Open grazing shouldn’t be practised in the 21st century, we’re resistant to good practices in Nigeria – Oyelaran-Oyeyinka, Special Adviser to AfDP President

Published February 3, 2021

Senior Special Adviser on Industrialisation to the President of The African Development Bank , Prof. Banji Oyelaran – Oyeyinka, is an international development expert . In this interview with GRACE EDEMA, he speaks on developmental, socio- political and other issues in Nigeria
The Fulani herders ’ crisis has become a national problem. What should the government do ?
Cattle herding and open grazing should not be practised in the 21 st Century. Nigeria came up with the National Livestock Transformation Plan but it seems beyond the announcement nothing much seems to have followed in terms of implementation . The Ruga Plan , which raised huge controversy evidently sabotaged the NLTP. We need to modernize the livestock sector which is a major contributor to agricultural GDP , second only to crop production . It plays a pivotal role in household nutrition, income , employment , farm energy , manure, international trade – especially leather and so on. Globally , the sector is worth 1 .5 trn , employs 1 .3 billion . Why are we so resistant to good practices ? Why do we pervert policies that work everywhere ? This nativity and caustic reversal to atavism is costing lives and undermining development besides constant attacks triggered by disputes over grazing areas for livestock. The agricultural sector and livestock production that should lead economic recovery has instead been the flame igniting disharmony , insecurity , rising prices of essential food products .
In what ways have the government ’ s attitudes , policies contributed to the Fulani herders ’ malaise ? What should we expect if their inordinate grazing and other criminal activities are not curtailed?
Obviously, government has a huge role to play ; first provide the policy framework to organise this current chaotic and rather primitive practice into a modern sustainable sector . The NLTP was seen as the beginning of that . Second , now that the issue has stirred up so much crises, governments, at all levels , need to provide strong leadership in putting out the fire of communal unrests resulting from the unfortunate killings , kidnappings , and banditry. Poverty and unemployment when combined with a seeming lack of political empathy by those elected into office is a recipe for trouble .
We need to face the challenge head -on . The drivers of the crises will intensify in the year ahead. We will not stop eating food and meat so the demand for animal source foods in our country will grow . It is influenced by three major factors namely : rising the human population , the second is income per -capita , and the third factor is unrelenting and unsustainable urbanisation . These drivers of the demand for animal source foods are anticipated to dramatically change in the coming decades in Nigeria. Over 38 years from 1974 to 2012 , the Nigerian population grew by more than 100 million , from 62 to 168 million people . In the 38 years between 2012 and 2050 , it is projected to increase by nearly 230 million and reach 398 million people by 2050
Do you agree with the recent decisions taken by stakeholders on the Igboho and the herders in Ibarapa land , Ondo etc ?
What happened in Ibarapa is a consequence of the hard times that the people have suffered as a result of the killings , kidnappings and the grinding poverty that these communities are experiencing . When you listen to those who feel aggrieved it is not surprising that this unfortunate conflict is happening against the backdrop of competition for scarce resources between groups within our society and as well , the perceived dominance of another group especially in a situation of limited resources. We need effective social and economic institutions to mitigate these conflicts as the struggle between groups or classes intensifies .
At this stage / age of the country , what are the innovative and technological achievements which the Nigeria should have recorded by now?
Let me cite a simple example . In 1953 when the Korean War ended , the nominal GDP of Korea ( population 51 million in 2019 ) was 1 . 3 billion dollars , it grew rapidly to 1 .65 Trillion in 2019 ; almost four times that of Nigeria ( population 200 million ) . The country ’s GDP / Capita rose to $ 32 ,000 from a mere $ 158 in 1960 while that of Nigeria was $ 93 and $2 , 222 in 2019 . While Korea has almost attained the status of a rich advanced industrial nation , Nigeria is stuck at low – medium income with a large proportion of very poor . The key to the success of Korea is rapid industrialisation through manufacturing export diversification . In contrast , Nigeria hardly diversifies its economy; the country got locked -in into petroleum export for export earnings to the detriment of value -added agriculture and manufactures . Indonesia , Malaysia are resource -endowed countries like Nigeria but succeeded to modernise agriculture and at the same time master industrial manufacturing . In Nigeria , the elites , the politicians and bureaucrats sabotaged all industrial initiatives : steel , aluminium , petrochemicals , refineries, fertilizer , name it . We could not build and maintain supporting infrastructure such as electric power plants , water among others , so private companies died or relocated to Ghana; remember Michelin , Dunlop , textiles and garment companies like Arewa Textiles and so on , the list is long .
There are several problems bedeviling and dragging the country backward , lack of industrialisation , huge debt profile without impact on the economy , lack of infrastructure are some, what would you suggest as way out ?
