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The Oracle: Why Nigeria Needs Restructuring (Pt. 5)

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By Mike Ozekhome

INTRODUCTION

THE IMPERATIVE OF STRUCTURAL REFORM: HOW DO WE REFORM STRUCTURALLY?

A BRAND NEW OR AN AMENDED CONSTITUTION? (continues)

The preamble to the 1999 Constitution sheds light on how the entire Constitution should be construed. The Constitution is for the promotion of good governance and welfare of all persons in Nigeria, on the principles of freedom, equality and justice, and for the purpose of consolidating the unity of Nigerians. I agree with the views of the mythic that there was never a time Nigerians gathered to fashion the 1999 Constitution. The 1999 Constitution was promulgated by the Military and since it came into force, the people through their democratically elected lawmakers have not abolished or suspended the operation of the Constitution. What the people have done are piecemeal amendments. By usage, however, the people have adopted the ideas in the 1999 Constitution. Thus, it is safe to submit that the expression “we the people” is a reality.

In analysing this phrase ‘’we the people’’ it will be necessary to have an amplified and microscopic view of the component words of the phrase. In doing justice to them it will be proper to begin from the first word in the phrase viz: WE: The word “WE” is a pronoun that is used to denote one self and another or others as the case may be. This therefore implies that for the word “WE” is referring to not just a person but a group of persons who are most likely in agreement and having the same motive. Anything other than this will amount to the misapplication of the pronoun “WE”. This analysis also implies that wherever the pronoun “WE” is used, it connotes that the word emanated from the collective ideology of a group of people. Conversely, the application of the word “we” in the preamble of the Nigerian constitution connotes that the constitution is a document that emanated from the Nigerian people and that even though every Nigerian did not directly contribute to the making of the constitution, a vast percentage of the Nigerian populace, through their representatives, was involved. Even though this position has so much criticisms, this is the general view of the word “WE”.

THE PEOPLE: Whenever the phrase THE PEOPLE comes to mind, another thought that follows is that, a group of persons are involved.  The phrase which connotes that a group of people are involved, is also used to refer to a given set of persons who share the same ideology. The implication of this phrase in the preamble of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and other democratic states of the world is that, the Constitution is for the people, (i.e) the Constitution, having a root in the people, is formatted by the people to be a standard of conduct for the people. This is what is meant by the phrase THE PEOPLE. This in another hand will also imply that, only the particular people that were referred to, are the people who have business to do with the subject in question.The tendency to concentrate power in the chief executive, while tenable in advanced countries with all the institutionalized means of checking dictatorship makes the system vulnerable in an African setting. Thus, any system that reinforces concentration of power in one person will provide fertile ground for breeding dictatorship. One of “the perils” of presidentialism is political gridlock resulting from competing claims for legitimacy by the President and the Legislature which inevitably slows down governance process. This serves as another factor that supports a re-consideration of presidential system in Nigeria.

No doubt, the separation of power provided in the Constitution is to curb the tendency of tyranny and to reduce the work load of one-arm of government. The expectations of the constitution makers are for cooperation between the three arms of government. However, the expectation turns to be a mirage when the relationship between the executive and the legislature is frosty. According to Maman & Dahiru, this can make or mar democracy. The relationship between the two arms of government has impacts on democracy as a system of governance. It can facilitate and deepen democracy from which the nation can benefit immensely. A frosty relationship on the other hand, can lead to slow and even at times bad governance. The struggle between the 8th National Assembly and the executive arm almost degenerated to superiority contest. With regards to cordial relationship between legislature and the executive, the parliamentary system has this enduring attribute. This is because of the fusion of both. As a result, it will not be difficult for the legislators to explain clearly government policies because the interface between the executive and the legislature will make them to be on the same page. Thus, the switch to the parliamentary system will not only trim the government but also cure the ills of dissipation of energy by the executive and the legislature on mundane issues. In spite of the alluring attributes of the parliamentary system, one cannot dismiss is fundamental weaknesses. One of such defects is that the government is not as strong as expected. The government can be brought down within days through a vote of no confidence in the parliament which is regarded as the crown jewel of parliamentary democracy. It is believed that such flexibility will not augur well in a polity with no strong sense of nationhood like Nigeria.

