The Minister visited the Dam which was established in 1977 and abandoned since 1983 at the ouster of the Shehu Shagari government was targeted at generating 3750 megawatts as at inception.
He said he was moved to tears when he got to the dam on Monday during his two-day working visit to Oyo State as part of his Ministry’s ongoing efforts at revamping agriculture in the country especially with the special place the State has in agricultural development potentials as he spoke during a Town Hall Meeting titled ‘Youth, Women and Farmers Stakeholders Dialogue on Sustainable Agriculture in Nigeria at the House of Chiefs in Ibadan.
“I was almost in tears when I got to Ikere Gorge Dam yesterday and saw the magnitude of waste and what Nigeria is losing, it is pathetic.
“The dam has the capacity to generate employment opportunities for the youths, generate power of at least seven megawatts, you can imagine what seven megawatts of power can do to the production sector in the country, but that is the story of Nigeria.”
Ogbeh appreciated the peaceful coexistence of ethnic nationalities found in the State as he moved around during his tour of farm settlements and cattle ranches in the State, saying he met with some Fulani men who gave testimonies showing that they have found peace in Oyo State.
Chief Audu Ogbeh told the meeting that the cry for breaking of Nigeria was mainly from the elites while the common people were the one working towards the cohesion of the nation.
He called for a new look into people’s approach to farming, naming various intervention approaches that the federal and State governments have played down to empower farmers.
“We appreciate the peaceful atmosphere in the State, on our tour we met with some Fulani people and their leader said they have found peace only in Oyo State, you can imagine such common people forging the unity of the country while the chronic elites are irredentist in their song of breaking up Nigeria.”
Ogbeh said farmers should see another opportunity in not only cassava leaves, cassava, shear butter and other farm produce promising that in the next six months, there would be a cashew processing plant in the State to discourage exportation of cashew nuts.
While disclosing that Nigerians spend 100 billion dollars on importation of fake honey, the Minister urged Nigerians to go into bee farming as he described it as harmless and profit-yielding.
“200 million people in Africa make soup with cassava leaves but we in Nigeria don’t eat cassava leaves, we shall pelletize the leaves to feed cattle, after pelletizing, we can export it.
“Cashewnuts market in the world is in need of seven billion dollars worth and we have the best cashew in Ogbomoso and highest cassava production in Oyo State.
“From cassava, we have a ready processing market for ethanol, starch, cassava syrup as well as for poultry feeds, we have to leverage on the advantageous natural geographical location we have to make the country great again through agriculture.”
While promising farmers in Oyo State that land-clearing machines would come into the country towards the end of the year, Chief Ogbeh appealed to communities to release land for farming, claiming that the State has the capacity to support all year-round farming.
The State governor, Senator Abiola Ajimobi in his address expressed his joy for the success the State had achieved through agriculture which he said led to reduction of social vices in the State as youths have engaged themselves with various agricultural programmes of the administration.
Ajimobi described food as the blood of survival and gave kudos to farmers that have given all to sustain food security in the State and in consequence, the country.
The governor said he believed Oyo State would become the ‘food basket’ of the nation if the tempo of work put in place in agriculture by the federal and State governments did not reduce adding that a country that failed to feed itself was not worthy to be called a country.
“Today is my happiest day in the saddle of governance in Oyo State, I want to appreciate my able farmers for sustaining efforts to uphold food security in the State and the nation and all these are traceable to the unrelenting position of the federal ministry of agriculture under the able leadership of Chief Audu Ogbeh.
“Food is the blood of survival and I appreciate all farmers for making life worthy of living through their efforts, we shall get to the top of the our target, this State will become the food basket of Nigeria with our efforts and the natural advantages inherent here.”
Senator Ajimobi rallied the people of the State to have a change of attitude towards life and survival, saying the value system that was anchored upon money by all means would only breed corruption.
The town hall meeting featured questions and answers sessions with between the Minister and the members of the audience and the Minister was billed to leave for Abuja after the programme which ended the two-day working visit to Oyo State.