Rivers In The Diversification Agenda
Prior to 1951 when oil was discovered in commercial quantity in Rivers State, agriculture was the primary occupation of the people of the State. The abundance of palm oil and kernel which basically constituted the main revenue source of the country in the 19th century earned the state the name ‘Oil Rivers Protectorate’.
In a sample survey carried out by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources, in 1983, about 40% of the rural inhabitants were said to be committed to farming. Ever since, agriculture had been an important branch of the economy of Rivers State, even as it remained the main source of livelihood for the rural people.
The place of agriculture in the state’s economy paved way for the creation of a parastatal within the Ministry of Agriculture in 1988, called Agricultural Development Programme (ADP). The functions of this body included among others; formulating and implementing programmes relating to agriculture as well as providing extension services to farmers in both rural and urban areas of the state.
At this point, Rivers State became one of the leading states in the production of yam, cassava, cocoyam, maize, rice and beans. The availability of about 39% (760,000 hectares) of the state’s total land mass, particularly in the upland area, made the cultivation of major cash crops such as; oil palm products, rubber, coconut, raffia palm and other crops like vegetables, melon, pineapples, mango, pepper, banana and plantain possible.
The fishing industry was not left out. It happened to be another thriving sector. Besides being lucrative, it was also a favorite pastime activity. With many artisanal fishermen in the riverine areas, and approximately 270 species of fish existing, the state provided valuable seafoods such as crabs, oysters, shrimps and sea snails among others.
One thus needs not be told that the state has large potential for agricultural production. Unfortunately, even with 39 per cent of land suitable for cultivation, agricultural productivity has continuously remained low probably due to low soil quality from oil spillage and leakage, or a perception among youth that agriculture is an unattractive means of employment.
However, in order to create an economic shift towards agriculture, in 2008 the then administration of the state implemented a replica of the Songhai international agricultural training center model first pioneered in Porto Novo, Benin Republic.
The model of the Rivers Songhai Farm Initiative (RSFI) consisted of a centrally located agricultural training center with a working farm expected to provide opportunities for practical learning and agricultural tourism.
The model made provision for the followings; instruction on the concept of zero waste, whereby farm by-products would be used in other activities (e.g., manure to be used to fertilize crops), teachings on farmers entrepreneurial skills and how to get more value from their primary products, and participants to have access to a network of satellite farms started by graduates of the program.
Given the provisions of the model, there were hopes that the RSFI’s specific goals if properly managed have got the potentials to diversify production in Rivers state beyond the oil industry, improve agricultural productivity, and reduce youth unrest by giving them better access to employment and entrepreneurship opportunities.
Located on a 314 hectare of farm land at Bunu in Tai local government area, RSFI, within its shortlived operational season, was prominent in broilers production, cassava processing, feed and rice milling, machines production, stabilised bricks production, free range poultry, plantain farming, pineapple, vegetable, cassava and moringa cultivation. More units designed for future production at the centre include coconut, animal feeds, mango for chips and juice, orange for juice and input for animal processing and snail production.
All the same, at the dawn of the diversification agenda of the current political leadership in the country, one had expected that Rivers State would lead the committee of states whose agricultural flag are globally acknowledged with all the acquaintances the state had established with agriculture.
This expectation nevertheless was heightened in May 2016, when Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike personally called for sustained efforts to diversify the country’s economy following dwindling earnings from oil. Governor Wike made the call at the Government House, Port Harcourt, during a visit by the Executive Director of the Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC), Olusegun Awolowo.
Stating that the country can no longer depend solely on oil earnings, he averred that his administration would partner with the NEPC to develop alternative sources of foreign exchange earnings for the state, noting that the present economic challenges facing the country suggests that states have to look inwards to survive.
Responding to an earlier call by the visitor for a development of the state’s agricultural sector to boost internally generated revenue, Wike signalled a willingness to collaborate with NEPC in the area of agriculture. Of course, what could be more reassuring than an affirmative statement coming from a leader who had carved a niche for himself as one who acts out his words.
Four years down the line, Rivers residents still await the boom in agriculture. This is achievable if the government can collaborate with the private sector, the state can experience mechanized agriculture, against the age-long subsistence farming for which it has been known. With this in place, employment creation is assured, income will be provided and emigration curbed.
