Ayade’s NORTHFEST: Revolutionizing Agriculture In Cross River North BY SOLOMON ASHA

In Breaking News, Columnists, Opinion

By CrossRiverWatch Admin

The entity made up of the former Ogoja Province now in Cross River State, and the present Northern Senatorial District of the state in particular which is the focus of this article is heavily endowed by the creator with both human and natural resources; agricultural and solid minerals, among others.

In terms of human resources, Cross River North was and is abundantly blessed with great men and women who had and currently are still contributing in their different professions, skills and endeavors to the development of not just the state but the country as a whole.

Great eggheads, sages and statesmen like Chief Agaba Agba, Brig. Gen. G. G. A. Ally, His Excellency, Dr. Joseph Wayas, Senate President of the second Republic, His Excellency, Mathias Offoboche, His Excellency, Dr. Walter Patrick Eneji, Jacob Alelele Jumbo, Chief Iwong Ignatius Murphy, Archbishop Joseph Ukpo (Emeritus), Bishop John Aya, His Royal Majesty (HRM), Uti J.D. Agba, Paramount Ruler of Obudu, Senator Kanu G. Agabi, SAN, Brig. Gen. Anthony Ukpo, Mark Ukpo, Chief Timothy Omang, Dr. Patrick S. Odey, Prof. Ukandi Damachi, Benedict Ikwebe Necus Agba (Indeed, the first artist in the mold of Leonardo De Vinci in Obudu and the entire north), Hon. Justice Everestus Akpanke Uke, Justin Jabakong Damachi, Philip Undie, Fidelis Itunbe Akpago, Francis Bepeh, Sir, John Upan Odey, John A. Ugbe, Damian A. Atuaka, Professor Gabriel Olayi, Jonathan Adie (J. T. Liberty), Peter Itan, Gabriel Ando Ogar, Dr. Peter Ogbang, Dr. Vincent Ogbeche, Mrs. Martina Ikedie Odom, Chief Thomas Odey, and Gabriel Ogbang Orim contributed to the development of the state and Nigeria.

Others are Hon. Francis Ogar Afufu, Chief David Wodah Onah, Justice Obi Akpanke Sylvester, Cletus Ikogo Onah, Mr. Patrick Odo, Chief A. B. Odey, Pa John Akuma Ukpo, Senator Dr. Rose Oko, Mark Ukpo, Maj. Gen. Edward Unimna, Senator Musa Adede, Pius J. Umagwu Igbodor, Innocent Adie, Michael Igbor E. Monn, Engr. Fabian mgba, Mbonta Ignatius Monjol, Hon. Justice Fidelis Ikongo Nnang, KSM, Chief Emmanuel Egbo Monjok, HRH Ubeet (DR.) Sylvester U. Ochim, then Paramount Ruler of Yala, Odey Ipole of Okpoma, Chief Charles Aleje Adoga, Chief Mark Ugbut, Ntol Gregory Adima, former Paramount Ruler of Ogoja, Chief Gregory Alade Moffi (a .k. a. involvement), Dr. Peter M. Ogon, Dr. Simeon J. Atteh Mgbekem, Sir, Brain Odey Ekpong, James Bulem Ekpong, Ferdinand I. Adinye, Chief Dr. Anthony A. Abuo, Chief Peter M. Abue, Architect Anthony Akobi, Dr. Patrick S. Odey, Senator Greg Ngaji, Chief Peter Ushie, Chief Linus Okom (Ada Bekwarra),Dr. Jacob Udayi Agba, Denis E. Akwaji, Chief Eugene Akeh, 2nd Lt. Joseph Ugbe, and Maj. S. S. A. Agba (MON).

Worthy of mentioning also are; Emmanuel Akeh Agim, Gabriel Asheta Andoya, Pa Ashibel Ogar, William Adie Oko, Chief Abadem Ilia, Madam Inyaga Idang, Chief Adie Agiopu, Chief Adalikwu Unah, Chief Joseph Ukwudari, Chief Ugbe Anyoitang Igibo, Ukandi Ikwen Ogar, John Onyung Agba, Hon. Justice Idagbo, Hon. Justice Maurice Eneji, Chief Ushie Afufu, Chief Udama Ubua, Mrs. Josephine Ogar, Mrs. Mary Olayi, Madam Angela Ama Ushie, Chief Oshie Omali (Oshie Ashariki), Senator Prof. Benedict Bengioshuye Ayade, Dr. David Ashang, Prince Goddy Jeddy Agba, Odey Ochicha, Sixtus Ukelina Abetianbe, Prof. Mrs. Lucy Udida, Dr. Genevieve Aglazor, Fidelis Uzembe, Dr. Godwin Iklaki, Maj. SSA Agba, Dr. Abu Undiandeye, Dr. Ngou Chamba Maurice Ngwu, Dr. Emmanuel Utande, Dr. Adalikwu Vivian Ogar, John Awhen Ayi, Dr. Fidelis Abu Anju, Linus Adie, Dr. Thomas Agan, Mr. Joe Agi, SAN, Ukani Matthew Achu, Hon. Lady Cecilia Ally, Joe Ano Ally, Mrs. Rebecca Yaro, Dr. Mrs. Sylvia Atsu, Mike Upan Aniah, Maurice E. Wayas, Idi Baba Yakubu, Sunny Neji, Hon. Barr. Fidel Egoro Chief Peter Ojie, Chief Igbaji Monkom, Amb. Edi Agbe, Omo Egbeji, among so many others too numerous to be accommodated within the scope of this write-up.

