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The Agriculture Revolution in Niger Delta: The Story of a Farming General

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The Agriculture Revolution in Niger Delta: The Story of a Farming General

By Paul Boroh

As an officer in the Army, I took to farming believing that is the future of the country and that on a personal level, I could better sustain my family.

Our lands are so fertile that I did not need much fertilizer; the inputs were minimal and the yields were much.

Our climate, by God’s grace is predictable; it rains when it should rain and the sun shines when it should; so why not take advantage of what nature has freely given us as Nigerians.

When in July 2015, His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari appointed me Special Adviser on Niger Delta and Coordinator of the Presidential Amnesty Programme, I had the primary responsibilities of streamlining the Programme and transforming it back on track, working for peace in the Niger Delta and sustainably reintegrating some 30,000 Amnesty beneficiaries back into society.

Although we have various integration programmes which include education, vocational training, professional training in Aviation and Maritime, automobile engineering, entrepreneurial training and tourism and hospitality; I had no doubt that the best way to integrate such a huge number of beneficiaries quickly and sustainably, is through aquaculture and agriculture.

However, I also realized that this requires a lot of planning and painstaking implementation; like other programmes, we had to conceptualize, plant, culture and water the ideas to the germination and harvest stages.

We approached a number of agencies and embassies especially the Israeli Embassy. We have also gone into partnership with various Agricultural bodies. But as a basic step, we had to get the beneficiaries interested so they can buy into the Programme.

In keying into the Federal Government’s Agriculture Initiative, we presented our ideas and the facts on the ground. The facts are that agriculture creates mass sustainable jobs and empowerment; advanced technology and high yield varieties ensure good harvest, and costs can be drastically reduced by building locally fabricated integrated feed mills which rely entirely on local products. Also, our country of over 180 million people is a huge market in itself and additionally, the ECOWAS (West African Region) provides a market that is more or less limitless.

On the national level, we know that in taking to agriculture, the country is moving towards food self- sufficiency and security.

I am happy at the level of enthusiasm for agriculture amongst Amnesty Beneficiaries and to harvest this, we had turned to the National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA) with an agreement to train an initial one thousand beneficiaries and youths at its Bio-Resource Centre in Odi, Bayelsa State.

Unfortunately, budget delays have not allowed us to take full advantage of this agency which uses technology and the principles of science to produce high yields in farming.

However, the Presidential Amnesty Office has trained and began to empower Amnesty Beneficiaries in crop farming, fishery and poultry.

As at June, 2017, 1,000 Amnesty beneficiaries across the nine Oil-Producing States are being trained in agriculture and will be empowered to establish their own farms. These include 105 Beneficiaries undergoing training in Agro-Business with the Songhai Rivers Initiative at the Songhai Farms, Rivers State, and 100 Beneficiaries training in fish farming under kabocastle Services at its Perecastle Fish Farm, Patani, Delta State.

Also, an average of 25 Beneficiaries each are being trained in fish farming in six centres including the Delta State University by Gedisco Energy solutions, Infinite Farms in Ozoro, Delta State and Orus Resources Farm, Aluu, Rivers State.

At the Institute of Oceanography, University of Calabar, Cross Rivers State, 96 Beneficiaries are undergoing training in fish farming. The Ma-Atari Farms, Port Harcourt are training some Amnesty Beneficiaries in agriculture and poultry farming, the Ogbebor Leadership Institute, Ologbo, Edo State is training some in rubber processing, TSC Services is training 24 in General Agri-Business at the Edo State College of Education, Iguoriakhi, Edo State while Eunirusk Investment is training 18 in Cassava, Corn and Oil Palm at the Federal University of Technology, Akure, Ondo State. Forty eight Amnesty beneficiaries are being trained in crop farming by the Faculty of Agriculture, Imo State University. The training in agriculture is designed as a full value chain ; from farming, production, processing, packaging, marketing to Agri-Business Management.

By our planning, each farm will require the services of at least four farmers. This has the prospect of creating 4,000 farm workers in the Region under this phase.

Also, some leaders of the Amnesty Beneficiaries have bought our argument that building houses is not sustainable as they have to be serviced and maintained, but in contrast, taking to agriculture is a money-yielding venture.

So many of them have bought into the agriculture revolution. One of them is into large scale rice farming in Bayelsa State while another which has taken to plantain cultivation, is emerging as the biggest farmer in Bomadi, Delta State.

