A leading gubernatorial aspirant in the All Progressives Congress, APC, in Oyo State, Professor Adeolu Akande has identified agriculture, solid minerals and tourism as the three key sectors that could transform the economy of Oyo State within a short time.
Akande said a strategic engagement of the three sectors could expand the economy of the state more than tenfold and remove the state from the list of states that could not pay workers’ salaries because of dwindling allocation from the federation account.
According to Akande, who is a visiting professor of political science and director of the Centre for Presidential Studies at the Igbinedion University, Okada, Edo State, the state could exploit its comparative advantage which is agriculture and its locational advantage which is its proximity to Lagos, one of the fastest growing economies in Africa.
He said: “Oyo State is blessed with 28,454 square kilometres of arable land which could be exploited for agriculture.
“Our comparative advantage in Agriculture is Cassava, Poultry and fishing. We produce about 20 per cent of the 54 million tonnes of Cassava produced in Nigeria. The fact that Nigeria exports less than one per cent of this product but imports cassava products worth more than one trillion Naira every year means there is a huge market to exploit both locally and internationally. Can we double or triple our production?,” he asked, nothing that with an expansive landmass and an army of youths who are looking for employment, what is left for Oyo State is the strategic engagement of agriculture to drive its development.
Akande, who noted that the incumbent administration has been addressing some of the problems confronting agriculture in the state, stated that the paradigm shift in the nation’s crude-oil driven economy has made it more urgent to look inwards for revenue to run government at all levels and agriculture remains the foremost sector for that purpose in Oyo State.
“For instance, Nigeria imports 98 per cent of her ethanol consumption at a value of N800 billion. A substantial part of this will come to Oyo State if we focus on cassava cultivation to satisfy domestic and industrial needs. What we need to do is to attract youths to agriculture, bring in science and technology, encourage large scale commercial farming and enthrone a comprehensive programme of support for small holding farmers”, he submitted.
Professor Akande said a recent survey which revealed that Lagos State consumes food worth N8 billion every day is a report that should influence the strategic engagement of Oyo State in agriculture. ”What makes up this N8 billion and how much of it can we produce in Oyo State to ensure substantial part of the N8 billion comes to the state?.
Akande said Oyo State could exploit its army of unemployed youths and expansive arable land mass to meet the food need of Lagos, noting that this is one of the ways to exploit the proximity to Lagos to drive the development of Oyo State.
He also identified recent changes in the operations of the Solid Minerals sector in the country as an opportunity for Oyo State to exploit its mineral deposits across the state for economic prosperity.
”The Federal Government has liberalised the sector such that state governments could partner with the private sector to exploit the solid minerals in their respective areas. Oyo State is blessed with so many minerals and gem stones and all we need to do is to strategically engage the private sector to turn these idle resources into wealth for the benefit of our people”.
He said one other advantage of focusing on solid minerals is the potentials it holds in generating employment as much, if not more, than agriculture.
He also identified tourism as an idle resource in the state, saying if well exploited, it will not only enhance government revenue but will lead to the development of the local economies of towns and communities across the state.
“Oyo State is blessed with several tourism potentials that could easily put the state on the world’s tourism map in addition to creating hundreds of thousands of seasonal and permanent jobs for our people” He identified the Ado Awaye Suspended Lake as one of such idle resources. “It is one of only two of such formations in the whole world. It is therefore a choice destination for tourists if well developed. ”The birth place and the ruins of the ancestral home of Bishop Ajayi Crowther in Osho Ogun and the tree to which he was tied when he was captured as a slave, which still stands erect, are potential tourist centres that could be developed. Our cultural festivals and artefacts are also waiting to be exploited for the economic gains of our people”, he added.