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When A Noble Idea Fails

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In the pre-election year of 2018, former governor of Plateau State, His Excellency, Simon Lalong, listed a very promising package among projects to be commissioned by former President Muhammadu Buhari, who was on State visit – the roll-out of 400 tractors to be distributed to farmers as a boost to agriculture in the state. It was an event publicised with so much fanfare and applauded by farmers who anticipated reliefs that would revolutionise their labourious methods of farming to transit from manual farming into mechanisation, while at the same time achieve greater outputs and profits. Commissioned precisely on March 8, 2018, the tractorisation initiative was aimed at enabling farmers own tractors for farming in Plateau State.
As at then the state’s Agricultural Services training centre and Marketing Ltd (ASTC & M Ltd) had only 300 tractors which it had managed and hired out to farmers since its establishment, but that number was not enough given the enormous demand. Plateau state, with its expanse of fertile lands, geographic location and topography, is one of Nigeria’s food baskets, but massive production is hampered by manual farming. It was therefore cheery news when it filtered out that farmers would be assisted to own tractors to ease their labour, while achieving greater production.
According to sources, Hakar Engineering Nigeria Limited had in 2016 proposed a tripartite, Public, Private Partnership initiative involving themselves, the plateau state Government and the State farmers through Plateau State All-Farmers Multi-Purpose Co-operative Limited, with regard to a co-funding arrangement that would enable farmers in the state acquire tractors. The state and local governments were to subsidise the tractors with 30 per cer and 10 per cent payments respectively, while participating farmers were to pay the remaining 60 per cent. With an initial down payment of 10 per cent, a farmer was to take delivery of a tractor, while payment of the 50 per cent balance would be spread over a three-year period as farmers make proceeds from improved agro outputs. The scheme was also packaged with trainings for would-be tractor operators, while services and repair workshops were to be established across the three geo-political zones of the state.
However, on the day of commissioning, only 40 out of the publicised 400 tractors were displayed. Mr Lalong reportedly explained that government house premises, venue for the commissioning exercise, was too small to contain all 400  tractors, hence the reason for displaying only 40, implying that all 400 tractors had already been supplied. Mr Lalong went further to claim that the state government procured the 400 tractors for farmers at the cost of N5.6 billion, at N14 million per set. Regrettably, with very few of the participating farmers having received tractors years after commissioning of the scheme, controversy now rages as to the whereabouts of the 400 tractors, as well as the actual financial stake of Plateau State Government. This is as the N5.6 billion claimed to have been the cost by Mr Lalong far out-weighs the state government’s 30 per cent counterpart funding of N1.68 billion, if the whole 400 tractors were supplied.
Media investigations reveal that while the number of tractors actually supplied was less than 100 in the first and only batch made, data from Plateau state shows that 400 tractors and farm implements were procured in 2019 at a total cost of N5.6 billion. But for a project that was to involve the state Ministry of Agriculture and State Bureau of Public Procurement, both organisations according to PREMIUM TIMES have denied involvement in, or knowledgement of, any such transactions. Also, farmers complain of getting an unfamiliar brand that is alien to their experience, as against the promised Massey Ferguson brand that has spare parts and service technicians locally available, and also complain of incomplete accessories and no accompanying spare parts as promised, while service centres were not made available. This sad experience in Plateau state mirrows the wider national scenerios where the wrong implementation of noble ideas kills bigger dreams and denies the nation of intended benefits.
It is a typical example of cases in which public officials sometimes alter the design contents of Memorandum of Understandings (MoUs) signed for mutual benefits. According to PREMIUM TIMES, an official of Hakar Engineering Nigeria Limited confided anonymously that what the company proposed to Plateau State Government in 2016 was a partnership MoU that was intended to help farming businesses in the state while promoting government’s agricultural programmes, hence did not go through the bureau of public procurement, but it was surprising to see it presented to the public in 2018 as a N5.6 billion contract with the state government. To whom then was N5.6 billion paid or was Mr Lalong carried away by a zeal to impress the public being that 2018 was pre-election year, or was it a case of avarice? The claim by the state’s ministry of agriculture that they are investigating the whole affair adds more complexity and suspicion to the entire saga.
No matter how politically connected the proponents of the partnership were the ministry of agriculture, who should own such a scheme, should have been the originating department where the proposal was presented, with MoU drafted on behalf of the state government, and should have been the government’s department to administer the processes, take delivery of tractors, keep custody, make allocations to farmers and detail any feed-backs, and not the Plateau State Government House. On the other hand, if Hakar Engineering Nigeria Limited truly had the requisite financial capacity, technical support and managerial skills to implement such tractorisation programme for farmers, they should have executed the partnership directly with farmers and handle the execution processes as a business entity without seeking political connections.
Unfortunately, while left with broken tractors with no available spare parts and experienced technicians, farmers trapped in the failed scheme now live in regrets for believing and investing in a public programme. Yes, while those farmers bemourn their failed investments and faith in a scheme, it is the wider Nigerian populace that take the implicit heat as food scarcities continue to push many into poverty and hunger. 400 tractors rightly introduced in 2018 into the hard-working hands of astute farmers in Plateau state could have been a game changer for Nigeria, by encouraging the partners to replicate such across other states, long before the COVID 19 era, long before Russia’s escapades in Ukraine and Hammas’attack on Isreal, all three major factors that disrupted the international supply chains Nigeria had relied upon out of sheer complacency.