It is not only the consciousness of the Amnesty Beneficiaries that need to be transformed but also that of the Niger Delta and country as a whole; oil is a wasting asset, it may dry up in the foreseeable future. In contrast what the future foresee is that agriculture would enrich us all. So let us start with the basic policy of eating only what we grow, and growing what we eat. Change should begin with each of us.

Brigadier General Paul Boroh (Rtd) is the Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta and Coordinator of the Presidential Amnesty Programme. A professional peace practitioner and now a farmer.

Dipo Olowookere is a journalist based in Nigeria that has passion for reporting business news stories. At his leisure time, he watches football and supports 3SC of Ibadan. Mr Olowookere can be reached via dipo.olowookere@businesspost.ng

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2023: SSENA And Atiku/Okowa’s Endorsement

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South-South Ethnic Nationalities Assembly SSENA

By Jerome-Mario Chijioke Utomi

The venue of the event was lavishly decorated with different cultural regalia to impress, and it did impress. The event, which commenced at about 11 am at a location in Warri, Delta State, saw all present culturally kitted in their numbers, men and women alike. They sat in such a manner that the gathering could be mistaken for a celebration of cultural fiesta. They wore ample smiles and listened to the various speakers with disciplined attention but said little, even as the banter was exchanged at intervals.

Interestingly, the gathering was by no means a cultural fiesta but a meeting of the members of the South-South Ethnic Nationalities Assembly (SSENA), which comprises various regional groups, community leaders, activists, traditional titleholders, stakeholders, religious leaders, captains of industries, students, and think tanks from across the South-south geopolitical zone of Nigeria.

They gathered for a world press conference to, among others, endorse Atiku Abubakar and Ifeanyi Okowa for President and Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as their vehicle for achieving this objective.

Of all that I heard/observed, two need to be highlighted. First and very fundamental, the gathering acknowledged what has been on the mind of Nigerians: politics is about personal interest.

The second and very strategic is that the virtues and attributes of members all through the world press conference essentially suggest that the forthcoming February 25 and March 11, 2023, general elections in the country may be greeted with an ideological shift.

It was observed that Nigerians might be excused to cast their votes not based on pecuniary consideration or gains arising from a candidate’s deep pocket.

Rather, it will be largely a function of interest anchored on past records of performance (scorecards/political history and antecedents) of the political parties and that of their members angling for elective positions on the platform of the party.

There are many facts to back the above assertion.

First, while addressing the press on the kernel of the meeting, the National Coordinator of SSENA, Chief Favour Izoukumor, stated that with the 2023 general elections just weeks away, the peculiar challenges and the interest of the region is once again on the front burner, and there is a need to make a critical appraisal of the political parties, candidates, their manifestos, antecedents, leadership, and track records, as it affects the growth and development of South-South region over the past 62 years since independence.

To further establish insight on what informed the choice of Atiku/Okowa as candidates and PDP as a party, Izoukumor explained that the federal government under the PDP led by President Olusegun Obasanjo, a former military Head of State, through to President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, provided extensive support to the South-South geo-political zone.

Presenting the scorecards of these past administrations and how the people of the South-South region benefited, Izoukumor pointed out that it was under the leadership of these great men (Obasanjo, Yar’Adua, and Jonathan) that the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) was created, 13% derivation fund was allocated to the oil-producing Niger Delta states, the Presidential Amnesty Program, the Niger Delta Ministry, the Nigerian Maritime University of Okerenkoko, the Federal Petroleum University, Effurun-Warri, the Federal University of Otuoke and many others were created.

These institutions and their policies were geared toward the development of the region. It is fair to say that the current peace and tranquillity in the Niger Delta is the product of the then-PDP-led federal government.

While the visitors, made up of journalists and other members of specialized groups, were trying to internalize, as well as compare notes as it affects the above claims, SSENA Coordinator again dished another set of reasons as to why the group is rooting for PDP as a party and Atiku/Okowa as their President and Vice Presidential candidates respectively.

He captures it this way; under the glaring performance of the then-PDP-led government, Nigeria regained its rightful place in the comity of nations as a leader of the African continent. The Universal Basic Education Programme (UBE) was established. PDP brought about astronomical growth of the Nigerian economy, with a 100% GDP growth from 3% to 6%; resuscitation of the national fertiliser companies in Kaduna and Onne (Rivers) as well as grew the excess crude oil account from a paltry sum of $2bn to $43bn, while managing to forge an $18bn debt relief deal with major creditor nations and groups, including the Paris Club.

