Cross River 2015: Ayade for Governor! BY RAYMOND EYO

In Breaking News, Columnists, National News, Opinion, Politics

by crossriverwatch admin

Senator Ben Ayade
Senator Ben Ayade

“With his qualities and novel achievements, Senator Benedict Ayade certainly stands tall and able to pilot the affairs of Cross River State.”

– Alice Aboh

As the political jostling to determine the gladiators who will contest for the various state governorships next year is set to commence in earnest later this year, it is politically and democratically germane for concerned pundits to begin throwing up possible candidates and outlining their merits.

It is on this note that I am in full support of a likely bid for Governor of Cross River State in 2015 by Senator Benedict Ayade. And why do I think Cross River needs Benedict Ayade as its next governor? The reasons are not farfetched and I will proceed to state them as follows.

To begin with, Cross River has become an internationally active and strategic component of the Nigerian federation. For instance, in June 2012, Calabar, the state’s capital, hosted the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) Commission for Africa Conference. In May 2013, a high-level Chinese delegation visited Cross River and announced plans to open a truck manufacturing plant at the Calabar Free Trade Zone.

On June 18, 2013, General Electric, the American energy giant, performed the ground-breaking for the construction of a $1bn (₦158bn) service and manufacturing plant also at the Calabar Free Trade Zone. On November 5, 2013, the United Nations opened its regional office in Calabar, to oversee its activities in the South-South and South-East geopolitical zones. In addition, the state’s huge tourism endowments make her a preferred destination in West Africa.

From the foregoing, Cross River needs a governor whose international profile matches this standing.

It should be noted that Ayade won a Japanese government award for outstanding research on global warming in Africa.

Also, thanks to his expertise on sustainable environmental management, Ayade was the Senate’s lone representative, accompanying President Goodluck Jonathan, at the United Nations’ Earth Summit, (RIO+20), in June 2012, in Brazil.

Furthermore, in a feature piece published in the December 2012 issue of the best-selling pan-African magazine, New African, the magazine’s associate editor, Cameron Duodu cited Senator Ayade’s views when making a vital point on Nigeria. He said, “As Senator Benedict Ayade put it: ‘[Nigeria] should not go borrowing, because when we do, we lose the value of the Naira, and our own values. There is no reason why we should go and borrow from countries that are not as rich as Nigeria.’”

Secondly, environmental and forestry issues now feature prominently in Cross River State’s development aspiration, especially as seen in the August 28, 2012 signing by the Imoke administration of the United Nations’ cooperative scheme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (UN-REDD), a feat which enabled the state to access a $4m reward for the conservation of its forests which are said to comprise over 30% of the world’s remaining rainforests.

How does an Ayade governorship fit into this? Senator Ayade is an environmental consultant of note who once served as the Chairman of the Cross River State Ecological Fund and the Chairman of the International Institute of Environmental Research. Ayade has equally worked on groundwater remediation in Nigeria, and invented a sewage treatment plant based on solar energy.

In fact, Ayade currently serves as the Vice-Chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Ecology. The implication of this is that a Governor Ayade will have a hands-on leverage over the goings-on in this sector which is vital for Cross River’s development, going forward.

Furthermore, yet another area that Senator Ayade will add great value to, as Governor of Cross River State, is that of education and human resource development. Ayade is first and foremost a professor whose doctoral dissertation was declared the best in the University of Ibadan in 1994.

Beyond that, by establishing the Senator Ben Ayade Scholarship and Bursary Scheme to “promote scholarship and alleviate the plight of financially handicapped students of [his] senatorial district in the pursuit of educational advancement in tertiary institutions in Nigeria” and committing over ₦20m for the same, Ayade has demonstrated, beyond any reasonable doubt, his passion for educational advancement. Cross River will sorely need this from its next governor.

In a May 2011 interview, asked about what impact his academic clout would have on his political career, Ayade said “In academics it is all about being focused; in politics, especially in the emerging politics, it is only the intellectuals that can find bearing and so, more polished and intelligent people are coming into the scene.”

Again, Ayade has been very active during his on-going stint at the Senate. For instance, on July 16, 2013, the Senate commenced proceedings with the presentation and first reading of the following bills sponsored by him:

– National Biomedical and Hazardous Waste Management Agency (est. etc) Bill 2013 (SB.339)

– Kidnapping Bill 2013 (SB.340)

– Local Content in Building and Construction Industry Bill 2013 (SB.341)

– Nigerian Oil Shipping Bill 2013 (SB.342)

– Green Cities Development Bill 2013 (SB. 343)

Two of the bills (the National Biomedical and Hazardous Waste Management Agency Bill 2013 (SB. 339) and the Green Cities Development Bill 2013 (SB. 343) have huge implications for Nigeria’s environmental management and clearly highlight Ayade’s impact on the national scene. This is therefore another plus for his candidature as Cross River’s next governor.

Indeed, if or when the Green Cities Development Bill is passed, it will be of great benefit to Cross River State itself which flaunts its capital city, Calabar, as Nigeria’s cleanest and greenest.

It is a testimony to Senator Ayade’s work rate that he is known to have tabled the second highest number of bills in the current Senate! And he is only a first-term senator!

In addition, Senator Ayade has the youth factor on his side. Ayade is a young man who, despite his many impressive accomplishments thus far, will turn only 46 in March 2015. Since the dawn of the present democratic dispensation in 1999, Cross River has had young men as governors. The current governor, Liyel Imoke, was first elected into office in 2007 at the age of 46 while his predecessor, Donald Duke, started his first term in 1999 at the age of 38! By its urbane nature, Cross River State will always need young and dynamic persons to serve as its governor. An Ayade governorship will further entrench that positive trend.

In 2015, Cross River State will need a governor who possesses the capacity, pragmatism and gumption to rein in her tourism potential, significantly turn TINAPA’s fortunes around, improve the spread and quality of education, boost agricultural productivity and agro-investment, improve power supply and healthcare delivery – factors that hold the aces to create many jobs for the state’s teeming youths whilst advancing rural and infrastructural development to further alleviate poverty in the state.

It is fitting that Ayade, who has also served as a member of the Cross River State Poverty Alleviation Board, says three of the concerns above (agro-investment, improved power supply and healthcare) are his personal targets for achievement in public office.

Moreover, and in keeping with his passion for healthcare and agro-investment as stated above, Ayade has committed himself to the welfare of the people of his senatorial district.

In a recent opinion piece lauding his achievements in this regard, the author, Alice Aboh, said; “Since his overwhelming acceptance by the people of the northern district at the [senatorial] polls in 2011, this young cerebral man has made service to the people his sole priority. For instance between October 2012 and June 2013, he brought in a team of doctors to offer free medical care including diagnosis, surgery, free drugs and post operation care for thousands of people in the five local government areas of the district.”

Aboh added: [Ayade has equally masterminded] the free distribution of high yield rice to the farmers of the senatorial district.” “Ayade is also Cross River’s first representative to inaugurate a subsidised transport scheme in the state. His Ayade Motors has six fully air-conditioned buses dedicated to this project that ferry people from the five local government areas of the north to and from Calabar every day,” Aboh wrote.

From the facts above, there is every reason to be upbeat about the bright outlook for Cross River State with a Governor Benedict Ayade. It is my earnest hope that, come 2015, he will indeed run for Governor and Cross Riverians will avail the state of his resourceful leadership by electing him into office.

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