By Ariwodola Idowu
Ado Ekiti – Chief Afe Babalola (SAN), the Chancellor, Afe Babalola University, has given N5.6 million to 48 best performing local farmers in Ekiti state to improve their farming activities under his agriculture programme – Afe Babalola Agric Expo.
The breakdown of the largesse, showed that the best farmer, second best, and third best in each of the 16 local government areas of the state got money ranging from N150,000, N100,000 to N50,000.
The star price of N1 million for the overall best farmer in the state was won by Mr Aleshinloye Omolayo from Ijero Local Government.
Babalola speaking on Sunday during the closing of the three-day programme at Afe Babalola University, Ado Ekiti (ABUAD), he said the annual distribution of the cash gift was to compliment government’s efforts aimed at making agriculture attractive to young people.
He expressed regret on the gap between local farmers and funding bodies in accessing funding and other basic agricultural materials toward fostering food production.
He said that Nigeria could survive with agriculture if well managed, while commending President Muhammadu Buhari for closing the nations’s land borders to checkmate smuggling.
Prof. Abiodun Ojo, the Chairman, Local Organising Committee of the Expo said that the introduction and continued sponsorship of the annual event by Babalola was fast rekindling the hope that the country could overcome its problems of national unemployment.
He lamented the worrisome index of food insecurity and climate change amidst increasing national population rate of the country.
He praised the efforts of few selfless citizens exhibiting patriotism such as Afe Babalola was currently doing.
Mr Adebola Alagbada, the Chairman, All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN) described agriculture as leading occupation in the state with over 65 per cent participation, saying Babalola’s intervention was in the right direction.
“Hitherto, we farmers had become overused and over stretched, yet we are barely appreciated and encouraged.
“We were also abandoned to wallow in abject poverty, but today, we have the likes of Afe Babalola who deemed it fit as the first man in Nigeria to singularly introduce this laudable programme for farmers,” he said.
Gov. Kayode Fayemi, represented by Commissioner for Agriculture, Mr Folorunso Olabode, commended Babalola for using his wealth to assist both the government and the people to lift agriculture and create employment, among several other areas of human endeavours.
The governor promised that the state would not relent in its current efforts at bringing back the lost glory of agriculture through regular provision of land and other incentives to all category of farmers across the state.
He also enjoined other well-meaning members of the public to emulate the philanthropic gestures of Afe Babalola.