By: Joseph Nwankwo

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 Learning From China’s Educational System

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As the world grapples with the complexities of the 21st century, it is essential to recognise the distinction between education and learning. While often used interchangeably, these terms have distinct meanings that impact our approach to personal and professional development. Education refers to the formal instruction and certification process, typically within a school or university setting. It provides a foundation in various subjects and disciplines, preparing students for future careers. Learning, on the other hand, encompasses the broader process of acquiring knowledge, skills, and values throughout one’s life. It extends far beyond the classroom, incorporating experiences, challenges, and opportunities that shape our perspectives and abilities.
The primary goal of education is to equip students with the necessary credentials and knowledge to enter the workforce. In contrast, learning focuses on personal growth, self-improvement, and adaptability in an ever-changing world. Education provides a solid foundation, but learning is what truly empowers individuals to thrive. It enables us to develop new skills, explore innovative ideas, and navigate complex challenges. Unfortunately, many individuals confuse education with learning, assuming that a degree or certification guarantees success. However, the reality is that learning is a lifelong journey, requiring continuous effort and dedication.
To truly succeed, we must embrace a culture of learning, fostering curiosity, creativity, and critical thinking. This involves seeking out new experiences, asking questions, and embracing challenges as opportunities for growth.In today’s fast-paced, technology-driven world, learning is more essential than ever. It enables us to stay adaptable, innovative, and relevant, unlocking our full potential and driving progress.As we move forward, it is crucial to recognise the difference between education and learning. By prioritising learning as a lifelong pursuit, we can unlock our true potential and create a brighter future for ourselves and generations to come.While education provides a foundation, learning is the key to unlocking our full potential. China’s remarkable rise to global prominence offers a compelling case study. Her unimaginable economic growth and technological advancements are often attributed to its emphasis on education. However, a closer examination reveals that the country’s true strength lies in its culture of learning.
It is no gainsaying the fact that  education is highly valued in China, and the gaokao (national college entrance examination) is a high-stakes test that determines one’s academic and professional trajectory, yet, it is the informal learning processes that occur outside the classroom that have driven China’s innovation and progress. From a young age, Chinese students are encouraged to engage in extracurricular activities, such as music, art, and sports, which foster creativity, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills. These skills are essential for success in a rapidly changing world. Moreover, China’s cultural heritage places a strong emphasis on self-cultivation and lifelong learning. The concept of “xuéxí” (learning) is deeply ingrained in Chinese philosophy, emphasising personal growth and development throughout one’s life.The Chinese government has also invested heavily in vocational training and adult education programmes, recognising that learning is a continuous process that extends far beyond formal education
. In contrast, Nigeria’s education system is such that  focuses  on rote memorisation over critical thinking. Nigeria’s curriculum prioritizes core subjects like mathematics, English, and science, but often neglects essential skills like creativity, problem-solving, and emotional intelligence even as it  faces  numerous challenges, including inadequate funding and outdated curricula.One major bane of  Nigeria’s education system has been the  placement of a high premium on certification and paper qualifications, often at the expense of genuine learning and skill acquisition, instead of a  curriculum designed to foster innovation, creativity, and adaptability, with a strong emphasis on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education where students are encouraged to explore, experiment, and learn from failure. Nigerian students are rather discouraged from taking risks or challenging authority.
Moreover, China’s education system is constantly evolving, with a focus on lifelong learning and continuous skill acquisition, whereas Nigeria’s education system has remained largely static, with few opportunities for professional development or skill upgrading. While both China and Nigeria face unique challenges in their education systems, China’s emphasis on learning, innovation, and skill acquisition has positioned it for success in the 21st century. Nigeria, on the other hand, must urgently reform its education system to prioritise learning over certification, creativity over memorisation, and skills acquisition over mere paper qualifications. Like China, Nigeria’s education system needs to prioritise social-emotional learning, including skills like empathy, self-awareness, and conflict resolution, which are essential for success in the modern world. Truth be said, while education provides a solid foundation, it is learning that truly empowers individuals and societies to thrive.
Navigating  the complexities of the 21st century, truly requires learning from China’s example to  prioritise learning as a lifelong pursuit. By learning from China’s example, Nigeria can unlock the potential of its youth and leapfrog its way to economic prosperity and global relevance.The future belongs to those who learn, adapt, and innovate – let us choose the path of wisdom.

