There are clear indications that all is not well with the Imo State Chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC). Indeed, recent utterances from its leaders and major stakeholders equally lend credence to the fact that the party is currently battling to stay afloat, sustain its achievements, as well as achieve steady growth, development, and progress. Be that as it may, the fight for relevance between Governor Hope Uzodinma, and his predecessor, Senator Rochas Okorocha, has so far done more harm than good to the party in the state, just as it has become a cause for concern to party members cum loyalists. Worsening the scenario is the fact that the party is still yet to regain consciousness from the recent leadership crisis, which is still rocking it. With the stronghold of opposition parties in the state, especially the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA), the party has a lot of grounds to cover to remain relevant. At the moment, there are still a number of court cases seeking to establish the authentic/legally recognised leadership of the party in the state. Currently, the two claimants to the leadership of the party in the state are Mr. Marcellinus Nlemigbo, and Mr. Daniel Nwafor. The Nlemigbo-led faction, which has Uzodinma backing is a child of necessity, which was engineered by the then Adams Oshiomhole-led national leadership, to function as the caretaker committee of the party pending an election for new executives. The Nwafor camp, which has Okorocha’s backing, functioned as the elected executive of the party has emerged from the July 2018 congress. But Oshiomhole’s decision to “replace” them with a caretaker committee initiated the ongoing crisis. Nlemigbo’s emergence then, according to Oshiomhole, was to enable the party to address internal issues that bedeviled it prior to the governorship primaries in 2019. The move by Oshiomhole was challenged by the Nwafor-led faction at an FCT High Court, Abuja in suit No FCT/HC/BW/CV/103/2018. The ruling here went in their favour. The court in its judgment insisted that the Nwofor-led party executive should be allowed to complete its tenure as the legally recognised leadership of the party in the state, and issued a perpetual injunction to any further action from the party’s hierarchy. But that was not to be as the Mai Mala Buni-led National Caretaker Committee (NEC), which replaced the Oshiomhole-led committee recognised the Nlemigbo camp as the authentic leadership, and even extended its tenure as the state’s party executive. Expectedly, this development did not go down well with the Nwafor-led group, which has, on many occasions, and through several means reminded the Buni-led party’s national leadership of its existence, as affirmed by the Abuja court judgment. Hence in a December 22, 2020, dated letter addressed to Buni by Nwafor, he appealed to him to accord him the recognition as the authentic chairman of the party in the state in the interest of peace, stability, and progress of APC in the state. Nwafor insisted that the continued existence/recognition of Nlemigbo group was not only an aberration, but null and void in the eyes of the law, and should be treated as illegality. “Sir, I urge you to humbly recognise the Court of Appeal Judgment that has once again reaffirmed us as the legitimate executives of Imo State APC, and find ways to work out with us to heal this our party in Imo State and move it forward,” the letter read, adding: “You know that your recognition of Prince Marcellinus Nlemigbo as the caretaker committee chairman in Imo State in the eyes of the law is null and void and of no effect now because it is even subjudice since you have filed an appeal at the Supreme Court against the November 9, 2020, Appeal Court judgment. “We reaffirm that we are the duly congress- elected and court reaffirmed legitimate executives of Imo State APC, and we do not intend to abandon our office till July 2022. “Nigerians are watching. I urge you to find the courage to do the right thing, Your Excellency.” While this letter was still on the table of Buni and in the face of all that transpired during the selection of the party’s candidate for the Okigwe Zone senatorial by-election, which is still in contention, Okorocha, who is currently representing Imo West at the Senate declared that the party was in the throes of death. A statement by his media aide, Sam Onwuemeodo accused Uzodinma of de-marketing and destroying the party in the state. Okorocha insisted that since Uzodinma assumed office over a year ago, he has not done anything to solidify, or consolidate the party, instead, he has aggravated the existing leadership crisis in the party. The former governor, who was, no doubt, the arrowhead in the formation of the party in the state, made his position known while commenting on his absence at the APC southeast zonal stakeholders meeting, which held in the state recently. The statement read: “How many people did you see at the meeting? How many House of Reps members were there? Did you see Senator Rochas Okorocha, Senator Ifeanyi Araraume, Senator Orji Uzor Kalu, and other leaders of the party there? “It is almost one year since Hope Uzodinma became governor and he has not called any APC leadership meeting in Imo State. At the appropriate time, we will separate truth from falsehood. That meeting was a political jamboree. “All those who brought APC to South East were not there and you called it APC stakeholders meeting. We challenge them to bring the 2015 and 2019 booth results. Okorocha produced senators, House of Reps’ members and House of