Friday, June 9, 2023

Fredrick Nwabufo: A bountiful Agbado season is upon us

We must talk about feeding the nation. We must talk Agbado.

• May 18, 2023
Bola Tinubu and Maize
Bola Tinubu and Maize

The time is ripe; the hour is nigh when a new government takes the saddle: the government of the president-elect, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. It comes bearing good tidings and a message of Renewed Hope. It comes on the wings of the stork betokening blue skies, luscious green and a clam of the deep.

What an auspicious time. What a profitable season. Agbado is here, and Agbado is here. Yes, it is the season of one of Nigeria’s staples – corn. It is also the season for a New Nigeria.

What is it about ‘’Agbado’’ that is taking over the faddism?

When President-elect Tinubu said Nigerians would not have to import food because ‘’Agbado’’, cassava, ‘’Ewa’’, and ‘’Garri’’ are produced locally, I believe he did not expect his candid and brilliant intervention on food sufficiency for Nigeria to be the fodder for uppity memes.

To everyday Nigerians ‘’Agbado’’ is a staple food which they live on, but to the stuck-up class, ‘’Agbado’’ is not sexy; they would rather like to have conversations on pizza, burger, lasagne, and all other synthetic foreign junk.

In a country where people struggle to feed, it is a show of synoptic ignorance to mock Agbado, cassava, ewa and dodo. These are Nigerian staples. In policymaking, addressing hunger is pivotal. Governments have fallen over scarcity and high cost of bread. Foodology is at the nucleus of existence.

Over the years, Nigerian governments have designed different policies to ensure food security for the country. In fact, agriculture has been a centrepiece of Nigeria’s policy thrust since the 1960s. The country’s agriculture blueprint includes policies foregrounded in surplus extraction and export adaptation in 1963; the National Accelerated Food Production Programme (NAAP) in 1972 by the General Yakubu Gowon-led government; Operation Feed the Nation in 1976 by General Olusegun Obasanjo’s government; a Green Revolution in 1980 by the Shehu Shagari administration; Goodluck Jonathan’s Growth Enhancement Scheme which revolutionised Nigeria’s agriculture value chains under the then Minister of Agriculture Akinwumi Adesina; and President Muhammadu Buhari’s more recent follow-up on rice production as a centrepiece of economic growth.

Agriculture provides employment for 35 per cent of Nigeria’s population, according to the World Bank, and it is a principal contributor to the local economy. Nigeria is blessed with about 70.8m hectares of agricultural land, but the country is yet to actualise its full potential in agriculture. So, it makes sense that a presidential candidate is speaking on Nigeria’s food security with some gravitas.

Any government which fails to plan for agriculture and food security will have a crisis on its hands.

A bit on “Agbado”. Nigeria’s maize production was at its highest since 1960 in 2021, according to US Department of Agriculture. The rise was due to the Central Bank of Nigeria’s halting of forex for maize importation. Maize is a cash crop. A raw material for lots of our products. In processed form, it is consumed as pap, cornflakes, custard, etc. And about 60 per cent of Agbado produced in the country is used for poultry feed.

Agbado is considered the most consumed staple food in Nigeria. According to Babbangona (an NGO which specialises in agriculture), an IITA Nigeria Food Consumption and Nutrition Survey conducted in 2003 showed that Agbado is the most consumed staple food in households about 20 per cent, followed by cassava – 16.5 per cent, rice – 11.9%, and cowpea grain – 11.8 per cent.

Also, it said agriculture contributed 22.35 per cent of total GDP between January and March 2021, increasing nearly one percentage point over the same period in 2020. Agbado alone accounts for 5.88 percent of Nigeria’s agricultural GDP.

Nigeria is the largest producer of Agbado in Africa — with over 33 million tons, followed by South Africa, Egypt, and Ethiopia. So, why would anyone mock this elixir of the masses? Mocking Agbado or anyone speaking on its pride of place is tantamount to mocking millions of Nigeria who live on the staple food.

Beyond being a favourite snack, ‘’Agbado’’ has morphed into some sort of political identity. Post a photo of yourself snacking on roast corn on social media, and you will be summarily sentenced as a supporter of Tinubu. Supporters and admirers of Jagaban are now identified by what they choose to snack on. If you share a photo of yourself masticating Agbado, then you must be a Tinubu boy. It is a good badge to wear. We must embrace it. I am not too shy to say I have corn in my back pocket. By the way, Agbado is a healthy snack – and nutritious too.

Coincidentally, Agbado is the symbol of one of the parties (ANPP) which merged with the ACN, the CPC to form the APC. So, it is all in order. 

Identifying with ‘’Agbado’’ is nothing to be mortified about. Agbado rings a bell for the masses. It is relatable. It represents food on their table and escape from the quotidian realm of hunger.

We must talk about feeding the nation. We must talk Agbado.

A new beginning for Nigeria is in the wings. I hear the joys of expectations from fellow citizens; I see the longing and desire for change. Our earnest prayers and wishes for a peaceful and progressive Nigeria will not be undone.

It is a bountiful season of Agbado. And may the land flourish. 

God bless Nigeria.

This essay was written with modification from an earlier article, — “Agbado as a political identity”.

Fredrick Nwabufo, Nwabufo a.k.a Mr OneNigeria, is a writer and journalist

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