At Oko Fufu, The Farmer Is King


 Location of Photography Ogun State.  Photography by Adeniran Ayodele

Location of Photography Ogun State.
Photography by Adeniran Ayodele

Ajoke Adigun awoke drowsily as rays of the rising sun penetrated the window slit. In order to remain in bed she had defied the odds – the cock that persistently crowed beside the window, the bleating of daddy’s favourite goat, the chatter of the neighbour’s children, whose turn it was this week to clear the animal droppings. But she couldn’t resist the unmistakable shrill voice of her mother, Iya Awero, dishing out routine instructions to the early risers in the compound.

‘Ise ya, ise ya, omo ogun ise ya, ise ma ya o,’ sang Iya Awero. This is the folklore song chanted by citizens of Ogun State in southwestern Nigeria.‘People of Ogun State, it’s time to work…’

Whenever Iya Awero sang this, it was understood by all who heard it as a call to duty. Ajoke stood up, wiped the back of her palm across her face, stretched and yawned noisily.

‘It is time to work,’ she muttered to herself. And in Ifo, a sleepy hinterland of Ogun State, work means pain and physical hardship in its crudest form. The workplace is Oko Fufu, a cassava plantation, where cassava is torn apart and manually processed into staple food items such as fufu, amala, starch, kadioka, and gaari.


Since President Goodluck Jonathan, through the Ministry of Agriculture, unveiled the campaign to promote cassava bread by compelling flour millers to add ten per cent cassava content to wheat flour for bread-making, cassava supplements have been in hot demand. The Oko Fufu workstation has played host to numerous confectionery companies too.

Ajoke and company – which includes her mother, siblings and her father’s other wives – do not only believe in the dignity of labour. They also take the division of labour seriously. If hard work is good for the soul, it also makes pain for soiled hands and bent backs. They, however, all hold one truism dear on the cassava plantation – the analogy of the broom. ‘When separated, the broomstick is of no use and can be easily broken; but when tied together, it is impregnable and can be used for sweeping. That is how we have been able to sustain this lifelong profession and ensured no part of the food chain is broken.’ Thus says Baba Awero, head of the Adigun family. So, together, they work their hands sore to keep the pangs of hunger at bay. Their efforts help to feed the nation, while putting money in their pockets.


On this particular morning Ajoke looked dejected. Dressed like a city girl in pink sweatshirt and a faded blue jean, she thought aloud:

‘There must be a less tedious way to make a living.’

‘Omo Ajoke?’ her mother enquired. ‘You are still on one basket, when you should have filled up three. Is anything the matter?’ She peered into Ajoke’s eyes to search for answers.

‘It’s nothing serious mama, I have a sore thumb and my back is aching.’

‘That is because you refused to use the local balm I prepared for baba. Hurry up! Do you know how many families will go hungry by sundown if you don’t show up this evening at the market square?’

Ajoke stared hard at her mother. She was on the point of making a sneering reply. But her resentment melted when her mother threw the sun cap she was wearing into her lap.


‘Have that to protect your newly plaited hair from this scorching sun,’ Iya Awero told her daughter.

For the rest of the day Ajoke worked harder by way of compensation for her mother’s gesture. She peeled the harvested cassavas into a basket and soaked them into blue-coloured large containers filled with water. That done, she earned her deserved rest while the others removed the soaked cassava and mashed them into tiny bits before commencing the back-breaking task of separating the wheat from the chaff.

During the break from active work, she pondered on her mother’s words: ‘Do you know how many families will go hungry by sundown if you don’t show up this evening?’ It had never once crossed her mind how important was this daily routine of hard work to so many families and homes, since she herself had never lacked food. This evening, she was prepped to hawk her wares, head and shoulders raised.

She looked across from where she sat and glanced at some company vans waiting to pick the dried cassava extracts. Nothing was left to waste on the plantation – even the peelings are gathered to feed goats. She nodded to no-one in silent recognition of the important role Oko Fufu was playing in the community and even beyond Ogun State.

After a studied silence, she rose up, volunteered to join the rest in cassava processing and – almost to her own surprise – began to hum, ‘Ise ya, omo Ogun ise ya.’ Others joined in and soon a cacophony of discordant voices rended the air.



Return of ‘Koro’: A rejoinder

By Musiliu Obanikoro

I read the piece written by Mr. Tope Templer Olaiya on the Greater Lagos section of The Guardian Newspaper of Thursday February 20, 2014 on page 14 titled: “Return of ‘Koro’” and decided it is important to set certain records straight compared to how they were painted in the piece.

   I am particularly worried that as much as Mr. Olaiya attempted to sound balanced on his analysis of the implications of my appointment as a Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on the partisan politics in Lagos State, he largely represents my person as a promoter of election violence and I am compelled to reject such representation.

   First, it didn’t come as a shock to me that my appointment is causing uneasiness in some quarters, especially when it is seen as a political calculation to strengthen the opposition to the way and manner the affairs of Lagos State are being managed. For those with the mindset to conceive a larger picture, my appointment offers Lagos State an opportunity to command the representation it deserves in the National Executive Cabinet. It was based on excellent and impressive performance in my previous engagements in the service of my fatherland.