Assembly members for the APC.” Governor Uzodinma, who reacted through his Senior Special Assistant on Print Media, Modestus Nwamkpa, described Okorocha’s claims as one coming from a “sinking man.” He said that it was obvious that Okorocha has lost interest in APC and “should therefore quietly leave the party instead of feeding the public with falsehoods and making bogus claims.” Nwamkpa said, “Okorocha was only angry that on Uzodinma’s watch, the APC had gained ground in the South East, a situation which saw the defection of the Ebonyi State Governor, Dave Umahi, to the party. “Throughout Okorocha’s reign as governor, he never called any APC stakeholders’ meeting, but Governor Hope Uzodinma, in less than one year has been strengthening APC in the state, and in the entire region. “I am aware that Okorocha wants to leave the APC, and his plan is to destroy the party before he joins another party. But we will not let him have his way,” Uzodinma said. Speaking on the survival of APC in Imo State and beyond, the former publicity secretary of the party in the state, Jones Onwuasoanya, accused the party’s national leadership (as currently constituted) of not abiding by the law and constitution guiding the party. Onwuasoanya said: “The APC is its problem. Until the party reviews its strategies on crisis management and resolution, there would hardly be any reprieve insight for her as an organization. In fact, I will not be completely surprised if we wake up in the nearest future to hear that the party no longer exists. “An organisation that does not abide by its own laws has lost every right to continue to exist as a legitimate organisation, and the APC as presently constituted is a contraption of illegality.” Speaking specifically on Imo APC, he said, “what happened was that a set of people invested energy, money, their names, and integrity into building a party from nothing, and when it was time for those people to be rewarded, some hawks sat down in Abuja and sold off the party to complete outsiders. Of course, because they were either the highest bidders or they held up the best of promises in helping to actualise the agenda of those who sold the party to them. “The consequence is that if you go down to the grassroots in Imo State today, there is nothing like APC. You could see something like Camp Hope, but that’s mostly a group of hawks, looking for what to eat, rather than serious politicians who understand what it means to play politics or to win elections. “So, we have a situation in our hands, where it is impossible for the APC as a political party to win even a councillorship seat anywhere in Imo State, because even the governor whom the party structure had been sold to, is not even a member of APC. His claim to the membership of the APC is as false as any claim can be. “It is a party you could wake up one morning and hear that the court has nullified every action taken by anyone currently parading himself as an officer. This will throw everything into chaos; this will also affect those who may have won nominations on the party’s platform. So, why would I invest or advise anyone to invest his resources in a party that has lost both moral and legal rationale to continue to exist?” Onwuasoanya concluded. The Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state, Ogu Bundu Nwadike said that the current Imo APC, which according to him does not have any structure across all levels in the state, “only exists in the imagination of only a few thoroughly confused stomach infrastructure politicians in Imo State.” In a recent statement, the Imo PDP Spokesman said: “Apparently, what’s paraded today as ‘Imo APC’ must be anything but certainly not an identifiable chapter of the APC in Nigeria. “The structure-less situation of Imo APC has protracted and lingered for over three years, when in 2018, things fell apart in the party, following a failed attempt by the party to conduct party congresses. “Till date, things are no longer at ease in Imo APC. At a stage, there were at least six active factions in the party, with each faction bent on making the party ungovernable. “Now, the point in focus is that the time has come for members of the public to correctly read, interpret, and decode the handwriting on the wall. And what it’s all saying is: “Imo people beware of APC! “How can a true party operate in a state for months and years without structures in the critical areas of wards and local government areas? It only means, in principle that the APC doesn’t exist in real terms in Imo State. The party exists only in Douglas House, where Senator Hope Uzodimma with his Camp Hope loyalists and apologists and sycophantic aides and agents are gathered to orchestrate and perpetuate the alleged unlawful looting of the commonwealth of Imo State and Imo people.” Nwadike continued, “Recall that a faction of the Imo APC once accused Uzodimma of not being of the APC. Events since thereafter have continually proved it right and correct that APC isn’t in charge in Imo State. There’s rather a strange sole trader, one-man show going on in Imo State. And that sole trader in Douglas House is Senator Hope Uzodimma. “It’s pertinent to remind members of the public that during the 2019 general elections, APC lost the presidential election in Imo State. And APC didn’t win any seat in the Imo State House of Assembly, the National Assembly. Ultimately, the APC lost woefully as it finished a distant fourth on the table. “The reason for that poor performance and failure in the 2019 election was obviously because the party had no structures at the wards and local