Misunderstanding Dr Manzo At 53

By Simon Reef Musa

I recall attempting to speak with him sometimes in 2016. I was interested in knowing his role behind the resuscitation of grazing reserves in Kaduna State and the planned establishment of a tomato factory in Kaura Local Government Area in the southern part of Kaduna State. When he picked the call, I briefly introduced myself and went further to request information on some of the issues. His response, I must confess, drove a hedge over the conversation as he refused to allow me to express my opinion. Sensing that he was unwilling to allow me state my mind, I discontinued the conversation and, there and then, concluded he was an impossible person. I concluded that, like any political appointee, he was arrogant and alienated from those opposed to the government he was serving.

As the Commissioner for Agriculture and Forestry, Dr Manzo Daniel Maigari, only a few people, described as rabid followers of the All Progressives Congress (APC), were said to form the fulcrum of his support base. He was hated over his attempts to resuscitate the grazing reserves in Southern Kaduna and was tagged as someone who was collaborating with the Governor Nasir Ahmad el-Rufai-led administration to deny people of their ancestral lands.

At the end of the first term of the Governor Nasir Ahmed el-Rufai 2019, Manzo did not return as a commissioner. To many of us; it was good riddance. Despite the misgivings over him, I looked forward to meeting him someday. However, I was oblivious of how to go about it. Sometime in 2021, a friend of mine called to request if I could meet with the former Commissioner, now the Director General of Nigeria AgriBusiness Group (NABG). When I asked someone what the NABG was all about, he disdainfully responded that the former commissioner had set up the group to remain relevant.

When I eventually met him, I was impressed with his disarming humility. Throughout the over three hour interaction, he demonstrated a clear understanding of issues. At the end of the meeting, I came up with the conclusion that the negative perception about Dr Manzo may not be unconnected with the imminent failures by his traducers to understand what he stands for as defined by his profound intellectual depth. He spared no details on the processes leading to the resuscitation of grazing reserves debate and the failed Vicampro Tomato Factory in Kaura LGA.

Apart from appreciating the quality of his articulation on issues, only the evil minded could doubt his commitment to the cause of his people in Kaduna State and, by extension, humanity. The man that I had always seen in a negative perspective became a missed opportunity. I have always maintained that the predicament of my people has been largely hinged on the failure of Southern Kaduna political elites, especially in the APC, to manage and massage the ego of Governor Nasir Ahmad el-Rufai. We’re driven by a mob perception that has given oxygen to our narrow disposition in playing politics. I am very glad I told former Deputy Governor Bantex who endured my blistering criticisms on the way those who ought to be good leaders got angry and turned politics into a personal hunting expedition for selfish gains.

Today, I am not only concerned with the manner in which we play politics, but also I am apprehensive that we have often deployed mob perception to lead our people away from the path of truth and development. In the period I have come in contact with Manzo, I have come to the irrevocable conclusion that we as a people must accept certain realities in order to hasten the dawn of a new era in our politics.

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I am now convinced far beyond doubt that we must eschew exclusiveness and promote inclusiveness towards creating a new future for our nation and communities. In a world fraught with deployment of identity tags of faiths and ethnicity; the best option for us is to identify groups for our mutually beneficial common interests. This reality has become apparent, considering the multifaceted challenges militating against our nation and communities. Leaders must lead the way in changing negative perceptions. For this to happen, leadership must be devoid of personal gains for the good of the overwhelming majority.

Where greed and selfishness exist; there will always be all forms of quarrels and infightings for personal advancements. Where self-centredness prevails, you will always find Judases who are willing to sell their people just to serve as satellite agents of the oppressive group. In the struggle to uproot apartheid in South Africa, there were more blacks opposed the anti-apartheid struggle than the white.

Leaders, even outside the corridor of power, have proven themselves relevant in the affairs of the people they truly love. Unlike others who are only interested in leadership for the mere sake of exercising power, Manzo truly loves the people and has, since 2019, deployed his knowledge to advance the growth of ginger farmers by assisting in increasing the productivity of the products, thereby enhancing the living standards of the Southern Kaduna people. His intervention has not only been seen in farming; he has worked towards establishing the Greysoft IT firm through which he has empowered youths with modern IT skills. Using his various businesses that have attracted the attention of global development partners, one of his companies, AgroLog Nigeria Ltd, assisted Internally Displaced Persons ( IDPs) with relief materials running into tens of millions of naira as AgroLog’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) to communities in Southern Kaduna.

Always seeking to update his knowledge, the profile of this serial entrepreneur, born 53 years ago on August 12, 1969, is a reflection of the indispensability of education for development. Manzo’s unquenchable quest for knowledge resonates with resolving challenges of society; an attribute that sets him apart from the others. He was not born with a silver spoon, but he discovered early in life that education remains the only means of emancipation from the backwaters of human existence. After completing his primary education at the LED Primary School, Ikkah, Kaduna State, in 1982, he proceeded to the Government Secondary School Kachia for his General Certificate of Education (G.C.E) from 1982-1986. To prepare him for the DVM (Doctor of Veterinary Medicine) he eventually read at the Ahmadu Bello University Zaria from 1988-1994, he was at the College of Advanced Studies Zaria from 1986-1988 for the Interim Joint Matriculation Examination (IJMB) programme.

On the completion of the one-year compulsory National Youth Service Scheme as Graduate Veterinary Office at the Nigerian Armed Forces Resettlement Centre in Lagos, the vet doctor would later be appointed Technical Officer (Public/Environment Health). After venturing into private businesses for many years, he became the Executive Director of Veterinary Drugs and Services Ltd, between 2005 and 2015 when he took a break to serve in the administration of Governor el-Rufai.

