Before We Begin Yam Export | Punch

These are curious times certainly; times wherein regular and irregular occurrences confound us to the extent that as they happen as quickly as they do, one is left with the feeling of loss. The consequence of this is that there is a tendency to be at sea with how to ascribe any prominence to these issues.

First on my list of those issues which have befuddled me is the non-recognition which certain juggernuts have ascribed to Yemi Osinbajo, as Acting President. I mean, if the provisions of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) are clear and powers have been transmitted accordingly, most Nigerians are at a loss why even members of the Federal Executive Council are still being coy with the status quo. President Muhammadu Buhari is down with an undisclosed illness and is in a London hospital. His being hospitalised establishes a burden over his ability to carry out the duties for which he had been elected, to wit, to preside over the dent of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Under that circumstance, we should pray for Mr. President to get well. While we pray, we must continue with our lives.

But the barometer in political circles in Abuja seems negatively tilted against Osinbajo’s actions as Acting President. Apart from the Senate putting pressure on him to sack Ibrahim Magu, as the Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, members of the Federal Executive Council, as a matter of fact, are issuing contrary directives and reportedly sneaking files to the President on his sick bed in the UK. This is sad. I remember a certain time when an American presidential candidate was asked why he was selecting a certain candidate to run the presidential race with him. The candidate said that the only reason why that candidate was preferred as running mate was not because that candidate was mostly qualified or that that candidate was from a certain tribe or tongue or constituency. Instead, the candidate was preferred because he was qualified to be president, and could step in as president if anything were to happen to him when he became president.

I do not know the extent to which this consideration was applied before Osinbajo was chosen as Vice President to President Buhari, but we all are living witnesses to the sense of direction the former sends us any time he speaks to the nation on behalf of Mr. President. In international fora, he makes nonsense of his somewhat diminutive stature by standing tall with a certain grace and swag most Nigerians want to see in their President. What then is wrong with that? Why are politicians fighting Osinbajo?

Now, to the yam export. About a decade ago while doing a story on the fear that there was toxic and dangerous garri in our markets, I found out that one of the reasons why the price of garri suddenly shot up then was that the Chinese were buying the cassava from local farmers. Nothing was wrong with that. What the snag was, was that the Chinese were not consuming “eba” from the garri or using it to take their beans but were processing it for use in pharmaceutical industries, using the starch in the cassava as a potent ingredient in the production of high-export materials. What most of us quarrel with is that a lot of the by-products from garri as raw materials are already back here as imports from China. And we pay dearly for those items.

At that same decade, results from a test conducted in China as well indicated that black people, especially Nigerians rarely came down with cancer, compared to the Asians, Europeans and Americans. What they found out was that yam carries a certain substance which kills carcinogenic matter. Therefore, what is really wrong with the export of yam is that we are treating it like our crude oil. When we “produce” the oil, we send it abroad as crude only for it to return as PMS, AGO, and kerosene. While we pay for these commodities at great costs to our national pocket, what has been discovered is that apart from PMS, AGO and kerosene, crude oil has many other allied by-products which we import as well. Our yam, like our crude oil, will soon make a detour back to Nigeria either as elubo-powder, chips or materials which we will pay dearly for. To this end therefore, I recommend that the Minister of Agriculture should look into commissioning research into what other chemical or industrial use yam has rather than just focussing on exporting it for mastication.

MajiriOghene Etemiku, Benin City, Edo State

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