STRUCTURAL REFORM THROUGH A NEW CONSTITUTION

Complaints about the federal structure go as far back to the pre-independence period, when minority groups felt dominated by majority groups.

The Willink’s Minority Commission of 1957, which looked into the matter, recommended the inclusion of a bill of rights in the Independence Constitution, to guarantee basic fundamental rights; rather than creating states for minority groups. But by 1963 the carving up of the country had begun, and eventually by 1 October 1996 there were 36 states. The creation of states grants access to public offices and infrastructure for local elites. It also creates new majority and minority groups in the new states. Unviable states have proliferated, dependent on the common pool revenues and unable to fund their bureaucracies. Scholars have attentively stated that the fiscal arrangement, especially the formula for sharing the common pool account, is not an incentive for states to produce revenue. States angle to get more revenue share from the central pool rather than generate revenue within their territories.

State governors make the complain that the share of revenue that goes to the national government is too large, making competition for offices at the center too intense. They call for revision to grant more revenue to the states. Some of the governors also call for more responsibilities, to get access to ways of generating revenue. Some governors believe that decentralization, when extended to policing, would also improve security. In not too far back, everything in the political space of Nigeria is fraught with some damning or potentially disturbing undertones which keep the citizenry in perpetual frenzy. Our case is worsened by the fervency and maddening frequency of messages of doom, conflagration, pestilence, and all sorts of conspiracy theories and morbid predictions churned out on the ubiquitous social media networks. If it were possible to do a holistic national diagnostic on all the estimated 215 million Nigerians within a space of 48 hours that it took the latest special presidential convention of the ruling political party, the barometer would have crashed into nether regions, making our laboratory technicians collapse in bewilderment.

Such is the weight of our fears and follies that we continually anticipate the catastrophic, even when we look up to the Supreme Being for the miracle of surviving another year. Yet, our leaders continue to act and speak as if they are in control of the very air we breathe, and thus have the capacity to moderate the unknown or mitigate the frightening.

THE WAY FORWARD FOR AN ENDURING POLITICAL STRUCTURE

It is worthy of note that since the 1999 Constitution came into force, attempts have been made by previous administrations to remedy the situation. Two national (Constitutional) conferences have at different times been held unsuccessfully. The first was by the Obasanjo administration in 2005 tagged the National Political Reform Conference; and the second was by the Jonathan administration in 2014, simply known as the 2014 National Conference. I was a participant at both Conferences, including the Vision 2009 Conference. Attempts have also been made (and continue to be made) to amend the Constitution. Some of the amendments were successful and some unsuccessful. In 2017 alone, 32 new amendments to the Constitution were proposed by the Senate. Only 5 succeeded at the end of the day. Till date, there are still various Bills pending before the National Assembly for amendment to different provisions of the Constitution.

TWO OPTIONS ARE AVAILABLE

As a way forward, two options are available to us to remedy the defects of the 1999 Constitution. The first option is to continue to amend the Constitution relying on the amendment clause in the 1999 Constitution. This option has its own challenges because the military after handing down the Constitution made it so rigid to amend, to the extent that getting an amendment is almost as difficult as getting a new Constitution. Despite its obvious short comings, this option is ever more appealing to those at the corridors of power because it gives them room to manipulate and promote their selfish interests.  No party in power wants to hear about the idea of a new Constitution because they are afraid of losing their existing positions. For instance, the number one item on the APC manifesto was the convocation of a Sovereign National Conference to fashion a new Constitution for Nigeria; but since they came to power, they have resisted every discussion on that.

