The Platform


Before the switch to oil, Nigeria’s economic mainstay was agriculture. The country was and still is, rich in agriculture – enough to cater to the increasing population. Farmers were highly regarded and were free to produce and export food products, within and outside the country.

In the 1960s, the regions of the north, west, and east were known for the peculiarity of food items they produced. The north was known for producing groundnuts, cocoa in the west, and palm products in the east. Each region had farmers who were given free access to carry out their daily activities under the watch of a beefed-up security system. The regions so prospered in agriculture that each alone could sustain the nation.

The great feat was made possible by the then stable political economy responsible for the wellbeing of farmers through viable empowerment programs and easy access to their apportioned farmlands without being attacked. In fact, the term banditry was alien to Nigerians who lived through the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, and even the 1990s.

Sadly, security started to erode for the farmers through the 1990s. It did not raise eyebrows at the time because most media houses did not necessarily deem it fit to report such stories. Still, being seen as alien and unchecked, banditry began to spread across the nation to the point it has become a common term.

Farmers are now at the receiving end of the act. Given the switch to oil, farming became an afterthought. The government’s complacency toward farmers became more pronounced as incessant attacks on them headlined mainstream news and became one of the most talked-about issues throughout Nigeria.

Banditry gained so much ground, particularly in the northern part of the country, to the point farmers had to pay to gain access to their farmlands. A community in Ogun State, saw its residents flee for their lives to the neighboring Benin Republic as bandits took over their farmlands and the entire community. Just like the fate of farmers in the north, some farmers died, their bodies mutilated, by bandits who address themselves as the Myetti Allah.

Farmers can no longer go to their farms as they used to. The price of food has exponentially skyrocketed. Leading authorities in the religious, social, and political folds are painstakingly calling on the government to address the security challenge but are being silenced.

Nigerian farmers are important. They are the food providers of the nation. But the nightmare of banditry will not allow them to carry out that activity. The Nigerian government has to attend to it now, as an average Nigerian would say in pidgin English, “water goes pass garri.”

Chimezie Benedict Ihekuna is a published writer, poet, essayist, playwright, and spoken word artist. Chimezie is based in Lagos, Nigeria, and finds delight in reading, traveling, and meeting people.