BY SUNNY A. DAVID
The Premier of the defunct Eastern Region of Nigeria, Dr. Michael Okpara, endeared himself to the region with his passion and vision in agriculture; he believed that the growth and future of Nigeria depend on farming. Recently, President Mohammadu Buhari in interview with Channels TV frankly buttressed this when he said that the solution to the astronomic worrisome rate of Youth unemployment in the Nation is nothing, but agriculture. Nigeria, specifically the Eastern Region, led by Dr. Michel Okpara, used to be a major producer of palm oil when agriculture was the mainstay of its economy, but the discovery of crude oil and obvious lack of foresight by the country’s successive leadership led to the relegation of the sector, particularly palm oil subsector, to the background.Amid the downturn of the Nation’s oil economy, experts do enjoin Nigeria’s leaders, particularly those from the Eastern Region, to adopt the economic model of the late Dr. Okpara, to promote development and create enough employment opportunities for jobless youths. Regrettably, successive administrations both at the National and State levels, paid little or no attention to the advice, especially as regards the popular palm oil initiative of the Okpara administration, even though they are found in the forefront of the campaign for the diversification of Nigeria’s economy through agriculture. However, the narrative in Anambra State today, under the watch of Prof Chukwuma Soludo, is obviously taking a different shape and direction. In his inaugural speech, Prof Soludo expressed willingness to embark on palm revolution by planting millions of palm trees annually, the aim of which is to export palm produce and fresh palm wine from the State. On June 16, at Alex Ekweme Square, Awka, Governor Prof. Soludo flagged off planting of one million palm and coconut trees in the State. The Governor, during the occasion, honestly stressed, “we’re trying to reenact palm revolution. Palm revolution built the old Eastern Region. “When we discovered crude oil, we abandoned palm oil, and now crude oil is out. “We’ve to go back to where Dr. M. I. Okpara stopped”, he said. According to him: “Anambra wants to support and partner with the Federal Government of Nigeria, in its drive for diversification of its sources of foreign exchange. And the one that comes readily with little effort is agriculture; …and palm and coconut will be a game changer if Nigeria embraces this… beginning from Anambra. “A palm economy will be major game changer in terms of diversification of sources of foreign exchange that’s what we’ve come to launch today. “We’ve ordered for them (coconut and palm trees) 100 and thousands of both will be coming in, in the next couple of days, and they’ll be distributed. “We’ll also have a millions to be distributed early next year. Three years, four years, they’ll start fruiting, and the agro-allied industries that will process the produce will begin to emerge and Anambra becomes a net exporter of palm and coconut produce. “If we continue this, for the next 10 years, Anambra will be earning 100 of millions, if not more than a billion dollars’ worth of export from these commodities every year,” he noted. It is interesting to state here that the problematic factors such as difficulty in acquiring farmlands and the dearth of long-term funding sources hindering investment as identified by the prospective investors in this sector, according to the Central Bank of Nigeria, have been honestly taken care of by the Anambra State Government as it will foot the bill for the procurement of the palm and coconut seedlings. From Governor Soludo’s body language, it is clear that Anambra is on the roadmap towards restoration of economic prosperity of the defunct Eastern Region. With the initiative, the future of the state is bright and will withstand the impeding threat posing by the dwindling price of crude in the international market.