Former President Olusegun Obasanjo at the weekend expressed hope that the incoming governor of Oyo State, Mr. Seyi Makinde would not ignore the State Agricultural Transformation Policy Framework developed under the outgoing administration of Governor Abiola Ajimobi.
The policy document was officially presented to Ajimobi on Saturday at the premises of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in Ibadan, the state capital. The event also witnessed the commissioning of two key projects at the research institute — an Agricultural Transformation Building dedicated to research and delivery of innovations to farmers and the Senator Abiola Ajimobi Ring Road, a 10.5Km ring road named after the governor.
Dr Alfred Dixon, IITA Director for Development and Delivery said the document “defines what Oyo State needs to do to improve its agricultural productivity and achieve Zero Hunger”. According to him, the state can capitalize on the Policy Framework to attract private capital in the agricultural space.
Dr. Dixon revealed that work began on the framework in 2018 when Governor Ajimobi requested IITA to produce a policy document that would provide direction to the transformation of agriculture in Oyo State in the next 25 years. He said IITA worked with the Nigerian Institute of Social and Economic Research (NISER), the state ministry of agriculture, and Oyo State Agricultural Development Program to produce the framework.
Speaking at the presentation, Obasanjo, who is IITA’s goodwill ambassador, tasked Governor Ajimobi, IITA and NISER to work towards ensuring that recommendations in the Policy Framework were implemented by the incoming administration led by Makinde.
Addressing Ajimobi directly, the former president said: “If we go to government archives, we’ll find many policy documents gathering dust. Our problem is not policy formulation but implementation. By this time next week, you’ll no longer be in the position to implement this policy. Your successor may not even look at it. He may even be suspicious that you are setting a booby trap for him. Yes, we’ve heard that a lot. So, you must encourage him. And I advise the DG to go with NISER and also present the policy framework to the new governor immediately he takes over. That way, he will be part of it.”
Obasanjo commended Ajimobi for supporting IITA and called for the extension of innovations generated from research stations to farmers, noting that there was a gap between research institutions and the ordinary smallholder farmers, which need to be closed to engender agricultural transformation.
In his own remarks, Ajimobi said the support given to IITA was in realization of the importance of agriculture to Oyo State, and the contribution of IITA to agricultural development in the state.
His words: “Today Oyo state is the best place to invest and promote agriculture because of three reasons. One, because we have IITA located in the state and because we have the highest number of agricultural research institutes. We have IAR&T, FRIN, CRIN, NIHORT….Secondly, we have the land mass, 28,454km sq and the most fertile. Thirdly, we are the largest producer of Cassava. So we have what it takes to lead in agriculture”
The 10.5Km road commissioned by the governor covers part of the perimeter fence of the 1000-hectare campus of IITA. The road was constructed by Oyo State government as part of efforts to support agricultural research.
The Agricultural Transformation Building on the other hand was funded by the African Development Bank through a Nigerian project— Agricultural Transformation Agenda Support Program (ATASP). It comprises 22 offices, eight large laboratory spaces, a conference room, and a utility facility.
Its construction commenced in 2017 with a foundation laying ceremony officiated by former Nigerian heads of government, General Yakubu Gowon, and Chief Obasanjo; and the African Development Bank (AFDB) President, Dr Akinwunmi Adesina as part of projects initiated to mark the 50th anniversary of IITA.
Dr Nteranya Sanginga, IITA Director General, commended the Nigerian government and the AfDB for their support towards the construction of the building, adding that it would accelerate the pace of research and accommodate the best/critical human and material resource needed to bring transformation to the agricultural sector.
“We are excited to see a state in Nigeria showing the example by supporting infrastructure in an international agricultural research center. This is not common, and we commend the government and people of Oyo State,” he said.