BENUE AND EBONYI STATE ON FIRE:
The Need for 'Executive Presence'
There are 36 states and Federal Capital Territory (FCT), which make up the Federal republic of Nigeria as one of the independent countries of the world. Each state has adopted a distinctive slogan which distinguishes or which is presupposed to make it different from others; those slogans are what I can call state's ideological idiosyncrasies. The accessibility of 'Executive Presence' in any state to implement state policies that drive and synchronize with state's slogan, therefore, call for this article which uses Benue and Ebonyi state as a benchmark.
The Benue state government with population of over four million people and 23 Local Government Areas; is widely known for their slogan, "Food basket of the Nation." This may quickly register in the mind of anyone who hears the Benue Slogan that it is the Agricultural base of the Nation. But how true is it? And what is Executive Presence? Executive Presence simply means a democratic and functional government which understands the needs and wants of the people, a government that operates on policy of inclusiveness and shows a continuous concern for the well-being of its citizens without bias. The pick- and-drop nature of socio-political development and policy implementation has made Food Security in Nigeria and many African countries a daydream. About 30 years ago, I was born in Benue State, named 'Oduma' after an Idoma indigene of Benue State; though my parents are from Abakaliki in Ebonyi State, whose forefathers have lived in Benue for over 100 years ago with farming as their predominant occupation. Researches have shown that over 48% of the Benue population is from Ebonyi States, comprising majorly of Ezza and Izzi who had been peacefully living there dated 1912.
However, one would by now expect that agricultural products labeled "Made in Benue or Ebonyi State" respectively, would be rampant in most Nigerian, African and global markets. Yes! It is possible if only there can be Executive Presence in those States. Moreover, there are dearth of infrastructural development and social amenities like motorable roads, drinkable water, electricity, modern farm implements-tractors and preservation machines, lack of access to Information and Communications technology (ICT), lack of access to fertilizers, functional educational system, etc and above all, lack of political cohesion which has sent the states' compatriots to exile; while abandoning their states' slogans to a fate worse than death.
In Ebonyi state, the case is not different. "The Salt of the Nation" as it is often called, connotes that Ebonyi has a peculiar state's ideological idiosyncrasy, which if properly pursued can reposition the state especially the Abakaliki people to be the 'Salt of the Nation.' The Abakaliki people are naturally endowed with knowledge, extraordinary physical and inner strength as well as the ability to exercise patience, self-control and endurance. Reports have clearly shown that all over the world, it is from Ebonyi state precisely from Abakaliki (Ezza and Izzi) that one can find men and women who can challenge and even outperform a tractor in the farm. An average Ezza or Izzi man can work on the farm from morning till night non-stop, with a heavy hoe or cutlass. Another classical example can be seen in Lagos, where the absence of Executive Presence has forced the Ebonyi youths into untold hardship and exile on the major roads where the boys hawk petty goods on daily basis from morning till night, under the hot sun or under heavy rain; often times confronted with uncontrolled flood and life-snatching tsunami. A visit to West African Rubber Production (WARP) in Odogunyan Area of Ikorodu or United Nigerian Textile Plc popularly known as 'CAPA' will convince any 'doubting Thomas' to agree with me that over 70% of the workers in those companies are form Ebonyi-Abakaliki. There is what I can call modern-day slavery in most of the factories where our able men and women are compelled by their slave masters or what they often christen: 'supervisor, charge- hand, foreman, HOD, etc, to work beyond normal time or exceed their tolerance range and their elastic limits while living on meager salaries . The ministry of labour and productivity, the Nigerian Labour Congress and the Federal government should work out plans to install job security and confidence. But unfortunately, it is only few people especially in the field of criminology and security studies that understands the meaning of the word "security." My study and thorough research in Criminology gave me an in-depth knowledge of security as "an all-encompassing condition in which individual citizen lives in freedom, peace and safety, participate fully in the process governance, enjoy the protection of fundamental rights, have access to resources and basic necessities of life; and inhibit an environment which is not detrimental to their health and well-being."
Moreover , all eyes are now firmly fixed on President Goodluck Jonathan, who has emerged as the man of the people, elected by the people and for the people; to see if he and his vice would sit down, fold their alms and watch the life and future of millions of Nigerian youths and our generations unborn being placed on sloppy side of life-snatching pendulum or allow the youth to wallow in untold economic quagmire and continue to sing stanzas of 'woes and wanderings' from the hymn book of undeserved socio-economic conundrum. As a former University lecturer and administrator, the Nigerian populace believes that Mr. President understands the importance of good food and undiluted salt to the body as well as its consequences when absent in the body. Well, perhaps he has forgotten, here come a reminder. The resultant factor is anaemia and kwashiorkor; so also, his inability to do the will of the people who gave him their mandates will breed socio-political anaemia and kwashiorkor and massive economic quandary in the society. The yardstick which I have adopted to measure this outcry is to continue to air my views and grievances and to watch keenly and see if the Nigerian government will allow the Food Basket of the Nation to remain desolate and empty or allow the Salt of the Nation to lose its taste.
To sum it up, the Federal Government should hasten to make reparations to Benue and Ebonyi-Abakaliki, especially Ezza and Izzi people, by making deliberate efforts to enforce the homecoming of all their youths that poverty and educational backwardness have forced to migrate uncontrollably to various cities and unknown destinations. This can be achieved by Executive Presence and timely interventions from all stakeholders and succour from international community. The governments of Benue and Ebonyi should form economic alliance in order to foster socio-economic cohesion. Such governments' patronage shall be in the areas of improved agriculture, social amenities, education, ICT development, industrialization, micro-credit and many more. In fact, what every state needs to experience socio-economic boom is constant electricity and security! I want to live and be part of a system where Nigerian youths will see agriculture as a career of pride, a Nigeria that can feed her citizens and above all, where ulcer and cancer accrued from unreal prayers and fasting carried out by our youths to grab visas in order to travel overseas in search of green pastures will be healed and such energy and dedication be converted to building a Nigeria where economic virility, peace and justice shall reign in perpetuity. By so doing, our state's slogan will make meaning to us and even the international community.
Mathew Nwokwu is a student of Criminology and Security Studies, National Open University of Nigeria Lagos. NOU100053525 firstname.lastname@example.org 07039034002
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