By: Sylvia ThankGod-Amadi

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Opinion

The Ministry Of Livestock Development

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From the reactions of the populace since the announcement of the creation of the Federal Ministry of Livestock Development on Tuesday by President Bola Tinubu, it is obvious that many people did not see that coming.
In February this year, the federal government had announced its resolution to implement the Stephen Oronsaye report that called for a leaner government by merging some agencies and scrapping some others. The president was widely applauded for that decision which many believe will reduce cost of governance and save money to tackle pressing challenges in the country.
The kick-off of this was still being awaited when the announcement for the creation of another ministry came. By this development we now have 46 ministries, the highest in the history of the country.
Apparently, President Tinubu, just like many other well-meaning, patriotic Nigerians is disturbed about the state of the nation’s economy and the unabating insecurity in the land. As a way of tackling these challenges he, on September 15th, 2023, approved the establishment of the Presidential Committee dedicated to the reform of the livestock industry and the provision of long-term solutions to recurring clashes between herders and farmers in the country.
The establishment of the Ministry of Livestock Development was part of the recommendations of the National Livestock Reforms Committee. Part of the 21 recommendations submitted to the president include: “This agenda should include the establishment and resuscitation of grazing reserves as suggested by many experts and well-meaning Nigerians and other methods of land utilisation.
“Create the Ministry of Livestock Resources in line with practice in many other West African countries. In the alternative, Federal and State Governments should expand the scope of existing Departments of Livestock Production to address the broader needs of the industry,” among others.
The livestock industry is a vital component of any economy, contributing significantly to various economic and social aspects. Two agriculturists were on a national radio on Wednesday and spoke expansively about these benefits which include: job creation, increase to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and foreign exchange earning through the exports of livestock and livestock products such as meat, dairy, wool and leather.
The livestock industry creates millions of jobs directly in farming, processing, and distribution, and indirectly in related sectors like feed production, veterinary services, and marketing. It provides livelihoods for rural populations, helping to reduce poverty and improve the quality of life in rural areas.
According to them, a well-funded livestock industry supports the growth of agro-processing sectors, such as meat packing, dairy processing, and leather manufacturing, adding value to raw products and creating additional economic activity.
It stimulates the development of supply chains, including logistics, packaging, and retail, contributing to broader economic growth. It enhances economic resilience by diversifying the agricultural sector and providing a buffer against crop failures or other agricultural shocks and many more.
Some other agriculturists have also opined that the livestock industry in Nigeria is currently underdeveloped and that by the creation of the ministry of livestock development will open up the industry which will be a huge money spinner for Nigeria.