Lies And The Iraqi War, 20 Years On
There is no gainsaying the fact that our beloved country, Nigeria, is currently in a high-octane dysfunction. Some might argue that it is because of the kind of President we have; but my own argument would be that President Muhammadu Buhari has never been anything different since he took the oath of office on May 29, 2015. In truth, the current dysfunction is not unconnected to the various theaters of war across the country, and we must know that President Buhari allowed this ferment.
The mendacity of 2015 and what Nigeria has become today, even as the unraveling continues is a near parallel to the lies that George Bush and Tony Blair told the world two decades ago. It was almost a year and six months after the September 11 attacks, and America was looking for an avenue to reassert itself. It knew that the intelligence was wrong, yet it was packaged and sold to its allies, including the British. Even though, then Prime Minister, Tony Blair did not see hard evidence, he joined the allied forces and took the British to Iraq.
At that time, Tony Blair was heard saying: “I only know what I believe.” Many may have wondered what he meant by that statement. For some, it was an appeal to the heart; while for others, it was a political sleight-of-hand, a simple way of saying, I have no concrete evidence of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Iraq. During the same period, we were also fed with such nonsensical statement accredited to the then Secretary of Defence of the US, Donald Rumsfeld, during a news briefing, he said: “There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we do not know we do not know.”
In the period leading to the launch of the war on March 19, 2003, the Arab League voiced its opposition to the war in very strong terms. In fact, in retrospect, it was as if the leaders of the Arab League were gazing at a crystal ball when they declared that “invading Iraq would open the gates of hell.” Indeed, after 20 years, and counting, that gate has become a gaping hole that continues to consume vital resources that could have been deployed in other ventures, and most of the crises in the Middle East could be traced to the fallout of the Iraq war.
It is now an open secret that Iraq was invaded on specious intelligence which was primarily sourced from a defector referred to as Curveball, who was also an alcoholic. The events of the last two decades have been tumultuous for the world and the Middle East, but particularly for the Iraqi people, even though one of the core arguments of Bush and Blair made for war on Iraq was for the betterment of the Iraqis – freeing them from the grip of a despot. Yes, Sadam Hussein was removed, however at an awful cost: about 300,000 lives, according to one estimate. Sadly, most of the casualties are Iraqi civilians.
Since 2003, so much has happened due to the leadership vacuum created at the heart of the Middle East with the fall of Saddam Hussein. In Iraq, ethnic and tribal sentiments and mistrust have crippled every government, and as a result, the present government is unable to provide something as basic as water. But then, we have seen major problems like the rise of ISIS and the Caliphate, and the impasse in Syria after President Asad killed thousands of his people without a clear resolution and action from the United Nations; and not leaving out the resultant northward migration of Arab youths to Europe.
Even Nigeria has not been spared from the ripple effects of the bad decision of Bush and Blaire because ISIS has gained a foothold in Nigeria. For instance, a December 2022 article on The Africa Report had the following caption: “Nigeria 2023: ISIS make inroads in Nigeria ahead of elections, says the report. But, the first paragraph of the article was more telling, and it reads: “The ISIS-backed Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) had a “successful year” in Nigeria in 2022, carrying out attacks in the capital, Abuja; Kano; Kaduna; and setting up bases in and around Niger State, according to a report by a Nigerian based intelligence research consultancy, SBM Intelligence.”
As you already know, aside from natural causes, the 2022 flood inclusive, Boko Haram, ISIS and of course rogue Fulani herdsmen are the reason why Nigerian is in a food security crisis. Farmers are unable to cultivate their lands, while those who manage to cultivate their lands are unable to go back to the farms for harvest. Reports have it that in some cases, most farming communities have been sacked to the point of no return. Even though Nigeria was not a member of the United Nations Security Council in 2003, and it is not a member currently, one might ask if our voice was heard in the Committee of Nations opposing the Bush and Blaire rascality. Honestly, I am in doubt if we took a position; or, if we even had the political finesse to play our part as the largest black nation on earth, and the so-called giant of Africa.
