Connect with us

Opinion

The Oracle: For Dr Raymond Aleogho Dokpesi: It Was a Case of Vini, Vidi, Vici

Published

on

By Mike Ozekhome

I am a very sad man as I write this. I have been completely devastated by the ugly and rather sudden death of my elder brother, friend, kinsman, soul mate, client and confidant – HIGH CHIEF RAYMOND ANTHONY ALEOGHO AYAOGHENA DOKPESI, Ph.D, OFR, D.Sc. I have cried myself hoarse. I have never stopped crying. Sludge of tears. Sunken eyes. Bleeding heart. Weak limbs.

I am particularly traumatized because Dr. Dokpesi had called me on WHATSAPP at about 12:55am in the MORNING of 29th May, 2023; the very day he died. He had called me, as always, to discuss friendship, brotherhood and take advice on sundry legal matters. He exuded his usual self-happiness, vibrancy, sheer éclat and gusto. This, notwithstanding that he had had some health challenges for some time. He had miraculously recovered fully from a stroke. It was in keeping with his physiotherapist’s professional advice of exercise on a treadmill that he tripped and fell on a fast-rolling treadmill. So, the man died. The gigantic iroko fell. The world has been mourning ever since then. When Raymond called me that early fateful morning of 29th May, 2023, his voice was quite rich, steady and filled with laughter, even guffaw. We taunted and bantered with each other, as we usually did whenever we encountered each other, whether physically on the phone. We exchanged chats and spoke up to 1:50am that fateful day. So, when Chief Tony Akiotu (GMD, DAAR Communications) and Senator Francis Alimhikhena, called me to break the sad news of his sudden death from the very hospital to which he was said to have been rushed, I could not believe my ears. It was simply incredible.

It took another communication from his first son, Raymond Dokpesi, Jnr, to shake me from my state of reverie and melt my lethargic world of disbelief or incredulity. Was Dokpesi actually dead? Was the Ezomo of Weppa Wanno Kingdom’s call to me and our discussion up to 1:50am a final FAREWELL from him? Did he have the premonition of his imminent death? I do not know. Gosh!!! One thing is crystal clear to me as I grieve: Agenebode, Weppa- Wanno, Etsako, Afenmailand, Edo State, Nigeria, Africa, the black race, and indeed the whole world, have lost an unforgettable and uncommon shining star and rare gem of inestimable value.

At a mere 71, the Gbobaniyi of Ilawe-Ekiti lived a life of nobility; a life wholly dedicated to the service of God and humanity. His was simply a case of vini, vidi, vici (he came; he saw; he conquered). He impacted the most vulnerable Frantz Fanon’s “Wretched of the Earth” and the hoipolloi, through his many philanthropic and charitable works. In the maritime world, Dokpesi stood tall and resplendent, earning a first class in his Bachelors and Masters, and finally a Ph.D in Maritime Engineering. He helped to design the first carbotage laws of Nigeria. He floated the first indigenous shipping line in Nigeria (“the African Ocean Shipping Line”). He later followed it up with BALDOK Shipping Line. He was to become the nullus secondus of the media world, where he became a Czar, the Ted Turner of African broadcasting. Dokpesi indeed pioneered and blazed private independent broadcasting of television and radio in Nigeria and Africa, establishing Raypower 100.5 FM Radio and the African Independent Television (AIT). AIT (“sharing the African Experience”). The AIT was set up principally to change the western world’s skewed narrative about Africa. Its thematic philosophy was geared towards the promotion of African values, culture and traditions of the black race across the world. By 1999, DAAR launched Nigeria into the Information Super Highway with the DAAR broadband internet services. It was unheard of at that time that a single individual could challenge and break decades of government’s dominance and monopoly of information through radio and television. But, the Araba of Oshoroland and Oghierumhoa of Weppa Wanno Kingdom did just that. A very intelligent, versatile and resourceful person, Dokpesi was at once a deep thinker, philosopher, scientist, artist, dancer, singer, as much as he was a Marine Engineer, humanist, iconoclast and pathfinder. The Otunba Akorede of the Source, Ile-Ife, was not only a cultural Ambassador of his people (a traditional chief across all the geo-political divides of Nigeria), he was also a discoverer and adventurist who blazed many trails, broke new grounds and opened up new vistas and horizons for society to flourish. He simply made possible, things that appeared ordinarily impossible. As a workaholic, painstaking technocrat and a human capital builder, the Ezomo had an eye for minute details. He crossed the “t” and dotted the “i”. He did not suffer fools gladly; even as he was patient enough to excuse sheer ignorance and genuine innocent mistakes. He was simply many things rolled into one. Dokpesi was a Jack of all trades and master of all. He was a rolling stone that gathered moss.

