At the height if its glory in the 1950s, the old Ondo province comprising the present Ondo and Ekiti states, was a major contributor to the economy of the Western Region and the then emerging nation, Nigeria.
It was a period when agriculture was the mainstay of the economy, through which several enviable and unparallel achievements were recorded by the government of the Western Region, scoring many firsts in terms of achievements in the history of the country.
However, the glittering hope gave way to despair when the leaders decided to abandon agriculture for petroleum.
Since then, successive administrations have failed in their efforts to place the state back on a path of redemption through agriculture.
But the administration of Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu (SAN) of Ondo State is putting in place tangible structures to breathe life back into the long-neglected agricultural sector and make it more attractive to youths through many innovations.
To demonstrate his seriousness towards the development of the sector as a major source of jobs and wealth creation, Akeredolu is showing that his pre-election promise to build a new Ondo State where hunger would be a thing of the past is gradually becoming a reality.
It will be recalled that the governor, while taking oath of office at the popular Akure township stadium on February 24, 2017, pledged that the state would witness a robust transformation under his conscious watch.
In readiness for the enormous task of bringing about positive change to the people, Akeredolu had prepared a blueprint anchored on five cardinal programmes, popularly known as “platform of change.”
The programmes, according to the governor, are job creation through agriculture; entrepreneurship and industrialization; massive infrastructural development and maintenance; provision of functional education and technological growth; provision of accessible and qualitative health care and social service delivery; and rural development and community extensive services.
So, the ongoing activities embarked upon by Akeredolu since he assumed office in the area of agriculture have demonstrated that the governor’s blueprint is not a mere political statement, but a contract meant to be executed for the social and economic advancement of the people, irrespective of their political beliefs and inclinations.
According to experts, Akeredolu’s curiosity to shift the state’s attention to agriculture will soon begin to yield the desired results.
An agriculturist, Mr. Muftau Abdullahi, who claimed to have been following the governor’s various initiatives, foresee that the glorious old days when agriculture was the pride of the state will soon return.
Akeredolu began this process when he told some stakeholders at a parley that Sunshine rice would soon be introduced in the state. According to him, some hectares of land will be made available to farmers for rice production in each of the 18 local government areas of the state.
To make the promise realisable, the governor, during a recent meeting with the caretaker chairmen of the local government areas, directed the council chiefs to make 100 hectares of land in their respective council areas available for the purpose of rice, corn and cassava production.
Akeredolu also directed the council chiefs to construct access roads and bridges to farms to ease movement of farm produce to the market.
“Make sure that you construct access roads and bridges that will ease the burden of farmers. And if the projects are beyond what you can do, let us know what the problems are,” Akeredolu told the council bosses.
The governor’s plan to develop the state through agriculture also received a major boost with the visit of a team of FADAMA III Additional Financing led by its national coordinator, Mr. Tayo Adewumi, to the state.
The visit, Adewumi later revealed, was informed by the governor’s intention to make the state a land of great potentials.
Akeredolu insisted that his administration would collaborate with FADAMA III in establishing at least two agro processing centres in each of the senatorial districts of the state.
Also to be cited in each of the senatorial districts are tractors equipment-hiring centres and agro-fruits shops to serve as sales outlets for vegetables.
If the appeal to the Federal Government to allow the state have access to its (FG) silos located in Oda Road, Akure, is granted, Abdullahi and Temitope Adebayo, a specialist in food processing, are sure
Perhaps as a sign to prove his serious about developing the sector, Akeredolu appealed during the meeting with FADAMA III to the Federal Government to allow the state have access to its (FG) silos situated in Oda Road, Akure, for the purpose of keeping farm products.
He equally sought FADAMA’s support in the area of prompt release of funds to push the dream of making agriculture attractive further.
To achieve the target of boosting food production, using agric-business to create jobs and wealth, Akeredolu at a recent meeting with officials of the National Orientation Agency, led by the state Director, Mr. Bode Famose, intended to engage some of the participants of N Power out of the 5,200 in the state.
Reports have said that some of the N Power participants, with the take home of N30,000 per month, were being underutilized, but experts are delighted with Akeredolu’s intention to deploy them for more productive agricultural purposes.
Two cassava producers, Mr. Joseph Adekunle and Chief Ebenezer Agbaje, described the governor’s intention to engage the N Power participants for agricultural purposes as major intervention. They are of the view that the intervention will also assist in the area of security. According to them, youths with penchant for criminal activities, such as armed robbery and kidnapping will naturally embrace agric-business as a source of living, provided the governor backs his intention with serious action.
In the past, Ondo State was a leader in the production of cocoa in Nigeria. But with the advent of oil and other petroleum resources, the Federal Government shifted its attention from cocoa production to oil. This trend continued until many states, including Ondo were badly affected. The ongoing economic recession therefore forced the Federal Government to push for diversification of the economy to agriculture and mining, among others.
As result, Akeredolu heeded the clarion call with the intention of starting a cocoa revolution in Ondo State. While expressing grief over the dwindling fortune of cocoa production in the state, the governor had told the Yoruba Patriotic Movement cocoa revolution would start soon in the state. With this initiative, Akeredolu hopes to bring new species of cocoa for replanting in replacement of the old ones.
He also advocated an all year round farming system to reduce scarcity of food in the state and the country at large.
Through the first half of the 20th century, Africa, led by Nigeria, top the world in the production and export of palm oil. But available reports indicate that Malaysia is taking the lead in the palm oil production and export.
Recent efforts have shown that the new Ondo State governor is set to reverse the trend. He has initiated move to rejuvenate palm oil production in the state, as he recently inaugurated this year’s palm trees planting season at Ilutoro, Ala, in Akure North Local Government Area of the state.
Because palm oil has become a major edible in the world markets and raw materials for industries, Akeredolu planned to implement highly structured plantations with the support of ministries, departments , agencies, non-governmental organisations and peasant farmers in reviving the lost glory of palm oil production.
All the governor’s initiatives to breathe life into agriculture and make the sector more attractive have been described as the right steps. The locals said that the intervention will bring back the glorious old days during which agriculture was the mainstay of the country’s earnings. Apart from pushing for stabilization of the price of farm products, the locals appealed to the governor to sustain the implementation of the initiatives.
Two Ondo town-based cocoa farmers, Kolawole Modebayo, and Alhaji Birisiyu Jimoh, expressed the belief that effective implementation of the initiatives would return of the state on the path of economic development. They urged that such implementation should be entrusted trusted and reliable aides.
Modebayo said: “Governor Akeredolu’s agricultural initiatives are good, but their effective implementation is necessary. From what the governor has been doing since he came to power, one is tempted to say that he is pursuing the collective interest of the people; all his programmes have been favourable. So, what I will advise the governor to do in this case is to involve experts in the implementation of the initiatives.”
Jimoh wants the governor to go beyond involving experts in the implementation of the initiatives. He wants the governor to lead by example by cultivating at least a hectare of land for the production of either maize or cassava.
He is of the opinion that by the governor’s active involvement in farming, many civil servants and other political aides will equally follow suit.
Jimoh said: “Though Akeredolu is busy with serious governance, I trust that the people will naturally gravitate towards whatever the governor does; they will like to identify with him provided he continues to demonstrate his determination to impact their lives.”
Jimoh recalled that when former President OIusegun Obasanjo was promoting the use of local fabrics popularly known as kampala, many people started using the product for social engagements and the initiative promoted the production of the product and thereby created jobs and wealth for many people.
The cocoa farmer therefore foresees that more people will take to farming provided that the governor leads by example.