Cross River, Chickens on The Queue?

In Breaking News, Columnists, National News, Reports

by Agba Jalingo

According to the prologue to James Weeks’s video documentary, ‘Across the Kings River’, after the death of his biological father, James takes his daughters to meet his spiritual “father” before he dies too.

Along the way, they meet some of the most renowned healers and sages of the African continent.

Aseda, James’ spiritual father, is a powerful shaman who protects the family and loves him like a son. The old man is a diviner and priest of Ifa, an ancient Yoruba philosophy and religion.

Many of the spiritual battles that Aseda waged for James’ family involved matters of life or death.

On such occasions the shaman often worked from midnight to dawn for days that stretched into weeks and for weeks that stretched into months.

When James thinks of all the old man has done for his family, he thinks of a bond that will never be broken – a debt that could never be fully repaid.

He decides to honor him by returning “home” to document his life, his message to the world and the insights of leading healers and diviners of the Motherland.

But his most challenging task remains weaving the strands of the sacred and physical sciences together.

Accompanied by Tulani, James’ daughter, both men vow to cross the King’s River together.

The King’s River is a Yoruba proverb that means one has been assigned a mission that must be fulfilled at all costs, no excuses and no turning back.

In Cross River State, we are by the bank of the King’s River. We must now take up the mission of rescuing the state from her dwindling fortunes without looking back.

It is very clear to whoever has been watching the trend of events that the fortunes of Cross River State are dwindling with a very unfamiliar velocity.

Never in the history of this state have we been so demeaned and emasculated in the scheme of things as is the preponderance of loses Cross River State has incurred in recent times essentially due to complacency.

From the ceding of the Bakassi Peninsula to Cameroon, the ceding of 76 oil wells to Akwa Ibom state via a Supreme
Court Judgment, to the incessant boundary clashes by states neighboring Cross River all in a bid to claim a portion of the state’s land, it is indicative of the extent to which the salt has lost its taste.

In what many believed was a conspiracy between the Duke Administration and former President Obasanjo, Bakassi was controversially ceded to Cameroon over a cup of tea in New York in what is now referred to as the Green Tree Agreement.

A senator had already said that could only have happened because Bakassi is a micro minority.

The story of the seventy six oil wells that a Supreme Court Judgment collected from Cross River State and gave to neighboring Akwa Ibom State is another tale that leaves a sour taste in our mouth.

Most recent is the senseless killing our people by neighboring states who now see our vulnerability and also want to take portions of our land.

The recent massacre in Adadama Community perpetrated by sponsored militants from Ikwo Local Government in Ebonyi state is just one of the many incidences the state has continued to have with Ebonyi.

Available records show that the boundary between Adadama and Amagu communities was demarcated in 1920.

Ebonyi state was created in 1996 but the state made it a political strategy to extend the boundary line into Cross River State because they perceived the state as a weak neighbour.

All the communities in Cross River State bearing common boundary with Ebonyi State like Itigidi, Ikureku, Obubra, Adadama, Ukele, Yala have had to fight bloody battles with Ebonyi to protect their farmlands.

Under the same circumstances, the Obudu people have also had to fight bloody battles to ward off invaders from Benue State to protect their farmlands.

Today, Cross River State has been stripped of it Littoral status and delisted from the oil producing states all because we lack the quality of consistent and charismatic leaders and platforms of negotiation.

Even within the Niger Delta and South South politics, Cross River State is being marginalized. We are treated as a fringe state. Other member states of the region consider us as intruders who really should not be part of them. We are seen as chickens on the queue.

Little wonder, Cross River State could only muster a minister in an inconsequential ministry like the culture and tourism whose 2013 budget is a meagre 22billion Naira.

Matter-of-factly, what we are getting today is a function of what we are able to bring to the table.

The reality staring us in the face as a state is to resort to building new pillars of negotiation both within the region and within the nation.

We have factors that are already counting against us and if we must make progress in the scheme of things, we need to carefully analyze our strengths and opportunities and renew our tools in the search for a better deal.

The South South region is undisputedly the biggest asset for the ruling PDP.

The party’s biggest finances and even votes come from the South South states.

Cross River with a 151 billion Naira 2013 budget cannot donate in equal measure like Akwa Ibom with 478 billion Naira budget for the same year.

Cross River State has the lowest number of registered voters in the South South. Just a little above five hundred thousand registered voters and the highest turn out has been sixty percent which is three hundred thousand voters spread across the contending parties.

So for the PDP even if they lose Cross River State in the South South, it is not a big lose.

Unlike Ekiti, a state that is even smaller in population and revenue than Cross River, they are taken more seriously because they are properly enshrined in the South West regional integration plan and also boast of a thriving knowledge economy that is miles ahead of Cross River.

We also do not have a thriving economy with which to negotiate. For instance, Lagos state can drag the federal government to court over Value Added Tax, VAT and the FG can capitulate to middle ground negotiations because of the interest the FG has in the flourishing economy of Lagos state.

The support that groups like the Ijaw Youth Congress, the Ogoni Youths, the Odua Youth Movements, Igbo Youth Congress, Arewa Youth Consultative Forum and even groups like MEND, MOSOP, MASSOB, BOKO HARAM, OPC, etc enjoy from their regional and political leaders is not just because they are youths, it is also because they are all different tools of negotiation in the hands of the political leaders to push their regional and state agenda.

Cross River State has refused to maximize its human resources principally because of the lack of pragmatism and the kind of leaders the state has had the misfortune of producing.

Today, Cross River parades some of the most senior serving military officers in the South South. If it were other regions, they will support, promote and celebrate them and use them as instruments of negotiation both regionally, nationally and internationally.

No matter our diversity, young professionals from Cross River State can come under one umbrella and fuse their energy, expertise and passion for the state into a formidable socio-political force that can help to engineer so many things for the state.

By the way our political environment is structured, there are limits to which our politicians and traditional rulers who have been speaking can go for fear of victimization and losing their positions. These fears can be accommodated by such a platform.

But amongst our political class in the state, they are more concerned about not rocking the boat and losing any of their privileges from Abuja than supporting the budding of such a force on the ground in the state.

That is chiefly why we have continued like chickens, queuing behind states that should be far behind us.

More than ever before the political class in Cross River State must realize that the state has competent men and women in several strata of this country and in Diaspora who are passionate about the state.

Conscious effort must be made to bring all these sons and daughters under one umbrella to discuss the challenges confronting the state vis-a-vis our dwindling fortunes and design workable strategies that will re-engineer our ability to get the best from our country and cease to just be chickens on the queue.

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