Browsing: Prof. M.K. Othman

Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina is a man of so many outstanding parts – an academic, banker, investment and development expert, diplomat, visionary leader, technocrat, mentor, team player/builder/leader, boardroom guru, political economist par excellence, agricultural expert, farmers’ minister, an icon of corporate world, a private sector mover, the African development icon, the African development czar, a sage tearing away from the crowd and a potential Novel Peace Prize Winner.

As mentioned in the first part of this piece, the 2006 Africa Fertilizer Summit in Abuja was a turning point for African agriculture. The Summit’s impetus birthed the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). As the first Vice President of AGRA, Adesina led one of the boldest and most considerable global efforts and finance initiatives that leveraged over $4 billion in Bank finance commitments to Africa’s agriculture sector.

Tenaciously in leadership style with a head high, Adesina is a replica of Indian Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhi used a non-violent strategy to achieve free independence for his native country, India; Adesina was mobilizing human, financial, and other resources to feed Africa. Indefatigability in human salvation, Adesina is a replica of his mentor, Dr. Norman Borlaug, of blessed memory, a prestigious American scientist who covered a distance of 9,859 km to Asia and fathered the Asian Green Revolution, thereby saving millions of souls from ravaging and liquidating hunger in the late 1960s. Adesina has been tenaciously using his talent, position, and connection to empower smallholder farmers to multiply their food production for Africa and beyond.

With head high, the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) continues to celebrate its judicial but false victory over the FGN-ASUU case, which the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN) judged in September 2022 and May 2023. Part of the Court’s overall judgment is “Call off the strike; the government is legally right to implement the no-work-no-pay policy.” This phrase has made FGN celebrate the clipping of the ASUU’s wing, the bunch of “trouble makers” who have become “clogs” in the wheel of university progress as they always demanded more funding for university education in Nigeria. They were defeated, their ego was shattered, and some of them paid supreme price, and the rest are leaking and still nursing their wounds. They dare not go on industrial action again and are coerced to “teach” their students for the peanuts they get as salary. Any striking worker will face the wrath of the “no-work-no-pay” policy, and the union will be “legally” dealt with. This victory made the FGN refuse to implement the 23% salary increase the government offered the workers during its industrial action. Even the so-called 40% salary increment across the salaries of Federal workers paid at the beginning of this year, the university workers were excluded. The society nodded its agreement with government action by remaining silent and thinking that the ASUU agitation for more funding was unnecessary. When ASUU suspended its strike action, FGN stayed quiet and pretended to have resolved all contending issues.

Is ECOWAS ready to go to war with our closest ally (Niger Republic) to protect “democracy”? Is ECOWAS prepared to face the armed forces of Mali, Guinea, Burkina Faso, and Niger Republic backed and trained by Russia’s Wagner? The military governments in Mali and Burkina Faso warned of an armed intervention in Niger and will counter with force. Guinea also sided with the putschist leaders. Can we ignore the angle of widespread arms in the region in the hands of miscreants, which the war will promote? We know that in many parts of West Africa, armed groups are swarming like ants on sugar, pulled by a mixture of weak states, bleak economic prospects, burgeoning populations, a punishing climate, and bad and irresponsible governance. Can we worsen the situation by igniting a disastrous war in the region? After Niger, Nigeria may be the primary target for destruction, and then Ghana and other countries. No, it is not worth maintaining the kind of liberal democracy we have in place. Based on living conditions, social amenities, and corruption, some people cannot distinguish between liberal democracy and military dictatorship. The lack of difference between the two types of governance is why ECOWAS is losing the support of its citizenry to take military action against the Junta in Niger. Nigerians unite against military action in Niger due to its tremendous regional catastrophe. Despite the ECOWAS resolution backed by the AU and the UN, many Nigerians oppose military intervention in the neighboring country. The Islamic clerics who met with Mr. Tinubu, last week volunteered to mediate in the crisis due to their opposition to war and the close ethnic and religious ties between Nigeria and Niger.

I must continue to beat the drum of peace as heinous fire is threatening my neighborhood, Niger republic. The Nigeria-Niger border has seven states – Kebbi, Sokoto, Zamfara, Katsina, Jigawa, Yobe, and Borno covering a distance of 1,608 km. Firing one shot in Niger will massively inject colossal wave of refugees into these states and escalate gigantic fire arms and ammunitions in the hands of non-state actors for nefarious activities. Is the restoration of President Mohamed Bazoum to power worth igniting the calamitous action of war in the West African Sub-region? Whose interest is ECOWAS trying to protect?

Coup d’état is a bad omen to any country, no matter the situation. It means the destiny of a nation and its people is placed squarely in the hands of regimented armed personalities who more often than not, suspend the nation’s constitution and severe the democratic structure with alacrity. They do and undo, make and unmake as they please without qualms. To hell with everybody, the leader of the coup is a kind of “supreme being” who barks orders with the maxim of “obey before complain”. Just like armed robbers, before the coup plotters get involved, they must stake all they have including their lives, and be ready to pay the supreme price in case of failure.

The industrial action of ASUU and other university-based unions mechanically ended in October 2022 but ineffectively lingers on to date, no thanks to the judicial technicality that muddled the FGN-ASUU conflict into a “winner-loser” solution. After this imposed solution, the FGN, as the “winner” of the imbroglio is not only refusing to give listening ears to the unions but pretending that all is well on our university campuses. The unions as “losers” keep appealing to the government to come back to the negotiation table for an amicable and permanent settlement of the imbroglio while the larger society pretends to be indifferent. FGN seems to be busy with other pressing issues and could not spare time for discussion with the unions.

Last week, I commended President Bola Ahmed Tinubu for declaring a state of emergency on food security and for being the only President who had gone the extra mile to demonstrate his seriousness in tackling the monster of hunger. It is the hope and expectation of Nigerians that President Tinubu walks his talk to avoid the catastrophic consequences of food insecurity. I must also commend President Tinubu for answering the call I made two years ago in my column of 9th June 2021. I said “Nigeria must declare a state of emergency in Agriculture; the government at various levels (Fed, State, and LGA) must invest heavily in agriculture, if possible, through legislation to galvanize agricultural revolution through the use of improved technologies, equipment, and expertise”. Now the first part has been done and the second part is the complement of the “state of emergency”. What are the challenges and the way forward to achieving food security in Nigeria?

Two weeks ago, the Federal Government of Nigeria declared a state of emergency on food security. The declaration of emergency is the best policy pronouncement of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu (BAT) since the assumption into office about two months ago. If this declaration was done with a similar pronouncement of emergency on education and security before the withdrawal of fuel subsidy, it would have set the ball rolling at an exponential speed. It would have been an excellent starting and hopes would have been rekindled, desperation would have been dampened. Nevertheless, we must commend the responsiveness and sensitivity of BAT to the yearning of Nigerians. So far, BAT is the only President who has made such a pronouncement on food security, which is the most essential security to life. Death by hunger is more devastating and traumatic than death by a bullet as hunger takes days of pain and suffering before the body succumbs to the final breath while a bullet takes life in a matter of seconds. Thus, a bullet may be a preferable way to end it all than hunger. We must remember, food insecurity is the mastermind of all other insecurities; banditry, corruption, insurgence, kidnapping, and robbery.