Dr. Oscar Ofuka, the Special Adviser to the Governor on Cocoa Development and control, took the GlitzTv crew of Austin Atibile, Nura Otu Oshibu and Eneobong Ikpeme on a journey into the silent Agro-industrial revolution and Cocoa Renaissance going on the state in this exclusive interview
We are Glad to have you grant us audience at such short notice. Can we get to meet you sir?
My name is Oscar Ofuka, the Special Adviser to the Governor on Cocoa Development and Control.
His Excellency Senator Professor Ben Ayade spotted me from the tropical rainforest on assumption of office and appointed me because he has a vision of transforming Cross River state into the cocoa hub of Nigeria and Africa at large.
He was quick to change the trajectory as the meagre earning from the federation accounts could not sustain the state’s expenditure, talk more of capital projects.
So, he decided to change Cross River state to a business economy, by delving into agro-industrial sector, bearing in mind that agriculture has been the mainstay of Cross River in the 60s and 70s.
He created, first in the history of Nigeria, the office of the Special Adviser on Cocoa Development and Control. In his first tenure, he appointed me as Special Adviser on Cocoa Development, and in his second tenure, he reappointed me again, this time around, on Cocoa Development AND Control.
Working with his Excellency, the Governor of Cross state is the greatest challenge would have working with a man who is digital in all ramifications, a man who is intelligent,vast knowledgeable in all things, versatile and innovative, a genius workaholic who hardly sleep,always thinking about how to improve the future of the state.
It’s been hectic working with him, he assigned that role to me, and charged me to return Cross River to it’s glory days when plantation economy was the ministry of Government revenue when cocoa from Cross River was much sought after and premium quality in Nigeria and the West African region .
Cross River has cocoa plantations which were introduced during during the Michael Okpara administration as the premier of eastern region over 50 years ago, and the real cocoa productive capacity is 30-35 years.
Our cocoa plantations are old and moribund coupled with Advent of oil as the ministry of Nigeria economy, cocoa was relegated and not much attention was given to it.
So it takes a man with deep vision like senator professor Ben Ayade to take such Nobel initiatives to reverse the future of cocoa and return it back to that golden era of cocoa production.
When the governor called me to man this office,I think the choice was in order because i am a man whose parents were peasant farmers.
I was born in a tropical agrarian plantation and my placenta was buried in the same tropical rain forest.
I am from Etung local Government and my people are first and foremost cocoa farmers and I have soul ties with cocoa farming , so the choice of appointing me as special adviser to the Governor on cocoa development and control was a call to serve.
And so I embarked on massive and aggressive acquisition of land for Government to plant cocoa, we also changed the narrative that cocoa can only grow in Etung, boki and ikom is a fallacy , cocoa can grow anywhere ,so right here in the state capital, Calabar, there is a model cocoa farm in the premises of cross river broadcasting corporation, it is a high -yield organic cocoa variety that is fruiting and ready for harvest.
It only takes 18 months for it to be able to bear fruits, we also established a model cocoa plantation in the department of agric,University of calabar , because it may interest you to know that most students of agriculture in the University of calabar have graduated without knowing what a cocoa sterm looks like.
We have in a large scale, acquired 3,800 hectres of land in Aking Osombar in Akamkpa local Government area and raised millions of cocoa seedlings and developed the 3,800 hectres with improved variety of cocoa seedlings that has a gestation period of 18 months.
The deputy Governor challenged me once with the admonition that I will be judged not by the moribundund cocoa estates but by the new plantations I was able to establish during tenure as special adviser on cocoa development and control.
We now have brand new plantations belonging to the state that will generate revenue and shore up our resources base outside this. We have also focused on the four cocoa plantations. in Etung we have the Aboni Itaka estate, the Abia estate ,the Cross River cocoa project at Ikom cocoa project, Although these estates are a bit viable, they are old and maribund,having passed their full production capacity.
They were planted during the Okpara administration so what we are doing is that, we have raised over ten million variety of cocoa seedlings and transplanted them in these 4 estates. aggressive and massive land acquisition is ongoing as I speak to you in the four functional cocoa estates.
We have also created awareness on the cocoa expansion programm , an initiative of the state Government and Central Bank where they intend to partner with cross river state to develop cocoa under the cross river state cocoa initiative program.
All we need to identify was availability of land because despite the availability of land people were still holding on to their lands. So after comming back from the meeting, I decided to carry out an education and enlightenment program for the rural dwellers and I tell you,the effort has paid off.
For instance in etara and Ekuri communities in Etung local Government,we have been able to acquire over 7,000 hectres of land. At Nneghe community- Akamkpa local Government ,the people have also generously donated 10,000 hectres of land for cocoa cultivation and so many other communities are calling on us to go and collect land.
