The unknown trader

By Pat Uchendu

If the so-called food stuffs blockade induced by the now self-denying characters in the north is over, then this piece serves as a post-mortem or review to a ridiculous and nonsensical effort by whoever, or group that initiated the action, otherwise let it be with us.
What we heard prior to that costly exercise was that  Amalgamated Union of Foodstuffs and Cattle Dealers of Nigeria (AUFCDN) ordered the pull-back to cut off agricultural produce supplies to the southern part of Nigeria, because according to them:
1. They need security of their members down south, in an environment that their members are fingered severally to have caused the insecurity in the first place;
2. Dismantling of police/army extorting machines called check points, that collect money from their truckers and lastly
3. That the federal government of Nigeria should pay them compensation of over 4.75billion Naira . Yes that much in billions of Naira, our money!
It is sad that food which is so basic to man has fallen into the faults lines of the Nigerian nation. But it is also a good thing if the southerners so targeted would learn from the poor show.
All through these days that the issue ensued my thoughts have oscillated from pity, worry (for the nation, not for me), anger and amusement. Then it rested on what I’d call The Unknown Trader – a representative of the man we once were and could be. He is a typical Nigerian in struggle.
In those thoughts I have taken time to look at food stuffs as a slice of the political economy of Nigeria. But beyond those feeling I have been hit by a particular concern in this whole shameful act about foods blockade.
Yes, I have worried about the individual, the loner, the typical fellow from that general expression called masses. The one who holds his hopes in between his fists and his trust in God, under the contemporary roof called Nigeria with many difficult issues.
I may not be a novice on issues of food supply in the world and Nigeria in particular. As a matter of fact, my B.Sc thesis was on food security and I did a good research of the subject matter. But that aside, I have equally taken interest in certain practicals as a farmer on vocation.
So my thoughts on all that is happening found a place on the common man. It could be you or me but symbolically in the least he is our representative in the struggles and challenges of life.
He has had his dreams all through to be in the food chain business. Humbly, he started small and has grown appreciably to the extend that he got some loans and decided to play it big. He did what is called all-in, that is, throwing a sizable chunk of his capital into it.
He had made his contacts up north and had his truck load of tomatoes and water melons under way as his excitement mounts; an excitement that will later turn to anxiety in a matter of hours.
The night the truck driver left Yobe with his produce happens to be the day of the blockade. There and then the circumstances in his country grips his emotions like a vice.
The rest of the story should reside in the psych of the reader as uncertainties overtook him, with his goods in uncertain remote location on the northern highway!
He is a Nigeria struggling with the harsh economic realities.
Yes, he is a foodstuffs trader, an innocent man
caught in-between cross fires. The unknown trader!
The trucker keeps his records on his transportation fees, a bill he must pay whether his goods arrive rotten and useless. A choking nightmare on the poor traders head; the story of an unknown trader.
We ask, Mr trader have you now realised that you are a casualty of government failure?
Mr trader, can you claim to have now scaled the scorching realities of the Nigerian business environment, in trying to break out into the big league?
My dear, take heart for you are our unknown trader and your  experience has been the lot of others whom our system has failed.
Our unknown trader is a southerner that desires to connect to the north, to find his daily bread. But he is from the divide where the land is arable, where rains fall in abundance and the sun rises from his neighbourhood in the East.
He thinks like most people are doing right now. They believe that the soil of their fathers will be visited in massive commercial farming enterprise. They won’t be just cropping, but animal husbandry will get its due relevance too.
But beyond the issues and dust raised by the current face-off between the north and south, a deeper concern is about the food security of our nation and the states of Nigeria. A question my B.Sc thesis queried many years ago, when I wrote “Nigeria’s Food Crisis: A Critical Review Of Green Revolution (1979 – 1983)”. I just found a copy of it and dusted it. It’s now my reminder of this past event and my next move!
In the second part of this write-up we shall be taking that question raised by my title down to Southern Nigeria, especially to the merchants and businessmen and women in Igbo land.
Pat Uchendu is a Political Scientist. A businessman with interest in publishing and facility management, industrial/commercial equipment and engineering services to the hospitality and entertainment industry.


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