AUDU OGBEH’S PIZZA TEARS BY TUNDE ASAJU

If you want solutions to any of Naija’s hydra-headed problems, ask not its political office holders. They are good at shedding crocodile ears but certainly short on solution bearing. These official towncriers would lament the state of things but not offer a tangible solution. A clear example is the recent outburst of Chief Audu Innocent Ogbeh on Nigerians who import pizzas from their cellphones.

As part of a change regime that’s almost ending its first term in office, Ogbeh’s government did not campaign on any tangible solution to the problems he alleged started in the 80s. For the last four years, they attribute their cluelessness to the sixteen-year regime of the locusts. Ogbeh was chairman of the PDP for four of those years but he’ll want it glossed over

So, when Ogbeh as agriculture minister had cause to appear before the sinnate to defend his ministry’s budget, he begged the question with a red herring. With that strategy, he did not have to answer questions and yet caught headlines as English tabloids latched on to his favourite English pizzas from London flown in via British Airways. English pizzerias are in business to make money. Britain has sustained its airways not be an air waste. In Naija, Ogbeh’s colleague, Hadi Sirika flies paper planes launched in London and designed in Dubai. Home-based eateries operate daily at a loss due to lack of sustainable environment to keep their ingredients fresh. Their locally sourced materials rot before it reaches their generator-powered refrigerators.

Ogbeh’s state, Benue, called the food basket of the nation, is a known producer of quality yam tubers. Not long ago, the minister informed global citizens that he was exporting yams to America. Government vuvuzelas shouted hurray. It was a hoax, Ogbeh did not carry out due diligence. The yams he purported to export to America did not reach the tables of Yankees in Trumpville.  Weeks after the announcement, Ogbeh glibly confessed that the yams his ministry packaged for export were of the lowest quality. He assured citizens that: “We will be investigating both the company that exported it and our quarantine department to check and find out why such a consignment left here.” That was in June 2017 and Ogbeh is yet to tell us the outcome of his investigation. It might feature in his handing over notes.

Yam exportation is not the only failure of the Ogbeh agriculture regime. Three years ago his ministry convinced the nation that ranching is the way to go. His non-Harvard non-Oxford trained experts convinced him that only Brazilian grass would keep Naija cows healthy. Ogbeh did not ask them if Brazilian grass could be grown on Naija soil for self-reliance and job creation. He sold importation of Brazilian grass!

Here’s why anyone with knowledge of contemporary issues would not take Ogbeh’s ‘patriotic vibes’ at the sinnate serious. A budget defense does not warrant the historical retrospection that Ogbeh latched on to. Most of those who voted in 2015 when the APC won the first term for Buhari were not born in 1982 when Ogbeh was minister of Steel Development. The steel complexes of that era have remained white elephant projects beyond Ogbeh’s term as PDP chairman. This London-pizza-hating minister has not conceived of organic pizzas for the London market. He should not be taken seriously.

What Ogbeh did at the sinnate was to throw off his interrogators. He was sure that a non-inquisitive bow-and-go sinnate would be bowled over by his fake rhetoric and that was what happened.

Naija budgets offer nothing new. Ancient subheads are rehashed without innovation and presented to an unquestioning legislature with eyes on their own cuts. I could bet that a thematic analysis of the agriculture budget under Ogbeh has not deviated from this format. I wait to be proved wrong – with facts!

Yes, it is shameful that we live in a country where imported is preferred above local, even if that imported has been exposed to Chernobyl or Fukushima radiation. In this setback, don’t blame the children; blame the teachers who taught the children. As a candidate Muhammadu Buhari was riding British Airways to see his doctor and his children in London with a promise to transform the dozen presidential jets he inherited into a profitable airline. He has failed to keep that and many promises.

The apple of Naija people’s ostentation does not fall far from the conduct tree of its ruiners. How many official government vehicles do Innoson motors manufacture? What percentage of Dangote Sugar is processed from organic Naija sugarcane? Our health minister’s tailor is a disgruntled medical doctor. With one doctor to 6,000 patients ratio and London attracting the few we have trained, our health minister advises the rest to go into farming and tailoring. Naija ministers don’t wear made in Aba shoes though Aba makes better shoes than Gucci.

At 72, Mr. Ogbeh has basically recycled himself through every regime since independence with little improvement in governance. He is now three-time minister, former deputy speaker and former party chairman. He has nothing on record done to stop the devaluation of the Naira or life and nothing revolutionary to improve on agriculture. He should stop making us the laughing stock of humanity with his reflections and henceforth stay away from governance.

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