In ojor community in Akamkpa and Obubra-Boki axis to get land.God has really blessed Cross River , from the hills of Obanliku to the plains of Bakassi,the entire land is suitable for the cultivation of cocoa .we are going with massive cocoa cultivation across the entire state and that is just the goal of cross river state.
We have put behind us the ceeding of the 76 oil Wells and Bakassi and fully embrace that cocoa revolution, as we have also discovered that cocoa even earn more expensive than oil. Cocoa is the raw gold.
Because of the Governor’s vision, he has also established for the first time in Cross River state an ultra modern cocoa processing factory in Ikom local Government area with it’s capacity to employ over 5,000 people.
We are saying bye bye to poverty. Those days when you sweat to produce cocoa seedlings and to plant ,that factory is almost completed.
Any moment from now, the machines will be rolling which means our cocoa will no longer be sold in jute bags in raw form but we shall be taking our cocoa from the farm gate to the industry and from the industry to the supermarkets.
The truth about cocoa is not in the production but in the value addition.if for Instance a bag of cocoa sells for 62 thousand as it is now, if you crush the cocoa beans into powder and later into chocolate bars and all other derivatives, the value you would have added would have been more than 500%, you can imagine that within the construction of the ultramodern cocoa processing factory,we shall be selling our cocoa there .before this time, our cocoa was taken from here and mixed up with cocoa from Umuahia .it was also graded as cocoa from Ondo state.
We want to stop all that and domesticate all that we produce here and add value , so you can see that for the first time we are turning around the greatness of Cross River state. Nigeria use to be second to Cote D Ivoire in cocoa production and Cross River used to be a second In Nigeria after ondo state. But also cote de voire to become the number one world cocoa producers , with an estimated output of about 500,000 metric tones of cocoa annually.
We have a youthful population in Cross River to go into cocoa production.
Recently to ensure that that we rehabilitate the add moribund cocoa estates, we are not operating the small holders scheme.
This scheme is simply the sharing of all maribund cocoa estates into hectres In the state.
We have concluded that scheme and over 5,000 people are beneficiaries of it. The Deputy Governor, Professor Ivara Esu was going to flag of the scheme,and we also encourage the beneficiaries to plant the improved variety of cocoa seedlings in the about one hectre area of the land allocated to them.
We are taking over cocoa production in the entire world like senator professor Ben Ayade and the deputy who was a vice Chancellor and a professional in the agro sector, we cannot but succeed.
Our novelty is also in organic cocoa production, organic cocoa is simply cocoa that you don’t use adulterated chemicals to treat it, you treat it with the natural manure and fertilizer like animal dung’s, decayed plants and leaves,sap from trees and use it as spray. Such cocoa has International premium, this organic cocoa which our new plantations have cultivated will revolutionize the entire world and make cross river state the leading producer of cocoa in the world both in quality and in quantity,the sky is not our limit, we are shooting beyond the sky.
There is a plethora of achievements under your watch as Special Adviser to the Governor on cocoa development and control, but beyond that I like you to throw mor light on the Government agro-industrial revolution going on right now?
Dr Ofuka: yeah,I tell you, without industries, agriculture does not make any meaning, I want to tell you that the reason why third world countries are the way they are and have remained under developed is because we are just primary producers of raw materials ,there is no where in the world here, regardless of the abundance of raw materials if you don’t convert them to finished goods or add value to them, that country can never become world power. So what his Excellency did was that he decided to go into agressive establishment of industries every where.industries are springing up across almost all the local Government areas in the state.that is industrial revolution.So why the industries?
The reason why these industries are being established is to add value to all the agricultural products that are in cross river state. Like I said earlier,take for instance a bag of cocoa which sells for only 62,000 naira, by the time you process it into various derivatives, you are talking of about 500,000 for just the one bag of cocoa, that is value addition.
His Excellency is doing creditably well especially in the agrob-i dustrial revolution,but there seems to be a media perception challenge concerning his policies, can you enlighten us about it?
I want to say that his achievements are under reported in the sense that most of the appointees are not media friendly, either that or they don know the importance of the press.
For me you dont light the candle and put it under a bushel,you put it on top of the table so that it will shine brighter, I come from a media background and I know the importance of the media worth and letting the whole world know what his excellency is doing in the state, if you don’t say you are here, nobody will say so, there is need for complete enlightenment of the masses to know exactly what his Excellency have been doing. So I you are me,I would say that the advertisement of his excellency have been under- reported and we need to do a lot in that direction.
I wish to implore all the political appointees to report all the things that they have done and it is only when we tell the world what he is doing that the world can appreciate what his excellency is doing.