a matter of establishing Al Majiri schools, but we must take holistic view of the development. Al Majiri is just part of the problems and not the problem. We should go back to the farm. We should copy the example of Kwara State that has made agriculture its economic main stay. We should resuscitate the system of Shuduf (all the season irrigation system). A typical northerner is a natural figure and God has given him arable land. But all these are now laying waste. The Boko Haram will pass away and it is not the cause of the dwindling economy, the Secretary of State's of the United States, Hillary Clinton, corroborated this when she came to Nigeria. She said Boko Haram was the effect of the dwindling economy of the North and not the cause.We need to spread our absolute areas of our advantages like Adams Smith stated. We must use our strength to engender an enabling environment for the youth to blossom. We can develop our agriculture through the youth. We can emulate the example of China that brought out 300 million people out of poverty through agriculture in the spate of five years.Again, one can say that poverty can be eradicated in any state if the governor of such a state is willing within his four- year tenure of office. That is exactly what we do here in Kwara State through commercial agriculture. This had started since the days of the former Governor (Bukola Saraki).In terms of cassava export, Kwara State started before many other states. I am happy to tell the whole world that Kwara had since commenced exportation of cassava chips to London. It has graduated many youths from its Youth Farm Settlement, Malete in Moro Local Government Area of the state. I for instance, have a 56 hectares of farm at Ira, where I planted palm nuts, maize and soya beans. It is an effortless gesture; you can see I have not stopped my job as a commissioner. If everybody therefore has a farm, not necessarily having 56 hectares of land like mine, the problem associated with poor economy will be over.If truly Kwara is the leading light of the North in the area of commercial agriculture, is the Federal Government seeing it the same way'The Federal Government has recognized the ability of Kwara State in the area of agriculture. At present, it has made the state a model for other states in the area of agriculture. We are not relenting in this area because we know that other states are indeed coming behind.In what way has this development helped in the area of youth employment in Kwara State'We live in a society where work is not recognised. We recognise success and applaud same. The youth do not see themselves as being gainfully employed but interested in jumping the important bridge between work and success. But we must begin to realise the ability of self-employment, as a true measure of development in any developing nation. The economy of any serious nation today is driven by small and medium scale enterprises. It is a settled matter in economic terms that you cannot make enough money working for someone else. In Kwara, we are determined to increase the skill of our youth because it is the only way forward.Among them today are cobblers who can compete with any world class rated cobbler. The only thing they lack is money, and that is where our banks should come up and render the needed assistance. The government cannot employ everybody; therefore hard work should no longer be an aberration.There is this belief in some quarters that Kwara State is broke; is it true'We are not broke. We are still solvent as ever. The Federal Government cut the revenue of the state and other states few months ago, just as the implementation of this year budget started few months ago. So, what we have done in Kwara and I am sure the same thing is applicable to other states is to cut our coat according to our cloak. Kwara is number 33 on the list of allocations in Nigeria out of the existing 36 states, but we are lucky to be having a very good manager as the Governor. Don't forget that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) recently rated us as a solvent state in Nigeria. In essence, we know our limitations in Kwara State.Does the North as a region presently have a leading personality with a commanding voice as it was in the First Republic'In the North today, those we can refer to as the Northern figures are ageing but still in existence. Have you forgotten our great leader, Dr Olusola Saraki, who is the founder of the Northern Union' Again, we are blessed with upcoming leaders with great vision, for not only the North as a region but the entire nation. We should therefore not concentrate on spent forces because what they could not achieve then cannot be achieved now except with a different technique and that is why we need new visionaries. We need novel ideas because the major definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result.The North is also said to be lagging in the area of formal education; wouldn't that have economic implications'I don't believe that the North is lagging behind. Today we have more Universities in the North than before. But what we are teaching them is another thing entirely. It is an endemic problem. We churn out graduates without experience on how to generate jobs. We are not giving them any sense of direction. We need to follow the example of Kwara State by focusing on skill acquisition and not just on paper certificates. These will in turn graduate into small and medium scale entrepreneurs to give the economy a sense of direction. There will be avenue to collect more taxes when you are self employed and the economy will be driven by regular sources of income.
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