For too long, we have stood on the sidelines of history, and international epochs due to our perpetual babyhood. We have allowed international trouble to show up at our doorstep, even when we have no hand in it, but because we lack the clarity to make the right decision, and to take timely actions. The political significance and the full ramifications of the events of the past two decades are a kettle of fish still on fire. But the world, and Nigeria in particular, seem to have learned no lessons from the unholy cocktail of so-called expert advice and political massaging. This much was made plain at the peak of the COVID-19 Pandemic; the experts sent the world into a lockdown without any real scientific proof that the approach would stem the spread of the virus.
But, it did not stop there. Major global leaders used their platforms to spread fear, especially in Africa. For instance, Melinda Gates was on CNN when she mentioned that the developing world would be hit the hardest, making particular reference to Africa. Some might have forgotten her actual words, but thank God for the news media and the internet that never forgets. She said: “It’s going to be horrible in the developing world.
“Part of the reasons you are seeing the case numbers still do not look very bad, is because they do not have access to many tests. Look at what is happening in Ecuador, they are putting bodies out on the streets, you are going to see that in countries in Africa.”Her projections were preposterous; yet when it did not materialise, African countries were accused of not having accurate data. Fortunately, the truth remains that; compared to our population of 1.2 billion people in Africa both the infection rate and the death from the covid-19 pandemic were infinitesimal.Another major case of global group thinking and disinformation is coming from the World Economic Forum, and other global institutions, especially in the issue regarding global warming and what should be done to curtain it. As it is, if most of the advanced ideas are implemented, global GDP would fall, and the negative impact will be more on developing countries like Nigeria.
As I look through the prism of time, and the lies that have been told over and over again by global leaders in the wake of the Iraqi war twenty years on, I am saddened that black Africa especially has not found its own voice. We are still fed crumbs of information in the event of a global crisis that might not be in our best interest. We need to wake up!
By: Raphael Pepple
Threat To Life As Impetus For Improvement
Many Nigerians would have heard about the flood disaster in Pakistan, resulting in the tragic death of over 1000 people as at the last day of August, this year. Threats to life can come from natural disasters and from human factors which include negligence and deliberate acts of criminality. In all cases of disasters and threats to life and human environments, there is usually a theory that every effect arises from some definite cause, whether it is known or unknown. Thus, no accidents in creation! There is a peculiar weakness in humans which makes it difficult to abide by the lw and to do what is right and proper, unless there is a visible threat to life. That peculiar weakness can manifest as indolence, recalcitrance, lethargy, obtuseness and other excuses easily given for failure to do what ought to be done, or doing what ought not to be done. The result is that man suffers from the restlessness of anxiety or from the lethargy of boredom. Are we surprised that there is little virtue and little happiness in the world? Men suffer more from envy, cares, anxiety and secret vexations than from natural disasters.
In spite of optimism and the passion for maintaining that all is right when all goes wrong with us, there is a high level of frustration, hunger and loss which politics is practiced in developing countries brings more of frustrations and misery for the masses, when the opposite should be the case. Many reasons may be given for the sad trend, but the evidence is that some radical measures are necessary for any improvement. One Inspector-General of the Nigeria Police, Etim Inyang, now late, proposed a sound philosophy necessary to instill discipline in the Nigerian society. It used to be known as Etim Inyang Doctrine among his peers, but unfortunately that philosophy has not been popularized and implemented in Nigeria. To say that “A bird that can sing but refuses to sing, should be made to sing, or removed from the position of a singing bird”, is to say that discipline and justice are necessary to build an ideal society. What we find in Nigeria include non-recognition of the “bird that can sing”, inability to encourage “a singing bird”, and continued toleration and retention of a “bird that refuses to sing”. Who you are and where you come from would count!
In all such cases there is a lack of political will to instill and implement discipline in a just and impartial manner, and a tendency towards nepotism, corrupt practices and resort to double standards. Many Nigerians refuse to obey the law, rules and regulation or do what ought to be done, because of a culture of impunity and arbitrariness. There are Nigerians who boast that they can do what they wish to do and get away without any penalty. It is sad that this sub-culture is common in Nigeria, and where penalty is exerted it can be cosmetic and a mockery of justice. From the culture of buck-passing to the decline of accountability and discipline, public officers are known to be clever prevaricators and equivocators. From politically influenced promotions, to malicious retirements, the civil service is not seen as strong and reliable structure for an effective social change. Decline in value and integrity is quite worrisome. Factors which frustrate and alienate citizens from government include unfairness in the dispensation of rewards and punishments, and injustices in the distribution of social amenities. Patriotism grows among citizens of a nation where leadership is exemplary, characterized by personal sacrifices for the sake of disadvantaged masses. Moreover nobility in leaders is demonstrated by anonymity and obscurity rather than noisy publicity and accolades over projects they are able to execute.
