Kalu and making Abia another Malaysia
By Peter Ogbonna Eze
Yearly, thousands of articles come up in the news pleading with the government to fine tune policies that will strengthen our economy, especially through diversification, of which exports of local products is key. However, successive governments have been same with the ones it succeeded; galloping over each other like equestrian show; exposing it’s economic nakedness to the world, and singing same song of economic diversification with little or no action point to effectuate it.
Also, it is no longer news that the expectations of Nigerians from the President Muhammadu Buhari’s led government has been the centre of discourse in the country. Before President Buhari, other presidents were warned of the imminent consequences of total dependence on oil as its main source of revenue.
The incurred effect of the long neglect of other sectors of the economy has however, been practically felt through the unfortunate and seemingly magical decrease in the value of our currency and decline in revenue.
Today, the consequences ranges from high volatility of the exchange rates and prices in general, delay and poor implementation of national budget, inability of government to meet its fiscal obligations due to structural shocks in the international oil market amongst others.
Nevertheless, the lamentations that the economy is getting worse will continue to rend the air in both mundane and dramatic way until true actions come in play.
With the pains Nigeria economic crisis is inflicting on her innocent citizenry, I consider it unnecessary to give historical instances where countries with economic diversification initiatives have led to unimagined and enormous economic deliverance. Despite the constant reminder of the need to return to the hitherto neglected agriculture and farming, one cannot comfortably assert that fair effort have been made to improve the sector.
Agriculture has a rich history, and the progressive roles it had played in the past are well known. Its antecedents in the lives of Nigeria and its people both in economic and political spheres are equally well documented. It is more known because Nigeria is blessed with both human and natural resources, and has never at any given time, lacked the desired soil or favourable weather conditions needed for successful agricultural production.
I even learnt that proceeds from agricultural products such as palm oil produce funded national edifice like the prestigious University of Nigeria, Nsukka, whereas the proceeds from the popular groundnut pyramid also funded the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, and many others.
However, the concurrent reduction in allocations of state governments has automatically forced many states to return to agricultural production as its last resort for sustenance. There was this unusual smile I found myself beaming, on discovering that many state governments seem to be in contest to outdo the other in a bid to revive the agricultural sector which was initially the mainstay of the economy.
In Abia , while the state government is doing its part to improve agricultural production, a silent agricultural revolution is preparing to take place, and this time engineered by an individual.
The former Governor of the state and Harvard tutored business enigma, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu has through his recent business venture responded accordingly to the demands of our time, notwithstanding the obvious limitations. In a state blessed with vast fertile lands, records show that the former state Boss gave laudable attention to the agricultural sector, which contributed to the massive empowerment of Abians during his tenure as the Governor.
However, Orji kalu’s stated resolve to make agriculture a focal point was brought to limelight when in 2012, he asked the federal government to implore all the state and local governments to establish agricultural institutes with standard infrastructures that could provide the needed and qualified manpower for the agro-industries that are springing up daily. So, his actions are not too surprising.
His concluded plans to establish a $400 million farm in Abia state, apart from its immeasurable positive effects, has also contradicted the insinuations that he has not invested in the South East to the satisfaction of the Easterners. It is crystal clear that this singular investment will proffer answers even to inquisitive unborn generations.
According to him, 12,000 hectares of land is already mapped out for the farm. While 7,000 hectares will be used for palm oil produce, 2,000 hectares and 1,000 hectares of land will be used for maize and vegetables consecutively.
Kalu’s huge plan for palm oil produce reminds me of Nigeria’s former status as the largest producer and exporter of Palm oil produce, of which the defunct Eastern region was the highest contributor.
But today, this outstanding position has been taken over by Asian countries, who incidentally came to Nigeria and studied the process of planting and cultivating palm products and was reported to have taken their first seedlings from Nigeria. Due to neglect, the palm oil produce has suffered over time, and sadly, it now plays second fiddle to countries that was her apprentice.
It might confound non South Easterners to know that the south East Nigeria has the capacity to feed itself and even extend agricultural produce to other neighboring regions as well as have enough for export. Because aside palm produce production, the South East region has vast arable land favourable for growing varieties of farm and cash crops. And as if he suddenly realized the potency of food security and economic revival, Orji Kalu have risen to the challenge, and is poised and determined to attain food sufficiency and also drive economic growth through massive investment in agriculture.
The level of enthusiasm this plan has brought, especially to the teeming youths of Abia State has already foretold the consequences. The consequence is that Kalu’s decision to give more attention to agriculture, when fully in place, will provide massive employment opportunities for the underemployed and unemployed youths. Exports from the farm will equally be an alternative source of foreign exchange. It will cause poverty alleviation and rural empowerment.
Making agriculture one of the cardinal objectives of the administration should go beyond public posturing; visible commitment need be shown. The Nigerian Federal Government and Abia State Government should provide the needed support and make the environment conducive for Kalu’s great effort not only to thrive but to also grow massively.
Recent events in the economic landscape need more visionary men like Kalu and serious agricultural investors, such that could guarantee sustainable food availability, employment opportunities amongst others.
Because by Kalu’s great Venture, Nigeria which hitherto imported palm oil to supplement it’s production shortfall will now become a leading exporter of oil palm. More so, returning the South East region and Nigeria to a global hub of oil Palm production.
By this singular act of allocating 7,000 hectares of land to only palm produce, Orji Uzor Kalu might in the end make his home state another Malaysia in the business of palm produce.
Eze, Personal Assistant to Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu writes via firstname.lastname@example.org