I guess you all know him: Audu Ogbeh. He is Nigeria’s minister of agriculture. By July 28 this year, he will be 72 years old. He is a septuagenarian, making him one of the lucky Nigerians that crossed the so-called 53 years life expectancy threshold. Besides, he has crossed the 70 years mark allotted to a man born of a woman according to the Bible. That makes him a damn lucky man. And he’s really lucky to be a Nigerian, a country where anything goes, a nation of ‘government magic’ (God bless your soul Fela Anikulapo Kuti).
Chief Ogbeh is also a very brilliant man, a gifted writer and good public speaker. And he is a farmer, aside being a politician. On that ground you cannot fault President Buhari for appointing him the minister in charge of agriculture.
Like I noted earlier, Pa Ogbeh is a lucky man. As far back as 1982, he was minister of communication. Then he transited to minister of Steel Development before the coup of 1983 hatched by Buhari and a few military officers shooed him out of office. He has somehow been a part of various governments at various capacities. One of such was his emergence as chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), a position he held from 2001 to 2005. Put simply, Audu Ogbeh was part of the looting fraternity which the incumbent APC has branded the PDP. As chairman of the PDP, he really must have participated actively in the alleged looting, delinquency and perfidy that hallmarked the legendary PDP 16 years of ‘lootocracy’. Once of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN), then of the PDP, he is now of the APC. That makes him a political wanderer; a rolling stone more like.
When he was chairman of the PDP, he was Obasanjo’s main ally. He attacked then Senate President Anyim Pius Anyim who was brawling with Obasanjo. Audo Ogbeh took over Obasanjo’s fight and feuded with Anyim. He called Anyim names in defence of Obasanjo. He even sued Anyim’s media adviser (this writer) claiming N500 million for defaming his character. Anyim also ran to court and sued Ogbeh for N1 billion for character assassination. Talk of a ding-dong. But the same Ogbeh who fought on the side of Obasanjo against Anyim was undone by Obasanjo in 2005. President Obasanjo was riled by Ogbeh impetuous letter criticizing his style of leadership. Obasanjo, notorious for writing letters, responded to Ogbeh’s one-page letter with a huge volume of a letter. He did not stop there. He forced Ogbeh to resign ignominiously. It was after his resignation that Pa Ogbeh got his head cleared. He became a critic and enemy of Obasanjo. That’s typical of Nigerian politicians. They are men without principles, value or mores. They are with you and for you for as long as their bread is buttered. They slip out of your bed when the milk stops flowing. And the milk will not always flow. All the while Pa Ogbeh was in the National Party of Nigeria and later PDP, he was not given to lies and lying. You could say he was a petulant if peevish politician but not a morbid liar or one steeped in the goopy valley of voodoo statistics. Never!
But he seems to be born-again now in a manner that shocks to the marrow. What happened to him? He has joined the choir of liars in the Buhari cabinet. He invents statistics and weird data to support his often nebulous claims. He is full of talking. He is now the chief reader of the proverbial Buhari body language. On several issues Pa Audu vacillates from mere fib to monstrous lie.
In the heat of the rage of the cattle against man, Ogbeh, an earlier proponent of ranching perhaps reading the legendary body language of President Buhari, an incurable apostle of cattle colony, switched from ranching to colony. Ogbeh insisted that establishment of cattle colonies was the solution to the herdsmen menace just because Buhari wanted colonies.
Let’s move forward. Recall that Pa Audu once claimed that Rice Mills in Thailand were shutting down because export to Nigeria had significantly declined or even non-existent. He even claimed that the Ambassador of Thailand was in his office to cry like a baby that Buhari government policy on local rice production has dealt a deadly blow to Thailand’s economy by pushing unemployment from 1.2 percent to four percent because Nigeria’s rice import has fallen by 95 percent. True or false?
Let’s hear from Thailand. Quickly, the Thailand Ambassador to Nigeria, Wattana Kunwongse, repudiated Ogbeh’s toxic lie. He described it as misleading and a distortion of the actual conversation between himself and our Uncle Audu. And you just wonder, when will these actors on the nation’s political stage stop lying? But why lie just to look good when the realities on ground say the contrary.
And lest we forget, it was the same Pa Audu whose spin on Nigerians importing pizza from UK via British Airways has remained on the Top 10 chart of spins in modern Nigeria. And while we’re wondering at what may have afflicted our uncle, he adds another. Just last week, he claimed that Nigeria now produces 90 percent of rice it consumes. This works out to every 10 bags of rice in the market, 9 are produced in Nigeria. Put differently, out of every 100 bags of rice in the market, 90 bags are produced in Nigeria. Chineke!
Pa Audu has reeled out diverse statistics in the past but this one swallows them all. I admit there is improvement in local rice production both in quality and quantity above what the previous governments did but to claim that 90 percent of locally consumed rice is produced in Nigeria is not only an assault on the sensibilities of Nigerians but a clear promotion of Satanism over Godliness. It is a lying wonder from the warped mind of an old political wanderer.
Yes, Nigeria is now producing rice but we have always done so. LAKE rice, a model collaborative effort between Lagos State and Kebbi State predates the Buhari government and by interpretation Ogbeh’s tenure as minister of agriculture. It is great what the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has done to boost rice production but it bears restating here that this production is yet to meet the three basic elements of Availability, Accessibility and Affordability. Locally-produced rice is not easily accessible. What jumps to your face in any foodstuff store is imported rice from Thailand and Brazil, not local rice. And even when you access it, it is still far more expensive than imported rice. This should bother Pa Audu: how to make locally-produced rice available, accessible and affordable. Deploying voodoo statistics to confuse Nigerians will not work. It offends. Lies, all lies, have but a short life span. Besides, why lie when Nigerians already know the truth from the glaring evidence on ground. Pa Audu should step up on the good work he is doing in local rice production but he should tone down the monstrosity of the lies he reels out. We don’t need that.