While their points are quite logical, it must be stated that these can still be achieved without the creation of a new ministry. There is the department of livestock in the ministry of agriculture both at the federal and state levels. Why not empower them to do the job? The National Livestock Reforms Committee even recommended the expansion of the scope of existing Departments of Livestock Production by both federal and state governments to address the needs of the industry.
Why not take that option instead of creating a new ministry with all the attendant costs at a period the citizens are faced with severe hardship and no food to eat? If adequate concern is given to the various departments of livestock as the new ministry will most likely receive, they will function effectively and the best results will be achieved.
Why do we like changing nomenclature all the time and achieving the same result or even nothing? For instance, what has the Ministry of the Niger Delta Development achieved that is different from that of the NDDC since it was created? Since Limited was added to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) thereby making it (NNPCL), what changes have we seen?
To get Nigeria on the right footing has nothing to do with duplication of ministries or agencies. It has to do with the determination of the leader to do the right thing, appointing the right people to the right positions, irrespective of the tribe, religion or political affiliations. If the Ministry of Livestock Development was created to appease a certain section of the country in order to secure their votes in 2027, as being insinuated by some people, then it is very unfortunate. Former President Goodluck Jonathan built Almajiri schools as a political strategy. Did that make him win the election?
The president should discard this selfish idea if he has it at the back of his mind and focus on repositioning this country through good policies and exemplary leadership and he will naturally have the support of Nigerians during the next election. He should begin to fulfil all the promises he made to the citizens like the launching of about 2,700 Compressed Natural Gas, CNG-powered buses and tricycles before May 29, 2024, making our local refineries functional and many more.
Nigerians are skeptical that the new Ministry of Livestock Development is merely a political gimmick that will go the way of many other “political projects” in the past and that it is another way of compensating some party loyalists. Tinubu therefore has to prove the skeptics wrong by ensuring that only the right, qualified people are employed in the ministry. Square pegs must be put in square holes.
There should be a holistic look at the challenges facing the agriculture sector which is largely responsible for the food shortage the country is grappling with currently. The issue of insecurity must be handled headlong to enable farmers go back to their farms. Attention must also be paid to irrigation, provision of fertiliser at subsidised rates to ensure adequate food supply at all seasons. Whatever needs to be done to guarantee surplus food supply in the country should be done so that the people will have food to eat. Livestock is important but let us have food to eat first.
It is also important that the relevant agencies should embark on sensitisation and education of the populace on the functions and scope of the new ministry. The notion that livestock is all about cows and dairy production can be destructive and must be corrected. Every part of the country is involved in one form of livestock or another – piggery, goat rearing, fishery, snail rearing and many more. They should all be carried along.
In summary, the livestock industry is integral to economic development, providing essential contributions to employment, food security, industrial growth, and social well-being. Investing in and supporting this sector is crucial for fostering sustainable and inclusive economic growth. But it must be done in the proper manner and with sincerity of purpose.

