Even President Muhammadu Buhari’s harshest critics will acknowledge that the man has made some very appreciable strides in the agricultural sector which is the bedrock of the economy, politics, security and social stability of any serious nation. The single idea underlying his policies in that sector is to free Nigeria from dependency on other nations for our food needs. Nothing can be more salutary than efforts geared towards attaining independence in that critical sector for no nation can be said to be truly independent if it depends on others for her food supply and sustenance.Since coming to power in 2015, Buhari has made it clear that one of his agenda is to make Nigeria become self-sufficient in food production. These efforts have yielded undeniable results in the area of rice production and other food crops production.It is true that Nigeria is yet to attain Buhari’s dream for national food self-sufficiency. But is also true that we are not where we used to be prior to the coming of Buhari. He has shown that it is possible for us to rely on our ingenuity and sweat to produce what we need to consume. If Buhari had not done what he did, rice for example, would have disappeared from many households’ menu because it would simply have become unaffordable with the ban on exports by other rice producing nations with the outbreak of COVID 19.He has empowered local rice farmers who have appreciably increased their output. Those who tend to be stingy with praise should for once become generous and appreciate Buhari for his contributions to Nigeria’ s growth and development especially in this sector. This stride saved us with the onslaught of COVID 19.Efforts are also being made to increase the production of cotton with a view to reviving the once lucrative textile and garment industry. If you go down to the grassroots of Nigeria you will further notice the initiative to increase the production of sorghum, cotton, oil palm and beniseed. These crops may not spin as much money as oil does but their eventual contributions to the nation’s Gross Domestic Products will be immense. They also will create employment opportunities for tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands of Nigerians across the country.By the time Buhari is through with his agricultural revolution, Nigeria will not feel the devastating impact of COVID 19 if he had not had the foresight and sense of economic nationalism to take the steps he took even before COVID19 came to our shores.For us in Nigeria, COVID 19 has opened our eyes to see that we must go back to the basics. There are many basic things we have neglected to do which, of necessity, we must go back to and get them done if we want to join the comity of developed nations. This is what Buhari has done for Nigeria by going back to place emphasis on agriculture which is now yielding dividends.There are also some things we need to forgo for us to have the resources we need to do the things that we must necessarily do. For president Buhari at the Federal level, there are some things he has to do to garner resources to pursue the economic recovery project. The first of them is a massive ban on imports of many items we can produce here at home or some of which we can completely do without. It is simply not right that we spend a large proportion of our foreign earnings in importing items that do not advance the cause of economic self-sufficiency.Another area that deserves a look in is cutting down on the cost of governance. As far back as some two decades ago and even before, it was realized that the federal bureaucracy is too large, too amorphous, too self-serving and too unfocused in the task of nation building. A committee, known as the Orosanye Committee, was appointed to look into the size and structure of our Federal Civil Service and its Departments and Agencies. It did a thorough job of it and came up with what is known as the Orosanye Report. Among other things, it recommended that the MDAs are too unwieldy and some work at cross purposes while many are mere duplications of existing organisations performing almost exactly what those earlier ones were set to do. It was, therefore, decided that a surgical knife be employed to trim the federal bureaucracy and make it more functional and more cost effective.Unfortunately, the Orosanye Report recommendations are pure political hot potato. Most of its laudable recommendations have not been implemented purely because of political reasons. Fortunately for Nigeria, President Buhari is not seeking re-election neither is he, strictly speaking, a politician who wants to be loved when the tough decisions that need to be taken remained untaken. Rather, he is a statesman who wants to leave a legacy of service for Nigeria.In light of this, one of the urgent steps Buhari’s Federal Government must, as a matter of urgency and importance, take is to find a way of reducing the number of ministries, departments and agencies and ensuring in the process that 60 per cent of staff is disengaged from service.However such staff to be laid off will not just be sent home packing. Rather, they should be given credit facilities and assisted to start a new life with a new business line. This will make the surgical operation painless and at the same time provide an opportunity for such disengaged but reengaged Nigerians to contribute more meaningfully to increasing the country’s GDP by getting involved in production of real goods and services.It should also be noted that many of our schools at all levels of the learning process require new able, dedicated and committed teachers. Some of the staff who are currently either idle or under engaged in the bureaucracy can be re-engaged as teachers. Those of them who do not have teaching qualifications can easily be given crash course re-training programme that will make them fit to instruct and guide our children to acquire vitally needed skills set.Moreover, COVID 19 has changed so many things in the world in our country in particular. It has crippled our fragile economy. There has been a drastic fall in oil prices, the lock down of the country and the social distancing have all combined to do great damage to our country’s social and economic existence. This has brought in its wake an urgent need to diversify our economy. And the first thing that comes to mind is deepening our involvement in agriculture. In this sector, we must also think about deploying some of those who will be disengaged from the civil service into this sector.Farm settlements should be created across the country to settle a new generation of farmers who will be assisted by government to earn their livelihood from that noble engagement. These times call for creative thinking and innovative pursuits for the greater glory of Nigeria.Nigeria can, certainly, not be the same way she was before the coming of COVID 19. Things must just have to change and for the better, too. This is the time to do those drastic things that need to be done to set Nigeria on the course of progress and stability. There is no better time to mobilize the citizenry behind leadership than now. Having seen the effect of the lockdown and deaths many followers will be willing to queue up behind their leaders in whatever direction they are told to face.
- Nataro is a former governorship candidate in Kebbi State.