“Faith is a sounder guide than reason. Reaon can only go so far, but faith has no limits.” Blaise Pascal, French philosopher, 1623-1662.
“Faith is not belief without proof, but trust without reservation.” Elton Trueblood.
This second and final part of this series on Minister Audu Ogbeh is a testimony of faith in someone I don’t know very well but my brief encounter with him on the pages of newspapers and on television screens have convinced me about his integrity. So, the temporary setback on yam exports can only be attributed to human error. That, we will all collectively fix. By all, I mean well-meaning Nigerians who understand how vital to our survival diversification of our economy is. I know the Minister is extremely intelligent. Anybody who attended King’s College, KC, at a time when admission was on merit must be abundantly brainy. Somebody once defined leadership as a combination of integrity and intelligence. So, the man is a leader – even if in the wrong profession. Politics will make the devil out of an angel.
Still, Ogbeh become the fourth Federal Minister in whom I have had absolute faith. The other three were, oddly enough, Ministers under Babangida – Professor Olikoye Ransome-Kuti, Gen. Mamman Kontagora and Professor Bolaji Akinyemi. I strongly believe Nigeria will become a successful yam exporter before 2019 as long as Ogbeh is there – despite the early reversal. Why?
I once worked for a serial “failure” in the USA – Late Dr Edwin Land, the inventor of the POLAROID camera and the pioneer of instant photography. He flunked out of Harvard University because he insisted that it is possible to produce pictures instantly at a time when all the science professors worldwide said it was impossible. Annually, after POLAROID had become a Top 500 FORTUNE Company, Dr Land would tell the staff his story. It took him more than 400 attempts before producing a winner which made him temporarily the richest man in America. From 1971, I learnt that a calamity, such as the one which befell our yam export should not be a reason to abandon the project. If anything at all, it should spur us to make greater efforts to succeed. We have several reasons for optimism at the moment. Let us examine a few.
Yam is already being successfully exported from West Africa and Latin America to the USA. I ate yams from South America bought from the Tropical Market in Roxbury, Boston from 1964 to 1974. o, it can be done. The question is: what went wrong with our attempt?
The matter is technical but can be easily overcome. I know because, back in the late 1950s, we were sending yam from our house in Lagos to my eldest brother in Britain through an uncle working for Elder Dempstar Shipping Lines. The first batch sent arrived completely damaged and unfit for human consumption. The problem was solved by another Uncle, newly arrived in Lagos from Ogotun-Ekiti who lectured us on how yam was preserved in rural areas for months. Thereafter, all consignments of yams arrived Liverpool in good condition. There is no magic to it; neither does it require rocket science intelligence. It will be a pleasure to assist all prospective yam exporters.
Once the problem of product quality is solved Nigeria will in a very short time become the world’s largest exporter of the commodity. Ghana has very little land and manpower to stop Nigeria from climbing to the peak of exporters. All we need is the will and the belief in ourselves and the sort of leadership Ogbeh can provide. Already he is one of three Ministers in the current administration who are really performing. The other two are the Ministers of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi and Dr Kayode Fayemi. As the Ministers celebrate their send full year in office, the three Ministers provide the hope that all may not be lost after all.
All the Minister needs to do is to shrug off the ridicule; remember that others who have attempted great things have had to try several times in the past before their efforts were crowned with glory.