In the face of dwindling government revenue occasioned by rapid fall in the price of crude oil and import revenue, the reality is that we must diversify our economy if we want to remain a nation.
What other oil producing nations have done is to take some resources from oil and invest in other areas to yield revenue not subject to same risks as the dominant source of revenue. Markowitz, the renowned economist, explained in ‘Portfolio Theory’ that to obtain a balanced portfolio, that is, one with the minimum amount of risk for a given desired level of return or revenue, one needs to invest in not less than 20 stocks. Diversification beyond this point makes little difference to the riskiness of the portfolio.
In real life, diversification involves the diversion of presently scarce resources from parties in control today to uses that would benefit greater population in future.
Nigeria faces two major problems: one is the chronic lack of investment expertise among the political class corroborating in the already known fact that “our problem is not money but how to spend it.” The other is a direct lesson from Machiavelli, the Italian prince, when he said that “there is nothing more difficult to implement than reform.” This is because reform attacks privilege, of which we have many patrons in Nigeria, and seeks to give voice and opportunity to future generations, either still unborn or too weak to participate at the moment.
While the Federal Government is clamouring for reform in revenue generating agencies, including nipping in the system leakages, critics are attacking the reform on the basis that implementation would be a problem. However, the first approach to alternative source of revenue is to open our minds and diversify our ideas and our thoughts. There are many things we can do as a nation to generate revenue and be self-sufficient. Encouraging local industrialisation is one; boosting agricultural production is another.
It is common knowledge that before oil was discovered, agriculture was the main stay of the economy. With oil now receding, we need to go back to the basics. Take cassava for example. This farm produce can put more money in the hands of the poor and earn farmers scarce foreign exchange when exported.
We are paying the huge price for the predominant focus on our oil-led economy to the neglect of agriculture. Our population is too big to continue to depend on other nations for food. We are now faced with tough challenges as a nation and we need to urgently take decisions to reposition our economy.
We need to tap into the energy, enthusiasm, knowledge and exuberance of our youthful population in boosting our food supply and, by extension, our economy.
Achieving a sustainable transformation of the agricultural sector requires a structural change in the labour composition of the sector. The farming population is aging rapidly and unable to meet the increasingly complex challenges of markets and technology. Nigeria currently has farmers aging between 46 and 60 years. To feed our rising population well into the future, we need young commercial farmers. We also need to create jobs for thousands of unemployed youths and the agricultural sector has the greatest potential. The agricultural sector requires new skills, younger and more entrepreneurial farmers who will be able to compete at the global scale. They must be versed in business, to be able to run sound agric-business that will make Nigeria’s agriculture modern, commercial and profitable.
As part of the measures to attract youth in agriculture, the federal government should collaborate with commercial banks to provide loans at single digit rates as well as make them to have access to land. Mechanisation of agriculture will help to overcome the drudgery that discourages many youths from engaging in agriculture.
Suffice it to say that with sliding oil revenue, now, more than ever before, is the time to lay a solid foundation for Nigeria’s future economic growth by encouraging young graduates and school leavers to take up agriculture as a business.

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