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Opinion: Beyond the National Flag

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by Nasir Mahmood

What must’ve struck a cross-section of most Nigerians this week is the unveiling of a 50-meter flag by the former lawmaker and APC stalwart. In doing so, Hon. Farouk Adamu Aliyu set out to emphasize his national pride and also redirect the patriotism of Nigerians in a time of critical dilemma. The National Flag Project, which began in Birnin Kudu, Jigawa State, is a symbolic drive towards the unity of Nigeria and a reminder of the essence of the tricolour flag, of which the green represents the nation’s wealth and the white underlines peace. 

Both the wealth and the peace displayed in the flag have been in short supply in the country lately despite the efforts of the government. But the lasting solution, however, lies in the synergy of well-intentioned citizens and the government to stop the conflict entrepreneurs and economic saboteurs who frustrate the patriotism of everyday Nigerians. No matter the scale of this cycle of policies and interventions by the government, it’s impossible to restore and sustain the agrarian glories of Nigeria without the deliberate actions of private citizens who understand the problem. 

Since launching his ambitious farm project, Malam Alu Agro-Allied Company, Hon. Aliyu’s interests in the green of Nigeria has been a widely acknowledged intervention. The company comprised an integrated farming project, which boasts of a Greenhouse capable of producing 15 tons of tomatoes every week; an assortment of vegetables and fruits; a dairy with 500 variety of homebred and local cows; and also animal husbandry and poultry that currently boasts of 60,000 layers. The company-owned fertilizer blending plant also produces 50 tons of fertilizer per hour.

This return to the green upon which the foundation of Nigeria is built is unique and strategic. Nigeria’s over-dependence on Oil over the decades has frustrated the growth of agriculture, and the recent calamitous spread of banditry and the consequent insecurity has further exposed our vulnerability. The overrunning of small-scale and subsistence farming by pockets of conflicts that began with farmer – herders clashes, has spelt out a certain doom for Nigeria and it’s heartwarming that all hope is not lost. 

Last year, the Food and Agriculture Organization surveyed 16 states and the FCT and predicted that, in 2021, almost 14 million Nigerians may suffer from food insecurity from these states. It’s also unsurprising that all the states are in the North, and once the food baskets of the nation. The causes, of course, are well known. 

Since the farmer-herder crises took a tragically different dimension, the North has lost its glories in the agriculture sector. The rural farmers, who’ve shouldered the responsibility of feeding the nation, have been at the mercy of bandits and so are the middlemen in the agri-food chain who’ve similarly been disrupted by the compromised security. 

The reality of Nigeria’s food crisis casts a dark shadow over both the green and the white of our national fabric, and citizen-led solutions like Hon. Farouk Aliyu’s agricultural approach and emphasis on national consciousness are ultimately the force of a new direction. Jigawa is one of the states projected by the Food and Agriculture Organization as a location of the looming food crisis in Nigeria. It’s thus strategic that a farm so vastly built and protected is in place there to drive employment and participate in the feeding of the nation. 

Malam Alu Farm, a privately-owned enterprise, does not stand out for just being Hon. Aliyu walking the talk as demonstrated by the flag project. It does because of the ambition and foresight of the former lawmaker and political bigwig. As a private estate owner, his commitment to protecting his interests are a reassuring guarantee in creating wealth and opportunities as food production is being threatened across the region. 

Coincidentally, Hon. Aliyu’s choice of Jigawa State for his farm brings to mind various agricultural initiatives once championed by different administrations in the past, especially the Green Revolution Programme introduced by the Shehu Shagari-led government in 1980. The programme aimed at pursuing self-sufficiency in food production and also to fast-track adoption of modern technology in the Nigerian agricultural sector. 

Hon. Aliyu’s example is one that must be replicated across Nigeria now that rural farmers aren’t reliable producers in the agricultural food chain. He’s not only walking the walk through his business engagements, he’s provided a shade for a disintegrated country to unite under the flag and champion the latter-day green revolution. Such patriotism and inspirational leadership are hard to come by in this part of the world. 

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Nasir Mahmood is a public affairs commentator based in Abuja, Nigeria. 

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