   There are indications that I have utilized such opportunities in the past to raise the profile of Lagos State to a new level in relation to excellence of ideas, and the pursuit of greater good of Nigeria. My interest at all times- and this appointment offers another opportunity, is to work with willing and positive Lagosians and Nigerians to better the lots of my people. 


Secondly, it was abhorrent to read from the piece a reecho of the ritualization of our political culture by a supposed All Progressive Congress (APC) stalwart, that I swore to Asiwaju Bola Tinubu at the Holy ‘Kaaba’ in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, that I will ‘not go anywhere’- referring to my defection to the PDP as a Senator. For the records, I do not engage in such kind of repugnant activity. My political poise is based on sound ideology and my leanings shift when the walls become slippery.


   The piece again reechoed another supposed APC chieftain labeling my campaigns as ‘always violent’. He cited the 2007 Oregun incidence when my campaign train was attacked by the opposition to draw credibility to this argument. The one sided nature of the report did little justice to my person. For the record, my campaign train did not attack itself on that fateful day. It was a well-orchestrated plan by the party in power in Lagos State that was struggling to hang on to power, to discredit my campaign organization. That is obvious from the continuing use of the same incident to malign me today.


   I am a family man with strong family values. I have been married for 35 unbroken years and managed a family I am proud to say, is a successful one. I have raised children amongst who are successful graduates in different human endeavours and who are already contributing positively to their fatherland. These values are arguably not that of a man that can be described as violent. I doubt if these individuals labeling me as violent can parade such credentials in their personal lives.


   The same elements are perhaps hyping a pretentious Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA) recruitments allegedly aimed at training certain youths for election purposes in 2015 by my party, the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP). Since FERMA had strongly disclaimed such activities under its guise, it is better to waive it aside as the restless antics of an unsecured group and individuals. The Lagos State Government controls enough security apparatuses to stem any suspicious act of violence as it is being brewed within its jurisdiction, if it fails in its responsibility, it should not lay the blame on the doorstep of the Federal Government or the PDP in the bid to score political points.


   I would like to conclude this response by offering a little advice to the writer of the piece that necessitated my response. The hallmark of the fourth estate of the realm is the production of balanced reporting that adds significant values to the lives of the readers. Your respected role is to provide a mirror for leaders and followers to view and review themselves without adding blemishes that are controversially painted by your pen. In this particular piece, you have consciously or unconsciously did that to my person. What I seek are positive suggestions and advices as well as your prayers on the roles that fortune bestows on me to serve Nigeria. 


Guardian Newspapers Limited appoints new editors

THE management of Guardian Newspapers Limited has announced the appointment of new editors for its titles.

In the new appointments approved by the Chairman and Publisher, Lady Maiden Alex-Ibru, last week, and effective from February 1, 2013, Mr. Abraham Ogbodo was named Editor of The Guardian on Sunday. He replaces Mr. Jahman Oladejo Anikulapo who voluntarily retired from the company early this year after 10 years as editor of the Sunday newspaper.

Former Chief Sub-Editor and News Editor, Mr. Julius Omokioja Eto, was named Deputy Editor of The Guardian daily. He replaces Mr. Jewell Dafinone who assumes a new position as General Editor of the newspapers. Mr. Alabi Williams, until now Assistant Political Editor, has been named Deputy Editor of The Guardian on Sunday while Mr. Taiwo Akerele, former Night Editor of The Guardian, is the new Deputy Editor, Saturday.

In the new deal, Mr. Ehichioya Ezomon is the Group Political Editor. He was until last week Acting Editor, The Guardian on Sunday. Mr. John-Abba Ogbodo of the Abuja Bureau who was promoted as Assistant Political Editor died last Thursday in a car crash.

Mr. Paul Onomuakpokpo, a former Senior Sub-Editor, is the Chief Sub-Editor while Mr. Emmanuel Nwagboniwe, also a former Senior Sub-Editor, is Deputy Chief Sub-Editor.

The newly-appointed News Editor of The Guardian is Mr. Nnamdi Inyama, who was hitherto the Assistant Metro Editor. Mr. Felix Kuye, a Senior Sub-Editor, will also be his deputy.

Former Assistant Features Editor, Nike Sotade, is the new Metro Editor.

Mr. Madu Onuorah, former Deputy Bureau Chief and a very resourceful Defence and State House Correspondent is Abuja Bureau Chief. Mr. Onuorah replaces Mr. Martins Oloja who was appointed Editor, The Guardian, in October last year when the restructuring began. Mohammed Abubakar, Senior Political and Education Correspondent, is Abuja Deputy Bureau Chief.

Mr. Oghogho Obayuwana is the Foreign Affairs Editor. Assistant Art Editor, Kabir Alabi Garba, is the Art Editor.