Challenges and problems arising from leadership failures and irresponsibility include diminution of patriotism among citizens, whereby corrupt practices become widespread. Thus toleration of leadership failures, coupled with pandering to weaknesses and indiscipline among the masses, the ground is prepared for increasing threats to social security. The situation can get to such an extent that anarchy grows in the society, with law enforcement agencies getting compromised. Especially when a nation evolves a precarious political economy, such as the case in Nigeria, to bring about an improved social system or change, would be hard.Those who got close to late Jerry Rawlings of Ghana and interviewed him on how a radical change came about in that country, would say that social cleansing follows social anarchy and obtuse leadership. While nobody prays for bloody social change, it is obvious that leaders who push the masses to the wall rarely know when to call themselves to order. Also the use of “stomach infrastructure” to divide the oppressed masses against themselves, is a ready means of self-preservation adopted by political leaders and gamblers. Similarly, oil block allocation is a vital trump card.
The impetus to dare, take risks and explore new grounds is inherent in human nature, and quite often great successes arise from going into ventures without fear. But in the politics of brigandage and primitive acquisition, the consequences go beyond inviting the wrath of the masses when they have taken enough bashing and abuses. It is obvious that what we have had in Nigeria under the guise of politics has been more of an organized plunder of public resources by fearless adventurers. References to “Abacha Loots” demonstrate the truth about an organized project of a looting spree. Where robbing and looting of public resources by a few strong and fearless persons do not result in bloody reactions from the masses, natural disasters do occur as warnings and threats to life. The purposes are usually to tame humans and curb the greed for material acquisition. P.D. Ouspensky, a Russian social critic would tell us that disasters including wars, teach, not with sermons, but in practice, how very transient are all the blessings of this world, how very unstable is everything terrestrial and temporal. Moreover any nation where leaders become looters of public resources is usually a nation populated by inferior souls. Improvements in both material and inward status and standards often come when the masses have taken enough bashing, rubbish and bruises from myopic and irresponsible leaders. Sufferings and agonies give impetus and energy to bring radical changes for the better. What to guard against is the possibility of the oppressors taking over the project of a radical change.
By: Bright Amirize
Dr Amirize is a retired lecturer, Rivers State University, Port Harcourt.
Agenda For Incoming Leaders
It is a big relief knowing that barring any last-minute change, the last lap of 2023 general elections in Nigeria will be conducted tomorrow. With the governorship and state houses of assembly election taking place in 28 states of the federation, we can now close the chapter of the 2023 elections described by some people as the most intense, most rancorous and highly participated election in the history of the nation. With these elections a new set of leaders that will take the center stage to pilot the affairs of the states and the country have emerged. Some of them may have been on the saddle before, while a good number of them are greenhorns. A big congratulations to all of them and to all Nigerians for their various roles towards the success of the exercises.
A sure thing in every contest is that there must be a winner and a loser and the sustenance of a cordial relationship between the various participants in the contest largely depends on how the winner carries himself. If the winner deliberately throws it on the face of the loser that he has won and that the other person should go and hang himself, it will definitely create an unhealthy relationship between the two parties, especially when the loser believes that the winner did not merit the victory.
So, our in-coming elected officials should be magnanimous in their victory and see their new positions as an opportunity to unite and work towards lasting peace and development in the country. The president-elect, Ahmed Bola Tinubu, has a key role to play towards ensuring that Nigeria remains an indivisible entity. Prior to his election, he never kept anybody in the dark about his life ambition to become Nigeria’s president. He believed that he had paid his dues for democratic rule and development of the country and it was high time he reaped the benefit of his “political investment”.
His sense of entitlement was unmistaken. “You don’t just wake up and say you want to be the president of Nigeria. I have prepared for it for over 30 years”, “… I have served you for many years. Bring me the presidency. It is my turn. (emil’okan)”, are some of his famous statements. Today, he is Nigeria’s president-elect as declared by the Independent Electoral Commission and come May 29 this year, he will take his oath of office, pledging to maintain the peace and unity of Nigeria among others.