Credit for most of the names listed above goes to Simon M. U. Ogar, who provided the information in his book, “The Fading Legacies of the Descendants of Agba”.

It will please the readers to know that this senatorial district produced the first and the only Senate president in the second Republic, His Excellency, Dr. Joseph Wayas, and he remained the first Senate President from the South-South Geopolitical zone of the country. It is equally from this senatorial district that the first Brig. Gen. (One star General) from the present Cross River state, the second one star General in both Cross River and Akwa Ibom states and the youngest to attain that rank from both Cross River and Akwa Ibom states, Brig. Gen. Godwin Gregory Ajah Ally.

The first Minister for justice and Attorney General of the federation from Cross River and the whole of South-South geopolitical zone, and the third Senior Advocate of Nigeria from Cross River after Dr. Okoi Arikpo and Chief Effiom Ekong, is equally from the northern senatorial district in the person of Senator Kanu G. Agabi, SAN. In the same vain, the first elected female Chairman of Local government Council in the South-south geopolitical zone in the fourth republic is also from the northern senatorial district, in the person of Hon. Lady Cecilia
Ally.

It is heartwarming to note that some of the prominent sons of northern senatorial district of Cross River so mentioned above played prominent roles and held prominent positions in the pre and post 1960s Nigeria and also during the turbulence years of the Nigerian civil War (1967-70), 80’s to the present, including Chief Agaba Agba, Chief I. I. Murphy, HRM Uti J.D. Agba, Justin A. Jumbo, His Excellency, Dr. Mathias Offoboche, Brig. Gen. G.G. A. Ally, Brig. Gen. Anthony Ukpo, Maj. Gen. Edward Unimna, Senator Musa Adede, Senator Greg Ngaji, Dr. Walter Patrick Eneji, Hon. Justice Idagbor, among so many others.

The period from the late 60’s to the 80’s where the son of Northern Cross River, Late Brig. Gen. Godwin G. A. Ally who held several positions, pre, during and after the war, including being Military Secretary, Commander, Lagos Garrison Organization, and in the war front, he displayed his battle prowess and strategic, led a less than one month trained soldiers to contributed to halt the advancing ravaging and furious Biafran soldiers at the famous Ore battle from getting to Lagos to take over the then federal capital, and chased them till they receded and blew the River Niger bridge behind them among others; when at the young age of 31, Senator Kanu G. Agabi was appointed by the Military regime of Olusegun Obasanjo to head the NICON Insurance Corporation, one of the largest corporations in Nigeria then as its Chairman, when His Excellency, Senator Joseph Wayas became the first and only senate President in the second republic; when Late Dr. Mathias Offoboche became the first son of the soil to become a Deputy Governor, can be best described as the flourishing era of the northern cross River people.

The period of 90’s which can be seen as an era of conservative progress was majorly the era of the military where a son of Northern Cross River, Brig. Gen. Anthony Ukpo became the Minister of Communication and later Military Governor of Rivers State, Maj. Gen. Edward Unimna became a member of the Armed Forces ruling Council and also as Chairman, Armed Forces and Police Petroleum Trust Fund, Senator Kanu Agabi as Senator of the Federal Republic, etc.

1999 to date is actually the renaissance period for the people of Northern Senatorial District of Cross River state, though several devastating hiccups, painful and humiliating challenges along the way to where we are today. The important thing is that we have arrived where we are presently and by the grace of God Almighty we shall advance to the next destination, on and on till we get to where God destined and fore-ordained us to be among mankind, the global community.

In this period we had Senator Kanu Agabi contested for the gubernatorial position and loss to Mr. Donald Duke; Emmanuel Ibeshi and Barr. Venatius Ikem and Chief John Odey emerged as the National Publicity Secretary of the People’s Democratic Party PDP) at various times; Late Dr. Walter Patrick Eneji became the second Deputy Governor from the area after late Dr. Offoboche; John Odey was also appointed emerged as Minister of Information and Communication, and later minister of environment, Senator Greg Ngaji as Senator, Hon. Gabriel Adah became Speaker and later INEC Commissioner representing the state, Rt. Hon. Frank Adah and Rt. Hon. Larry Odey as Acting Governors during the Senator Liyel Imoke administration.

Under the renaissance period we also have Senator Ben Ayade who emerged as the first elected governor from the Northern Senatorial district, Hon. Mike Ogar, Hon. Peter Igbodor, Hon. Paul Adah, Hon. Legor Idagbor, and Hon. Jarigbe Agom Jarigbe, all the members of the State House of Assembly and all the appointees at state and federal levels from the north.