The second option is to jettison the Constitution completely in favour of a new one. I am more in agreement with this option. In his book ‘Forms of Constitution Making and Theories of Democracy’, Andrew Arato identified five different mechanisms of making a new Constitution in modern times: they are (1) through the Constitutional convention, (2) the sovereign constituent assembly, (3) the normal legislature, (4) the executive, and (5) an evolutionary process.

On his own part, Schmitt, C, in his book ‘Constitutional Theory, insists that for the Constitutional-making process to be considered to be fully democratic, it must pass through five stages. According to him, all previously constituted authorities must first be dissolved, followed by a popularly elected or acclaimed assembly with a sovereign power. The assembly then begins to function as the government on a provisional basis. Next, a new Constitution is drafted and offered to the people to be ratified in a national, popular referendum. As soon as the draft Constitution is finally ratified, the constituent assembly will be dissolved and a new government will be duly formed under the new Constitution. (To be concluded next week).

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK

“Let’s form proactive synergy restructuring teams.” (Scott Adams).

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Opinion

Tinubu, Beware Of Nyesom Wike

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By Richard Akinnola

Impetuous, garrulous, flippant, compulsively and deliriously narcissistic, that succinctly encapsulates the Nyesom Wike persona. A study of the political trajectory of the FCT Minister shows that he is only loyal to himself and nobody else, irrespective of his feigned allegiance. He may kowtow and genuflect before a political leader, as he is currently doing in Abuja but once he can no longer use you, he goes into a fit of incoherent vituperative verbal assault, denigrating his benefactors.

I watched his recent drama on Channels where he was reeling out his achievements as Governor, he said he built a Cancer Centre and named it after “one man”. He also built a Judicial institute and named it after “one woman”. (Pejoratively referring to Dr Peter Odili and his wife, Justice Mary Odili). His former political leader who he had praised to high heavens is now “one man”. How come his long time political associates suddenly turn enemies? -Rotimi Amaechi, Abiye Sekibo, Celestine Omehia, Austin Opara, Lee Meeba, and now, Dr Peter Odili, among others.

Almost everything that Wike had said in public have been repudiated by him. From the PDP primaries where he vowed to support whosoever emerged as candidate, to his vow not to be minister, to his scathing excoriation of the APC which he likened to a cancerous party, everything Wike supposedly stood for have been repudiated by his fickle mindedness.

Now, he is dancing around PBAT, like an urchin singing nursery rhyme, in his guttural and hoarse voice: “President Tinubu, on your mandate l shall stand”. President Tinubu, Wike is not standing on any mandate. He is standing on his opportunistic position as a minister. Remove him as minister and see if he would still be standing on your mandate. Tomorrow, before the cock crows at night, he would deny you if he is removed as minister and would start lamenting how he supposedly helped you but was used and discarded.

Here was a man who publicly said that Odili saved his political career as Chairman of Obio Akpor local government, leading to his rise in political ascendancy and he used every opportunity to praise and honour Odili and his wife. He followed this up with a public declaration where he was almost swearing thus: “I don’t know the day l would die but l know l would die one day but the truth must be told, any day that l would make Dr Odili and his family cry, may God allow me to go…I would never be alive to make you cry. I will never abandon you and your wife. Where would l have been but for you and your wife? Who am l? From where? My wife would not have been a Magistrate, talk less a Judge but for Mrs Odili. Nobody in this country can make me abandon you and your family. Never. …My wife and l are forever grateful to you for the roles you played in my life”.

This was shown live on CHANNELS. Today, what is Wike doing to the same Odili? Publicly dissing and ridiculing him on same CHANNELS just because Dr Odili refused to queue behind him to decapitate Governor Sim Fubara. As an elder statesman, Odili rather preferred to settle the differences between the duo, which Wike refused. That is Odili’s sin to attract Wike’s “Fatwa”.

