By Sylvia Etta
Honorable Emmanuel Ibeshi, the first elected National Publicity Secretary of PDP and 2015 governorship aspirant in Cross River State has promised that if he is given the chance to occupy Peregrino House in 2015, he will not wait for the federal government before alleviating the grueling pains that commuters are enduring on the Calabar-Ikom-Ogoja-Obudu federal highway.
While outlining his blue print in his declaration speech on arrival from the United States, the former member of the House of Representatives said, apart from ensuring that the highway which is the most critical Trunk A road in the state is fixed, he will also make Agriculture the rallying sector to create the required synergy and make functional other sectors of the economy.
“Given the opportunity to lead the state, my investment priorities will be very focused on our proposed master plan to enable us achieve the desired goal. For goods and services to move from place to place, we need a good and efficient road transport system. Given the opportunity to serve as Governor, though I understand that Calabar- Ikom -Ogoja Obudu roads are federal highways, I will not wait for the federal government to fix these roads, these roads are the life wire to the state, I will use states resources or external loans to complete these roads as a matter of priority. When necessary, we will seek reimbursement from the federal government.
“As you are all aware, we cannot achieve a lot without functional roads. Access to the ranch depends on these roads, access to Ugep Polytechnic depends on these roads, access to Ikom commercial city depends on these roads, Access to Wilmer farms depends on these roads, access to the Quarry rocks depends on these roads, Access to 99% of the state depends on this roads, we cannot underestimate the true value of completing these roads, given the opportunity, I will fix these highways during my first term in office.”
Hon. Ibeshi also promised that if it becomes necessary, he will relocate the Bebi Airstrip to maximize its potentials and well as assist LGAs to generate solar power and sell to the national grid to raise revenue and assist the state in paying her huge debt within 6 years.
“Easy accessibility of Nigerians to access the ranch either by land or air has been a major setback. I plan to enter into partnership to upgrade Bebi Air strip or if required relocate the airstrip and convert it to a full airport.
“Following the privatization of power in Nigeria, the power sector is promising to be a high yield investor’s heaven with very minimal investment risk. In my last visit to the United States, Europe and Canada, I have started talks with some of the largest solar farm developers in the Western hemisphere.
“They are willing to engage Cross River State and her local government areas on the development of solar farms, 2 megawatts farm for each local government, and all produced electricity to sell to the national grid. Based on our current estimation, the investor is expected to recoup all or most of his investment within the first three years.
“Through projected revenue from these farms resulting from the sale of power on the national grid, we anticipate to pay off the States’ debt within 6 years and at least 35% during the first four years of my administration.”
The full text of the declaration speech is published below:
Ladies and gentlemen of the media, Peoples democratic party faithful’s in Cross River state, elders, stakeholders, and members of the public, I am humbled by the opportunity that I seek to be your state Governor in the coming elections.
I have had to contribute to the development of our nation, serving as the first democratically elected publicity secretary of the ruling people’s Democratic Party. Member, federal house of representatives, and served on several national committees and assignments.
Over the years I have been involved in different investment programs in Nigeria, United Kingdom and United States of America. This I plan to bring to bear, if given the opportunity to serve as Governor of Cross River State.
The biggest threat to our democracy in Cross River state today is youth unemployment and poverty. Successive regimes have come and gone with a promise to deliver and alleviate our people from poverty. Successive regimes have invested greatly in infrastructural projects, rural roads, agriculture, education and tourism.
While all these have helped to project our dear state to the international community, what is left to be done, is creating the required synergy that will directly link the day to day economic wellbeing of our people to these projects and improve their livelihoods.
As I travel around the state consulting with stakeholders and ordinary people in the streets, from the cattle rarer in Obudu to the small scale fisherman in Akpabuyo, from the Garri sellers in Ugep to the plantain sellers in Bendeghe, from the hunter in Awi forest to the pineapple planters in Boje, I have been asked this question over and over again, what will you politicians promise us this time, or what will you do differently that we have not heard before?
Given the opportunity to serve, I will use Agriculture as the rallying sector to create the required synergy and make functional other sectors of the economy.
The high rate of inflation has made rural agriculture less attractive as a source of income. Farming is now synonymous with poverty. A young man who completes university education and resorts to farming is often laughed at by his fellow unemployed peers. The reason is simple, as a society, we have failed to make farming lucrative.
We can no longer postpone the need for the structural transformation of our agrarian economy. Our current raw material producing economy is incapable of generating the jobs that our young people need and deserve.
