By; CHIEF IFERE PAUL
Nigeria is booming with made in Nigeria rice. All supermarkets and popular shopping outlets are full with different brands of made in Nigeria rice.
Surprisingly, a visit to Next Cash ‘N’ Carry in Jabi, Abuja confirmed to me that Nigeria agricultural sector is booming. Different brands of home-grown rice stood on the shelves. Popular among them are Olam, Mama Africa, Ofada, LAKE and even Abakaliki rice were well packaged on top of the shelf.
I shifted from one shelf to the other, looking for Ayade Rice from Cross River State, or any brand from the rice city, and or the rice seedling factory in Calabar, but to no avail.
Curiously, my wife who was already tired and agitated, asked me what brand I was looking for. I answered that I was looking for Ayade Rice or anything packaged as rice from the rice city in Calabar. She immediately snatched the car keys and walked off, shouting behind her: “when you see your friend’s rice, please buy 10 bags and bring to the car.”
I smiled to myself as I gently pushed the cart to the brand of Olam Rice.
Sadly as it may seem, Cross River State has lost out of the rice boom and agricultural growth in that sector for obvious reasons:
1. Blurry-eyed Policies
2. Building Bigger Castles on Air
3. Not Following Through with Predecessors Templates.
1. Blurry-eyed Policies: Like the term Blurred vision, Blurry-eyed policies are policies which are not distinctive. They are not well defined. Not definite. Vaguely expressed. These are policy illustrations most policy analyst refers to as “the boat in the ocean mist”. “A contorted reality”. “A mirage”.
Governor Ben Ayade has built many of his gigantic policy framework on weaker skeletons. It is an African proverb that assures that “a structure with a weaker foundation cannot stand”. The idea to get it bigger and quick has forced Cross River State below and behind many of the States that were looking up to us to succeed.
Like Ebonyi, Lagos, Ogun, Taraba, Adamawa, Kebbi, Kogi, etc, Cross River State also enjoyed the rice anchor borrowers funding of 14 Billion Naira. Other than immediately disbursing the money to the people it was meant for, Governor Ben Ayade surreptitiously flaunted the “Rice City Concept”. Till date, no one can actually point to the Rice City to tell Cross Riverians how many bushels it has produced.
2. Building Bigger Castle on Air: The Calabar Rice City was borne out of the need to defraud and loot the CBN anchor borrowers funds. It is sad that today, the rice city has metamorphosed into the Cross River Rice Seedling Factory, away from the city of rice. How this transmutation took place can only be explained by Governor Ben Ayade himself. Sadly, it is the highly referenced CalaPharma warehouse that houses the Rice Seedlings Factory. Governor Ben Ayade and his penchant for white elephant projects through which the meagre resources of Cross River State can be siphoned is next to none.
Two days after commissioning the rice seedling factory, the State governor boasted that he has received a 2 Billion Naira rice seedling order from the Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria. Unfortunately, the executive secretary of Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria has discarded the idea that the association ordered rice seedlings from Cross River State.
What we have seen over the last three years is a governor that governs through lies and deception, fraudulent means and looting of the treasury through the building of bigger castle on the air. From the rice city to the rice seedlings factory and the rice mill in Ogoja, all are castles in the air, whose vision can never be achieved even if they are completed.
3. Not Following Through with Predecessors Templates: Another reason Cross River State has remained behind the rice revolution in the country is the inability of Governor Ben Ayade to follow through with his predecessors templates.
It is hilarious to want to create a rice city in Calabar rather than in the already existing Songhai Farms in Itigidi or the Bansara Rice Plain in Ogoja.
The Songhai Farms in Itigidi was fully operational by the time Governor Ben Ayade was sworn in as the governor of Cross River State. The Farm, an integrated units of different farming methods has lands contributed by Ediba, Itigidi, Anong, and Adadama people. Songhai Farms utilized the Adadama alluvium deposits from the yearly flooded plains of the Ediba River for rice cultivation. Even though the farm succeeded in other aspect of farming, like animal husbandry, mushrooming, fishery, etc, rice cultivation through its out growers programs helped the farm to sustain a clean slate from debts.
Any sane person from Cross River State knows that the Adadama, Ediba, and Anong flood plains are richer in alluvium for the cultivation of rice than where Governor Ben Ayade sited his rice city in Calabar.
From Ediba River to Obubra River, down to Ikom River, via Boki River and its Afi mountain tributaries, the whole of Obanliku and Obudu highlands discharges into the abakpa river and Kasina-ala river. It is these rivers that provides the Bansara basin the highest advantage for marshland farming.
The Bansara Farm offers Cross River State one of the best opportunities to be at the top chain and destination for rice production. Sadly, the Bansara Farm hasn’t function optimally since its establishment in 1985. Till date the Bansara Farms has one of the best parboiling-unit that was made-in-Germany by Messrs Schule, Hamburg. There is a fabricated mill that can mill over 10,000 bushels a day, there is also a state of the art de-stoning machine, rice polishers, sack machines, thread and other sealing equipments.
For any serious government that wants to join the rice revolution in Nigeria, the Bansara Rice Farms in Ogoja, and or the Songhai Farms in Itigidi should have been the first point of call.
For Governor Ben Ayade, following with through his predecessors templates will take away the award of contracts that brings kick-back into his family estate. We have lost out because Governor Ben Ayade deliberately considers himself the most read, and the most intelligent governor that Cross River State has ever produced. Truth is, he is not.
Governor Ben Ayade is one timid, wealth accumulating bigot. Whose personal and family interest comes first in any decision he has ever taken as a governor in Cross River State. He lacks the cognitive ability to translate his willful thinking to realistic edifices.
Cross River State has been reduced to nothing under the watch of “Professor Ben-I-Too-Know.”
The worst that has happened to Cross River State is the fact that Cross River State has a deputy governor that is a Professor of agriculture. His contribution to the development of the Ayade signature projects is nonexistent. How one of the best minds (Professor Ivara Esu), who started the transformation of the university of Calabar as a vice chancellor has been reduced to a pauper is shocking to Cross Riverians, home and abroad.
Going forward, Cross River State does no longer need the services of these professors and their retinue of appointees whose economic contributions to the State is cult killings, kidnapping, robbery, and other criminal activities.
Indeed, Cross River State cannot afford a second chance to these people.
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