The group furnished the media present with some examples. It reads; worthy of note is how the PDP considered the South-south region in the equation of Nigeria politics by making a minority ethnic nationality, Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, a Vice-President and subsequently President of Nigeria. It was the highest political office attained by a minority from the South-South and went ahead to make him the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Under Jonathan’s formidable economic team, Nigeria’s economy was rebased for the first time in a decade, leading to the country’s emergence as the largest economy in the continent after overtaking South Africa.

SSENA boasted that even as the nation braces up for the 2023 general election, the PDP has again demonstrated its ‘organicness’ and love for minority groups by picking Ifeanyi Okowa from Delta State as the Vice-Presidential candidate.

Okowa, according to SSENA, symbolizes a bridge between the South-South and South-East. His adoption by the party was borne out of his sterling performance as a governor of Delta State. His giant strides are evident across the land and are visible to the blind and audible to the deaf. His landmark achievements in Delta State are evident, particularly in riverine communities, where his carefully thought-out programs and policies have created wealth for Deltans.

Still, on why they have thrown their weight behind PDP, the Group again fired; The PDP is known for talent hunting, and they have done it again by picking Okowa in this coming election. Presently, we believe this is the best for the South-South. There is no major political party other than the PDP and its candidate, Atiku Abubakar, that has shown interest in the S/S and the Nigerian people, and with his charisma and willpower to pull Nigeria out of the quagmire of hopelessness and to rescue it for a better and greater nation.

Advancing other reasons that are Atiku-specific, SSENA said; It is pertinent to recall that under the PDP government (1999 – 2007), during which Atiku Abubakar served as Vice President and also as Chairman of the National Economic Council (NEC) (from 1999-2011), Nigeria recorded the highest economic growth in history. In 2002, Nigeria recorded the highest GDP growth rate of 15.33%.

The PDP government initiated the fight against corruption through the establishment of anti-corruption agencies such as the EFCC and the ICPC. Under the PDP, Nigeria witnessed private-sector telecommunications, banking, and pension administration reforms. The PDP-led government paid off the foreign debts inherited by the civilian government.

The chronicles of PDP achievements over those years cannot be written without His Excellency Atiku Abubakar getting a prominent mention, both for his tireless effort as a backbone of the reforms and as chairman of the National Economic Council (NEC).

The Group insisted that Atiku Abubakar’s wealth of experience in private and public sectors gives him an edge over all rival candidates in the 2023 elections. They stressed that he had created thousands of direct and indirect jobs for Nigerians in his home state of Adamawa and other parts of the country, noting that Atiku has already pledged a whopping sum of $10 billion to small and medium-sized businesses to create jobs that will solve the unemployment crisis we face if elected president.

“He, Atiku again, promised to restructure Nigeria if elected president. We must recall that the critical demands of the people of the Niger Delta over the decades of marginalization have been restructuring and resource control, as were the cases during both CONFABs convened by former Presidents Obasanjo and Jonathan. One of the demands of the people of the Niger Delta presented to the Nigerian government was to restructure Nigeria so that the people of the Niger Delta would benefit from their God-given natural resources. We are aware that of all the candidates and political parties, only PDP’s Atiku has categorically promised Nigerians restructuring and resource control. We believe this will bring peace and transform the Nigerian economy, as it would galvanize all regions to explore their options and available resources for growth and better citizens’ lives. For the aforementioned reasons, we, the South-South Ethnic Nationalities Assembly, hereby endorse Atiku/Okowa PDP 2023 presidential ticket to rescue Nigeria.

To conclude, the organizers argued that their present action has a place in Nigerian political history; We looked at some of the defunct regional political party’s vis-a-vis NCNC and NPC, led by Nnamdi Azikiwe, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa and Alhaji Ahmadu Bello respectively, whose programs, economic and administrative policies favoured the minorities of Edo and Delta provinces (Defunct Midwest region and later Bendel State) and by extension the whole Niger Delta region. We recall that the first Prime Minister of Nigeria, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, saw the creation of the Mid-West region and, subsequently, the mid-West state, despite the resentment of some members of the political class during that time.

In a similar vein in the 4th Republic, the federal government under the PDP provided extensive support to the South-South geo-political zone, he concluded.