Calista Ezeaku

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Opinion

Understanding What Marriage Is

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Marriage is a timeless institution that has been the foundation of human society for centuries. Yet, in today’s evolving world, its essence and significance are often misunderstood. As we navigate the complexities of love, commitment, and relationships, it is essential to revisit the true meaning of marriage and its enduring importance in our lives. At its core, marriage is a sacred union between two individuals, transcending mere romance or legal contract. It is a lifelong commitment to build a life together, fostering growth, trust and unconditional love. Marriage is a journey of mutual support, understanding, and compromise, where two souls become one.
Beyond the vows and ceremonies, marriage represents: Unwavering commitment: A promise to stand by each other through life’s triumphs and tribulations. Emotional intimacy: A deep understanding and acceptance of each other’s thoughts, feelings, and desires.Trust and loyalty: Unshakeable faith in each other’s words and actions. Shared values and goals: A united vision for a life built on common principles and aspirations. Family and legacy: The foundation of a family unit, creating a lasting impact on future generations. Personal growth: A catalyst for individual development, encouraging self-improvement and selflessness. Social and cultural significance: A celebration of love and unity, strengthening social bonds and community ties.
If I may ask, Do you understand a newly wedded man is called groom and the woman called bride? A friend of mine got tired of his wife just about six months after wedding. He complained bitterly to me about her and told me that he has concluded to break up with her; he went on to say that he was sure that he made a mistake. I did not respond immediately because I knew I must tell him the right thing, so I went home. And that is what birthed this message. Many men have broken up with their wives because they ended up not being the wife that they have dreamt of. They have forgotten that their wedding day was when the man was commissioned for the new task.
Nobody calls the woman wife on her wedding day but bride, because it is the man that will groom his bride to become the wife. That is why the man is called ‘bridegroom or groom’ and the word grooming has to do with patiently nurturing, teaching, tending and helping someone to become what he or she should be. It is therefore believed that a man that takes a woman to the altar of marriage is mature enough to patiently groom his bride to become the wife. The man is not supposed to just expect the bride to automatically become the wife, she must be groomed. It is clear that many of us men had unnecessary expectations when we were getting married.
Yes, we want some magic to happen to our wives, we want them to become what we have had in mind about who we want our wives to be; not considering the fact that the woman does not know what is in your mind except you teach her. Our expectations are often too unrealistic, because we do not remember that change takes time and we can only expect something from someone that knows what we want. So, before you think of breaking up, have you groomed her? Have you given her time to understand you? Hope you realise that a turtle will never become a hawk? God often brings people that are opposites of each other together in marriage so they can help each other in their place of weaknesses. If your wife is weak where you are weak, then where will you get the strength that is needed?
The problem with many of us is that we do not accept people before attempting to change them. Of course, our wives are not from our backgrounds, so it will take time for them to adjust. Stop trying to change her: accept her, love her, teach her and be patient with her; that is what grooming is all about. She is going to be your wife but she is your bride now, so groom her. Stop complaining about her, she may be a turtle and you a hawk, she cannot fly so be patient with her. I do not believe that your marriage can not work, be patient and allow God to help you. The term “groom” for a husband-to-be or a newlywed husband has its roots in history and tradition.
In the past, a “groom” referred to a servant or attendant responsible for taking care of horses. Over time, the term evolved to describe a man who was “grooming” himself for marriage, preparing to take on the responsibilities of a husband. In the 15th century, the term “groom” became synonymous with “bridegroom,” emphasising the man’s role in preparing for and supporting his bride. The word “groom” also connoted a sense of refinement, elegance, and polish, much like a well-groomed horse.Today, the term “groom” is a romantic and endearing way to refer to a husband or fiancé, symbolising his commitment to care for, support, and cherish his partner, much like a groom would tend to his horses.
So, in essence, a husband is called a groom because he is seen as the one who prepares himself to care for and support his bride, much like a groom would prepare and care for his horses. In a world where relationships are increasingly complex, remembering the true essence of marriage is crucial. By embracing its timeless values and principles, we can nurture stronger, more meaningful relationships, building a foundation for a lifetime of love, happiness, and fulfilment. Let us cherish and honour the sacred institution of marriage, recognising its profound impact on our lives and society. Marriage is not just a union between two individuals but a celebration of love, commitment, and the human spirit.

Sylvia ThankGod-Amadi

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