In the same vein, the newspaper has created three more bureaux for operational efficiency as the company begins satellite printing in Abuja soon.

Consequently, Mr. Saxone Akhaine, a veteran Senior Correspondent in Kaduna, has been promoted the Northern Bureau Chief. Similarly, Mr. Kodilinye Obiagwu, a Senior Political Correspondent, is the Eastern Bureau Chief. The

South-South Bureau Chief’s position just vacated by the new Editor of The Guardian on Sunday will be filled shortly.

Mr. Marcel Mbamalu is now the News Editor of The Guardian on Sunday and Mr. Godwin Ijediogor is his counterpart at The Guardian on Saturday.

Meanwhile, to cover Lagos, Nigeria’s capital, a complex metropolis, a new department has been created. Named as Lagos City Desk, the Deputy Editor in charge is Geofrey Okpugie who has been a veteran Correspondent of Business and Style on Sunday Desk. He will be assisted by Mr. Tope Templar who has been co-ordinating the Sunday Desk’s City File.

Mr. Mathias Okwe is Assistant Business Editor.

Abraham Ogbodo has operated in the media industry for over 20 years, reporting politics, economy, arts, environment, health, energy, education and foreign affairs.

He was born on January 1, 1963 in Ughelli, Delta State. He attended Orogun Grammar School, Orogun (1975-1980) and St. Patrick’s College, Asaba (1982-1983). He graduated with a B.A. (Hons.) in Theatre Arts from University of Calabar (1983-1987).

For the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) scheme, he was an English Language teacher at New State High School, Mushin, Lagos (October 1987-July 1988). From a Sub-Editor Trainee and Sub-Editor (August 1988-August 1990), he became a Staff Writer/AG Head, Special Features Unit (May 1992-July 1994), African Guardian magazine.

A former Head, Special Projects (Supplements Unit), The

Guardian (October 1995-June 2002), Ogbodo was Senior Correspondent (Politics) (June 2002 – July 2007) and was promoted Deputy Editor (Politics), The Guardian, in 2007. In November 1, 2012, he was promoted as the Regional Editor in charge of the South-South (South-South Bureau Chief.)

Widely travelled within and outside Nigeria and a recipient of awards, Ogbodo has served in various public capacities.

Eto was born on July 12, 1965 in Ghana but returned home after the Ankrah-Afrifa junta that ousted the Kwame Nkrumah government sent Nigerians away.

Back in Nigeria, he attended primary schools in Sapele and Isokoland as well as Government College, Ughelli and Emore Grammar School, Oleh (1977-82) and Delta State Polytechnic, Ozoro (1982). He was at the University of Benin (1983-87) where he earned an Upper Class B.Sc. (Hons.) from the Department of Political Science and Public Administration. He also attended the University of Lagos where he got an M.Sc. degree from the same department (1995). He had received a post-graduate diploma from the Nigerian Institute of Journalism (1993). A winner of many awards, he also has a BBC London Journalism Training Certificate (2001).

For his youth service, he was a graduate lecturer at Imo (now Abia) State University (1987-88) after which he worked at The Guardian as a reporter and sub-editor. He later worked at Newbreed magazine as Assistant Editor as well as Head of Foreign Desk (The Punch) and of News (Sunday Punch), 1994-96. He was Asst. News Editor and later Chief Sub-Editor of THISDAY (1997) and Editor, The Diet (1998).

Eto returned to The Guardian in 1999 as News Editor and was, from 2007, also the Chief Sub-Editor until last week when he was elevated to the position of Deputy Editor.

Williams, who joined The Guardian in 1992 as a reporter, has a Master of Arts (Literature) degree of the University of Lagos, 1998. He has a Bachelor of Arts (English) of the same university. Before then, he was at Auchi Polytechnic, Auchi (now Federal Polytechnic), where he earned a National Diploma in the Department of Mass Communication (1984).

Dafinone (55) graduated in 1985 from the University of Benin with B.A (Hons.) French. He joined The African Guardian magazine 1986 as Production Sub-editor and rose to Production Editor. In 1995, he became Production Editor, The Guardian. In 1999, he was appointed Assistant Editor and two years later Deputy Editor, The Guardian.

Akerele was born in Lagos on October 9, 1959. He attended Yaba Methodist Primary School, Lagos (1965-1966); Alafia Institute, Mokola, Ibadan (1967 – 1969) and Eko Boys’ High School, Mushin, Lagos (1970-1974).

In 1977, he was employed by Royal Exchange Assurance Nigeria (REAN), Marina, Lagos, and left in December 1979 for the College of Journalism, Fleet Street, London. He graduated in 1982 with HND in Journalism and Mass Communication.

When he returned to Nigeria in 1983, he was posted to Jos, Plateau State, where he served with the Nigerian Standard newspapers.

He joined GNL in 1987, working first with the now rested Guardian Express before he was posted to the defunct Lagos Life in 1993 as Acting Editor.

In 2005, he was made Production Editor of The Guardian on Saturday before he was appointed Night Editor of The Guardian in 2010.