Olusegun Obasanjo is pointing fingers at former President Shehu Shagari for scuttling the efforts the nation was making to be self-sufficient in rice production.
OBJ spoke as the chief launcher at the unveiling of Okun Rice—which is produced by Hyst Global Business Limited, owned by Mr. Biodun Onalaja—at the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library, Abeokuta, Ogun State.
Obasanjo, who noted that Nigeria was almost achieving self sufficiency in rice production in 1979 before he quit as the military Head of State, said due to policy inconsistency, the Shagari administration later set up a committee on importation of rice.
He said this shift in policy focus from his own agricultural revolution, served as a disincentive to rice farmers who had to compete with government-backed rice importers.
Obasanjo, however, commended Onalaja for rekindling the hope of the country at achieving self-sufficiency in rice production and ensuring food security for the nation.
OBJ stated, “One of our problems in this country is inconsistency in policy. In 1979, we were getting to a place where we would be self-sufficient in rice production, but then a new administration came and set up a presidential committee on rice importation instead of a presidential committee on exportation of rice.
In no time, when the imported rice started a arriving, those farmers who were cultivating rice gave up.
Today, I commend Hyst Global Business Limited and the Chairman, Mr. Biodun Onalaja, for his doggedness, persistence, and stubbornness. It is not easy to succeed here as a farmer. But I want to say Onalaja is a success story, because despite the odds he never gave up.”
Obasanjo said if the nation had just 100 Onalajas, the country would not only be self sufficient in rice production but would have become an exporter of rice.