government levels.” But for the Director-General, Imo APC Media Centre, Cajetan Duke, claim that the APC was gradually going under in the state was unfounded. According to him, on the contrary, the party has instead recorded steady progress, adding that before the coming into power of Governor Uzodinma, and the emergence of the Nlemigbo-led caretaker committee, the party was almost in a state of confusion and abandonment. Duke described the formation and inauguration of a caretaker committee to pilot the affairs of the party in the state as very strategic and symbolic in all ramifications, noting that the second coming of Nlemigbo leadership team, demonstrates the commitment of stakeholders to rebuild and reposition the state chapter for effective leadership and internal democratic culture. He added: “It is also a reward for good work. There is no gainsaying the fact that Prince Nlemigbo and his team deserve commendation and accolades for their unequalled commitment and unmatched political dexterity in piloting the affairs of the party in the state, from a very disadvantaged position to the dawn of prosperity.” Duke alleged that the emergence of the Nlemigbo-led caretaker panel was occasioned by Okorocha’s inordinate desire to lord himself over the party against the interest of the majority of the party leaders in the state. “For every informed political observer in Imo State nay Nigeria, the All Progressives Congress, Imo State Chapter prior to the build-up to the 2019 general election was a relic of misfortune following the high-handedness and selfishness of the former governor Rochas Okorocha who, to the exclusion of relevant stakeholders, perfected his inordinate ambition to use the party as a mere platform to actualise his dream of a political dynasty in Imo State, through the ill-conceived governorship project of his erstwhile chief-of-staff and son-in-law, Uche Nwosu. “Completely dissatisfied with the almost draconian and despotic leadership deposition of Owelle Okorocha and his provocative adoption of his son-in-law as his preferred choice of successor, without regards to the sentiments of the greater majority of stakeholders across the board, there was a relentless, fierce, and ruthless opposition against Okorocha by prominent leaders and stakeholders of the party, who mobilised themselves, irrespective of their individual political interests, to rescue the party and the state from a power-drunk despot. “By the end of that political warfare that began with ward congresses, through the state congress held in July 2018, things had already fallen apart with the Imo State Chapter of the APC. While the war was still raging, the gubernatorial primaries of the party broke the camel’s back. By the time the dust generated by the volcanic governorship primary election settled down, the stark reality prevailed on Governor Okorocha that the coalition forces within the party had dispossesed him of his much-touted control of the party, with the emergence of Uzodimma as the flag bearer of the party. “Not prepared to give up, Owelle Rochas while retaining the Imo West Senatorial nomination of APC, moved his political family, including, but not limited to all government appointees, local government administrators, councilors, members of his now-defunct community government council, Imo Security Guard, Imo Community Watch, etc into a rickety and obsolete political vehicle called the Action Alliance (AA), for the pursuit of his son-in-law ill-fated governorship ambition. “This scenario, no doubt, created an unimaginable political confusion within the rank and file of our political membership across the state. Not satisfied with the unbecoming conduct of the then governor, which violated every relevant provision of the party’s constitution, the national leadership of the party, in its wisdom, and in the exercise of its constitutional responsibilities, dissolved all wards, LGAs, and state leadership of the party, with the appointment of a state caretaker committee led by an astute, and experienced political administrator, Prince Marcillinus Nlemigbo, to superintend the affairs of the party ahead of the general election pending the conduct of the next congress,” he submitted. Duke also explained that on the assumption of office, Nlemigbo and his team met an obviously dispirited and demoralised membership, amongst other negative imprints occasioned by the perceived anti-people policies and programmes of the Okorocha-led administration. Since the assumption of office by Governor Uzodinma on January 15, 2020, “there is no gainsaying the fact that the Imo APC caretaker committee has continued to play a critical role in the mobilisation of the goodwill of relevant stakeholders in particular, and Imolites in general through strategic government/party partnership.” He added: “It is important to state that as a serving political party that appreciates its social contract with the people, the Nlemigbo-led caretaker committee has continued to engage and interact with the people on various government policies and programmes. “While the party does not intend to interfere with the day-to-day activities of government, as a responsible political organisation that respects the trust and confidence of the people, it has taken several measures to ward off sponsored anti-government media campaigns, policy misconception, and bridge any communication gap between the government and the people.” Amidst all these staccato narratives concerning Imo State APC, the glaring point is that the party needs a guardian angel to salvage it from its current state. x

