The talking scarecrow and the empty rice farms;

A Close observation of Africa’s crass neglect of its farmland, its pride

By Njoku SaintJerry A

I grew up in the rice farm, we grow Isiugwu rice.
As a young active kid, my major occupation was to scare the birds away when they come in droves to pluck the ripe grains for food, we walk the length and breadth of the paddies to inspect for all kinds of invaders including the birds, we slap metal objects against each other or beat a pan to produce loud clanging sounds as we scream – “Awaay, Awaaay” – I never knew what that means, I was young and couldn’t speak nor write English – but one thing was fascinating – the birds did fly away and when you do your job perfectly well, your family is certain for a bountiful harvest.

Now you cannot be in the farm everyday at all time – We must go to church on Sundays and at certain festivals nobody goes to the farm therefore we devise a strategy – We build a man’s average height wooden figure in the shape of a cross, before we depart, we will cloth the wooden figure in our farm shirt and trouser and adorn it with a straw hat, every farm boy adopt a special design for his own, some put on a hollowed gourd on the cross as its head then put the straw hat on it. We call it ‘scarecrow’ simply because it scares the birds away at sight although it does not make any noise, neither does it beat the metal objects together or scream “Awaay”, “Awaaay” but one thing is certain – it does act as palliatives for our temporary absence, however any farm boy that depended on it and fails to return to the farm immediately the short breaks are over is certain to bring a colossal loss to the family, there will be poor yield, poor sales and hunger because the birds has only one mission and that is to empty the rice farm for food at its sole interest and the farm boy has only one mission too – to protect the rice farm from the invaders, If you don’t do that, you’re going to record a very bad harvest for that year or nothing at all other than empty rice farm – This does not require any special education but simple use of common sense.

Every African is a potential farmer, a farm boy or farm girl, we are a product of the soil and the pride of Africa remains in the rich luscious, evergreen and fertile farmland.

Victims of the first transatlantic slave trade from Africa were farm boys and girls either kidnapped or sold off to the enemies to do their farming at the sugar-cane field, rice farms, cotton farms etc. At the eve of abolition of the slave trade, the same mercenaries queued up back to Africa looking for farmlands to take rubber, cocoa, cotton, timber, etc to rebuild their economies, feed and build infrastructure – they came as colonialist in all shades and sizes, they thrived at the ignorance of their host for decades until common sense prevailed and colonialism in Africa was brought to an end. Then came the era referred to as Post-Colonial period; when the African regained the right to full control of their land and its resources. As a matter of fact, Africa has plentiful land and the planet’s largest expanses of underutilized land and water till date, so much that every colonial gang that once controlled these resources aren’t at peace to let go, from France, Britain, Portugal, Spain, the US of A etc. Therefore it would be understandable why France, the British or Europe would be interested at who is in charge of these resources at any point in time anywhere in Africa.

Whoever is in charge calls the shots at how policies are formulated, if he is a man ruled by common sense, he will be considered a true African, a great leader with lots of self respect and pride for homeland, his father’s land, he will walk the length and breadth of the farmland, his own country to make sure, there is food and shelter for his people.

The late Thomas Sankara was a strong man, Julius Nyerere, Patrice Mulumba were strong men with sense of pride and dignity, Paul Kagame of Rwanda do has a sense of pride and self respect, the Tanzanian President John Magufuli is considered another emerging strong man from East Africa – These are grown farm boys and custodian of the farmlands!

However, if whoever calls the shots at any region or country in Africa, either himself or group of persons do not consider the farmland worthy of its produce, he is dependent on foreign mercenaries even for ordinary medicals and bills to feed, he will be manipulated at will by grants, aids, interest free loans, etc, from the mercenaries. This individual will be referred to as a neo-colonialist, extremely ignorant, miserable fellow, extremely dependent on foreign forces even to build toilets and bathrooms in his father’s land – These are the scarecrows!
Africa has plenty of them and time has come to knock them down and let the farm boys take over the fields.

Like I analyzed earlier, some scarecrows are beautified to appear real but fact remains; they are not reliable to keep birds from ravaging the farm, you let them be, you will experience a total collapse of your economy and will end up hungry and a beggar, some are beautified with plenty academic laurels, attended ivy universities in the US, UK, Europe and the rest and now sitting at your state capitals calling the shots, they speak a lot of English with plenty analysis, always analyzing but achieving nothing, plenty of them are even referred to as Prof. Dr. or whatever yet even in their remotest communities, not one farmland is standing on their support, I said, not one! And nothing near socio-economic development is standing in their name – These are talking scarecrows!

