Politics and Economic Development in Nigeria

By Tom Forrest | Go to book overview

9
The State and Agriculture in the 1980s

In this chapter I examine the nature, origins, and impact of various agricultural policies in Nigeria and try to situate them within a broader political and economic context. First, I take issue with a number of writers who attempt to generalise about agricultural policy in Africa. I then examine the macroeconomic context of policy and summarise recent changes in policy before turning to the detail of specific policy interventions.

Contrary to the views of Robert Bates, government policies in Nigeria have not been especially detrimental to the interests of the majority of farmers. 1 Moreover, the agricultural policies that have been pursued cannot be explained in terms of the political weight of urban interests, which impart an urban bias to policy, leaving rural producers exploited and politically isolated. Bates argued that the urban origins of "African food policy" are perhaps most clearly seen in Nigeria. 2 Although some elements of Bates's argument are appropriate to Nigeria, the overall picture is distorted by his vision. In the early 1980s, Bates's views became very influential and were applied indiscriminately. For example, in a review of Chinua Achebe's well known book, The Trouble with Nigeria, Roland Oliver swept aside Achebe's own arguments with the claim that antirural, antifarmer policies were to blame for Nigeria's predicament. 3 According to Oliver,

what is really wrong with Nigeria is that systems of government are so organised as to discourage farmers from farming, at least for the market. The prices paid to producers are still restrained by every kind of buying monopoly imposed by the colonial governments to prevent inflation during the Second World War and its after-math.

Oliver's assertions have little or no validity.

There is no history of widespread and persistent intervention by the government in domestic food production and markets in Nigeria. This important fact tends to be obscured by the voluminous literature about the Marketing Boards and by a pervasive fascination with export crops and

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