Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mr. Sabo Nanono, stunned not a few Nigerians when he said last week that Nigeria was producing enough food to feed itself and even export to neighbouring countries. Nanono, who spoke in Abuja while commemorating the World Food Day, said inter alia: “I think that we are producing enough to feed ourselves. I think that there is no hunger in Nigeria. There could be inconveniences. When people talk about hunger in this government, I just laugh.”
There is obviously a lot to be worried about in Nanono’s outrageous statement which is a throwback to the ignoble days of Alhaji Umaru Dikko, who notoriously said that since Nigerians were yet to feed from the dustbins at the time, they were not hungry. That was part of the preceding indignation to the coup which brought the then Major-General Muhammadu Buhari to power as a military Head of State on December 31, 1983 and it is somehow ironic to find his appointed Minister of Agriculture and Rural development displaying similar callous ignorance 36 years later.
To say the least, Nanono’s arrogant claims fly in the face of empirical evidence considering the wandering, hungry almajiris, a scourge which governors in the northern part of the country are desperate to eradicate. Incidentally, it was reported in the media last week how a man who took the minister’s admonition that N30 was enough to pay for food too seriously was nearly lynched at a restaurant in Kano. That incident must rank as one of the most iconic indications of life in a misgoverned society.
The World Poverty Clock puts Nigeria on the spot as the world’s poverty capital and in the last few months, millions of Nigerians have found themselves in the poverty pit. Unfortunately, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development who ought to be directly responsible for delivering them from hunger through government policy is tragically unaware of their desperate and dire situation.
If food is in any way cheap, that can only be relative to the incomes and expenditures of those in government. For their part, the Nigerian people certainly know that they are in dire straits. In the particular case of the minister, he is a sheltered and indulged government official whose existence, unlike the poor people’s, is heavily cushioned by subsidies and allowances. For the present administration to have him in office as a minister is a disservice to the country considering his outrageous and callous ignorance.
Nanono is not even on the same page with President Buhari, who has made no secret of his desire to alleviate the harsh and precarious situation of the Nigerian people and has promised to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in 10 years. If the minister is not on the same page with the president, how can he serve fruitfully in the federal cabinet? If he does not share the same sentiments with the president and the disposition of his administration, how can he embark on any programme that will bring relief to the traumatised populace?
There is a double tragedy here as the minister who is expected to relieve the hunger of the people does not believe that the problem exists, let alone that it is dire and desperate. It is certainly sad to see fruits rotting in the country’s markets for lack of buyers. The fruits are rotting away because the supposed buyers lack the necessary purchasing power. If food was cheap, that would definitely alleviate the suffering of the Nigerian people. But can the people hope for any kind of relief from a minister that is adept at denying their dire and desperate conditions?
Nanono is obviously a misfit in the Buhari administration and having him continue in office is tantamount to unleashing untold suffering on the people. He should resign from office honourably or be booted out. The Nigerian people have no need for a callous and ignorant minister who would rather watch them die in hunger than lift a finger to offer any help.