“You know, I know” was the reverberating effect that the unscheduled inspection of the Ibom Green House Technology facility along Airport Road, Uyo by the governor of Akwa Ibom State Pastor Umo Eno has created.

As a frontline supporter and spokesperson of the Peter Obi presidential campaign in Akwa Ibom State, I fell in love with his well documented plan for agriculture in Nigeria. In fact, Peter Obi described the vast lands in the North and other parts of Nigeria as a goldmine. I have continously argued that the food sufficiency programmes of the past governments in Nigeria were mere lip service and no deliberate policy to achieve impactful results for a nation or State that was serious to feed itself through agriculture.

The A.R.I.S.E Agenda of Umo Eno was again very loud on agriculture. One could have easily concluded that it was another wishy-washy food sufficiency programme that would just end in a document. But this seems not to be the case. A glimmer of hope could be seen in the detailed nature of the plan for agriculture. The acronym A.R.I.S.E that begins with the A standing for- Agricultural Revolution became an in dictation that it would not be business as usual.

In the brief interaction with critical managers in the agric sector of the state government, Umo Eno called for synergy and collaboration in achieving the goal of his administration in agriculture.

The big QUESTION is whether this is another grandstanding statement about the priority on agriculture. A deeper look into excerpts of his conversation will reveal the extent of the governor’s readiness to reposition the sector. Let’s go on this journey.

“For me, the government can set up, but the government would have to seek private partnership to run. If we set up a business, which we will keep doing, we must know when to pull off and allow it to run so that you can just come and supervise”

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The bane of government has always been the inability for the government to know when to quit from an investment it has made. Many economies the world over that have succeeded have been public-private – partnership ( PPP) driven. While government sets up in some cases, there is a clear plan about when to pull off and allow the system to run itself. Umo Eno understands this principle as an accomplished entrepreneur. The irony is that in Nigeria, officials of government hardly want the government to pull out since those ventures serve as cash cow or siphoning pipes for them. The government should play a supervisory role. For Umo Eno, YOU KNOW, I KNOW.

“As government, we have no business in business, but because of the terrain, we would now set it up and get private partnerships, then the government will supervise and make sure they run.”

The government has no business in business, which has become a universal cliché but no matter how many times it is repeated, it can not be overemphasised. Umo Eno has seen first hand how his business with the seed capital had grown into a group of companies, but the government, with its huge resources , has failed to grow most of its investments. It is from this business perspective that he sees the goldmine in the agricultural sector of the state. Government officials who want to do government business as government may have met a brick wall in the new governor. For Umo Eno, YOU KNOW, I KNOW

“If this was done privately, you can be sure they would have done something about it.”

With his finger demonstration signifying speed, one could tell that the governor knew that the pace of growth for that project, however noble it is, is not good enough. He knows that that project with the investment made if it was driven by the private sector, it would have expanded beyond what it is. So while the managers fan themselves of the harvest they have to show the governor, the man is rather envisioning a scale of tomato production that can feed the entire state and cut off supply from outside the state. For Umo Eno, YOU KNOW, I KNOW.

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“We can’t treat anything in isolation. Let us know all of what we have under your schedule in agric investment. You see, this issue of all of us holding our turf is over. We want to collaborate (together) to achieve one common goal. Whether it is agric investment, whether it is food sufficiency or agricultural, everybody will sit together . We need to break barriers. We need to come together because all of us are working for the same Akwa Ibom State Government to deliver benefits to the Akwa Ibom people. “

It is not the first time the governor has stated that he would critically evaluate the state of things under him before he signs off any projects. It is clear that for governor, Umo Eno, report must match current reality on the ground as he is even not in the habit of informing any ministry before he undertakes inspections. In fact, one word that may become very popular with this government will be UNSCHEDULED INSPECTION.

Inter government agencies’ collaboration is rare in Nigeria. Government agencies want to work in isolation. Any attempt at collaboration, many a time result is superiority contest and ego clash by heads. Umo Eno emphatically told those in the agric sector that under him, such will not exist. And made it clear he desires collaboration for the great goal to be achieved. For Umo Eno, YOU KNOW, I KNOW.

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“We have the list of farmers, I hope it is still working, I can punch the button, and everything is still intact. The farmers we will bring them together because we will disburse grant or loans to farmers directly to them. “

This day, I received a call from a colleague who asked me to bring one passport size photograph and my account number, that there is a farmers grant and fertilisers to be disbursed. I don’t ask me the state. And I responded that I am not a farmer. The person responded, “Forget that! They are giving it to their people. You, too, can collect and then sell off the fertilisers.” Such is the fraud that sometimes happens with very noble government policy. The governor knows that grants or loans paid directly to the farmers will impact more on the state economy. For Umo Eno, YOU KNOW, I KNOW.

“All the crops, let’s pull them out. We must reach all those farmers. Did you get their account numbers? We will talk to them local government by local government”

Umo Eno talks of food sufficiency in precise terms and details. He is aware that feeding the state is not about a single crop production but a wholistic audit and stock taking of what we can grow in commercial quantity. An appropriate stock taking of the real farmers, their strengths, and their reach will enhance agriculture. There are vast uncultivated fertile lands in Akwa Ibom State. Who knows if it is the time billionaires will be raised in the farming sector of Akwa Ibom State. Under Umo Eno. It may just be more profitable to go into commercial farming than any other venture. After all, people must feed. For Umo Eno, YOU KNOW, I KNOW.

In his closing words; “Now that by the grace of God I’m back. You know, I know.”

©Aniekan Udofia

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