It is vital that we put in place a comprehensive, systematic programme for the industrialization of our agricultural sectors for export. This will not only mean more revenue for farmers, but it will attract our teaming unemployed youths to embark on farming for export purposes.
Today, the bulk of African food being sold in the United States and Europe come from Ghana. If Nigeria as a country cannot promote agricultural export, then given the opportunity, Cross River State will take the lead in the proposed agricultural export industry.
Given the opportunity, Job creation for our people and making farming profitable will be the defining blueprint of my administration. Given the opportunity, I will provide the necessary incentives to our people;
I will revisit the AGOA agreement reached between Nigeria and United States which we failed to execute our side of the bargain, and in no distant time, our products will flood overseas markets and our local people will farm for dollars.
While building international markets, trade centers and technological centers may help to industrialize the state, I believe that we will do better if we use what we have to achieve what we don’t have. Industrializing our agrarian agriculture economy for export purpose to create meaningful employment I believe is the way forward.
We need to work out the fiscal, monetary and technological incentives that can stimulate local production of goods and services by the private sector. That is the way to deal with widespread unemployment and low wages among our teaming populations. But, to succeed in industrializing and promoting export, we must show a far greater seriousness in building the states infrastructure, including not only power, but also housing, transport, water, irrigation, ICT and a Sea Port.
Given the opportunity to lead the state, my investment priorities will be very focused on our proposed master plan to enable us achieve the desired goal. For goods and services to move from place to place, we need a good and efficient road transport system. Given the opportunity to serve as Governor, though I understand that Calabar- Ikom -Ogoja Obudu roads are federal highways, I will not wait for the federal government to fix these roads, these roads are the life wire to the state, I will use states resources or external loans to complete these roads as a matter of priority. When necessary, we will seek reimbursement from the federal government.
As you are all aware, we cannot achieve a lot without functional roads. Access to the ranch depends on these roads, access to Ugep Polytechnic depends on these roads, access to Ikom commercial city depends on these roads, Access to Wilmer farms depends on these roads, access to the Quarry rocks depends on these roads, Access to 99% of the state depends on this roads, we cannot underestimate the true value of completing these roads, given the opportunity, I will fix these highways during my first term in office.
On our State debts, though we have a high debt profile, I must categorically say, The State of our economy is strong. I, plan to continue the policies of the present administration and more importantly invest directly in the lives of the people. I will ensure Wilmer farms reaches full capacity, Obudu cattle Ranch is self-sustaining, Shanghai farms reaches full capacity the international convention center operates at full capacity.
Join me, let us build our state. Join me, let us change the lives of our people. Join me let us make our democracy work for us, Join me let us make Cross River state once again, a tourism destination, let us bring out the true beauty of Agbokim waterfalls, Leboku festivals, The Calabar Carnival and let us join hands and bring more business to the International convention center. Join me let us fix our decaying hospitals, schools and other state infrastructure. Join me let us revive our state parastatals.
As we are all aware, the current administration handed over TINAPA to AMCON, among other options, at the time, this we believe was the best solution. With that move, TINAPA is no more considered a debt burden on the state. Mistakes may have been made, however it is only in mistakes that we learn. It will be the commitment of my administration to ensure that the newly built international convention center does not end up a liability to the state. From day one in my administration I will address all the major factors that will guarantee its success.
As you are all aware, security, peace, stability, places of interest, infrastructural and transport accessibility all play a major role in tourism. It wouldn’t be an overstatement to say that the poor state of the Odupkani-Ikot Ekpene Aba roads played a major role in discouraging most private establishments and oil companies from utilizing Calabar as a hub for their meetings and trainings. Again the absence of a flight route between Port Harcourt airport and Calabar airport has had a significant impact on tourism, hospitality and the hosting of conferences in calabar for the past decade.
This lack of visitors coming into the city greatly affected hospitality businesses. To be candid, if this is not addressed timely it will also affect the effective utility of the commercialization drive of the International Convention Center. With some of the major airlines to ensure the Calabar-Port Harcourt airlines route is established and functional.
I plan to initiate bilateral talks with the major airlines on making this route a reality within the first year of my administration. I will not let the convention center end up a burden to the state under my watch, this investment must bring dividends, boost required tourism, create the required synergy to boost jobs and small business enterprises within the enclave.
