Overbearing adversity of Nigerian farmers

By Isaac Ola Oladipo
The millennium Development goals (MDG) mantra is now wearing a new coting called the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). The reason(s) for the sudden transformation is not the focus of this passage. Rather, either old or new name, the world is conscious of one important aspect of societal value and need “Food Security”. Food, being one of the  three basic needs of man, must be made available in enough quantity and at the right quality at all cost, else, the extent of life and existence and by extension the world will be seriously threatened.

No wonder then there was a wailing noise over the recent past news of a trader applying sniper to beans meant for sale to the public. Sniper is one of the derivatives of 2-2-Dichlorovinyl Dimethyl Phosphate compound. It was formulated for agricultural use against pests, both insects and animals. It is said to have short residual effect of 2-3 days according to the manufacturer’s instruction; This means after applying this chemical (in the right and recommended dosage) to plant in the field it will require just 2-3 days after which safe harvesting and consumption is done. This chemical is highly poisonous if ingested as it could seriously corrode the internal mucosal layer of the alimentary canal (stomach and the small intestine). It could also affect the chemical balance of the nervous system; a condition that could lead to hyper-sensitivity, excessive nervousness, breakdown of the nervous system, paralysis complications and in worse case, death. Hence, the stern warning that it must be handled with care and must be kept out of the reach of children.

I quite agree with the appropriateness of the alarm that was raised. I equally join the entire Nigerians to say “No” to sharp practices, adulteration, quality compromise and all manner of unethical mischiefs of business people in the country. Be that as it may, while many people were swift to cast aspersions on the gentle man caught in the act, I differ a little from the general public view and wish to be allowed to ask a few questions thus;

Dose the sniper man intended to harm the people to which he wanted to sell his beans? Another similar question is; What could be the motive of the sniper-man’s action?

I don’t know what your response to these questions could be. I only want to attempt the questions from my lay-man point of view. While not trying to hold brief for the sniper-man, I wish to argue that the act of the sniper-man was not likely to be targeted at harming the public. I reasoned this way because, the sniper-man was a trader making his product available for purchase in the open market. The bulk of his patronage will come from his regular customers, his relations, friends, neighbours and acquittances who have developed a reasonable degree of relationship and confidence with him. The sniper-man was not likely to be a first timer in the sales market. He is not likely to vacate the grains-sales business immediately after that faithful day he was caught. Therefore, I could not fathom a reasonable reason while the sniper-man would want to eliminate the buyers of his merchandize. The most likely reason for the sniper-man acting the way he did was probably to ameliorate the actions of weevils on his beans.

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One may want to figure out if the sniper-man had alternative option to his action. Yes, it is possible to completely protect the produce from post-harvest losses. However, imagine yourself in the position of the sniper-man, will you watch about a Tonne of beans get completely destroyed by weevil? How would you have managed the ravaging weevils without chemical application? Are other means of post-harvest loss management readily available to the sniper-man and his likes in our society?

Those who accused the sniper-man of wrong doing would have been justified if we were in Europe, America, or nations where things work. I learnt that in America, farmers are among the richest people in the society. Mind you, everybody in the value chain from production to the point of delivery to the actual consumers are grouped together as farmers. These farmers are rich, not because they produce gold or diamond, not because they work harder, sweat more or are more dedicated than the Nigerian farmers, they are what they are, very rich, because of the importance and the value placed on them by their government. I learnt that for a farmer to own a unit of tractor, the federal government bears 60 % of the total cost, while the state government takes care of 25 %, the county/mayoral authority defrays about 8 % and the farmer is left to take care of the remaining 7 %. Even the eventual cost that gets to the farmer will be sponsored through bank loan that has the lowest interest rate in the country. Here in Nigeria, we all know what the story is like.

