Don’t give up! This phrase has become the mantra of motivational speakers, spoken regularly to millions the world over. Many at their wits end have found life in it.
If there is anyone who has become a living example of this message, it is none other than the retired General, Muhammad Buhari.
Buhari was presidential aspirant on the platform of ANPP. Polling 19% of votes, he lost to PDP’s Umar Musa Yar’Adua.
Buhari contested the same number one position as flag bearer for CPC. He lost to PDP’s Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, the incumbent Nigerian president.
Again, Buhari is listed as one of the the key aspirants contesting for the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential ticket.
Buhari started contesting for the presidency when he was 61 years old. At 72 years of age, 11 years and 3 tries later, he is still running – for the same position.
The question that lingers in the minds of many Nigerians is: ‘why?’ Why is Buhari running for the same position over and over again? Does this reveal a quest for ultimate power by any means? Did he forget something in the State House? Is he suffering withdrawal symptoms?
Recall however that this same man has led the country as Military Head of State (Dec 1983 – Aug 1985). Prior to that had served as Military Governor for the North-East, Federal Commissioner for Petroleum and Chairman NNPC and Chairman PTF. Buhari is not new to Federal power! Been there, done that, with a much talked about record of integrity.
From the foregoing, it seems unlikely that the retired General is power-craving.
So is he bored? Or does he still feel shortchanged, having been sacked barely two years into his sojourn as Head of State in 1985?
Is there something the retired General knows that we do not? Does he hold the magic wand to the peculiar art of governance in Nigeria, ready to wave it on being voted in?
On assuming power via a military coup on the last day of December 1983, his speech commenced with what could be considered a mandate: “In pursuance of the primary objective of saving our great nation from total collapse…” He referenced Nigeria’s dwindling economy, national insecurity, legislative largesse, financial indiscipline, economic mismanagement, and a corrupt, inept and insensitive leadership. Is today’s Buhari driven by the same urgent call of duty to ‘intervene’ and save the nation from imminent collapse? An analysis of Nigeria today reveals a country unchanged from 1983. Politics is still a life or death game, legislative largesse goes without saying, financial indiscipline is still rife, corruption has escalated to sophisticated dimensions.
Is Buhari joining the race, again, because he thinks he has the capability and experience to fix Nigeria? What did he fix 1983 – 85?
The reality of that first stint in the presidency, thirty years ago, is worth exploring. It was tainted by public perception of his initiatives as being extreme and authoritarian. His ‘War Against Indiscipline’ (WAI) program, though noble in its intent, was brutish in experience. Nigerians were forced by whip-brandishing soldiers to queue up at bus stops; tardy civil servants were subjected to ‘frog jump’ punishment, and press freedom restricted.
In a bid to grow the economy, import bans were put in place, causing a rise in commodity prices, ultimately resulting in inflation.
Subsequently however, his stint as chairman of the Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF) between March 1995 and May 1999 demonstrated a level of prudence, and strength in financial management.
The general perception is that Buhari managed the excess oil revenue fund with transparency and efficiency, successfully executing projects nationwide, regardless of the impression that they may have been skewed towards the Northern region.
It ultimately remains unclear what exactly underpins General Buhari’s determination to return to power, what fuels his passion for dusting himself off again and again.
Why is Buhari running… again? Perhaps the weeks ahead will make that clear beyond doubt…
“In the next 10 years, Nigeria will be the largest producer of cocoa in the world”.
This was the prediction of African agriculture experts from Conservation Alliance in April 2012.
Cocoa has witnessed tremendous growth in production and demand over aeons. According to the World Cocoa Foundation, there has been a 3% annual increase in demand for the past 100 years. Being the key ingredient in the production of chocolate, this continuous growth in cocoa demand is in tandem with the budding demand for chocolate.
Annual global consumption is estimated at 2.8 million tons with the key consumers comprising Europe, Brazil and the US, while annual cocoa production is estimated to be in the range of 3 million tons, with 70% of this sourced from West African countries. The World Cocoa Foundation further predicts a 3% yearly growth in global demand for cocoa.
The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in 2010, ranked Nigeria as the 4th largest producer of cocoa in the world, with a 2010 output of 0.4 million tonnes. Apart from crude oil, cocoa is the highest foreign exchange earner in Nigeria. There are 14 states endowed with the appropriate climate to grow the crop, namely Abia, Adamawa, Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Delta, Edo, Ekiti, Kogi, Kwara, Ogun, Ondo, Osun, Oyo and Taraba, employing over 5 million people nationwide. Southwest Nigeria accounts for 70% of the country’s cocoa production. Majority of the product (>90%) is exported annually.
National cocoa production and export value has grown over the years by an average of 40% year on year, and a cumulative of 280% from $215m in 2006 to $822m in 2010 according to the National Export Promotion Council (NEPC). The agricultural industry, specific to crop production, contributed 27% to 2010 GDP and grew to 34.5% as at 1Q 2012. Crude oil, the major driver of GDP, constituted 43% of GDP (2010). Judging from these statistics, it is clear that the Nigerian government, both at Federal and State levels, has no need of a crystal ball to foretell where national wealth should be created and harnessed. The agricultural sector holds such strong potential for job creation and mass employment.
With an available market and fair economic potential, cocoa expansion should be central to the economic master plan of these Nigerian states. Majority of the producing farmers in Nigeria are said to run small-scale operations, via family farms. Cocoa is a delicate crop especially in its tender years, requiring much care and shelter from the sun and wind. How do these farmers expand their production without well structured, low-cost financial support? Favourable environments must be created for lenders to invest, thus providing customer-friendly, long term financial products to support expansive cocoa production. These products should target all sectors of the production chain – upstream farmers, mid, downstream transporters, marketers, shippers and processers.
Downstream, opportunities remain to be exploited. Chocolate, a cocoa-centric product, is heavily imported into Nigeria from Europe and the US. This is ironic for the obvious reason – cocoa is grown in Nigeria, packaged and exported for processing into chocolate and other by-products, which in turn are imported to Nigeria. Yet, according to Fairtrade Foundation, the downstream sector currently earns 17% share of a chocolate bar value, while processing factories earn the majority 70% share. The residual share is accruable to the upstream producing farms. As such, cocoa producing states must begin to lure the private sector to invest in cocoa processing firms within their regions. The challenges of power supply and security notwithstanding, innovative means must be explored to incentivise such in-country investments. Manufacturing firms will always require skilled and unskilled labour, ultimately driving employment rates up. Corporate taxes on the other hand will boost the states’ fiscal position.
The old Western Region holds a historical example in this regard. Under the leadership of Chief Obafemi Awolowo, cocoa was the mainstay of the regional economy with resultant visible infrastructural developments. The establishments of Cocoa House (the first skyscraper in tropical Africa), Western Nigeria Television (the first television station in Africa), Liberty Stadium, and the introduction of free primary education, were all based on cocoa proceeds.
Indeed, there is a cocoa alternative which Nigerian states, through their public and private sectors need to aggressively embrace and exploit. The next three years will tell.