This same analogy can be made of the cattle Ranch. Easy accessibility of Nigerians to access the ranch either by land or air has been a major setback. I plan to enter into partnership to upgrade Bebi Air strip or if required relocate the airstrip and convert it to a full airport.
More important I plan to work in collaborative engagement with our federal congressmen, federal ministry of works and some international investor groups to ensure the Calabar Ikom Ogoja Obudu roads and upgraded to Grade A roads. Ensuring this roads are fully repaired will be a major priority of my first term in office.
More so, I will improve on the budget of the tourism bureau to enable them provide basic amenities in all our tourist sites. Tourism in my administration will go beyond the development of centers for site seeing to the creation of different cultural activities, dance, events, couples weekend and other events to be held at the ranch. It is my believe that with road network accessibility to the ranch and other tourist sites, it is this activities I believe will attract people to the sites.
On Calabar carnival and Medical Tourism: A few years ago, we initiated the carnival in Cross River State. At the time, it was the talk of the Country. Today most Nigerian states have all copied the tourism and our street party. Again, we initiated the Keep Calabar Clean campaign. We were tagged the cleanest state in the nation. Today other states have copied. In Cross River state, we will always lead and others will follow. My administration will maintain the tempo of the Calabar Carnival. We will attract more sponsors and continue to have the lead in the nation’s tourism.
Likewise, the proposed International medical center constructed by the Liyel Imoke administration will be promoted to success by my administration if elected. Just as tourism and the calabar carnival brought Nigerians from all walks of life to calabar, the proposed medical center shall serve as a state of the art medical facility that will attract Nigerians from all works of life to Calabar for treatment. To achieve this aim, we shall continue to promote peoples friendly programs and help the medical facility attain full capacity.
However, my administration shall not focus too much on building new projects, my primary legacy will be the administration that made other projects viable. I may not build new schools, but will make existing schools functional, I may not build additional new hospitals, but I will provide training, work tools, medication and other functional equipment’s to existing hospitals. I want to be remembered more as the Governor who focused on making past projects viable, rather than the Governor who initiated new projects.
On the Niger Delta Development Commission, my administration will see a significant improvement to how our people will engage and benefit from funds and projects accruable to this commission. We will ensure we receive our utmost benefits and entitlements in all allocations ranging from rural roads, employment opportunities, scholarships, farm equipment, and other benefits. This will also apply to the federal character commission and Civil service commission. Gone are the days when we have participated and benefited passively, my administration will witness a significant federal presence in our dear state.
On Bakassi, resettling the indigenes of Bakkasi will be prime in my administration. As you are all aware, by a territorial design and demarcation which is not a fault of this indigenes, they have been stripped off their homelands. The federal government had promised different types of support and resettlement, but this has been hindered by bureaucracy. Once given the mandate, I will ensure all entitlements to this people are addressed once and for all.
My administration shall witness local government autonomy. I will carry along local government Chairmen on my rural development and job creation drive. My administration shall help local councils generate additional income outside the regular allocations.
On Cross River Diaspora relations, this is an aspect we will pay attention. In my recent visits to the United states, I interfaced with some of diaspora organization and was perplexed how they are willing to support projects back home.
Not only will I give them a listening ear, I will provide the required logistics to make their participation in our local economy feasible. Some of the projects diaspora organizations have advised they will be willing to engage the state will include but not limited to establishing relationships with overseas hospitals to facilitate the donation of medical equipment’s to our community health centers, and to facilitate the trainings a and doctors exchange programs. Given the opportunity to lead, I will follow up on these proposals with vigor.
Traditional rulers during my administration will be given more assignments and responsibilities. This is necessary to reduce the rate of communal conflicts and chieftaincy tussles and land right claims amongst different communities.
On investments promotions, I will continue on the progress landmarks achieved by Governor Imoke. I will encourage Wilmer farms and Shanghai farms with more incentives and tax breaks if necessary to ensure that they break even and grow to maturity.
I plan to sit down with the management of these farms upon resumption of office to work out long term strategies on how to maximize profits, increase production and stabilize the economy. I will also address all their security concerns and disagreements and infightings with the local communities they operate. I will need to state here that the success of these farms in Cross River State will encourage other investors to view Cross River state as investors friendly.
On labor relations, my parents were local farmers and civil servants. I understand the pains and sufferings of labor. One thing I will assure you is that my government will be your government. I will make sure the channels of communication between government and labor is always open.
During my administration I will encourage continuous education and training to keep the workforces up-to-date. My administration will gradually see the end of the use of type writers in government offices.
