Chief Audu Innocent Ogbeh, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, is determined to make agriculture the nation’s new cash cow following the declining fortunes of crude oil. His determination falls in line with the much talked-about efforts of President Muhammadu Buhari administration to find an alternative source of revenue for the Nigeria.
Ogbeh, a veteran politician, administrator and farmer, recently announced the federal government’s plans to improve cocoa production and lead to enable Nigeria become the world’s largest producer and exporter of the crop.
Ogheh’s announcement, which is in line with President Buhari’s promise to explore and exploit other means of attracting foreign exchange, is meant to stop the country’s over dependence on oil.
Ogbeh, speaking at the recent launch of the Cocoa Re-launch Committee in Abuja, stressed government’s ambition to become the world largest producer of cocoa.
He said: “It is a shame for us to be Number Seven on the list of cocoa producers in the world. But, we must reverse it to be at the top and that is why we are here. This is the time to do it and no other time than to do it now.
“Cocoa can be grown in many parts of the country. We are going to have cocoa relaunch campaign in March at Ondo State, and we want all cocoa farmers from cocoa producing states to be present.
“We cannot afford to remain seventh cocoa producing nation. We are going to take over from Cote D’Ivoire as the largest cocoa producer in the world.
“We can earn huge foreign exchange from cocoa because oil and gas has done damage to our economy and we have to go back to agriculture to rescue the economy.”
Ogbeh, born on July 28, 1947 in Otukpo, Benue State, was the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) National Chairman from 2001 until January 2005. He dumped the platform to embrace the All Progressives Congress (APC) and emerged the Minister of Agriculture.
He once threatened to ban the importation of tomato pastes in favour of locally produced ones. With the rising cost of living, Ogbeh assured that Nigerians will not experience famine due to ongoing massive food production in the country.
How far Ogbeh can go in realising his objective is yet to be seen, that is if he survives the much talked about possible shake up of the cabinet, which may take place any moment from when President Buhari returns from his vacation abroad.
@Independent (Nigeria) Tuesday February 7, 2017