Elder Statesman and renowned legal Icon, Afe Babalola, expressed his wish on Thursday that if there were such a concept as life after life, he would hope to return as a farmer. The 94-year-old Babalola, who is the founder of Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti (ABUAD), shared this sentiment during the opening ceremony of the 2023 annual Afe Babalola Agric Expo (ABAEX-2023) in Ado-Ekiti.
He described farming as an immensely profitable and spiritually fulfilling profession when pursued diligently. Babalola initiated ABAEX eight years ago with the aim of providing substantial annual cash rewards, tools, and encouragement to inspire more individuals to engage in food production.
“If I were to come back to this world and were asked what I’d like to do, I would pray to return as a farmer, and nothing else. Farming is a divine calling, intrinsically tied to the act of creation itself. Any nation that genuinely seeks growth and development must prioritize farming, as should its citizens.
“Farming not only serves as a primary source of employment but also combats hunger and deters idleness and theft in all forms. Those who initiated acts of corruption in Nigeria were not farmers but educated individuals, primarily public officials. An average farmer is known for hard work, contentment, and perseverance.
“People may view me as a successful lawyer and wonder why I’m involved in farming, but I tell them that I will continue to embrace farming because it’s an integral part of my upbringing, and I find immense satisfaction in it. It might surprise many Nigerians that there’s nothing we consume in my home that I purchase from the market; I cultivate them myself, and I take pride in that. If more people could follow my example, Nigeria would benefit greatly from it,” he stated.
Babalola called on all levels of government, particularly the Federal Government, to place greater emphasis on agriculture, starting at the grassroots level through local government councils. He also urged individuals from all walks of life to embrace farming.
“Farming is best managed at the local government level and, by extension, at the grassroots level. This is why I’m calling on the Federal Government to allocate local government funds directly to them, bypassing state governments, many of which often divert such funds,” he emphasized.
He revealed that he had established an industrial park at ABUAD, accommodating over 100 industries, to further bolster food production. According to him, the industrial park would directly purchase farm products like yams, rice, maize, and others from farmers to reduce wastage and financial losses for farmers.
Babalola pledged to continue investing his resources and efforts in agriculture, supporting as many interested farmers as possible until Nigeria underwent a transformation in its agricultural practices.
Earlier, Prof. Abiodun Ojo, the Local Organizing Committee (LOC) Chairman of ABAEX-2023, explained that Babalola’s vision for agricultural reform aimed to turn Ekiti into a prosperous society by rejuvenating farmers with financial assistance.
He stated that the ABAEX program provided agricultural extension services to farmers, helping them evaluate their farms for increased productivity on a large scale. Ojo added that the program was implemented in all the local government areas of the state, with a commitment of N32 million to the 2023 edition.
In her welcoming address, Prof. Samaranda Ayorinde, the Vice-Chancellor of ABUAD, highlighted the institution’s significant investments in promoting agriculture in various ways throughout the country. She commended Babalola for his patriotism and generosity.
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