A Maize Farm [PHOTO CREDIT: AgroNewsNigeria]

Nigeria is producing 10 times more maize yearly now than it did at independence in 1960, data from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) shows.

But despite now being the second largest producer of the commodity in Africa, farmers are worried that cheaper maize imported from other African countries will crash the price in the country’s market and also limit their share of the larger African market.

The USDA data also shows that Nigeria’s yearly national production figure doubled between 1999 when the country returned to democracy and 2019, and that the figures in the last five years are the highest ever.

This streak of high production between 2014 and 2019 has taken Nigeria to the second spot among maize producers in Africa.

Continental leaders South Africa averaged 12.9 million metric tonnes (mmt) per year within the said years when Nigeria’s yearly average was 10.8 mmt.

Nigeria’s production figures rose from 10.1 mmt in 2014 to 10.6mmt in 2015 and 11.6 mmt in 2016.

In 2017, the figure fell to 10.4 mmt but leapt in 2018 to 11.0 mmt, a figure maintained in 2019.

In the five years under the Buhari administration, average yearly production stood at 10.8 mmt. Under the preceding administrations of presidents Olusegun Obasanjo, Musa Yar’Adua and Goodluck Jonathan, the yearly averages were 5.5 mmt, 7.3 mmt and 9.0 mmt respectively, indicating that the progress has been consistent in the last 20 years.

Production of the commodity in Africa’s most populous country, where it is a staple food, jumped from 914,000 tonnes in 1960 to 11.0 million metric tonnes in 2019, growing at an average annual rate of 6.70 per cent, the data shows.

The National President, Maize Growers, Processors and Marketers Association of Nigeria (MAGPMAN), Uche Edwin, attributed the recent increase to investment in agriculture by the Buhari administration through the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme (ABP).

“Just for 2020 alone, the ABP has been able to empower over 150,000 farmers in advancing loans, inputs and cash to farmers,” Mr Edwin said. “It has helped in advancing technology and mechanisation with a view to support smallholders’ farmers.”

Mr Edwin, however, said Nigeria needs to aim higher in maize production, going forward.

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“We expect more investment in agriculture and with such investment we don’t expect anything less than higher produce, increase in maize production, in order to bridge the gap in both industrial and local consumption.”

Anchor Borrowers Programme

In November 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari launched the ABP to boost agricultural production and reverse Nigeria’s negative balance of payments on food.

Farmers captured under this programme include those cultivating cereals (rice, maize, wheat etc.) cotton, roots and tubers, sugarcane, tree crops, legumes, tomato and livestock.

Loans are disbursed to the beneficiary farmers through Deposit Money Banks (DMBs), Development Finance Institutions (DFIs) and Microfinance Banks (MFBs), which the programme recognises as Participating Financial Institutions (PFIs).

According to the guidelines of the programme, upon harvest, the farmer repays their loans by taking their harvest to an ‘anchors’ who pay the cash equivalent to the farmer’s account.

Before the initiation of the ABP programme, Nigeria produced between seven and eight million metric tonnes of maize yearly, Mr Edwin said. He said the ABP has almost raised the figure to 12 mmt.

Data corroborates Mr Edwin’s claim. Between 2006 and 2013, yearly maize production in Nigeria averaged 7.8mmt. But following the introduction of the ABP initiative, production rose to 10.1 mmt in 2014 and 10.6 mmt in 2015.

“By the end of 2021, we are looking at making about 20-21 million metric tonnes,” he added.

ABP got its takeoff grant from the N220 billion Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Development Fund (MSMEDF). Under the programme, farmers get loans at nine per cent interest rate and pay back based on the gestation period of their commodities.

Border closure, reopening — good and bad?

In August 2019, the Nigerian government closed its land borders to curb the influx of smuggled goods from neighbouring countries such as Benin, Niger and Cameroon, and as well boost local food production. The controversial measure came three months after Nigeria signed the African Continental Free Trade Area (ACFTA) Agreement, which aims to create a continental borderless market.

However, President Buhari last December approved reopened four of the major land borders. This came ahead of the takeoff of AfCFTA on the first day of this year.

But Cletus Aneke, the chief executive officer of Green Gold Intercontinental Synergy, a food processing firm, said the reopening of the land borders has indirectly affected maize farmers.

He said farmers had purchased inputs at high cost believing they had exclusive access to the Nigerian market due the border closure.

“But that won’t be the case for them with the reopening of the borders,” he said.

“In previous years, we sold a bag of Nigerian maize during November between N5000 and N7000, depending on the location.