He would do same thing to President Tinubu tomorrow if the president does not align with his interest. He doesn’t even understand the dynamics of larger politics to the fact that Odili and PBAT have a long-standing relationship being in the same class of 1999 Governors and that Odili doesn’t even have issues with PBAT. You cannot praise a man to high heavens for eight years in your fit of sycophancy, only to start publicly disrobing him just because he refused to be led by the nose in your ill-conceived political fight with your successor. What that means is that tomorrow, he’ll do same thing to president Tinubu if he doesn’t do his political bidding in Rivers state. That would amount to political self-immolation.

So, if everyone who has assisted you in your political ascendancy are bad, then, something definitely must be wrong with you.

Despite his accomplishments as Governor in terms of project execution which l acknowledge, there is no doubt, Wike has a serious character flaw that only him can cure. But trust me, despite his wealth and “power”, it’s a matter of time, this young man is on his way to political perdition. I pray he doesn’t end that way. Minister Wike, you are an achiever in terms of performance but l pray God grants you wisdom on how to navigate and relate with people who differ from you politically.

Richard Akinnola, a lawyer, activist and public affairs analyst writes from Lagos

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Opinion

Catalyst of Exploits (Pt. 1)

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By Tolulope A. Adegoke

“Look past the exterior, and see that there is so much more within. Then decide to unleash that potential to the fullest” – Lincoln Patz

I have no doubt that you have stepped into a greater realm of inspiration with the discovery of the potentials of the so-called zero. The next question therefore is, how can the possibilities embedded in a perceived nonentity become a reality? The answer, as you may have observed from the various examples that we considered in the previous chapter, is consciousness development. Or simply put, TRAINING.

Training has been rightly described as the process of acquiring the skills needed to succeed in a profession, vocation or venture. It is training or conscious development that turns trash into treasures, just as processing turns raw materials into finished products. Training is an indispensable requirement for bringing out the best in people. Even the most gifted people must go through some form of training to sharpen their innate abilities – how much more those who appear to be deficient!

The interesting truth here is that regardless of a person’s level of natural abilities – whether you consider it zero or zillion – training will always bring about a noticeable transformation in their lives. Take the case of Abraham as an example. Being an exceedingly great man, he had hundreds of servants who had been born in his house by his labourers and domestics. These might have been considered nobodies, having been born by lowly people. Yet, Abraham so trained them that they became valiant soldiers. And they were the ones who accompanied him to wage war against the captors of Lot and his household, and the expedition proved mightily successful (Genesis 14:14).

Two vital truths can be gleaned from the above. One is that you never can tell the true measure of a person’s potential until they have been thoroughly trained. This clearly tallies with our earlier assertion that everyone needs some form of training, whether formally or informally. The second vital truth is that everybody can indeed be trained to thrive.

From Vagabonds to Champions

Here is another proof that there is innate greatness in everyone that can be unlocked through training. 1 Samuel 22:1-3 says, “David therefore departed from there and escaped to the cave of Adullam. So when his brothers and all his father’s house heard it, they went down there to him. And everyone who was in distress, everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was discontented gathered to him. So he became captain over them. And there were about four hundred men with him.”

The first thing to notice here is the deliberate reference to the profile and pedigree of these men who joined themselves to David. I believe that the purpose is to make us see that no one can be rightly written off as a failure or a never-do-well. As subsequent exploits of David would reveal, these average men who enrolled in the military academy of David were soon transformed into mighty men of valour.  2 Samuel 23:8-17 narrates the accomplishments of three of these men:

“These are the names of the mighty men whom David had: Josheb-Basshebeth the Tachmonite, chief among the captains. He was called Adino the Eznite, because he had killed eight hundred men at one time. And after him was Eleazar the son of Dodo, the Ahohite, one of the three mighty men with David when they defied the Philistines who were gathered there for battle, and the men of Israel had retreated. He arose and attacked the Philistines until his hand was weary, and his hand stuck to the sword. The Lord brought about a great victory that day; and the people returned after him only to plunder. And after him was Shammah the son of Agee the Hararite. The Philistines had gathered together into a troop where there was a piece of ground full of lentils. So the people fled from the Philistines. But he stationed himself in the middle of the field, defended it, and killed the Philistines. So the Lord brought about a great victory.”

