Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Fredrick Nwabufo: Embracing ‘Agbado’ as a political identity

Agbadi represents food on the table of the masses and an escape from the quotidian realm of hunger.

• September 2, 2022
Bola Tinubu
Bola Tinubu

Is ‘’Agbado’’ on trial? A non-native to Nigerian political constructs may think ‘’Agbado’’ is some serial killer on the loose. ‘’Agbado’’ has become one of the most screamed words this election season. If ‘’Agbado’’ is not sprinkled into any political conversation like a smorgasbord of veggies; it is chopped up and spiced into snooty memes. What is it about ‘’Agbado’’ that is taking over the faddism?

When Bola Tinubu, presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), 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 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 this stuck-up class, ‘’Agbado’’ is not sexy; they would rather have conversations on pizza, burger, lasagne, and all other acquired 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 the 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 grounded 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 percent 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 on agriculture and food security will have a crisis in its hands. 

A bit on “Agbado”. Nigeria’s maize production was at its highest since 1960 in 2021, according to the U.S. 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 percent of Agbado produced in the country is used for poultry feed. 

Agbado is considered as 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%, followed by cassava – 16.5%, rice – 11.9%, and cowpea grain – 11.8%.

Also, it said agriculture contributed 22.35 percent 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. Interesting times. Well, it is a good badge to wear. 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 represents food on their table and escape from the quotidian realm of hunger. 

We must talk about feeding the nation. 

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

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