Twenty three- year-old Modu Mustapha was until the eruption of violence in Borno, a GSM recharge card dealer in Dalla area of Maiduguri metropolis.
A primary school dropout at the age of 10 when he lost his father, Mustapha initially chose to be a commercial motorcyclist until he realised in 2007 that that job was too crushing for him.
The business thrived and he became the breadwinner of his entire family, until the Borno crisis exploded and his shop and that of others were destroyed by a devastating blast. He resorted to touting at the motor park.
“What I do is to assist taxi and bus drivers load passengers at the Customs Park, at the end of which each driver pays a token for my service.
“This is the situation we face daily. If only one could get a better job, even if it is on the farm .I think it is better than the touting job,” he had once said.
Mustapha is just one out of many youths who have been struggling to live a dignified life, having been displaced by the worrisome security situation in Borno.
The state government having taken a critical look at the problem of insecurity, concluded that the root cause is unemployment and pervasive poverty. So the governor, Alhaji Kashim Shettima decided to tackle the problem resolutely.
The government identified an integrated farm project in Porto Novo, Benin Republic, the Songhai Integrated Farm, for replication in Borno.
“Our visit to the farm has been quite enlightening. It has really opened our eyes on the vast potential in Africa, I want to assure that we will initiate formal arrangements to open channels of communication for a partnership,” says the governor.
He has promised to send 500 unemployed youths to train on integrated farming, to stem the tide of restiveness and unemployment.
“We intend to cultivate about 20 hectares at the Chad Basin through the programme. We want to use the Songhai platform to create jobs for our teeming youths.”
Shettima says his deputy, Alhaji Zanna Mustapha will lead another delegation, including officials of the Chad Basin Development Authorities (CBDA) to conclude arrangements for the partnership.
“We want to involve them so that we can address all areas of potential conflict in the proposed partnership with Songhai Farm.”
“Our target is to build a Songhai farm model in Borno, to provide employment for our youths and to boost the economy through the establishment of industries that are the components of the model.
“We are facing serious challenges at home and we feel that adopting the Songhai integrated farm model will help greatly in solving our problems.
Mr Godfrey Izamojo, the Director of Songhai Regional Operations, describes the model as ‘African’ in concept, to make the youth self-sufficient.
“Songhai farm is a project about a new African society where Africans are empowered to be on the driver’s seat to solve their problems instead of looking elsewhere.
“The concept of Songhai integrated farms takes care of everything, right from the farm to the factory. All aspects are taken care of as there will be no wastage.
“We believe we can harness the resources given to us by nature, to create wealth and take care of our unemployment and poverty problems.”
He says due to the immense benefits of the system, other states such as Enugu, Cross River, Benue, Katsina, Ogun and Lagos, have begun a similar partnership with the farm.
Alhaji Usman Zanna, Borno Commissioner for Agriculture and Natural Resources, Alhaji Usman Zanna corroborates the statement.
“Already, we have put in place structures to turn around the agriculture sector. Songhai model will therefore be an added advantage.
“The governor has ordered the purchase of all the improved seed varieties produced by Lake Chad Research Institutes (LCRI) in Maiduguri .
“He has also directed that we should buy additional improved seed varieties from other institutes for distribution to farmers, to boost agricultural production.”
Alhaji Yusuf Adamu, the Caretaker Chairman of Biu Local Government Council in the state, says the council looks forward to the take-off of the project.
“We are going to ensure synergy with the state government in making sure that we follow the footsteps of the governor for the system to work well.”
Some youths have also commended the idea, saying it will turn things around in the state.
“We have vast land in Borno waiting to be cultivated. I hope that government will be sincere in implementing the project,” Malam Ibrahim Sarki, a student of Ramat Polytechnic, Maiduguri says.
Another student, Mr Simon Peter, of the same institution, however, doubts if the project will ever take off.
“We have heard of similar talks in the past but they always end up as government plans,” he says.
However, Alhaji Ahmed Jidda, the Secretary to Borno Government has given the assurance of early take-off of the project.
“This is not the only agricultural project the government is implementing to create jobs for our teeming youths. We have visited many other countries to seek partnership on how best we can harness our agricultural potential
“It is certainly going to be theory with practice.”
As the youth wait on the government to transform their lives as well as the state, observers say at a time like this, such a project is capable of diverting idle youths from prevailing vices in the state, as well as to empower them.
Inuwa writes for NAN.
Ali Baba Inuwa