As the author, I have nothing to add!

Utomi Jerome-Mario is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Policy) at the Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), Lagos. He can be reached via jeromeutomi@yahoo.com/08032725374

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February Elections: Nigerians Just Dey Play…

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Nigerians just dey play

By Prince Charles Dickson PhD

(‘A person is dead, but their spirit lives; if you poke the iris of their eye, they still come alive’)

Democracy has a dream-like character. It sweeps into the world, carried forward by an immense desire by humans to overcome the barriers of indignity and social suffering. When confronted by hunger or the death of their children, earlier communities might have reflexively blamed nature or divinity, and indeed those explanations remain with us today. But the ability of human beings to generate massive surpluses through social production, alongside the cruelty of the capitalist class to deny the vast majority of humankind access to that surplus, generates new kinds of ideas and new frustrations. This frustration, spurred by the awareness of plenty amidst a reality of deprivation, is the source of many movements for democracy.

Habits of colonial thought mislead many to assume that democracy originated in Europe, either in ancient Greece (which gives us the word ‘democracy’ from demos, ‘the people’, and kratos, ‘rule’) or through the emergence of a rights tradition, from the English Petition of Right in 1628 to the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen in 1789. But this is partly a retrospective fantasy of colonial Europe, which appropriated ancient Greece for itself, ignoring its strong connections to North Africa and the Middle East, and used its power to inflict intellectual inferiority on large parts of the world. In doing so, colonial Europe denied these important contributions to the history of democratic change. People’s often forgotten struggles to establish basic dignity against despicable hierarchies are as much the authors of democracy as those who preserved their aspirations in written texts still celebrated in our time.

The large mass demonstrations that laid at the heart of these struggles were built up through a range of political forces, including trade unions – a side of history that is often ignored.

In much of the world (as in Brazil, the Philippines, and South Africa), it was trade unions that fired the early shot against barbarism. The cry in the Philippines ‘Tama Na! Sobra Na! Welga Na!’ (‘We’ve had enough! Things have gone too far! It’s time to strike!’) moved from La Tondeña distillery workers in 1975 to protests in the streets against Ferdinand Marcos’ dictatorship, eventually culminating in the People Power Revolution of 1986.

In Brazil, industrial workers paralysed the country through actions in Santo André, São Bernardo do Campo, and São Caetano do Sul (industrial towns in greater São Paulo) from 1978 to 1981, led by Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (now Brazil’s president). These actions inspired the country’s workers and peasants, raising their confidence to resist the military junta, which collapsed as a result in 1985.

Fifty years ago, in January 1973, the workers of Durban, South Africa, struck for a pay rise, but also for their dignity. They woke at 3 am on 9 January and marched to a football stadium, where they chanted ‘Ufil’ umuntu, ufile usadikiza, wamthint’ esweni, esweni usadikiza’ (‘A person is dead, but their spirit lives; if you poke the iris of their eye, they still come alive’). These workers led the way against entrenched forms of domination that not only exploited them, but also oppressed the people as a whole. They stood up against harsh labour conditions and reminded South Africa’s apartheid government that they would not sit down again until class lines and colour lines were broken.

The strikes opened a new period of urban militancy that soon moved off the factory floors and into wider society. A year later, Sam Mhlongo, a medical doctor who had been imprisoned on Robben Island as a teenager, observed that ‘this strike, although settled, had a detonator effect’. The baton was passed to the children of Soweto in 1976.

The above ranting, for me, captures the frenzy in the lead-up to the Nigerian General Elections next month; whoever it is, one supports amongst the three musketeers; the fact is that not much will change because Nigerians still dey play… The Nigerian worker is at a crossroads, there is a potpourri, people who want to see real change. He is the one that will play a crucial role in the general elections by exercising his right to vote and selecting the candidate who they believe will represent their interests and address the issues affecting their daily life. It is also important for workers to actively participate in election campaigns and advocate for their rights to be recognized and addressed by elected officials.

Sadly, at the other corner, countless corrupt Nigerian workers are engaging in unethical or illegal practices, such as embezzlement, bribery, or nepotism, for personal gain. This behaviour undermines the integrity of the workplace and can harm the reputation of the organization and, in this case (the Nigerian state) and the individual. It can also negatively impact the economy and society as a whole. The government and private sector have a responsibility to take measures to prevent and address corruption among workers.