“But this year, during the October and November period, a 100kg of maize went for as high as N12,000 per bag, as against the old price of N6,000 and N6,500,” he said. This was caused by the lockdown of the economy over Covid-19.

He said reopening of the borders will allow traders to bring in cheaper maize to the country, and crash the market. He lamented that farmers would be forced to sell cheap after producing with very expensive inputs.

“A lot of maize farmers felt demoralised when the borders were reopened because they had cultivated with a high cost of inputs and they were confident that they would sell, knowing the borders were closed. But now that the borders are opened, it has negative implications for farmers,” Mr Aneke said.

Insufficiency despite higher production

But despite the high production in recent years, Nigeria has not met domestic and industrial demands.

Experts attributed the shortfall to the border closure, ban on forex for maize importation and lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Nigeria’s maize importation

Data obtained from USDA and analysed by PREMIUM TIMES shows that Nigeria imported its second-largest volume of maize in a decade in 2019, maintaining the same level it recorded the previous year, despite calls by farmers for a restriction on the importation of the cereal.

The analysis shows that Nigeria imported 400,000 tonnes of maize in 2019, as it did in 2018, which is the second-highest volume imported by the country since 2009.

A day after a report by this newspaper on the development, the CBN on July 14 announced a ban on maize importation in an effort to boost local production.

As of January 2021, the index shows that Nigeria is the 40th largest importer of maize in the world, while South Africa is not on the list.

Mr Edwin said Nigeria still import maize because the country’s current production status cannot meet the industrial demands.

However, he said with the huge support maize farmers are getting from the federal government through the CBN, the gap would be bridged in no distant time.

In the bid to mitigate the effect of maize scarcity on the country’s livestock value chains, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) granted approval to four agro-processing companies to import 262,000 tonnes of maize and corn.

Staple Food

According to a report by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), maize is the most important cereal crop in sub-Saharan Africa and an important staple food for more than 1.2 billion people in the region and Latin America.

It said more than 300 million Africans depend on maize as the main staple food since all parts of the crop can be used for food and non-food products.

The report noted that maize accounts for 30−50 per cent of low-income household expenditure in Africa, while over 30 per cent of the caloric intake of people in sub‐Saharan Africa comes from maize.

“For these reasons, several African countries that depend on maize as a staple food crop, have adopted agricultural policies to maintain a steady supply of the commodity through increased production and productivity of the crop,” the IITA report read.

Mr Aneke attributed the current increase in the prices of maize to the high cost of production due to the significant increase in the prices of essential inputs such as seeds, fertilizers and labour.

He said people all over Nigeria are beginning to see the potential of agriculture and crop production and that with or without the ABP initiative, many individuals are financing people who are into crop production.

He said local production would have been much higher “if we did not experience the issues of the global warming, the rain shortage, the pandemic and the rise in the cost of inputs.”

Nigeria in Africa

In 2015, Nigeria was Africa’s largest producer but it was overthrown by South Africa in 2016 and remains second to date.

According to the IITA report, maize production in Africa was around 75 million tonnes in 2018, representing 7.5 per cent of world maize production.

The report stated that maize occupies approximately 24 per cent of farmland in Africa, while the average yield stagnates at around two tonnes per hectare per year.

Africa still imports about 28 per cent of its required maize grain as most of the maize production in the continent is done under rain-fed conditions. Irregular rainfall can trigger shortages and famines during occasional droughts, the IITA report noted.

Getting value out of the maize chain

The maize value chain is a very viable one in Nigeria, but ignorance among maize farmers remains a major challenge, a professor of soil chemistry at the Federal University of Agriculture Abeokuta, who is also a maize farmer, Jamiu Azeez, said.

“Our farmers are not adopting the use of hybrid seeds. Most often than not, what they plant are the maize grains that are meant for consumption, or meant for the industries or used as animal feeds,” he said. “They (farmers) just go to a local market to buy maize grain instead of buying hybrid seeds.”

He said farmers should go for certified seeds, hybrid seeds or certified “open pollinated seeds”.

“If you’re producing maize, it needs Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium (NPK. We need to do ‘initial soil test’ in order to determine the state of the soil before planting. If you know the initial status, then you would know what to give as regards fertiliser application,” he added.

“Be ready to give the maize supplemental irrigation if rain doesn’t fall and follow the normal agronomic practices, apply fertiliser at two weeks, six weeks. If there are insect attacks, then apply insecticide. Then you are guaranteed of bountiful yield,” Mr Azeez said.

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