Isn’t this amazing! See what a bunch of men that people would have described as “frustrated failures” had become! What was the secret? Someone believed in them enough to train them, and they themselves were humble and disciplined enough to submit themselves to the training process. And the result was that they were transformed from being men of no repute, men of no value (more or less human trash, or simply zero) to history-makers!

Self-Application

So, what’s in all of this for you? What has all that we have discussed so far have to do with you? I’ll unravel it for you shortly. But, first, here is an insightful quote from Bishop David Oyedepo, “We go to school to acquire the literacy skills required to train ourselves most effectively in our fields of choice. Schooling is not the same thing as the real training! That is why there are many certificated, uneducated people! They have degrees but cannot deliver, because they are not trained to deliver!”

This is exactly what I wish to point out here. Everyone must take personal responsibility for being the best that they can be. Success is not an accidental occurrence. You cannot be wasting your precious time on irrelevances and expect to amount to much in life. You must wake up to the task of being positively responsible, deliberately reaching out and taking advantage of opportunities to enhance and deploy your skills.

As the example of the men who placed themselves under David’s tutelage shows, you are the one who must make up your mind not to settle for a worthless, defeated or frustrated life. Regardless of what people say or think of you, it is up to you to decide the direction you want your life to go!

As I earlier observed, training is not only meant for the ignorant or the inexperienced. It is an on-going activity that everyone must actively and constantly engage in, as long as we wish to stay afloat and be ahead. In other words, while schooling is periodic, training is for a lifetime!

The Place of Discipline and Diligence

Let’s face it: Training – whether formal or informal – is never an easy process. Even the Bible admits, “Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful…” (Hebrews 12:11). It is in the fallen nature of man to prefer the comfort of self-indulgence to the stress of self-enhancement. This is why many visions are aborted and many destinies are ruined. It is for this reason that discipline plays a crucial role in being a beneficiary of the power of training. It takes plenty of discipline to maintain a training lifestyle so as to emerge a relevant and dominant force in your generation!

It is possible to waste a whole lifetime if you do not understand the place of discipline and responsibility in achieving greatness in life. So, you must settle it in your mind from the outset that you are undoubtedly a Kingdom treasure that cannot afford to be comfortable with a substandard, mediocre or “trashy” life. The possibilities that God has wired into you must be empowered to find expression. You must therefore be ready to pay whatever price it requires. Let me quote Bishop Oyedepo again, “You belong to dignity, royalty, excellence and you have your excellence in Jesus Christ. Therefore, you have the mind of Christ. You have the creative, intellectual capability of the mind of Christ. You are not an ordinary person; you are a peculiar person in the order of existence!”

Closely attached to discipline is diligence. The two must function together to produce the expected result of excellence. Diligence simply means hard work. Interestingly, “hard work” is a term that many in this generation hate to hear. I often hear youths talk about “soft-work” almost everywhere now. They want the easy route to success. Of course, they may get what seems like success but because such is not built on the solid foundation of diligence, it often crumbles within a short time.

Proverbs 22:29 says, “Seest thou a man diligent in his business? he shall stand before kings; he shall not stand before mean men.” Proverbs 12:24 (NKJV) adds that: “The hand of the diligent will rule, but the lazy man will be put to forced labour.” The revelation here is that it is diligence that establishes enthronement. There is no future for an idle man in the Kingdom. Christ Himself demonstrated this when He said: “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work” (John 5:17).

Make no mistake about it – it is work that defines your worth! In other words, it is how much you work on yourself that will determine your ultimate worth. Work is a must for anybody who desires to take the lead. Even with the abundant favour and grace of God upon your life, you still must work because that is the God-ordained pathway to the top. In fact, the grace of God being upon you to guarantee success in all your ventures should spur you to attempt greater ventures than the average person. Paul the Apostle shares his own experience thus: “But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all…” (1 Corinthians 15:10).

