How I Convinced My Son With PhD in Electronics to Become Farmer – Obasanjo

A former President of Nigeria and Ambassador of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, has stressed the need for stakeholders in the agricultural sector to introduce some glamour and innovations to farming if young people must find it attractive.

The former President, who stated this during the inauguration of the Southern Africa Research and Administrative Facilities of IITA in Zambia, noted that everything necessary must be done to make young people embrace farming.

Obasanjo also narrated how he convinced his son, Seun, to embrace farming despite having PhD in Electronics from the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom.

He noted that Seun had, after his PhD programme, got an offer to lecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the United States, but that after spending some time on his farm (Obasanjo Farms), he fell in love with farming instead of returning to the US to take up the lecturing job.

Speaking on the need to devise means of making farming attractive to young people, Obasanjo stated, “Another thing I want to emphasize is what I saw of the youths in agribusiness; how do we entice or bring youths into agriculture? Do not let us deceive ourselves; if we are putting to them agriculture the way my father practiced it, with hoes and cutlasses, they will not come.”

While narrating his son’s journey to agriculture, Obasanjo recalled, “Let me tell the story of my son who is here: Before I became the President, I think people knew me as a farmer. My son started his education in Nigeria, but he went to the United Kingdom when I was in prison, and he did well. He went to Cambridge. He had PhD in Electronics at Cambridge and he was recruited to go and teach at MIT in America.”

“Before he resumed, I invited him home and I said young man, why don’t you join me in farming? He said ‘Dad, did I hear you well?’ I said yes, farming. He said ‘I have a PhD in Electronics’. I said yes, I didn’t go to Cambridge but I sent you there. He said ‘you want me to waste my seven years of studying electronics on your farm’. I said my farm also has a little bit of electronics.

“So, we struck a deal; I said you stay on the farm for six months, if after then you are dissatisfied, go anywhere you like. He accepted the deal and he went on the farm. That was 2004. I was not too sure what the result of his six months on the farm would be.”

The former President pointed out that after five months on the farm, Seun admitted to him that working on the farm had been more interesting than he thought, and that he had to kneel down to thank God.

He continued, “Since 2004, my son remains on the farm till today. In fact, he was so interested on the farm that he nearly forgot to get married.

“The point I’m driving at is that we can get our youths on the farm, but we have to give them what it takes. We have to bring some glamour. We have to bring in some of those things they will enjoy in the city. They want the bright life of the city, and what I have seen today is that we are on that path, but we need to do more.”

The former President emphasized the need for Africa to harness its human capacity for its agricultural advancement, adding, “It is shameful for all of us in Africa that war is being fought in Ukraine and we are going hungry here, because we rely on grains from Ukraine to feed us in Africa. Sixty per cent of arable land here is uncultivated; the one that is cultivated, what does it yield us? What it should yield is there, with the likes of IITA and national research institutions.”

Eminent personalities at the event included the Zambian President, His Excellency, Hakainde Hichilema; his Minister of Agriculture, Mr Reuben Mtolo Phiri; Director-General of IITA and CGIAR Regional Director for Continental Africa, Dr Simeon Ehui; his predecessor and Emeritus DG of the IITA, Dr Nteranya Sanginga; top government functionaries from Zambia and other top management and some staff of the IITA.

Meanwhile, during the launching, a team of IITA Youth Agripreneurs in Zambia showcased their activities and impact in creating employment for youths in Zambia and its environs.

(L -R) Zambia President, His Excellency Hakainde Hichilema, IITA Ambassador and Former President of Nigeria, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and the IITA Director General and CGIAR Regional Director for Continental Africa, Dr. Simeon Ehui at the IITA-SARAH Launch


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