The nation’s Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief (Dr.) Audu Ogbeh, has informed graduating students of the University that the future is here, adding that the future was theirs and it would be determined by the abundance of food, as the most powerful ‘legislative house’ in the world was the stomach. Delivering the University’s 23rd, 24th and 25th Combined Convocation Ceremonies’ Lecture titled, “Food and the Future”, the Honourable Minister stated that he chose the title due to the significance of food to the continued well-being of the human society.

A Fellow of the Eisenhower Institute in the United States of America, the minister, while alluding to a German Philosopher, stated that Blacks did not have the capacity for long term planning, adding that if the nation had good plans, it would not had experienced recession. Chief Ogbeh, who noted why Africa was having food problems with over 400 million hectares of uncultivated land, said that China has 27 per cent of world’s population and succeeded in feeding 1.4 billion people. He further stated that India has a population of 1.2 billion people, noting that India exports rice, sugar and milk, among others to Nigeria. According to him, “With more than 50,000 hectares of land, we can’t grow our own rice, sugar and can’t produce our milk. We import apples, wheat, fish, frozen chicken at a cost of 22 billion USD per annum”. He stated further that the nation had been spending over five million USD per day, importing rice and six million USD daily, importing wheat as well as 800 million USD, importing fish each day in the last 25 years.

Chief Ogbeh stressed that importation of these commodities from various countries was synonymous with importing unemployment and poverty into Nigeria. The former Minister of Communications during the Second Republic, also described food as basic to human existence, irrespective of social or educational status, religious persuasions, race or gender, noting that survival was impossible without food. He said that in spite of the fact that all human societies had been divinely endowed with the ability to produce all the varieties of food required for human sustenance, hunger was still a recurring decimal, adding that it was an on-going global phenomenon.

Commenting on the population growth of Nigeria, he said that by 2050, the country’s population would reach 450 million at the rate of 3.2 per cent. According to him, the world’s population would get to nine billion. Admonishing the graduands, he asked: who would feed the 450 million people in Nigeria by then as the oil and gas would be no more? Highlighting the processes that the nation should take in the aspect of tackling food security, Dr. Ogbeh stated that the first major step was the “Promotion of a culture of eating what we grow and growing what we eat”, noting that nature, in its wisdom, had ensured that the best foods for one’s daily needs were clearly within everyone’s reach and in their respective communities along all agricultural belts in Nigeria.

He further stated that the second major step was having a new policy direction for the agricultural sector, as outlined in the Agriculture Promotion Policy (APP) of 2016 and 2020, also known as the Green Alternative, saying that through the instrumentality of this policy document, the Ministry had consolidated on the successes of the agricultural programmes of past administrations in Nigeria without necessarily embarking on policy somersaults or reversals. Reeling out the roles of the Universities of Agriculture in tackling the challenge, he said that the universities should be the Ministry’s most important partner in the agricultural sector. “The agricultural sector cannot thrive without knowledge. Therefore, specialised Universities of Agriculture were specifically established as the knowledge centres of this sector. Until the recent policy change, however, the institutional structure and functions of the UAs showed a marked departure from both the norm in implementing the concept of UAs in other parts of the world, and also from the provisions of the extant law”, he added.

He urged FUNAAB and other sister institutions, in Umudike and Makurdi to take advantage of their reintegration into the Ministry and the Federal Government’s agricultural agenda at large by getting enlisted as reliable allies in the agricultural sector, saying that there were so many things the UAs could do to improve the food situation in the country. According to him, “The vast portions of arable land left to fallow for too long should now be harnessed for agricultural production, either singly or in collaboration with willing investors and other stakeholders”. Referring to Hippocrates in 390 BC, who said “Let your food be your medicine and let your medicine be your food”, the Convocation Lecturer said that such statement was still valid today, noting that no one had a choice but to pay attention to this words of wisdom, in order to drastically reduce the national health bill, arising from poor nutritional habits and raise the bar of the low life expectancy rate in the country. He, however, admonished the graduands to take agriculture seriously by engaging fully in it so as to take charge of the destiny of Nigeria.

The Executive Governor, Ogun State, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, stressed that FUNAAB was a thing of pride for everyone in the state, as the University’s name was being mentioned in regards to noble events like Convocation Ceremonies. Represented by the Secretary to the State Government, Barrister Taiwo Adeoluwa, the Governor noted that everyone was happy that the University was back on track after the crises, adding that the Honourable Minister was in a familiar territory, as he had lived all his life in the propagation, transmission of agriculture and agribusiness in Nigeria. According to him, now that the oil had failed the nation, it behoves on everyone to harness the opportunities inherent in agriculture and agribusiness for the nation to diversify.

Earlier, the Acting Vice-Chancellor, Professor Ololade Enikuomehin, said that the lecture was important to convocation, noting that the University had just been returned to the supervision of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. Professor Enikuomehin added that the University community was grateful for the rare privilege of listening to the Honourable Minister.