I know a lot of scarecrows and I have met enough of them too.
Sometime ago in 2012 or thereabout, the Nigeria ministry of aviation came to China, infact they were on what they called world tour, shopping for investors, they have designed something called “Aerotropolis” – it was my first time to hear that word – They had printed very colourful magazine of that aerotropolis – a beautiful layout of infrastructure centered on an airport environment which serves as a multimodal “airport city” – They had plans to build something like this across major cities in Nigeria- it was such a nouveau idea.

The meeting was scheduled to start at 10.00AM or thereabout, the Minister did not show up until about 2.00pm, by now many of the guest had already departed the venue, even at that the minister did not show any signs of concern but went straight ahead to commence her meetings with the empty hall, selected speakers from the Nigeria aviation at the meeting came on board and spoke a lot of English to the empty hall with plenty analysis and hurriedly rounded off the meeting and jet off to another country as quickly as possible.

About 3 years after that meeting, I visited Nigeria and took time out to visit all those Airport quoted in that beautiful magazine, I did not see anything close to those beautiful designs in the aerotropolis magazine distributed at the meeting on that day – The group had merely entertained the scanty crowd with their windy analysis and beautiful catalogs.

Sometime ago between the years 2012-2014; say about 2 years, I counted over 6 investment seminars held across Beijing and Guangzhou, singing to the Chinese to come and invest in few states in Nigeria, sometimes I attended this seminars and it’s just a sham and a photo drama for the Chinese attendants. Late in the year 2019, the Benue State Assembly had set up a panel to probe the state governor for having embarked on numerous investment trips to China without any physical presence of any structure or business brought into the state by the so called Chinese investors, they set up a lot of enquiries demanding this and that receipt and what activities actually took place in the course of those investment jamborees.

Early in the year 2020, Some group of Chinese came to Ondo State, Nigeria, they claim to be bringing investment – they would like to grow Cassava, extract ethanol and send back to China for industry use, the value of investment is quoted around $500 Million USD, they only request for landed property, however, everything about the construction and execution and management would be controlled by the Chinese, the discussion remained a debate till the last time we parted.

I took a trip by bus across South-West and South East Nigeria and it is amazing at the vast expanse of uncultivated land overgrown by forest trees, in Abia state, I drove past a vast expanse of land grown with Cashew trees with ripe fruits abandoned as forest trees – Unless you are a farm boy, with love for the produce of the soil from your land and with a sense of pride for your own – these images will appear story-telling and common place.

The scarecrow do not talk nor move, it cannot do or achieve anything. Where you put it is where it shall remain, whether he is a governor, a minister, a senator or even a President, decorated with lots of academic laurels, political offices and traditional tiles, it shall remain a scarecrow, a figure head! It cannot engage anybody constructively, he/she may appear in that fancy dressing to attract anybody; fact remains, if the farm boy delay to take back positions, the entire farmland will soon be emptied by all kinds of birds including the soon coming Chinese birds!

When the birds of prey will come, either as Chinese, French or Arabs, they will certainly swoop on the farmland and bring the farm down and the scarecrow won’t budge because he/she is far disconnected from humanity and cannot do jerk. Farm boys of all sizes and class go to Asia and come back with ideas about trade and industry but the scarecrows will travel to China only to return with bags of aids and take loans upon loans and increased the debt profile of his country, run to overseas hospitals for the slightest ailments, will rarely address any major challenge in his country, he cannot do that because he was decorated by careless farm boys to do the work of a farm boy but that can’t happen because scarecrows are figure heads!

Smart birds of prey will swoop in from China and deceive the scarecrows to sign fictitious contract that is dangerous to the sovereignty of the country, invade the communities and destroy the farmlands, the scarecrow won’t do jerk but keep talking because that’s what he was decorated to do –talk, talk and talk and do nothing!

The African owe himself a duty to do as he says at all time and if the rulers will continue to relish making political statement at the detriment of his people and region, the rice farms will soon be emptied by stray birds and nobody will go free!

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