By CrossRiverWatch Admin
Just recently, the Cross River State Governor, Senator Ben Ayade relieved himself of the burden of manning the state’s newly created and obviously signature ministry: ‘The Cross River State Ministry of Tourism’ and subsequently appointed a Nollywood actor, and a former Actors Guild of Nigeria Cross River State chapter chairman and his then Special Adviser on Tourism, Mr. Eric Anderson to take over from him.
The “stepping down” of the Governor from the state’s frontline ministry was expected and was welcomed with hearty applause from those who had the good and the wellbeing of the state at heart.
The Governor’s stay as the head of the ministry was calamitous as the self-exaltation was disastrous as it was unnecessary.
The Governor as the Commissioner for Tourism in the state had proven those who had posited that having him in charge of the ministry was going to increase the state’s fortune in tourism wrong.
The administration of Governor Ben Ayade as the pioneer commissioner might be forgiven but not forgotten for some of the actions and inactions the office took or did not take.
While the Governor held the position of Commissioner in title, his Special Adviser on Events Management Mr. Ken Aklah called the shots and became the hand and voice of the Governor as regards the policy thrust of the state tourism sector.
As the Governor globe-trotted and Ken reigned, the ten year old Obudu Mountain Race, an A-list International Athletics Federation (IAAF) and World Mountain Race Association (WMRA) event was cancelled.
The event which not only increased traffic to the Ranch but provided additional marketing opportunity for the resort and a sense of belonging to those whose land the ranch stands on was said to have been called off because of lack of funds (during the same period the Edo State Government had introduced the Okpekpe Race and the Lagos Marathon was springing up.)
The Governor (read Ken Aklah) “didn’t allow us to recover from the shock of the cancellation of the Mountain Race and when we heard that the Calabar Jazz Festival was no longer holding, of course, Lagos State Government jumped on that vacuum and created theirs with the brain behind the event in our state Dr. Donald Duke advertised as a front line for the event;” Cross River loss, Lagos gain.
While tourism took the back seat and the state lost the grounds it had covered in the previous years, the government became clueless and like a headless chicken in dire desperation, started creating events, which was in truth more politically viable than they could possibly be economic.
The state has lost its place as a destination in the country, especially with its terrible roads, difficulty of access and lack of maintenance of it’s tourism assets and the lack of coordination in the sector.
This lack of political will was put on show when the Governor attempted to change the state’s logo and motto, a decision that was heavily criticized and resisted by a majority of the state’s population.
The only tourism event in the state which seems to somehow be swimming through Ayade’s leprous touch is the Carnival Calabar and Carnival; this too has not been without its challenges and of course its mishandling.
For instance, the last Festival, for those who have been following the event over the years was a logistical disaster; the schedule of activities came out late, the list of performing artist was non-existent and the tree lighting ceremony was a colossal disgrace.
I will be right to assume that it is to correct these ills and position the state to get back its rightful position as the preferred destination for leisure that Eric Anderson was appointed to take over from his boss.
While the time might be short, and his duty beyond this, we will see how he handles the Festival and Carnival as a reflection of how he is going to perform. I can only wish he outshines and outperforms his predecessor, for Cross River sake.
Ogar Monday is CrossRiverWatch legislative Correspondent and writes from Calabar, the Cross River State capital.