But we dey play, the POS Operator is charging 2K for 20K if you want the new currency, no matter who wins the next election, we will remain the same because Nigerians contribute to over 50% of their sufferings, like play we fundamentally exploit our crisis against the common man. The #endsars movement looked close, but it lost steam and lacked leadership, and as such, the powers that be had loopholes to exploit and truth be told, we don’t seem ready for a movement.

Listening to Hugh Masekela’s ‘Stimela’ (‘Coal Train’), the 1974 song of migrant workers travelling on the coal train to work ‘deep, deep, deep down in the belly of the earth’ to bring up wealth for apartheid capital. I thought of the Durban industrial workers with the sound of Masekela’s train whistle in my ear, remembering Mongane Wally Serote’s long poem, Third World Express, a tribute to the workers of southern Africa and their struggles to establish a humane society.

– it is that wind

It is that voice buzzing

It is whispering and whistling in the wires

Miles upon miles upon miles

On the wires in the wind

In the subway track

In the rolling road

In the not silent bush

It is the voice of the noise

Here it comes

The Third World Express

They must say, here we go again.

‘Here we go again’, Serote wrote, as if to say that new contradictions produce new moments for struggle. The end of one crushing order will not herald a new beginning if we are not ready. It was the workers who brought us this democracy, and it will be workers who will fight to establish a deeper democracy yet. Here we go again, if the February elections will change our play mode—Only time will tell.

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2023 Elections: How Young People Will Choose Nigeria’s Fate

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2023 General Elections

By Tom Gomez

As the February 25 general election approaches, it has been announced that nearly 10 million new voters have been registered, with 84% of them being under the age of 34.

It appears that many young voters are eager to have a say in Nigeria’s future as the country struggles with insecurity, high living costs, and increasing poverty.

The chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Mahmood Yakubu, has said that the 2023 general election is ultimately an election for the young people in Nigeria.

With a large and growing population of young people, Nigeria is one of the world’s largest and most dynamic democracies, and its young voters are poised to shape the country’s political future in ways that few other groups can.

The INEC has stated that there are currently 93.4 million registered voters in Nigeria, out of which 37 million are young people between the ages of 18 and 34. The most recent data from the INEC suggests that Nigeria’s young voters could end up with a large democratic advantage which could give them the final say on the outcome of the election.

Many of Nigeria’s young voters feel that they have been robbed of their future due to severe poverty, high unemployment and rising inflation which is limiting the opportunities for young people in Nigeria.

There are several reasons why Nigeria’s young voters are likely to have a big impact on the election outcome.

Firstly, they are more likely to vote than older generations as more is at stake for them. According to recent surveys, young people are more politically engaged and more likely to participate in the electoral process. This increased political engagement is driven by a desire for change and a belief that their vote will make a difference, especially considering the plight of socio-economic conditions in Nigeria.

Young voters in Nigeria are more likely to support progressive candidates and policies. They are more likely to support candidates who are committed to addressing issues such as youth unemployment, education, and health care. These are issues that are of critical importance to young people and that have not been adequately addressed by previous governments. As a result, young voters are likely to support candidates who are seen as having the best plans for addressing these issues.

Nigeria’s young voters are more likely to be influenced by digital media and social media. In a country where traditional media outlets are often seen as partisan and unreliable, young people are turning to digital platforms to get their news and information.

The impact of the #EndSARS movement against police brutality was a turning point, and social media is actively being used to effect change and hold politicians accountable.

Yet, political campaigns do not appear to be targeted towards this demographic, despite the fact that candidates are more likely to reach young voters through digital channels.

The key contenders for the elections are all over the age of 60 and are largely seen as unappealing, especially to new voters who want to enact real change. Last year, the Nigerian Youth Union (NYU) advised young Nigerians to reject any presidential candidate over the age of 60.

As we enter the final weeks of the presidential candidate’s political campaigns, it is imperative that voter mobilisation efforts target Nigeria’s young population.

Achieving at least 60% voter turnout is necessary to reverse the trend of declining electoral turnout. Inclusive political participation is fundamental to ensure that the election outcome accurately reflects the will of the people.

A high voter turnout in the next election is vital in order to ensure that Nigeria’s democracy remains vibrant, inclusive, and representative of the interests of its citizens.

By turning out in large numbers, Nigerian voters can send a powerful message that they are committed to shaping the future of their country and that they will not be deterred from exercising their democratic rights.

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