By Jonathan Ugbal; Government House Correspondent
Cross River Governor, Ben Ayade, Wednesday in Calabar explained why he spent almost a month touring three countries and cited health reasons for his delayed arrival from Abuja.
Ayade who spoke with journalists shortly after his arrival at the Margaret Ekpo International Airport described his visit to Asia as “Imperative” owing to the policy direction of the federal government in diversifying the economy.
“President Buhari has tried to move the state and indeed the nation to focus more on agriculture and rice is one of the crops chosen. The choice of investing in rice requires us to have the full understanding of the rice technology.
“We are in a digital race and I don’t intend us to grow rice in the local manner. Unfortunately, because agriculture is now technologically intensive and less manual, it became imperative for me to learn the trend and because Thailand is the major exporter of rice across the globe, it became more imperative for me to understudy Thailand and that is why I took my time to be in a rice farm, understudy every aspect of rice production.
“As a teacher, as a professor, it is imperative I learn what I want to practice, there is no shame in learning and that is why I put on my jeans and my Tee Shirts in a village setting and then travelled up to Taiwan and spend another week there. And the experience I have put together up from Thailand and Taiwan allows me to drive the rice business and project in Africa” Ayade said.
He further added that in no distant time, Cross River will lead the way in modern methods of rice farming in Africa, pointing out that “I was down in health upon arrival because I left Toronto (in Canada) all the way to Asia to do all these”.
Explaining why his administration is bringing in the Canadian model into the state education system, Ayade said the use of UBEC funds for political patronage of politicians has only led to renovation of classrooms and that is not adding real value to the education system.
He argued that real value can only be added through the introduction of vocational training, skills learning and training of teachers.
Implementing this, he said a two pronged approach has been adopted which is the setting up of a Canadian vocational school and school for building and construction.
Also, he lamented a situation where Africans believed foreigners could develop their land and tasked all to look inwards.
He said Africa had contributed only a percentage in the world of patent and innovation in the past two decades despite the number of professors, researchers and academics.
“When I speak, I don’t speak Nigeria, I speak Africa because indeed, Nigeria represents Africa” he said.