Besides spearheading several business ventures, Manzo attended professional courses in global elite institutions where he equipped himself with knowledge in Agribusiness. Among some of the schools are Business School Netherland; Lee Kuan Yew Institute for Public Policy Singapore and Royal Kennedy College, Switzerland/ University of Cumbria, among others. He served as Managing Director of Simchat Enterprises Ltd, combining it with yet another responsibility as Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of AgricBiz Initiative Ltd.

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His appointment as the Commissioner for Agriculture and later Commerce saw Manzo supporting thousands of youths with grants, ranging from N1.3 million to N3.2 million per youth. He recruited hundreds of youths as Forest Rangers across the state, including facilitating the electrification of three communities in his ward and upgrading no fewer than 24 BATCs to Community Skills Development Centres and fully equipped them.

It is an irrefutable fact that while he served as commissioner, he demonstrated knowledge and skills that saw Kaduna State benefitted immensely in terms of broadening prospects of development in agriculture and commerce. Apart from being a member of the team that developed the Agricultural Sector Implementation Plan (SIP) of the Kaduna State Development Plan (SDP); Commercial, Industrial and Tourism Sector Implementation Plan (SIP) of the Kaduna State Development Plan; Kaduna State Charter on Ease of Doing Business; Kaduna State job creation and Skill Development policy, he was also involved in the Extension Service Delivery Framework for nomadic dairy farmers that increased daily milk output from 1 litre to 3.5 litres per cow.

Outside the corridor of political appointment, the vet doctor whose profile attests to the relevance of agribusiness for enhanced food security for Nigeria has been engaged in harmonising public and private sectors in developing the agribusiness sector in Nigeria. As Director General of the Nigeria AgriBusiness Group (ABG), Manzo has been a frontline personality in realising the full potentials of agribusiness for national development. Contrary to the lie that NABG is an NGO founded by Manzo for relevance; I have been involved in the working of the group and can declare without an iota of doubt that it holds the key for future growth through the facilitation of collaboration between public and private partnership in advancing agricultural productivity.

No doubt, Manzo’s intellectual capacity and quest for the right thing to be done has largely remained his albatross. More bothersome, the visions he seeks to realise are grossly misunderstood by those opposed to a new system founded on truth and equity. In the current position he finds himself, the former commissioner has refused to be distracted by the senselessness of politics made worse by politicians’ quest for money. In a world that is walking away from the relevance of oil, Manzo’s knowledge and skills, combined with his global connections, cannot be ignored.

The former commissioner has become the refreshing metaphor on how to navigate challenges of a society in renegotiating its horrifying present amidst half-truths and outright lies peddled by those determined to stop the journey to a new day. He remains quiet in the background but is committed to doing his bid without being under the floodlights. The life of the DG of the NABG is captured in the words of the American business, civic and religious leader, Spencer Woolley Kimball: “I have learned that it is by serving that we learn how to serve. When we engage in the service of our fellowmen, not only do our deeds assist them but we put our own problems in a fresher perspective. When we concern ourselves more with others, there is less time to be concerned with ourselves”

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Manzo at close quarters is someone who believes in capacity building and rallying all across divides for the interest of all. He sees people from the concave-mirror of humanity as his associates. He believes that for politics to remain relevant for people, politicians must think of what they are bringing to the table and not wait for crumbs to be thrown at them as errand figures. When people see politics as the beginning and end of it; then, there arises a problem. To him, appointments should be seen as service to humanity and negotiation for inclusiveness remains the best option for an assured future for all.

One year of close contact with this intellectual power house that is clothed in humility and humanity has taught me that we need to tread new paths and tear down the ancient altars. Those who have endured for a new dawn must engage in thinking of what the future holds when they shall no longer be alive. Much as we are worried by forces that seek to weaken and turn us against ourselves; we must also be worried by those who seek to perpetually benefit from our collective woes.

While the old folks may never be comforted in welcoming this new dream; it holds the hope for a new dawn anchored in the inclusivity of all ethnic groups across ethnic, religious and political divides. As we hear the rumbling steps of a new day breaking at our feet; the need to quickly realign and walk past the curves of our fear into the expressway of freedom becomes imperative. We have walked in fear in these past decades. If we can’t change anything in a room while standing outside; we also cannot defeat a perceived enemy by running away from him. Active participation in the political process and not allowing a parasitic cabal to run the democratic space must be our resolution. We run against democracy when we allow a tiny of us to control the all of us for their selfish aims.

In Manzo, I have found someone whose quality of thought has been made possible by the quality of books and intellectual engagements at his disposal. It is easy to decipher how he has survived the times and climbed to the top of his dream unannounced. He is a demonstration of the fact we are propelled to success more by the relationship that we keep, rather than deploying conspiracies that ultimately collapse as packs of cards. With him, no matter is thoroughly understood without exhausting the intellectual debate devoid of emotion. From the tomfoolery of those opposed to this former commissioner by clothing him in political garments, Manzo will continue to be misunderstood.

As he celebrates his 53th birthday today August 12, we must be reminded that purveyors of new ideas have always encountered strong resistance. May the dreams of this unassuming personality for his communities and Nigeria be crystallised in his lifetime. Here is wishing Dr. Manzo abundant good health in the years ahead in service of God and country. As long as our society is not healed of sticking to the old order, so long shall we continue to misunderstand Dr Manzo. Happy birthday to my brother and friend whom I am proud of.

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