Wearing humility like a second skin, the Lintu Bachama (Adamawa State) was an oxymoron. He was shy, reticent and taciturn; yet simultaneously gregarious, luminous and incandescent. In the business world, Dokpesi was a shrewd businessman and calculating entrepreneur. He had the Midas touch. He turned a small DAAR of 1996 into an octopaedal conglomerate that went public into the capital market in 2007. He was a total man who believed and defended the convictions of his belief even if he stood alone. He did not hug limelight or populism, or play to the gallery. At his 70th birthday, he sat on the 8th row at the celebration hall. He spurned all my attempts to get him to the front seat. He said he did not need it. I could not understand. But, that was Dokpesi for you.

His every day activities were anchored on the platforms of equity, social justice, fairness, egalitarianism and mutual respect for all religions and ethnic groups. He put the female gender first and forward in climes beyond Nigeria. Was this why he married many wives from many races and ethnic groups? I do not know. Or, do you? To say the Oghierumhoa and Ezomo of Weppa Wanno Kingdom was bold, courageous, daring and hardworking is for want of stronger grammatical expressions. His unquantifiable sacrifices globally and across all divides in Nigeria and Africa, made it extremely difficult for anyone to truly describe his essence and personae. Many saw him as a philanthropist extraordinaire; a Pan-Africanist and a Pan-Nigerian, who believed everyone was entitled to be heard and to air his opinions. Others saw him as an unrepentant investor in human beings. Some others regarded him as an unusual political strategist and tactician, who was consistent throughout his political odyssey and stayed put with his PDP, from its nascent scratch till he breathed his last. Yet, some others swore that the Ozoigbondu I of Adu Achi, Enugu State, was a media mogul; the Ted Turner of Africa. He was the undoubted cultivator of the then nascent Nollywood, Comedy and Music industries, where he discovered and nurtured today’s superstars, giving them the necessary platform to rise and achieve their potentials. Yet, others would be right to insist that he was simply a passionately prayerful, devout and devoted Christian of the Catholic Faith, who threw his AIT open for daily mass and other church services for more than a decade before he died. Even at that, he did not discriminate against Islam, as he introduced Jumat services every week. Some people had therefore called him a Chrislem”. The widows cried on his broad shoulders. The orphans leaned on his massive frame. The youths tapped from his generosity and mentorship. The senior citizens depended on him. He gave voice to the voiceless. He energized the weak, helpless and most vulnerable. He gave succour to the deprived and forgotten.

The Zuoje of Liberia was even described by some as an amoeba – a shapeless, formless, unicellular organism that could easily change its shape. Yet, others believed he was an octopus – an eight-limbed, soft-bodied mollusc with bulbous head. These descriptions are all apt because they depended on how he was perceived or seen by different people. The descriptions simply depended on the person or institution involved. They were all right; yet, oxymoronically, all wrong. This is because no one could give a wholistic and complete description of the enigmatic Sardaunna of Kpaduma, Abuja. Dokpesi truly showed that a candle does not lose its flame by lighting other candles.

The name of the Oganigwe Umu Orji Ako Nibo, Anambra State vibrated and reverberated for decades in Nigeria’s political firmament. He epitomized the soul and spirit of DAAR. Not many Nigerians know that DAAR is actually a reversed acronym of his name – RAYMOND ANTHONY ALEOGHO DOKPESI (RAAD); thus DAAR. The Osese of South Uneme, Edo State came; he saw; he conquered (vini; vidi; vici). He ran a very good race. He finished well. Most significantly, he died on Nigeria’s hitherto DEMOCRACY DAY- May 29, 2023 (before it was changed to June 12). Because he epitomized DEMOCRACY and democratic practices. At the 2005 National Political Conference, the Vision 2009 and the 2014 National Conference, Dokpesi rolled out the entire DAAR Communications facilities and outfit to drive the conferences, becoming the very linchpin, the backbone and anchor of the entire talkshops. He was everywhere, spreading industry, efficiency and efficacy. He was simply a one-man riot squad. He passionately believed in and propagated a restructured Nigeria where true fiscal federalism thrives, as against the present unitary system we practise. O death, where is thy sting? Death, you shall also die. You just died because you could stop Dokpesi from transmuting from terrestrial mortality to celestial immortality. So, the Ezomo defeated you.

May God grant this legend and colossus eternal repose of his great soul until we meet to part no more. Itseee, Itseee lagi Itseee. May God grant his immediate and extended family, his friends, associates, admirers and loved ones the fortitude to bear this irreparable and irreplaceable loss. Amen. Adieu Ezomo. Farewell Iyokpamhe. Goodbye, Agene 1. Rest in perfect peace till we meet on resurrection day to part no more. Amen; amen; and amen.

Prof Mike Ozekhome, SAN, CON, OFR, FCIArb, LL.M, Ph.D, LL.D, D.Litt. is a constitutional lawyer

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Opinion

Tinubu, Beware Of Nyesom Wike

Published

on

By

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

Continue Reading

Opinion

Catalyst of Exploits (Pt. 1)

Published

on

By

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!

Continue Reading

Featured

Enhancing Food Security: Governor Umo Eno’s Worthy Interventions

Published

on

By

 

 

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

 

Continue Reading

Trending