Elder statesman and legal icon, Aare Afe Babalola (SAN), has said if there is anything called life after life, his prayer would be to return to life as a farmer.
According to the News Agency of Nigeria, the 94-Year Babalola, who is the founder of Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti (ABUAD), expressed this view at the opening ceremony of the 2023 annual edition of Afe Babalola Agric Expo (ABAEX-2023) in Ado-Ekiti, Ekiti State. He described farming as the most profitable and energy-charging profession, if well pursued. Babalola instituted ABAEX eight years ago to give millions of naira annual cash reward and tools as well as encourage more farmers’ to participate in food production.
“If I am to come back to this world, and asked what I love to do, I will pray to return to life as a farmer, and not as anything else; farming is an act of God; farming is of God; it is the only profession identified with creation. Any country that has genuine interest in growth and development must first embrace farming, ditto the citizens. Aside being a major source of employment generation, farming varnishes hunger and discourages laziness and stealing in any form. Those who started acts of corruption in Nigeria are not farmers, but educated people, who are invariably public officers.
“An average farmer is known to be hardworking, contented and perseverance. People say I am a successful lawyer and wonder why I should have anything to do with farming, but I tell them, I will continue to identify with farming because I grew up with it and enjoyed it. It may surprise many Nigerians that there is nothing we consume in my home that I buy from market; I grow them and I am proud of that; if many others can emulate me, Nigeria will be better for it”, he said while calling on all tiers of government, especially the Federal Government, to focus more on agriculture, right from the grassroots, and through the local government councils, while every individual, no matter their profession, should also embrace farming.
“Farming is best done at the local government level, and by extension, the grassroots; this is why I am again calling on the Federal Government to allocate local government funds to them directly, and not through state governments, many of which often divert such funds”, he added. Babalola said that he had established an Industrial Park in ABUAD, which can accommodate over 100 industries to further boost food production. According to him, the industrial park will buy farm products like mornings, rice, maize and others, direct from farmers, so as to put a stop to incidences of wastage and economic losses on the part of farmers. Babalola promised to continue to invest his money and everything humanly possible in agriculture, and lift as many farmers that showed interest, until Nigeria had a change of attitude in that regard.
The Local Organising Committee (LOC) Chairman of ABAEX-2023, Prof. Abiodun Ojo, explained that the agricultural revolutionary vision of Babalola was to transform Ekiti into a prosperous society, through agricultural rejuvenation of farmers with financial support. He said ABAEX programme provided agricultural extension services to the farmers to evaluate their farms for productivity yields in large scale. Ojo said that that the programme was implemented in all the local government areas of the state, adding the sum of N32 million had so far been committed to 2023 edition. ABUAD’s Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Samaranda Ayorinde, said the institution was doing much to promote agriculture in diverse ways with huge investment in the country.