Obaseki: We Must Stop Blame Game, Focus on Charting Roadmap for Nigeria’s Devt, Prosperity

•Reveals how state transited from subsistence to large-scale agriculture

•Now has over 70,000ha oil palm plantation under cultivation

Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, has emphasised the need for Nigerians to move beyond trading blames and picking faults. Obaseki urged unity in efforts to save the country from pervasive economic challenges and place it on the path of progress.

According to a statement yesterday, Obaseki, who spoke in Benin City, said the country was at a crossroads. He emphasised the need for serious conversation between citizens and leaders of the country on how to chart a path for the future of Nigeria.

The governor said the country was in dire need of bold, fearless, and courageous leaders to confront and navigate the difficulties currently facing it.

According to him, “This is a time that we need fearless leaders that will say things as they are. This is so that we can look for a way out. The solution to our national problems can’t be restricted to certain ideas, as Nigeria is a large country with problems, and this is the time for everybody and leaders from the entire spectrum to have a serious conversation about the future of Nigeria.

“This is not the time for trade blaming, fault picking can’t be now as we all should come out and put our hands on deck to steer the ship of Nigeria out of troubled waters back to safe water.”

He stated that his government had been proactive, making plans when the tell-tale signs began to show that the country’s economy was going in the wrong direction.

Obaseki said the state government had over the past seven and a half years embarked on reforms and programmes to place the state on a steady growth trajectory.

He stated, “I thank God that we have been vindicated today, as our sincerity has helped us prevail over every situation. We see prospects for a better economy because of the institutional reforms we have introduced to better manage the state.”

Obaseki added, “We have always prevailed because the majority of Edo people understand, appreciate, and endorse what our government has done. This has been the reason for the courage with which we have tackled any problem we faced along the way.”

Obaseki further said his administration had moved the state from subsistence to large-scale agriculture and built on the lessons of the Edo State Oil Palm Programme (ESOPP).

The governor stated that lessons from running large-scale oil palm plantations had been transferred to developing commercial cassava farms used for manufacturing of flour and ethanol in the state.

According to Obaseki, “We still produce food in Nigeria at the subsistence level, which is inefficient. It is sad because before the civil war, when we had commodity boards and people were investing in larger-scale farming, which was more efficient, agriculture was the mainstay of the economy and we didn’t have crude oil at that time.

“So, subsistence farming for 200 million people is not just going to work. We have got to think about production on scale because we’re a huge country – a large country with a lot of landmass. But do we have that culture of agriculture? We produce food like every part of Nigeria, but we don’t do it efficiently. You have small farmers going in, doing their shifting cultivation.”

On what the Edo State Government did differently, he said, “What we try to do in Edo is to think about how to cultivate large-scale farms.  To start with, you have to go for the value crops like oil palm, rubber, and cocoa. We started from that end because of the advantage we have in attracting investors.

“We did a forest audit and realised that we had quite a lot of land that, unfortunately, had been deforested, which we could use for oil palm cultivation.

“We then launched the Edo State Oil Palm Programme (ESOPP). It was not about just giving out land, but a programme where we help you get land, survey the land, demarcate, go to the communities, deal with the communities, engage them, compensate those who you need to compensate, then do your nurseries, and get planting materials.”

The governor said Edo State currently had the largest agricultural programme in Africa, with more than 70,000 hectares of oil palm plantation.

He added, “What that does for us is that once we have people who now have the expertise to prepare the land for oil palm, I can then move them to help me prepare land for cassava, maize, and other crops.

“More importantly, what we have done as a government is to bring them in and organise them. My concern is my people, the citizens, who are going to work with them. We focused more on developing capacity.”

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