There are well known remote and immediate causes that are social, economic and political in nature. The long period of military rule was characterized by massive corruption and a befuddling neglect of soft and hard infrastructure. In thirty -four years, we did not add a Watt of electricity to the national grid . The culture of corruption became institutionalised and systemic ; successive politicians have not been different . The schools system : primary , secondary and university was neglected and degraded . We are thirty years behind comparator countries in all areas, living standards, poverty levels and health metrics . In sum , our economic backwardness arises from : governance failure, infrastructure deficit , weak industrial base including failure to modernise agriculture . I know the present government is re -emphasising agriculture and rightly so. We need to move faster doing this , industrialise agri -business is the solution . The current structure of our economy that is made up of peasants in the rural area and informal slum -dwellers in cities belies the huge human and economic resources that God has blessed us with . We should really hang our heads in shame as we have failed the younger generation . The resulting banditry , kidnapping, killings and communal strife result from poverty , opportunity inequalities and inequities.
Why has our political system failed to deliver development ?
The cost of gaining political office is high and for that reason only the rich and their associates, not necessarily the committed and qualified , ascend to office. The politics and governance that evolve in this manner becomes a Spoils System ; it is otherwise described as a Patronage System . I heard a lawyer speaking candidly on a national TV once describe it ; it was a most grotesque and brutal description . He said, “ The politician or an aspiring office holder pays huge sums for the position of minister or whatever . He is a businessman in that sense and needs to recoup his investment and make profit. He attains to the office and immediately steals as much by any means possible . Remember he has his eyes on the next election so he needs a war chest ”
In essence, the assets of Nigerians become a Spoil of War . This practice promotes a practice by which the victorious political party, once it wins an election , allocates government and other civil service jobs and contracts to those who supported it . Positions go to friends ( cronyism ) , and relatives ( nepotism ) irrespective of qualification or experience . On the face of it , it is not at all wrong to reward friends and supporters but the extreme kind of the Spoils System has taken root in our country . You see Nigerians excelling all over the world but they are shut out from serving and even making inputs into the development process by the very dynamics of the Spoils System that does not value meritocracy. It ’ s a system that sabotages itself and with it , our dreams of a better tomorrow. We need a reform of the electoral processes ; we need a very radical change .
If the Buhari administration must achieve its goals, what are the crucial decisions and policy directions they must follow ?
A very important step is to do things leading to the restoration of trust of citizens. There is a broad view of inequity in allocating political offices ; that can be rectified . To be fair , the current government has experienced two massive crises within a short period: the 2016 recession and the COVID – 19 pandemic that led to significant loss of earnings even while the government tries to do infrastructure like railways and airports and struggling with a health crisis. The lesson here is that Nigeria should shift away from a mono -economy. It is not too late to recalibrate.
As you know, Nigeria has significant comparative advantage in agriculture assets include huge arable land and large bodies of water . However, as I mentioned earlier, poor infrastructure , poor access to low cost financing and subsidy required in agriculture development have been a big challenge . However, The African Development Bank is working with government to establish Special Agro -Industrial Processing Zones in every part of the country . Why SAPZ? The SAPZ aims to build modern agribusiness ecosystem capable of delivering the goals of import substitution , food security, economic diversification and significant foreign exchange earnings from agricultural exports . The SAPZ Programme is a major investment programme aiming at boosting the rapid development of modern agro – processing capacity in Nigeria . The AfDB will help develop six zones across the country . Nigeria has requested and the Bank has granted a $ 500 million concessional loan to develop the zones and we have secured the interest of key partners such as IFAD , NIRSAL , NSIA , Bank of Industry ( BOI ) , among others .
What is your assessment of Nigeria’ s management of COVID -19 since last year till now that we have the second -wave ?
At the heart of the COVI 9 – 19 pandemic is widespread Testing and now vaccination . Nigeria’ s health system and the pharmaceutical sector are to say the least grossly inadequate. Meantime oil price from which Nigeria derives 90 per cent of foreign earnings crashed. Even if you have money to buy kits African countries found themselves at the end of the long global queue for chemical reagents , and materials for diagnostic tests . I am aware as the AfDB has been working with Nigeria and other countries to develop an African solution .
This is for me the greatest failure , the lack of ambition to use the crisis to invest in a home- grown innovation . We had a Nigerian PCR developed by a Nigerian scientist at the University of Sheffield that was never adopted despite been ranked as good as any kit on the market . The pandemic is a challenge even for the highly industrial countries. My advice is for us to not waste these crises. Let us use it to rebuild our health system . Let us get Nigerians from wherever on earth to help develop our own solutions to this and other outbreaks that may come and more importantly provide the incentives and macro -economic regime to create a strong pharmaceutical sector . ,,

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