The Daunting Task before Nigeria’s Minister of Agriculture


Since May 29, 2015 till now, the body language and actions of President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration appears to be that of putting aright many age-long abnormalities in governance, the polity and other spheres of the economy. At a time when oil prices have slumped drastically, there is an unprecedented focus on non-oil sectors to be the major driver of the Nigerian economy, chief of which is agriculture.
A visit to the About Us page of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD) tells you this:
“The Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD) is a Ministry of the Nigerian government that regulates agricultural research, agriculture and natural resources, forestry and veterinary research all over Nigeria.
The Ministry has the responsibility of optimising agriculture and integrating rural development for the transformation of the Nigerian economy, with a view to attaining food security and positioning Nigeria as a net food exporter for socio-economic development.
The mandate of the Ministry is to be a significant net provider of food to the global community, through the promotion of agricultural development and management of national resources in a value-chain approach to achieve sustainable food security, enhance farm income and reduce poverty.”
Looking at the choice of words used, it can be concluded that this has been professionally crafted. This speaks volume about the direction in which the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development is headed. This also speaks about the seriousness of the leadership of the ministry. This is commendable.
As a matter of urgency however, the leadership of FMARD must move away from mere rhetoric that is symptomatic of most governments, roll up her sleeves and get the job done. What has been written is the yardstick the same leadership will be assessed. This, to me, is the daunting task before Chief Audu Ogbeh, the honourable Minister of Agriculture.

Picture of Chief Audu Ogbeh
Considering the complex nature of the agriculture (and agro-allied) sector, characterised by bottlenecks across various Departments and Agencies, many years of neglect of the practitioners etc, the Honourable Minister needs tact to accomplish his lofty goals. One technically sound way to achieve this feat is to bring together willing and intelligent Nigerians to form a Think Tank Research and Strategy Team.
This independent team, led by a competent professional, will be saddled with the responsibility as given by the Honourable Minister. In addition to this, some thoughts have been given to what can possibly be the responsibilities (job description) and key result areas of the team. They are spelt out below:
Job description of the Think Tank Research and Strategy Team
Objective evaluation of predecessor’s programmes to determine continuity or otherwise;
Critical analysis of the state of the agriculture sector in Nigeria;
Development of S.M.A.R.T.E.R. goals and roadmap to revamp the sector, bearing in mind the available resources;
Appraisal of potential growth areas and new business opportunities;
Adequate monitoring of agreed projects from inception, etc.
Key Result Areas of the Think Tank Research and Strategy Team
Presentation and implementation of a workable growth and transformation plan;
Increase in productivity and efficiency of farmers;
Growth of SMEs along the value chain;
Reduction in Nigeria’s dependence on food import, etc
Are there strategies that have helped transform the agriculture sector of other African nations? Yes, there are! Are there model farms or agribusinesses that can serve as benchmarks to setting up ours? Yes, there are! These and more are the responsibilities of the Think Tank Research and Strategy Team. This is a team for those driven by passion to see the transformation of the sector.
Besides passion, other person specification that perhaps may serve as requirements to qualify for membership of the team includes:
Experience: The importance of cognate experience relevant to the responsibility at hand cannot be over-emphasised. Every member of the team is expected to be armed with this.
Education: Education plays a crucial role in the context of higher order thinking skills. There are uncharted waters the team will encounter which may require novel approaches. This is where the use of critical thinking, problem solving skills etc comes to play. So, education here is not limited to those who have studied agriculture-related disciplines.
Exposure: Agriculture is known to have a negative perception, especially among the youth. Exposure to other parts of the globe (especially Africa) where agriculture works well can help give the right mindset to the team. If you have travelled across the borders of Nigeria, and you have seen it work elsewhere, you are welcome.
Expertise: Technical expertise is key. Expert know-how of practising professionals in the agriculture sector is needed as a core competence. This should be possessed by a sizeable number within the team.
Character: The differentiating element for this independent team from been perceived as another political appendage is the character of the chosen representatives. Result-oriented professionals with proven track record of service, excellence, integrity, high moral standards should constitute the team.
Competence: There are different types of competencies: functional, technical, behavioural etc. In addition to these, competence in this regard, is viewed from the lens of the five requirements earlier mentioned. Proposed members of the team will perform their assignments successfully if they meet these requirements. High level of performance is a function of competence.
Conclusively, with about 30% of the entire 2016 budget allocated to capital expenditure, this government seems to take infrastructural development seriously. This, according to President Buhari will support reforms in agriculture. The budgetary allocation to the ministry of agriculture is encouraging. Now that the Federal Government is willing to inject funds into this sector, many ‘portfolio’ agriculture entrepreneurs who have mistaken this for Federal Government’s ‘largesse’ are surfacing suddenly. This is one area to which the Minister should pay close attention to.
Agriculture is no longer business as usual. Like never before, Nigerians need the sector to rise up to the occasion and deliver. When push comes to shove, someone has to take responsibility. Chief Audu Ogbeh has this responsibility, but we all have to give him the needed support as he builds a legacy.

PS:
Dear Reader,
Since this column began, lots of LinkedIn invites and commendation email have been received. To say the least, this is humbling. Thank you for your kind words. I truly apologise for skipping January edition. Please send in your questions and areas you feel this column can be improved on; I am here to serve. Thank you.