To many ears, especially in government circle, the recent warning about an imminent hunger in the near future is folklore for distant nations across seven rivers and seven deserts.
Notwithstanding the continued defiance and denial in government quarters of the imbroglio in the country, the reality of things on the ground overshadows their deceit.
As it were, Nigeria continues to experience a high rate of food scarcity despite the ruling government’s efforts to stem the tide by diversifying the economy through agriculture.
Regrettably, Nigeria has always been a graveyard of failed promises and programmes. It is noteworthy that various governments have raised hopes on how to tame the hydra of joblessness and poverty in the country through creating millions of jobs in the agricultural sector as a way to diversify the nations’ economy from its oil dependence. But sadly, in almost every instance the idea is greeted with robust rhetoric without any substantial benefit for the targets of the programme.
The sheer size of the population and the obvious high proportion of youth in it easily render them as endangered species if hunger should befall the nation as foretold. It would be just as unwise for the President Muhamadu Buhari administration to sit back and watch Nigerians as they continue to fall in millions below the poverty line and suffer afflictions and hunger. There can be no greater illusion from the governments’ angle against the backdrop that human development index will worsen with the way things are shaping out, and this will have implications for crime rates in the society as well as social acrimony towards government and its officials.
Last week, the alarm bells rang when the 2020 global report on food crisis by the Global Network Against Food Crisis (GNAFC) and Food Security Information Network (FSIN) sent cold shivers down the spin of Nigerians with scary but factual reports of an impending hunger that would affect about seven million Nigerians. This is not only worrisome but thought-provoking. Such a news item is true, an August visitor that no nation would like to host. Yet, the spike in the number of people joining the poverty cycle is alarming. No doubt, the situation poses enormous threats to the actualisation of the global Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target 21 of “Ending hunger and ensuring access by all people, in particular the poor and people in vulnerable situations, including infants, to safe nutritious and sufficient food all year round”.
The rapid fall in living standard over the past years has produced several negative elements in society. Banditry, insecurity and the Boko Haram insurgency in the northern part of the country are a clear off-shoot from the political leadership’s recklessness and pachyderm of the people’s plight. Many Nigerians feel abandoned and unrepresented as politicians and political office holders constantly feed the people with empty rhetoric that yields no positive results by way of improving the people’s living standard.
Over the years, politicians are increasingly seen as selfish as they continue to act mainly on self-interest and that of their business oligarchy. Indeed, this was not what President Buhari wanted or promised when he became President in 2015. But, poor domestic politics and pockets of conflicts across the country and particularly the coronavirus pandemic did escalate the impoverishment of the people. Of course, it has immensely contributed to weaken the economy and make governments’ programmes untenable.
It is disheartening to hear narratives about Nigeria being described as a country that produces so much wealth yet its people are in constant need and hungry. A case of someone by the river bank but washes his hands with spittle. Of course, such narrative is highly indisputable especially as poverty still spreads its nets over Nigerians and unemployment queues among the youth continue to lengthen whilst efforts to combat it are dwindling.
Again, according to the GNAFC and FSIN reports, “The number of acutely food insecure people during the June-August 2020 lean season is forecast at 7.1 million, over 40 per cent of the population up from the same period last year”. Also, against the emerging outburst of acute hunger, several economic analysts are worried that the trend at which the nation is drifting towards not being able to feed itself portends grave socio-economic danger for the country. A curious implication of these turbulent signs is the widening gap between population growth rate and the GDP. The effect of the above would cause the living standard of the people to decline faster in the years ahead. With an almost stagnant economy due to COVID-19 induced lockdown and mounting external debts, the deteriorating economic situations could even be worsened.
Therefore, the government definitely needs to support and encourage farmers without further delay with quality inputs, seeds, fertilizers, chemicals among others. This will enable farmers to produce more crops for food security in the country. Meanwhile, the oil sector which is the ruling government’s financial back-borne is just about nine per cent of the country’s GDP growth and it employs less than three per cent of the population. Yet, it accounts for over 90 per cent of the nations’ foreign exchange earnings. With this current situation at hand, the ruling government’s attention should urgently be directed towards agriculture. This would eventually lead the country to food self-sustenance and reach a point where it feeds the neighbouring countries of the West African sub-region. However, until Nigeria can conquer hunger, the citizens can only dream of food while their stomach remains empty amid plenty.