A Yam-a-Yam–a story

By MajiriOghene Etemiku

These are curious times certainly. These are times wherein regular and irregular occurrences confound, bewilder and astound 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 political juggernauts have ascribed to Mr. Acting President, Prof 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. Our president is ill with an undisclosed illness and is in a hospital abroad. His unfortunate illness and his being hospitalized establishes a burden over his ability to carry out the duties for which he has been elected, to wit, to preside over the dent of the Federal Republic 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 Mr. Acting President’s actions as acting president. Apart from the Senate putting pressure on him to sack Ibrahim Magu, members of the Federal Executive Council as a matter of fact, are issuing contrary directives and sneaking files to 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 as vice presidential candidate was not because that candidate was mostly qualified or that that candidate was from a certain tribe or tongue or constituency. He said that that candidate was preferred because he is qualified to be president, and could step in as president if anything were to happen to the presidential candidate when he becomes president. And even today in civilized and uncivilized circles around the world, that is the leitmotif that governs the choice of a Vice President.

I do not know the extent to which this consideration was applied before Vice President Yemi Osinbajo was chosen as Vice President to President Buhari, but we all are living witnesses to the sense of direction Mr. Acting President sends us anytime he speaks to the nation on behalf of Mr. President. In the comity of nations, 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 Prof Yemi Osinbajo?

And then the other stories that made the rounds included the arrest of billionaire kidnapper Evans, the shooting of an EFCC operative, the rampaging Fulani herdsmen and the exporting our yams to Europe. I decided to stay away from the Evans story because of the twists and turns in the story. We learnt that like the Badoo cult group which has sponsors with appetites of vampires, Evans allegedly has highly placed people as godfathers. Reports that he had been previously arrested but a single phone call effected his release are rife. I had considered the shooting of the EFCC official as topic for today’s discussion but may be dwelling on it another day.

Now let’s talk about 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 k-leg 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 come 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, really wrong with the exporting 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 material which we will pay dearly for. To this end therefore, I recommend that the Honourable Minister should look into commissioning research into what other chemical or industrial use yam has rather than just focusing on exporting it for mastication.

@DsighRobert

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