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Federal Ministry of Agriculture's White Elephant Project

According to various media reports, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development will be spending 60 billion Naira (about $384 million) this year to distribute free mobile phones to farmers under the Growth Enhancement Support (GES) scheme. This whooping sum of money (the accuracy of which was denied by the Federal Minister of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Dr Akinwumi Ayo Adesina, and then confirmed by the permanent secretary of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Ibukun Odusote) will be spent to, in the words of the Honourable Minister "empower every farmer" and "trigger an information revolution, which will drive an agricultural revolution." The Minister also promises that no farmer will be left behind- whatever this means. It started like a practical joke and most Nigerians must have wondered if this announcement, made during the Rockefeller Foundation President's visit to the Minister, was a mere comic relief by the Minister and his henchmen, or another bad dream in a line of others that have forced Nigerians to live through many strange times. This project, whoever is partly financing it, is the very incarnation of past white elephant projects that have wasted scarce financial resources of the country that should have gone into educating, securing and caring for many generations of Nigerians. Most Ministers in successive regimes however seem to be defining their time in government by their ability to wound and torment hapless Nigerians through senseless projects, projects that make it easy to steal and hide stolen funds.

Policies such as this show clearly that the government of President Jonathan may have completely lost touch with the reality of terrible existence facing the vast majority of Nigerians. In a country where neonatal deaths (these are Nigerians dying before they are old enough to know that they are Nigerians!) have reached epidemic proportion and represents one of the highest in the world, in a situation where none of our universities has been on the 500 world-class universities in this decade and NECO & WAEC continue to record disheartening failure rates in school-leaving certificate examinations, what on earth makes any sum of money available for free mobile phones or on a top priority list?

Such white elephant projects will only reinforce the perception of Nigeria as a laughing stock of the rest of the world where we like to teach the blind sign language. Any developing country such as Nigeria, wishing to develop its agricultural sector will focus direct government intervention to help farmers and boost food production on achieving steady supply of working capital, improve research and development, ensure water supply, low cost of fuel and labour, (corruption-free) subsidy on farming equipment and basic infrastructure. All these, in economic terms, are the factors of food production that Nigerian farmers need, not some fanciful initiative to trigger an information revolution. If you asked the Minister however, he will probably tell you that these factors of production are the exact things he and his men have been spending sleepless nights to ensure they will be in place before 2015, yet that is the tired line we have heard since independence. And so many Nigerian children have suffered and died on the altar of excessive fantasies and lies of elected and public officials selling projects they will never put their own personal monies into. They confuse the public using sophisticated languages to announce grandiose projects with pomp. Most of such initiatives, incubated in the laboratory of some foreign bodies with ulterior motives, or simply plucked straight from textbooks continue to have devastating consequences on our lives from one generation to another. For God sake, how will handing out 10 million free phones “empower every farmer” or “trigger an information revolution” in a situation where telecoms companies are struggling to meet their service obligations to their current customers? With very poor connection most times, is the Minister and his men actually not aware of Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) many sanctions against the telecommunications companies for poor performances?

One day, posterity will judge the quangos and political leaders of this country whose main pre-occupation is keeping the country on its knees or embezzle and waste much needed public funds.

Such white elephant projects will only reinforce the perception of Nigeria as a laughing stock of the rest of the world where we like to teach the blind sign language. Any developing country such as Nigeria, wishing to develop its agricultural sector will focus direct government intervention to help farmers and boost food production on achieving steady supply of working capital, improve research and development, water supply, ensure low cost of fuel and labour, (corruption-free) subsidy on farming equipment and basic infrastructure. All these, in economic terms, are the factors of food production that Nigerian farmers need, not some fanciful initiative to trigger an information revolution. What has mobile phone got to do with any of these? If you asked the Minister, he will probably tell you that these are the exact things he and his men have been spending sleepless nights to ensure they will be in place before 2015, yet that is the tired line we have heard since independence. And so many Nigerian children and kids have suffered and died on the altar of excessive fantasies of elected and public officials selling projects they will never put their own personal monies into to the public using sophisticated languages and with pomp. Most of such initiatives, incubated in the laboratory of some foreign bodies with ulterior motives, or simply plucked straight from books continue to have devastating consequences on our lives from one generation to another. For God sake, how will handing out 10 million free phones “empower every farmer” or “trigger an information revolution” in a situation where telecoms companies are struggling to meet their service obligations to their current customers? With very poor connection most times, is the Minister and his men actually not aware of Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) many sanctions against the telecommunications for poor performances?

One day, posterity will judge the quangos and political leaders of this country whose main pre-occupation is keeping the country on its knees or embezzle and waste much needed public funds.

Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of Disu Kamor and do not necessarily reflect those of The Nigerian Voice. The Nigerian Voice will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."

Articles by Disu Kamor