Aso ebi is a yoruba word for uniform worn during social events such as wedding and funeral ceremonies.So, on Monday, December 3, 2018, what could have prompted farmers in Cross River State to abandon their farms, gaily dressed in beautiful aso ebi, and in their hundreds, marched through major streets and roads in Calabar, the state capital?
The beautiful spectacle raised curiosity and elicited questions because that was the first time farmers in the state had done that.
At the Diamond Hill Road, one of the routes the marchers passed through, journalistic instinct got a better hold of this writer, forcing him to jab a direct question to one of the marchers: "Why are you people dressed this way, and on the road instead of your farms? Is this how Cross River farmers feed the state? "We are marching for our Ditigal Governor; we love him and want him back, came a sharp reply from a young beautiful woman," flashing a forget-me -not smile as she made haste to join her colleagues.
It was later at the regional headquarters of the National Association of Nigerian Farmers overlooking the Governor's Office that the main essence of the farmers' march crystalized. On a podium, specially constructed for the event, where the state Governor, Professor(Senator ) Ben Ayade who is fondly hailed as "Digital Governor" by Cross Riverians in appreciation of the modernity he brought into governance, and his beautiful wife, the First Lady, Dr.Lynda Ayade.The duo were digging it out in a messmering shaku shaku dance steps which drew defeaning applause from thousands of supporters and farmers who had converged there.
The first family's shaku shaku dance, according to the governor, was to demonstrate to the crowd how they wriggle their waists when in their farm. The Ayades are farmers afteral! And right there, farmers were set to honour and endorse farmers.
The endorsers and honour givers were Cross River farmers while the receivers were the first family. Of course, not only did Cross River farmers under the aegies of Cross River Farmers' Cooperatives Empowerment( CR-FACE) bestowed their highest honour, "Grand Patron of Cross River Farmers and Best Performing Governor on Agriculture" on Ayade, they also endorsed him for a second term, assuring him they will vote him to return and continue with his good work.
The award and support they said was in appreciation of the governor's revolutionary strides in agriculture.
Speaking at the solidarity rally, State Coordinator of the group, Sir Oliver Ntui hailed the governor's diversification into agriculture.
He commended him for sending hundreds of farmers to Abuja to be trained by Isreali agricultural experts:
"You have demonstrated that agriculture is the engine room of growth in developing economies through your various farmers' empowerment initiatives, agricultural development policies and programmers," Ntui told the governor.
He added further: "You have graciously approved the training of 1000 rice farmers in modern and cutting edge technologies in rice farming by a reputable agricultural research and technology transfer institute in Abuja. We pledge our total support for your re-election."
Responding, Ayade said the era of manual tilling of the soil in the state was gone for good as he was committed to mechanizing agriculture.
The governor used the occasion to flag off the distribution of iPad to farmers in the state.
He told the farmers that the Ipads would go a long way in helping them embrace modern farming techniques.
He announced the state government's decision to buy off all bags of rice and cocoa produced by Cross River farmers.
Governor Ayade's diversification into agriculture has led his administration to establish Africa's first automated Rice Seeds and Seedlings factory in Calabar, Ultra modern cocoa processing plant in Ikom, ultra modern rice milling factory in Ogoja, banana plantation, cotton farm among other agro-allied industries.