With falling oil fortunes our hope lies in Agriculture———-Dr Obasogie
Dr. Obasogie Friday is the Provost, Edo State College of Agriculture, Iguoriakhi, Edo State. In this exclusive interview with our correspondent, Abavo Kingsley in Benin, he suggests making agriculture the driver of the State economy in the face of dwindling fortunes from oil, and gives kudos to the Governor Godwin Obaseki led APC administration.
Turning to agriculture in recession
First and foremost, let me appreciate the present Governor, Godwin Obaseki and the people of Edo State for realizing that the only way forward is agriculture because we must eat.
Don’t forget that the population of this country is increasing at a geometric progression, and the food production is not equally increasing that is why there is hunger everywhere.
So, if the country must survive, there must be food security for the citizens. That is why I must appreciate the Governor of Edo State for realizing agriculture is the only way to go.
Before now, the over dependence on oil have done us no good. This is because for any country to be vibrant and viable, it must be productive and not just a consuming nation.
But contrarily, Nigeria as a country is a consuming nation and not a producing one. Virtually everything consumed in Nigeria is imported, which now put her at a cross road because the oil well is almost dry, and price of crude has remained low.
Hence, the government has realized that the only sector that can drive the nation’s economy is agriculture. Therefore, the only way forward is to invest massively into the agriculture sector; financially, acquisition of modern machinery, building of infrastructures, and human capital development especially the youths; equipping them with the latest know-how and research must be encouraged. Importantly, this must be backed with the required enabling policies.
In terms of training, this is where the Edo State College of Agriculture is very relevant because our mandate as an institution is training and research. And progress cannot be made in any sector if the necessary technological know-how is lacking because today, agriculture has gone beyond being mere farming to become big time business.
Agriculture Policy and Planning in Edo
It is true that for some time in Edo State, agriculture has not been given its deserved attention. It should be noted that it is one thing to make policy, and it is another to implement. It is good that whatever policy made, there should also be that commitment by the policy makers to invest into the sector. This is only when the much desired reward would come.
Though, for some time past there have not been serious commitment, but from what is ongoing with the present Governor, there is indication that he has the will, capacity and total commitment to invest in the sector.
We advocate that there should be enough financial budgetary allocation to the agriculture sector as obtained in health, education e. t. c. This is so because if a man has food to eat, his tendency to fall sick would have been minimized, his tendency to involve in crime would have been reduced considerably.
Food first! It is only when one is well fed that he will start thinking of buying a car or building a house. When one has not eaten, he won’t even think of buying new clothes that is why agriculture at the centre of all the priorities remains number one, and hopefully, with the administration of Godwin Obaseki, we should get to the next level.
Students’ attraction to studying agriculture
I want to tell you that since I assumed office few years ago as Provost of the school; we have improved a lot of the infrastructures because training won’t be possible without good infrastructures in place.
Our youths are not ready to read agriculture as a course because of the negative belief that on graduation, you end up in the bush farming but this is not true. So, what we have done to attract students to the school, is to improve the infrastructures; the fish pond, green house, poultry, oil mill, screen house, laboratory, academic staff building renovated and several others.
Consequently, today the National Board for Technical Education has granted the school accreditation to run Higher National Diploma programmes. As I speak with you, all the programmes we run at the school, have been granted accreditation by NBTE.
Notably, following improved infrastructure at the college and consequent NBTE granting of accreditation of all courses of study therein, the Federal Government has adopted the institution for the training of ex – Niger Delta agitators in different area of agriculture.
You know, agriculture is a mono course that is why the college is regarded as a Monotechnic. The students’ population is about 500. If the HND level is added, it is about 700.
Research at the College
As an academic institution, our mandate is teaching and research. I must tell you, we are doing a lot. As a Provost, I have been able to produce about 20 research publications in both national and international journals of repute. Just recently, we have been able to develop cassava stick specie that would produce and mature within six months though it is still being tested.
Innovation for IGR at the College
I am a pure technocrat hence I do not believe in getting money always from government without investing it. For the period I have been in charge of affairs, there has been tremendous improvement like I said before. It is just that you do not invest in the agriculture sector today and start getting rewards. As I speak with you, we have partnered with the Ose Rubber Estate; Michelin Rubber Estate who have assisted us with some rubber seedlings and we have been able to plant close to 10 hectares of rubber and by the time we start harvesting, we may not have reason to wait for government to give us money. So that is one major breakthrough I have been able to achieve in terms of raising the IGR of the school.
Relationship between Management and Staff members
It has been very cordial. Management has ensured that members of staff enjoy the required condition of service including the payment of salaries as at when due. This is where I will again commend effort of the Governor and Government of Edo State. Edo State College of Agriculture, Iguoriakhi as today is the only institution that is paying salary as at when due. However, we still need more fund for the efficient and effective running of affairs at the school; in form of overhead.
Relationship between College and Host Community
As far as I am concerned, the relationship between the college and its host community is cordial because we realize that we should always be alive to our Corporate Social Responsibility [CSR].
Maybe I should point this out; by the special grace of God, I am not just Provost of the College, Iguoriakhi its host community, is also my native home. The present Odionwere is my uncle, and my parents are all there. We all reside there, I was born and bred there, so the relationship is cordial, everyone is happy; there is development in the College; and we are in a safe hand.
Message to Youths
I want to advise that the youths should shun crime, and look for any legitimate means of livelihood; and the quickest and cheapest means of legitimate livelihood today is agriculture.
Happily, our Government has indicated readiness to massively invest in agriculture, as well encourage persons that are ready to take to it as business. So, my advice to them is for us to go back to our roots. Let them go back to their village and farm instead of going into crime.
You can find out yourself. Prior to my appointment as Provost, I am one of the major pineapple, and cassava farmer in my local Government Area. So, I was born and raised in the farming family, I saw myself through school from farming, today I am a Ph.D. holder.
I started from the College of Education, from there I went to the University of Benin for my first degree, from there I proceeded to the Federal University of Technology, Akure for my Masters, and got my Doctorate degree from the Federal University of Technology, Akure.