I equally learnt that the government takes over the farm after the farmer had established it. The process of taking over is that the government comes around to access the value of the farm, estimate the yield and the final sales price. The farmer is paid off thereafter and commissioned to assist the government to nurse the crop to maturity. The government handles the harvesting, processing, storage and post-harvest management. The farmer is completely relieved of the troubles, so he can go back to the field and focus on the business of farming once again. Insurance companies never allow farmers in America to develop hypertension over adverse conditions on the field and the banks never allow him to be financially embarrassed when the time of farming operations is engaging. This is the blessing of being a farmer in America and those places where things work. So, you can see why in America, the sniper-man will not think of applying sniper to beans. But unfortunately, he is in Nigeria and that alone was a crime he had, more than anything, committed.

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The insults Nigerian farmers gets from the Nigerian society is highly irritating. Look around the street, whenever Nigeria artists thinks of representing a farmer on his bill board, he thinks of nothing but a wretched looking man draped in rags with miseries and frustrations written all over his face. Time was in Nigeria when houses were said to be for rent but not for teachers. Farmers were never mentioned on the list at all. A biodata machine did not allow a farmer to be accredited for voting because his over worked fingers had lost the prints on his fingers. He had to be given alternative voting status. Not up to 1% of the national budget for agriculture get to the hand of farmers. What is the sin of Nigerian farmers? Are this not the same set of people are said to be producing the food for the 175 million or more Nigerians?

This year is another year of tears for Nigeria farmers; The rain came early enough, it was good enough all through out the year even to support double maize cropping. Harvest had been so good. Then, the market glut drew its sword. Yam, Plantain, cassava, and their derivates sold and still selling for peanuts. The commodity market is not smiling at all. Domestic needs are still selling at cut throat prices. Children school fees are getting out of hands. Even government school are becoming unaffordable. So, what do average farmers have to show for their year-round labour? Nothing! The farmers have no share in the Paris Fund refund. Only governors get their share as palliative to pay workers salary arrears that remains largely unpaid as many states are still owning their workers up to 6 months arrears. Sharing of excess crude account fund never get to the farmers. They have no representation neither in the Governors’ forum nor in the FEC meeting. Only God know how much will be spent on the electioneering business in 2019 (a larger portion of which will be used to service the corrupt practices, hooliganism, noisy propaganda, blackmail, social manipulations, inflated contracts and many un-imaginable shady deals. No one even among the revered religious leaders, and custodians of traditional values and mores will be willing to chastise the blue-bloods and sacred cows. But let the farmer spill a pinch of milk, heaven will be let loose on him. What a pity?

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There are countless of unheard cases of abuse of public funds, diversion of public properties to private ownership, sharing of blood fund meant for equipping solders who are exposed to the naked fire of the Boko harams, rice, consumables and sleeping mattresses meant for IDPs diverted by the administrators and offered for sale in the open market, some pubic thieves still enjoying freedom in Britain and protected against extraditions by diplomatic bureaucracies, illegal acquisition of properties at the expense of the civil society, etc. Most criminals are walking the street as free-burns while the farmers is the cynosure of attack at the least provocation. The farmer is only remembered when something insignificant goes wrong and everyone is out to stigmatize the helpless and defenceless; The Farmer. Who will save the farmer from the hands of Nigerians, whose, plight is keeping the farmers under the scourging heat of the African sun.

I challenge the society to mount the justice bench and define who is the actual enemy of Nigeria and whose act/actions is more injurious to the Nigeria people among these two people; the man who sprinkle an impotent dosage of sniper on beans to reduce loss to weevil and the man who bought N40 million worth of nomination form, sponsored thugs/robbers to humiliate opponents, give a bribe of up to 10,000 USD to individual party delegates at the primary elections, orchestrated the death a principal witness of a sponsored armed robbery at a bank, snatched ballot boxes at polling stations, insult the psyche of the nation by giving N500 to electorate to change their mind at the polling station, give judges bribes to upturn justices in Nigeria judicial system, award inflated road contracts to their party apologists who do shoddy jobs or sometimes abandon the job, leaving our roads as death traps, allow importation of fake drugs into the country and withhold workers salaries on the pretence of short fall in the federal allocation, cripple public schools so that candidates will patronize his expensive private schools and those who will do everything possible to perpetrate themselves in office even when it was obvious that they have nothing to offer any longer? The ball is in your cut.

Overbearing adversity of Nigerian farmers

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