It wasn’t at Metro Hotel, Mirage Hotel, Channel View nor any of the big names in hospitality business in Calabar rather it was at a bucker with no name, a place referred to as Eka Koko that we settled for a hurried meal of fisherman soup before heading to CICC to receive the Ag. President, Barr Yemi Osinbajo who visited Calabar recently. The soup was peppery so I intended going out and wipe my nose before settling down to peck my teeth. I decided to pick two pieces from the toothpick pack on my way out. Then something struck me. It was a redish pack and inscribed on the side were the words “Ibom Bamboo”.
Let me make a confession before I continue. I dont know my age. I didnt witness my birth, I couldnt have because I was the one being born. Those who witnessed it have affirmed it in a document called age declaration. Whether I believe them or not, the fact remains that I have lived on this land for at least half a century. I have never seen any made in Akwa Ibom product outside foods like akamu, ekpang iwa, foofoo, garri, ogogoro, yoghurt, sachet water etc which our people have processed for centuries from raw-to-finish without realizing they are into production.
This is because when people hear the term Production or more broadly Industrialization, what comes to their mind is heavy equipment, bulldozers etc; nothing is farther from the truth.
There are two broad types of industry -namely heavy and light industry. Those small manufacturing entities that produce directly for the end users fall under light industries. They are usually less capital intensive and use moderate amounts of partially processed materials to produce items of relatively high value per unit weight. We have them all around us. A well articulated industrialization policy simply give impetus for these small scale concerns to realize their full potentials while creating environment for new ones to spring up. This is exactly what the Udom’s administration is doing.
This doesnt mean that the heavy industry would be neglected or deals in respect of those areas have been abandoned.
Like the vehicle assembling, petrochemical or fertilizer plants etc in progress, this writer is sure that regulatory issues, environmental impact issues, zoning laws and other issues associated with playing at the heavy industry end don’t come easy. They take time.
China and India are highly industrialized nations but their strength is not in heavy industries like other big players like US, Russia or even Ukraine in the heavy industry zone. But China and India post very strong economies. This is an indication that it not all about the sizes of the machine. Statistics show these countries almost beating USA in manufacturing of foods, beverages, personal care and home care products, cosmetics, drugs, clothes & shoes, furniture, art ware &crafts, consumer electronics and home appliances etc. This is also responsible for their stable and strong economies. Their target markets have generally been multiple small scale end users rather than intermediate ends.
If between 2015 and 2017 a product with a proud Akwa Ibom insignia is found among small scale end users in a neighboring state then there is a positive step.
A former player in the state government who recently has taken to reactionary views published an article titled: SUYA, TOOTHPICK AND … GOVERNMENT.
If his intention was to demean the proudly Akwa Ibom toothpick he failed because of the quality the toothpick carries with it to its Market Introduction. All the users I observed were excited about it because quality, availability and competitive price are attributes that end users seek.
Outside socioeconomic benefits like job creation, product availability, quality and affordable price are some of the targets of industrialization programs everywhere in the world.
With that proud announcement of its availability “IBOM BAMBOO” to consumers in the neigboring state, the new entrant in the toothpick market if nothing else, has confirmed that the industrialization program of the Udom’s administration was indeed on course. The rest would be told by time.
James Abang Writes From Atte-Okiuso Village, Urueoffong/Oruko LGA.