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No, not my food!

Published by The Nation on Sun, 18 Aug 2019


Every country produces some of what her citizens require to survive. However, in Nigeria, there are too many factors that have imperilled even that tiddly diddly effort.Dear reader, so many stories broke during the week I found myself gawking, hissing or simply flipping. Oh yes sir, you can definitely flip when you dont believe what youre reading. For instance, I gawked when I read about how the El-Zakzaky man was being expected back in the country from his trip abroad. All I kept thinking was, if being the governments guest would afford me such fame so that the media would be compelled to report my every footstep to you, dear reader, then I had better look for one law toWell I was going to say save but if you say break, no problem. Anyway, now you understand why I gawked.I gave one loooong and loud hiss though when I read that our entertainment circuit had finally lost it, and had gone head over heels insane. I heard that one Mr. Kelechi, also called Techno, had organised some ladies to dance naked through the streets of Lagos just to shoot a music video. Seriously! The society normally draws the line at decency in artistic expressions or scientific experiments. So why in decency would ladies dance in the nude round the streets of Lagos' Unemployment' No parents'No, Im hardly your barometer for decency. Anyone who eats pounded yam with salad instead of soup and takes sandwich with Vaseline instead of mayonnaise should not talk of decency. Should I go on' Everyone knows what decency is. It is that line you get to and your brain tells you get back, idiot, before you corrupt your toe. Mr. Kelechi crossed that line, corrupted his toe (but that is his business), corrupted the ladies he used (thats our business) and even attempted to corrupt the entire society! Now, that is a dare! That was why I hissed but I was a little pacified when I heard that he had been arrested. I hope they make him dance naked round Lagos.When I read, however, that Pres. Buhari had given the Central Bank of Nigeria a directive that forex should no longer be given for food items, I flipped. All food items' I mean, there is just so much a girl can take. Now, I am wagging my finger. For long, I have noted the governments anti-PU tendencieslittle or no power in my house (I hate that), no pipe-borne water at all except from my well (I manage that, thanks), no rain over my zone (ok, Ill not hold that against the government too much), just name it. Now, the only comfort left me is being threatened.Have you ever heard the saying, when all else fails, eat' Well, its true. Unfortunately, though, you have to have food to eat. This column has joined voice with others long and loud enough to cry out about the abysmally low level of food production in this country. It was during his first and second coming I think that Pres. Obasanjo launched the two green growing programmes to try and turn our faces away from the oils that lie beneath the grounds to the nutrients and how to use them to grow food. He only succeeded somewhat. The oil had got somehow under our skin, so to say. Now, out of the blues, the present president has directed thatThere were reasons why the previous green revival attempts failed. To start with, the migration tendencies of Nigerians has always been urban-ward rather than rural-ward. Reason: the few social amenities Nigeria has are distributed mostly around the cities. The rural areas have been left to fend for themselves, actually, which is as good as saying they have been abandoned: electricity-wise, health-care-wise, road-wise, job-opportunities-wise, schools-wise, just name it. So, the ones who can also abandon those areas for their fewer life-enhancing opportunities.Have you also noticed that people in the cities dont farm' Reason: no land; they have mostly landlords. This means that for culinary sustenance, we city slicks have been at the mercy of the wise few who remain behind in the rural areas to farm. So, your dependable, stick-through-it-all close-to-the-earth rustic has also been thinning out. Logically, food has also been thinning out.While it is understandable to want the country to be self-sufficient in food production, the facts on ground point elsewhere. And, simply giving a directive to stop paying forex to food importers will not solve the problem. It will make food more expensive.The fact, as far as I know it, is that no country is self-sufficient in food production. Food imports range from country to country, depending on economic (e.g., importing coffee from a neighbouring country for cheapness), political (e.g., importing apples from nations in alignment with your nuclear disarmament interests) and super political (e.g. importing eggs from countries that would sell arms to one) reasons, etc.So, I dont think food self-sufficiency means totally producing all a country needs but that she should be in a position not to be held to ransom by anyone. Every country produces some of what her citizens require to survive. However, in Nigeria, there are too many factors that have imperilled even that tiddly diddly effort.To start with, local efforts in food production are still too small to feed the nation. Everyone has remarked on the success of rice production, and they should. The point however is that a great amount of rice is still brought into the country to the relief of many of us. Ill tell you why.Not too long ago, I set out to purchase OFADA rice in order to proudly acquaint my stomach with a home-grown product. To my horror, it proved that between harvesting and my table, there appeared to have been little or no cleansing intervention. It came bagged but was still as dusty, nay muddy, as when it was first dried. Worse, there were things in it that crunched like stones. Oh yeah, they were. Even worse, it was more expensive than the smuggled rice. Naturally, I am thinking of re-joining the rank of smuggled rice eaters.I understand that to fully process that rice to a level of comfortable consumption, i.e., no stones or mud, some basic infrastructural help would be needed such as ELECTRICITY, STORAGE, AND WATER for goodness sakes! To encourage people to invest in food production, there must be a corresponding act of readiness from the government, such as providing amenities or overseeing the provision of such. If the government would just hand off many of the things it has presently dipped its hands into and do its own work, many things would fall naturally into place. As an example, what is the business of government with things like RUGA' If enabling infrastructural environments are provided, people would sort themselves out. That is the meaning of a free society.Then the incessant attacks and constant harassment of farmers by bandits and herdsmen that have gone unchecked and unreproved by the security forces is somewhat reprehensive. The government scores very low on this, no doubt. Not many people are too eager to increase their farming efforts when people are being killed, hacked, maimed, and women raped, on farms.That presidential directive on food importation has the ultimate good of the country at heart but I believe its time has not come. People are too hungry, despondent and hopeless right now for any governmental experiment. I would advise that we let things be until we put the necessary things in place. If we are looking to cut spending, I suggest we look in the direction of fuel subsidy spending that appears to be growing daily. I ask, sir, look not in the direction of my food; no, not my food.
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