Every successful person (empowered zero) is a product of favour from the factory of labour. You can never take out of life more than what you have invested into it. Galatians 6:7 says it accurately, “Be not deceived…whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” 2 Corinthians 9:6 explains it further, “He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.”

It is only hard workers who become great leaders (heroes)! There is nothing called “luck” in determining leadership or empowering a zero! The harder and smarter you work, the greater the level of your success. This is why someone ironically says, “I’m a great believer in luck and I found that the harder I work, the luckier I become.” So, dear friend, if you can concentrate more on empowering your zero, rather than wasting time lamenting, complaining, regretting, envying others, chatting on social media, listening to irrelevant talks or spending so much time watching the television, you will soon find your circumstances changing on their own. You will not even need to shake the Heavens before your blessings unfold!

Personal Experience

Permit me to use myself as a case study here. There was a time I sowed out my television in order to be on television. There was also a time that, for over a year, I did not subscribe to any cable channel, just to be able to meet up with the demand of delivering possibilities beyond the ordinary frequency. Here is Bishop Oyedepo again: “I have invested an average time of 16 hours a day from the time I stepped into ministry to date, no matter how odd the night may be, I still have my night to work. Seest thou a man diligent in his business, he shall stand before kings and not mere men…Our business that did not look like anything – it was trash when we came into ministry; it had no form of comeliness that anyone should look for it. It is what you invest or put into a trash that will bring forth its treasure! You need to show the world out there that you are on a mission (that is to take the lead in your field). But you cannot take the lead without doing the work to make it happen. So, go on and do the work!”

You can always change your level. It all depends on your level of investment. Just by re-aligning your mentality to believe that you do not belong to mediocrity brings you closer to excellence! Just by evaluating your activities and relationships and severing all unprofitable ties will give your life a sharper focus and clearer direction.

Note it again – hard workers fly higher! Nothing is a substitute for hard work. Be ready to go through the incubation process of becoming a hero. Subject yourself to the diligence and discipline that will transform you to a solution-provider to the people of your generation.

Sacrifice: The “Extra” in Extraordinary

Added to your discipline and diligence is the need for sacrifice, or going the extra mile. Essentially, it is not enough for you to be disciplined and diligent – you must also go the extra mile in doing these. Sacrifice is the scar (or scars) that we bear in the process of carrying our crosses towards getting our crowns.

There is no star without a scar! The scar of every star is sacrifice. It is nothing else! It is simply the ticket towards delivering possibilities. Sacrifice is going the extra mile, paying the extra price and taking the extra steps towards delivering your mandates! Your extraordinary inputs will precede your extraordinary impacts. You must go the extra mile in discipline and diligence – and then the star in you will emerge.

So powerful is sacrifice that it can turn a “dummy” into a genius. It can make a so-called misfit become a maestro. There have been cases of people who had great gifts and potentials but found themselves in fields that were different from what they were meant to do in life. Many of these have had to put themselves through the rigours of returning to their natural passions and getting trained to live out their dreams.

See, you cannot have your cake and eat it! You cannot make omelette without breaking eggs! Not even faith is a substitute for sacrifice. Vision is not a substitute for sacrifice! Sacrifice is a covenant requirement of every Kingdom star! Apostle Paul again says, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians1:21). The apostle is simply saying, “I’d rather die than allow anyone despise my glory in Christ”. This is a classic portrayal of what sacrifice entailsBeing crucified with Jesus Christ is sacrifice!

Every star has a story of sacrifice to tell. It is a must for you to rouse yourself from slumber and invest your time in creating the future that you desire! Until you do what others do not do, you will still remain on the same spot as others! You must therefore wake up and tell yourself the bitter truth and design for yourself an enviable destiny. Never let a year end without preparing a schedule of accomplishments for the following year. This will show that you are really on a mission to deliver your world from its aches!

Jesus Christ, the most anointed Achiever, says in Luke12:49-50: “I am come to send fire on the earth…But I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished!” That was someone who had a clear picture of His mission and what it would take to accomplish it.  Anyone who desires to have a “global impact” must pay a “global price”. Yes, you cannot accomplish that glorious dream of yours without understanding its true worth and paying the necessary price!