Nigerians expect Tinubu to hit the ground running from the get go. The suffering citizens of the country expect him to immediately put his much-touted education and experience to bear in solving the numerous challenges facing the country. In his ten-point transformation agenda, Tinubu said that if elected himself and his team would lead Nigeria to a new era of economic prosperity, peace, security and political stability, a nation transformed into greatness, the pride of Africa, a role model for all black people worldwide, and respected among all other countries.”
He promised to improve security by decentralising the policing of the country and creating hundreds of thousands of new jobs simultaneously; to transform Nigeria into an enviable country and one where there will be justice, peace and prosperity for all, with a “robust economy”; to build an economy that will make the nation’s Gross Development Product (GDP) grow quicker annually for the next four years while also providing jobs for millions of youths in the country. The president-elect also promised, “I will focus on stimulating jobs, which will be my top priority as President.
” I will get Nigeria to work by launching a major public works programme, a significant and heavy investment in infrastructure, and value-adding manufacturing and agriculture. “My administration will build an efficient, fast-growing, and well-diversified emerging economy with a real GDP growth averaging 12 per cent annually for the next four years, translating into millions of new jobs during this period.”
Tinubu also promised to create six new Regional Economic Development Agencies, which will establish sub-regional industrial hubs to exploit each zone’s competitive advantage and optimise their potential for industrial growth; to formulate a new National Policy on Agriculture to boost food production; that his administration would target an electricity distribution goal of 15,000 megawatts across the country and ensure a sustainable 24/7 supply.
He equally pledged that his administration would eradicate strikes by tertiary institution workers by encouraging the tertiary institutions to source for funds through grants and corporate sponsorships, with all the institutions granted financial autonomy; to increase the funding for health care in the annual budget to 10 per cent among many other promises.Nigerians expect the in-coming president to fulfil all these promises and more by engaging the right people as his team members. We expect Tinubu to spread his tentacles and source for competent, qualified, credible Nigerians both within and in the diaspora as members of his team and heads of agencies, parastatals and other government offices.
Having a repeat of what is currently obtainable in the country, where people from the same part of the country occupy virtually all the top positions in the military, para-military, agencies and parastatals is certainly not an option as that will further disunite the country.One of the greatest endowments of Nigeria is its rich human resource. There is hardly any state or tribe in the country that cannot boast of qualified, talented professionals who can hold their own in their various fields of endeavour. Therefore, there is no reason where people from a certain tribe, religion or region should be appointed into offices while people from other places are left out.
Let federal character as provided in Chapter two of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended be adhered to in allocating offices to people in the coming months. Sensitive positions should not be used as a form of compensation to loyal politicians. There are other ways of appreciating them.It is extremely important that the next administration takes drastic measures to stem the corruption rate in the country. Already there are some postulations that the in-coming government will be that of “chop I chop”, where corruption, embezzlement, thuggery, and other vices will be taken to an unprecedented level. Tinubu should prove this class of people wrong by running a corrupt-free, transparent and accountable government. That will earn him the trust of the citizens.
It is also crucial that the next Nigeria’s president should ensure that the country’s criminal justice system works optimally. There are several laws in the country that stipulate punishment for the commission of crime and other offences. Unless the various arms of government, offices and individuals responsible for interpreting the law or enforcing it and punishing the offenders are made to sit up and discharge their duties impartially, without bias, the country will not move forward.
As it is on the federal level, so should it be on the state and local government levels and in the national and state assemblies. As it is said, a tree cannot make a forest. Our in-coming leaders at the various levels and tiers of government should put the interest of the nation and the citizens far above their personal interests. They should see their new positions as an opportunity to contribute their quota towards making Nigeria a better society instead of the usual mindset of going into office to share from the national cake.
Our leaders should always have it at the back of their minds that the people are watching them and in the next four years, they will show them their score cards. As have been observed by many people, one great lesson from the just-conducted presidential/national assembly election is that political awareness of Nigerians is now very high and that elected political office holders can no longer afford to take the electorate for granted. Whoever doubts it should ask Governors Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State, Ben Ayade of Cross River State and other top politicians who lost the election to some candidates of a structure-less political party how they feel.
By: Calista Ezeaku
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