By Busuyi Mekusi
The British unification agenda in Nigeria that achieved the merger of the northern and southern protectorates has variously been referred to as a ‘marriage of convenience’, meant to consolidate the exploitations started with the ‘divide and rule’ that introduced Babel to the continent of Africa. Histories are also potent about the conscious skewing of political independence in Nigeria to favour the North that was said to be unprepared at the period of the quest for political independence, with the army firmly ‘ceded’ to the zone. The turbulent political engineering that followed the first republic in Nigeria has cemented suspicions and distrusts among citizens, with military coups and the civil war consummating the shreds in identity and citizenship. Nigeria, as a postcolony, has moved from politico-economic disillusionments to neocolonial stultification, encased, misleadingly, as globalisation and neoliberalism. Three scores after independence, Nigeria is still too economically disempowered and weak to negotiate globally.
The insecurity that bedeviled Nigeria has been ethnic-cast and profiled, with notable palpable voices like that of Governor El-Rufai accepting banditry as northern epidemic and internet scams as southern malady. However, the suspected politicisation of insecurity has given rise to different postulations, with so many of such responding to unscientific processes from a space that could be termed the ‘laboratory of rumour’, fueled by social-media-propelled fake news. Stomach infrastructure has become engraved in Nigeria political characterisation, with former Ekiti State Governor, Fayose, escalating to a manifesto of demented political orders in a economically galloping nation. The ‘politics of hunger’ or ‘war of the stomach’ is the most recent instrument used by a group of disenchanted northern farmers to protest the killings of some of their members across the country, especially in the South West.
The biblical tangle and bartering between Jacob and Esau that saw to the swapping of red pottage for birthright foregrounds the centrality of the ‘stomach’ to man’s earthly pursuits. Little wonder that the passage represented by the throat is a pathway to dying, because fishes and other animal preys’ vulnerability is achieved through food-baiting. In contemporary situations, virginity is lost, and resources get swindled, due to culinary enticements. Foods are, more or less, natural elements, with animals depending on eatable natural vegetations, including those planted by man, for survival. It is understandable then that the Bible believes there is food for every living thing, notwithstanding the possibility of cannibalism. More interestingly, what is waste in certain estimation is food to others, like the case of ants that feed on droppings from human’s foods, and lizards that relish on the pieces of feeds that fall off chicken’s feeding trough. After all, dogs eat from the droppings from the masters’ table. However, with increasing ecological and climatic challenges faced globally, freebies are increasingly shrinking!
The different geographical enclaves in Nigeria, significantly tallying with political bifurcations, are rich in arable soils to grow certain vegetations and peculiar crops. The southern part is largely a rain-forest that allows the plantation of food and cash crops, while the northern part is noted for aggressive vegetation and grain plantations, with large holdings in livestock. Northern farmers are not deterred by scarcity of rains, as they have mastered their weather conditions with the use of irrigation and fertilizer, very productively. They are far ahead of their southern counterparts who used to pride in cocoa and other cash crops, their stories becoming ‘farmer-born and peasant-bred’ like Niyi Osundare’s personae, whose stomach has become ‘a howling dump for Carolina rice’. States in the Middle belt, like Benue, Plateau and Nasarawa, are seen as the food-basket of the nation, with non-abating insecurity seen as huge threat to food security in Nigeria. Beyond political corporation, the current quest by Nigeria to be self-sustaining in food production has led to partnership between Lagos and Kebbi States coming up with LAKE Rice. Evidently, the subsistence nature of farming in southern Nigeria leaves the citizens as consumers of huge chunks of farm products from the north. New Agro-preneurs are trying to reverse this trend with the remarkable growing of tomatoes, cucumber, and watermelon in the south.
The Nigeria civil war was said to have been won by food blockade to the Eastern-Biafra seceding part, with huge nutritional and humanitarian crises. With this, the recently announced withdrawal of services by the Amalgamated Union of Food and Cattle Dealers of Nigeria (AFUCDN) to protest the killing of its members, and blockade of food items to South West Nigeria by a northern group, are clear reminders that wars are not merely fought with guns and ammunition. The implications of the Civil War and ‘war of food’ are enshrined in J.P. Clerk-Bekederemo’s ‘The Casualties’, in relation to kwashiorkor and multiple culpabilities. We are all casualties as old profitable diversity is now a burden, vitiating the strength inherent in it. The Jebba’s new unofficial ‘national border’ was meant to hurt stomachs, as it reminds us of wives’ revolt, in form of strikes by sex workers. That this blockade was contemplated subsequent to the pillaging of farms by horrendous herders from the Middle Belt down South could be seen as a calculated attempt to inflict the weapon of hunger.
Expectedly, trade wars go with economic wastes and collateral damages. Trade sanctions are strong political strategy to get at opponents as part of protecting national interests and international consensus to achieve peace. The foregoing has seen America placing trade embargo dating to 1947 on Soviet Union, and first on People’s Republic of China in 1949, and recently on Chinese government officials in response to the Uyghur genocide and human rights violations in Hong Kong and Tibet. Therefore, the reported wasted perishable products arising from the blockade showed that the intended socio-economic cum political hurts would be felt more by farmers who could not secure all-ready-made markets as those established long ago down-south, leading to clogging. The Dangote tomatoe factory and another in Kaduna should have absorbed the perishing tomatoes with processed tomatoes pastes to show for local consumption and export, if not for the ‘Nigeria factor’. The showcasing and disappearance of ‘products’ from Arigidi Tomatoes Company by the government of Mimiko in Ondo State, regrettably signpost governmental deceptions.
There is the urgent need to heal the gluttony of the ‘hungry south’, as the war of hunger is a dangerous one to contemplate in the face of the daunting challenges thrown up by weak naira, unstable salary payment and poor health infrastructure. It is on record that about 70% of the tomatoes eaten in Ondo State are grown locally, with growers who also plant cucumber increasing by the day, to sustain the revolution. Experience has also shown that watermelon grows and fruits, unplanted, on dumpsites in the south. Simply put, almost everything grown up-north could be grown in the south, with other familiar vegetations, fruits and crops, and food war should not scare southerners if marauding herders would not continue to deliberately ravage their farms. Therefore, those fabricating the ‘politics of hunger’ should find out from Attahiru Jega whether eradication of hunger would be one of his manifestoes, if it is true that he is contemplating running for the presidential seat in 2023, having mastered the intrigues of Orubebe and his ilk!
A creative solution like irrigation needs to be sought for dry-season farming in the south, to optimize productivity, even as lean goat-meat is popularised to replace red cow-meat that helps perpetuate malignancy. Livestock farming should be expanded by the governors in the south, using the DAWN template, with goat abattoirs established as part of the value-chain to create employments for the teaming youths. Cow rearing is not Fulani’s exclusive preserve, as we grew up knowing bulls in our communities. Modernisation of farming must be pursued, with ranching replacing the present free-range grazing. Agricultural revolution is the war we need to fight now. Just as Miyetti Allah wants products withdrawn, their menacing members must return to their new ‘homes’. Nigeria continues the deception of multi-ethnic nation, with elites agreeing to share national cakes, and commoners divided over limited opportunities. The ‘divide and rule’ by the political class must stop, before the impending eclipse. Happy Birthday to Daddy Adeboye!