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Enhancing Food Security: Governor Umo Eno’s Worthy Interventions

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By Michael Effiong

 

Today, the biggest threat to the survival of mankind is food security. Indeed, the phenomenon has taken a global dimension and is not confined to the borders of any nation.

 

Growing hunger has been fueled by a toxic mix of climate change, insecurity and a global economic crisis that has exacerbated poverty and inequality, affecting the ability of many families and communities to cope.

 

In Nigeria, at least in the last few months, there is no topic that has been more discussed than that of the rising cost of food stuff and the hunger in the land.

 

As US President John F. Kennedy once said, “The war against hunger is truly mankind’s war of liberation.” This is a war that must be fought with vigor and won.

 

On his visit to Niger State on Tuesday, March 12, 2024, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu called on states to support the federal government’s effort in the area of agriculture and food security.

Interestingly, long before this call by Mr. President, Akwa Ibom State Governor, Pastor Umo Eno has already taken action.

 

How? Well, you can call him the modern day Nostradamus and will not be wrong. It was not that he was clairvoyant but we can adduce it to his power of vision because agriculture was one of his focus areas even before his overwhelming victory at the polls on March 18, 2023.

 

The then candidate Umo Eno had developed an economic blueprint for his campaign dubbed the ARISE Agenda. A of the A-R-I-S-E stands for Agricultural Revolution.

 

Having had this as part of his economic blueprint, it is no wonder that the Umo Eno administration had already hit the ground running and has been laying out plans, programmes and projects that are worthy of emulation in a bid to stem the tide of the current national crisis.

Perhaps what can be described as the most impactful and innovative intervention in the area of food sufficiency and sustainability in the country at the moment was signed into law on Thursday, March 14, 2023 as the Akwa Ibom State Bulk Purchase Agency which aims at ensuring that staple foods are available, accessible and affordable to the most vulnerable in the state.

 

Everyone knows that implementing this kind of programme can be herculean, but the government set up a committee with a well-laid out plan to ensure this works efficiently.

 

This programme, like others the Governor has initiated, would be devoid of any political coloration. Already, government has met with traders and market associations. Foodstuff agents will be selected and trained.  They would all sign an agreement with government and would be the ones to operate branded shops and redemption centres that will be located in selected markets and points across the 31 LGAs.

 

The Agency would use a voucher system akin to the Food Stamps now known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program in the United States.

 

The Akwa Ibom equivalent when deployed, will operate in a similar fashion because it would be strictly for vulnerable indigenes who will exchange the monthly vouchers for staple food items.

 

The beneficiaries would get direct subsidies as they would pay well-discounted prices to the agents for the value of the food item on each voucher. The accredited agents would later present these vouchers to government for reconciliation and reimbursement.

 

Furthermore, the Governor’s 368 Personal Assistants in the wards are to help implement the programme at the grassroots while names of all agents and beneficiaries ( drawn from the state social register which had recently been updated) would be published.

 

It is expected that from this arrangement and involvement of many stakeholders, the Agency’s mandate would be delivered within a short period of time.

 

Knowing full well that the Agency’s work is a short term measure, Governor Eno is also thinking long term and has started preaching the “Back-To-Farm” message. His goal is to inspire Akwa Ibomites from all walks of life to see the benefits of farming.

 

In his words: “Please everybody, no matter how small your land is even if it is just behind or beside your house, sow something. We must return to the farm”

 

Let us cast our minds back to what used to be the norm back in the day. Our parents and grandparents used to have little farms around the house where green vegetables, tomatoes, pepper, okra, maize, yams, cassava e.t.c. were grown. Some even reared chickens and goats too.