It would amount to disservice to members of the academic community and those of the pen pushers from the senatorial district. Professors Ukandi Damachi, Francis Damachi, Emmanuel Agiang, Ntamu, S.P.I. Agi, Eugene Aniah, late Isika, Gabriel Olayi, Francis Unimna Angrey, Ekwuere Ushie, Lucy Udida, Frank Okpiliya, James Okpiliya, and so many others to numerous for the scope of this work.

Under the pen pushing profession, veterans like late Felix Undie, Oshega Abang, Unimke Nawa, Denis Utang, Emmanuel Akpong, Joseph Ushigiale, Jeremiah Ashiple, Agba Jalingo, late John Ogbedu, Patrick Ayendi, Doris Ashang, Frank Odey, Ursula Ikpali, Emmanuel Ugbe and Patrick Ugbe, Ogbang Akwaji, Florence Oluohu, Victor Udu, Emmanuel Ulayi, Emmanuel Unah, Beatrice Akpala, Joseph Ogar, Emmanuel Adie, Augustine Ogar, Ben Okache, Dan Unimna, Olive Onah, Egerton Onah, and my humble self, as well as other young upcoming ones in the media profession and so many others too numerous to mention have contributed and some still contributing in no small means to the development of the senatorial district, the state and the nation in general.

In terms of agricultural and natural resources, the Northern senatorial district is so blessed and greatly endowed. The land supports so many crops and can be rightly described as the food basket of Cross River when it comes to yams, cassava (Garri), sweet potatoes, water yams, Cocoyam, rice etc. just as natural/solid minerals such as salt, gold granites, uranium, crude oil etc.

Based on the agricultural prowess and superiority of Northern Cross River, the district has the largest indigenous market in both Cross River and Akwa Ibom, the famous Okuku market in Yala Local Government Area of the state, where people come from all over the surrounding states to purchase food items. The famous Udama market of Utugwang, Obudu, and Ugbada of Abouchichie, Bekwarra plays very effective complementary role to the very large Okuku market in this regards as people equally come from all over the neighboring communities and state to buy foodstuff in these markets.

Apart from the agricultural potentials of this area, northern Cross River is also home to the foremost Tourism site in Cross River state and one of the prominent in Nigeria, the famous Obudu Ranch Resort.

Sadly, over the years, the agricultural sector which this area is so blessed with has never been fully utilized to maximize its full potential to bring more money into the people’s pockets, to build veritable complementary cultural tourism/ecotourism and to serve as a strong unifying factor among the five local Government areas of the district as well as their surrounding brothers as it should be.

Seeing the agriculture potentials of the northern senatorial district and the fact that nothing has been seriously done to effectively harness the natural endowments of the area, Governor Ayade decides to think out of the box by coming out with the Northern Cross River Festival (NORTHFEST) aimed at bringing together the entire people of the senatorial district, expose the agricultural potentials of the area, support the farmers and the growth of agriculture of the area as the number one food basket of the state as well as to bolster the image of the area before the outside world, including attracting investors to the area.

It is based on this premise and the pragmatic initiative of Ayade that this weekend, September 28-30, 2017 at the Ogoja Township where the maiden edition of the NORTHFEST is scheduled to take place. The occasion will bring together all the sons and daughters of the area and friends of the people to celebrate the people’s heritage and to collectively thank God as a people for a bumper harvest and pray for a greater harvest by next year and subsequent years to come.

The creation of NORTHFEST is an avenue to bring the people together to collectively celebrate the king of root crop, yam, besides the individual days which the five Local Governments and the communities observe their New Yam celebration. The event will become a yearly fiesta that will cement the bond of love, unity and togetherness amongst the people.

As a seasoned politician, and veteran journalist, this writer has unshakable faith and confident that the maiden edition of NORTHFEST will be a huge success with Chief Peter Ojie as the Chairman of the organizing Committee. The success of the maiden edition will go a long way to determine how successful the next edition and others in the future will be.

I salute all the patriots and elder statesmen both living and dead who have contributed and are still contributing to the development of the Northern senatorial district, the old Ogoja Province, Cross River State and the nation in general.

All roads leads to the ancient provincial town of Ogoja this weekend as Ayade add NORTHFEST to his array of achievements. Congratulation to all Northern Cross River people!

Come and feel real African culture! Its Saturday 30th September 2017.

The NORTHFEST will feature A cultural/social party, a street cultural carnival as well as a cultural dance float in the five component local government areas in the zone

The erection and inspection of Yam cultivation, Arts and Crafts and a NORTHFEST Pageantry to celebrate our traditional and natural beauty is also part of the itinerary.

Others include inspection and tasting of traditional cuisines, grand entry of our royal fathers, parade of age grades and costume maidens, traditional wrestling and a pounded Yam eating competition.

There will also be a palm wine tapping competition to celebrate our legendary palm wine tappers and it will be rounded off with a thanksgiving service.

Join the online party on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook with the trend: #NORTHFEST

Solomon Asha is a Media Aide to Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River.

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