We had naively thought they were long-distance runners. That it would be the last straw to break our back. We were glad we erred!
For close to a week, they attempted to hold us to ransom. They practically went for the jugular and held tight to it.
There was no pretence about their evil intentions. Clearly, the northern food traders, aka Amalgamated Union of Foodstuff and Cattle Dealers of Nigeria (AUFCDN), wanted us dead.
Starvation was the weapon. What its “military” wing, the killer herdsmen, are doing with guns, the traders are complementing with starvation.
They physically declared war on the South with their aborted food blockade. It was ill-conceived and poorly executed. How dare you, using perishable farm produce as a blockade tool?
The strategy was unwise. It was put together with great panic. From the outset, the blockade planned to be blocked. And it was. We did not need a prophet to say it, it was given.
AUFCDN’s chairman, Mr. Mohammed Tahir, tried hard to convince us: “The embargo is to express our grievances against attacks on our members during the #EndSARS protests and Shasha Market crisis in Ibadan, Oyo State.”
When the tables turned against them, they hurriedly abandoned the unprofitable project. It was with little or no prompting. And Tahir’s false claim: “Instead of reprisal (attack), the only civil way to make our voices heard was to cut the supply of food and that has worked.”
You lied big time. You hugely goofed. It failed woefully. It never worked for you. But it worked wonders for us. Your failed food blockade did you in, it stripped you. You lost the embargo war completely.
The northern traders did not yield to any appeal by the usual “well-meaning and prominent Nigerians.” Never! That is make-believe. They just gave themselves a soft-landing, all by themselves. The traders couldn’t just find a viable alternative. The southern market is damn too profitable and lucrative to be ignored. And they did so at their own peril. They almost ended in perdition.
They were losing billions of naira.
Samplers: A pitiable farmer, Musa Tijani, lamented: “Most of the perishable foodstuffs have spoiled because even the countries that we are moving the goods to have the items.
“When we get there, they won’t buy most of the foodstuffs till we will just dash them or dump them there. We need to stop this blockage and see ourselves as one. There is no difference among Igbo, Hausa, Yoruba and Fulani, if our leaders can unite us.”
They could not find buyers anywhere. Their tales of woe spread like a wildfire. In Kaduna, a “waste bin” basket of tomatoes crashed from N8,000 to a mere N150.
The story was the same in Gun-Dutse, Kano State. A bag of onions went down to N7,000 from N35,000. Here, farmers were even more than desperate. Unconfirmed reports claimed they unsuccessfully attempted to use the airport to move their produce down South.
In Garatu, Minna, Niger State, N45,000 worth of Kwarai yam tubers nosedived to N18,000. A bag of Irish potatoes in Barkin Ladi, Anpam West, Jos, Plateau State, was offered for N9,000 instead of N17,000.
They even tried their luck in other countries. That too collapsed in their faces. They lost more millions in the process.
The situation report frightened them. And they gave up. They couldn’t afford further losses. They were caged. They blinked first. The blockade had to be aborted. And they gloriously lost the war!
Before then, they wanted to display the “hard stuff” they were made of. One of their spokespersons, Awwalu Aliyu, had vowed: “We prefer to lose those farm items than to continue losing our lives.
“If you are alive, you can plant another thing, you can rear another cattle. But if you’re dead, you can’t do that again. Only the living can go to the farm.”
The South gave it back to them in good measure. They were paid back in their own coin. With uncommon determination, the South swore never to beg the northern traders to lift the blockade.
Unknown to them, the southern state governments were not taking the threat with levity. They were already looking inward, shifting attention from the hostile North.
Akin Olotu, senior special assistant, Agriculture and Agric Business, Ondo State, said: “We won’t appeal to them to bring the food to the South. It is a welcome development, it would spur our people to embrace agriculture more, particularly at the family level.
“We are not relenting here. It is a matter of months, our tomatoes and pepper would start coming out for harvest. We are working on onions too. Very soon, we will begin to grow our own onions. The only appeal we can make to them is for them to leave our forests and stop destroying our farms.”
Even more than that, we have reliable allies in the Middle Belt. One such is the Jukun Development Association of Nigeria (JDAN). It opted to align with the South. And for good reasons.
The Jukun, spread across the Middle Belt states of Taraba, Benue, Nasarawa, Plateau and Gombe, are also found in parts of north-west Cameroon.
JDAN was adamant. It refused to be dragged into AUFCDN’s battle for survival. They saw differently with the northern traders. It urged farmers and other tribes in the Middle Belt to intensify supply of all kinds of foodstuffs to the South.
Said its national president, Chief Bako Benjamin: “They may have genuine grievances for their action. The method adopted through punitive and systematic starvation of the southern part of the country is too extreme and dangerous for a united Nigeria.”
Messages of this failed blockade must not be lost. The declaration of war was against the entire South. And the entire South needs a drastic but collective re-awakening. There is no luxury of time for excuses. The North is not at all relenting. And they won’t relent now, they only beat a wise retreat. Their plans are still very much alive, biding their time.
The failed blockade actually exposed them. They first sent killer herdsmen after us. They destroyed, raped, maimed, kidnapped and killed us.
They successfully scared our farmers off their farms. Then they applied the food embargo. The sole intention was to starve the whole South. It was a declaration of war. And blockade was the weapon. That was very unkind of them. But it failed. Now we have to re-negotiate our terms. Since we are buyers, we need to really take charge. We pay and must dictate the tune. We ought to be the senior partner.
If they don’t feel comfortable with our conditions, they can as well bring back their blockade. We are at home with that. Let’s see who would blink first the second time.
The failed blockade was an expose of the defunct “one” North. This anonymous post drives this home further. It distinctly rails on them:
“The first error is the position of Kwara (State) in the geo-politics of Nigeria. When it is convenient, Kwara is regarded as belonging to the South. And when expediency calls, Kwara belongs to the North.
“However, the blockade epicentre is Jebba (the northern side of River Niger falling to Niger State), just outside of Kwara State. Analysts now wonder if the asphyxiation of Kwara is not an exercise in self-flagellation!”
We are at great pains that the embargo lost its steam that early. It was not allowed to mature. That blockade was radically set on restructuring before it was tragically cut short. These traders should have allowed it achieve its goals.
This blockade must complete its circle. It has an unfinished job at hand. This is urgent and important. We desire this blockade one more time.
When it comes next time, the South may be forced to bare its fangs. It will be tit-for-tat. It may use what it has to get what it wants.
The oil pipeline from the South to the North may become a veritable weapon of war. The Value Added Tax (VAT) on alcohol consumption may be another effective tool.
So, who is afraid of food blockade, or whatever? At least, not the South. Bring back the blockade even now. We are excited, expectant!