Governor Umo Eno signing an MOU with Prof. Godfrey Nzamujo of Songhai Farms Initiatives Nigeria

 

Many may see this as a call to subsistence farming in today’s technologically-advanced world, but in truth, if we are able to grow a few of what we eat, it will not only reduce the hunger in the land in a matter of months, but it will free up funds for people to use for other things.

 

This initiative by the Governor for rural and urban dwellers to go back to the farm is already being practiced by other countries to boost their food supply. It is called urban farming.

 

Countries such as Argentina, Australia, Canada and China are way ahead and have incorporated this into their urban planning and city regeneration projects.

 

A good example of the success of this initiative is the city of Rosario in Argentina. Rosario’s Urban Agriculture Programme (Programa de Agricultura Urbana, or PAU) started small, but now grows nearly 2,500 tons of food each year. What started as a means of feeding the population in the wake of an economy in tatters is now a cornerstone of the city’s food sustainability initiative. This shows that the Governor’s call is a much needed step in the right direction.

Also, the government has commenced Phase II of the AK Cares Programme. Beneficiaries across the 31 LGAs would get farm implements, seedlings, poultry birds or fish juveniles and adequate training.

The Ministry of Agriculture is also being galvanized to distribute improved seedlings and support agriculture cooperatives to help increase their productivity. And the Ibom FADAMA Microfinance Bank has been restructured in line with the present realities.

That is not all, the Governor who takes the welfare of the citizens seriously also signed the Akwa Ibom State Agricultural Loans Law (Amendment) Bill, a private member bill sponsored by Hon. Mfon Idung. The law has increased the amount to be granted as loans to individual farmers, corporate entities and cooperative societies  and would enable them expand their operations, embrace modern farming techniques, boost productivity and ultimately, drive economic transformation.

 

It is worth mentioning also that Governor Eno’s people-centred intervention strategy also includes a rejuvenation of the rural communities through construction of rural roads and provision of key amenities. This idea is well captured in R (Rural Development) of the ARISE Agenda. The nexus between rural development and agriculture are as inseparable as a set of conjoined twins!

This school of thought concerning the importance of rural development as a way of boosting agriculture is also held by former Agriculture & Rural Development Minister and current President, African Development Bank (AfDB), Dr. Akinwunmi Adeshina.

He expressed these sentiments most succinctly while delivering his acceptance speech on his conferment with the Obafemi Awolowo Prize for Leadership in Lagos recently.

According to him “Nigeria must completely transform its rural economies to ensure food security for all. A better Africa must start with the transformation of rural economies. That is because some 70% of the population live there. Rural poverty is extremely high. At the heart of transforming rural economies is agriculture, the main source of livelihoods.

“As a young student who attended high school in the village, I witnessed the high correlation of agricultural performance with education. “It was common then to hear the phrase “Agbe lo ba” . (farmers are kings), uttered with great pride

“The transformation of rural economies must therefore be structural, systemic, strategic and comprehensive. Doing so, means agriculture must be turned into a wealth creating sector. Sound public policies transform the lives of people”.

No one can dispute the need for sound policies as enunciated by Dr. Adeshina and this is reason as an ardent advocate of agribusiness and with Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 2 in mind, the Governor’s earliest move in the agricultural sector on assumption of office was to sign an MOU with Songhai Farms for the development of Ibom Model Farms.

 

This long-term partnership is aimed at driving a technologically-driven agricultural revolution that will boost food production, tourism, youth development, knowledge transfer and job creation.

 

While construction has already begun at the first farm located in Nsit Ubium LGA (others will spring up when LGAs make land available), the Governor has shown his seriousness for this project by sponsoring some youths on training programmes in preparation for the Farm’s take off.

With all hands already on deck and machinery put in motion to operationalize the multi-layered approach initiated by the Gov. Umo Eno-led administration, the indigenes of Akwa Ibom State are soon going to heave a sigh of relief. Not only would the issue of high cost of foodstuff be history but food sufficiency would become the new normal in the state.

 

 

.Effiong, a journalist, is Senior Special Assistant (Lagos Liaison) to Governor Umo Eno

 

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