I will ensure all civil servants saddled with administrative duties are computer literate. My administration will also gradually see the end of file stocking in offices. I will gradually digitalize and computerize the workplace. This is the 21st century, we cannot continue to use 17th century work tools to achieve 21st century objectives. Times have changed, time waits for no one, and we must change with time.
Given the opportunity, I will unite the people of the state. I will revive the political family, the economic family and the traditional family. The state PDP has developed several factions and in fighting’s. I was a founding member of PDP in Nigeria.
I am in a better position to reunite the party in the state. I am in a better position to coordinate the state elders to arrive at a consensus on key topical issues affecting the state and the party, and also to liaise with the newer generations of party faithful’s to reach consensus. In the past, in fighting’s led to defections and betrayal, but I promise to bring on board a leadership that will find strength beneath our weakness.
On diaspora relations, I plan to bring back home some of our very best brothers and sisters scattered all over the world. I will set up a diaspora commission under the supervision of the Special Assistant to the Governor on Diaspora Matters whose task will be to identify and bring back talented members of our state in diaspora to bring to bear their wealth of talents and help build the new economy.
During my travels and consultations with community leaders, stakeholders I visited the North, Central and Southern Senatorial districts. In Ogoja, Yala and Bekwara, the local people yarned for agricultural processing and storage facilities for their crops.
I told them, I have seen their concern and I will address same if given the opportunity. In Ikom, Boki and Etung, the young men reminded me of the days of the cocoa boom, they talked about the days when agriculture was very lucrative, the local women in Boki complained of inability to sell their farm products as buyers prefer to go to other markets because roads to their communities were not accessible.
In Boje, I met a woman who lamented how her vegetables and pineapples all got spoilt because the vehicle broke down enroute the local market. In Ochon, I met a young lady who complained of her inability to access medical attention while on her trimester pregnancy, she complained of the lackluster attitude of local nurses in her local health center, she spoke of the poor sanitary condition and breakdown of basic amenities in the health clinic, she told me of cases where some of her family members have died due to illness that otherwise would have been treated, in Appiapum, Ofudua, Agoi, Nko, Ugep the story was the same.
While the people applaud the efforts of Governor Imoke on rural transformation, they still appeal for more attention to their rural concerns. In similar vein, the story was not different in the Southern senatorial zone. The villages of Adim, Apket, Odukpani all complained of excessive accidents on their roads due to pot holes and careless driving, I told them I have heard their complaints, and in due course government shall act.
One central question not yet addressed is how will the state raise funds to address these legitimate concerns given our meager federal allocation and internal revenue derived from taxes and levies?
I wish to state here that as a state we shall embark on internal revenue generation. While taxes help to raise income for the state, we cannot to raise taxes on small businesses else it kills the spirit of enterprise. We have devised an income generation medium for the state and local government areas.
Following the privatization of power in Nigeria, the power sector is promising to be a high yield investor’s heaven with very minimal investment risk. In my last visit to the United States, Europe and Canada, I have started talks with some of the largest solar farm developers in the Western hemisphere.
They are willing to engage Cross River State and her local government areas on the development of solar farms, 2 megawatts farm for each local government, and all produced electricity to sell to the national grid. Based on our current estimation, the investor is expected to recoup all or most of his investment within the first three years.
Through projected revenue from these farms resulting from the sale of power on the national grid, we anticipate to pay off the states debt within 6 years and at least 35% during the first four years of my administration.
The details of this investment framework, associated cost, expected revenue, expected income to be generated to LGA on yearly basis, and how this will help reduce the states debt and provide additional income outside the states sources of income will be contained an economic plan due to be released soon.
As a single individual I may not be able to achieve all these goals, but together as a people, I can categorically say, yes we can! Let us work together as a team.
We cannot continue to define ourselves as people of different tribes and tongues. As indigenes of CRS we are one people. From the cattle Ranch Mountains of Obudu to the Creeks in Bakassi we are one people. From Afi Mountains to Agbokim Waterfalls we are one culture, From Nko forest to Idomi hills we are the Yakurr family, the Bahomonu brothers, the Ekoi nation, the Efik heritage and we are all form the great Cross River state.
Politics is not meant to make enemies from brothers, politics is meant to bring us together as one family.
Ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, I humbly declare my intentions to serve you the people, as Executive Governor.
Give me a chance, it will never be business as usual anymore.
Thank you and God bless you all.
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