This is not a topic that on a normal day I would have written about, but because of certain misconceptions floating all over the internet, some blaming the Governor, some blaming his aides, others blaming petition writers as being unpatriotic and others blaming Mr. President as heeding to politics in cancelling the trip, made me to make just a little input into the controversy.
My input is strictly educative not judgmental, however, if you are informed, it will help you make an independent unbiased judgement.
Let’s start with Governor Ayade: Upon assuming office, he identified two projects which he called his signature projects. As a sitting Governor he has every right to choose areas he wants to leave a mark and starting on time is paramount.
Some of us from inception disagreed with him, not necessarily from the concept perspective, but from the finance perspective. However, when we later learnt it was privately financed we backed down and decided to support his dream.
Now let me state something clear at this point. The fact that you disagree with a man does not imply he is wrong neither does the fact that you agree with someone’s views makes it right.
Based on this, some of us gave Ayade a rite of passage to go along with his projects, after all, we assumed, he may have looked at some feasibility analysis on the project’s success that we may not be privy to.
More so, when the infrastructure fund was passed by the house, it became wise to give up and see what the governor had on his sleeves.
Second, let’s look at the federal ministry of environment. This ministry has the responsibility among other things to promote the protection of the environment in Nigeria.
Its core mandate among other things is to prepare a comprehensive National Policy for the protection of the environment and conservation of natural resources, including procedure for environmental impact assessment of all developing projects.
What this means is that, if any project is designed that interferes with their sphere on supervision, they are obligated by law to contact all parties involved.
Now, if this ministry in her judgement thinks that the Superhighway will encroach on the National Parks and forest reserves, they are right and it is within their jurisdiction to say so. This is not politics. At least, this is a clear sign that Nigeria is working once again.
Third, on Muhammadu Buhari, he is the President of Nigeria. He has an obligation to attend to development programs in any state of the federation without bias or political differences.
Every leader, be it President or Governor have what we call “Handlers. If it is a celebrity, we call them managers. How efficient a leader performs in terms of time, resources and programs management depends on the degree of preparedness and expertise of the managers or handlers. They have the responsibility to think and plan ahead for the leader.
It is not out of place for the President’s handlers to consult with Ministry of Environment and Ministry of Transport to ensure that all due process has been followed before engaging the President on groundbreaking.
It is also the right thing to do, for Governor Ayade’s handlers to have ensured that all environmental impact assessments are done and submitted to Abuja timely, and to make sure all due processes are followed hitch free before giving the Governor go ahead with the groundbreaking invitations.
We should all be aware that if the President had ignorantly conducted the groundbreaking without due process being followed, this would have been a bigger embarrassment to his office and in the event foreign investors commit funding to the project only to stopped halfway by technical and environmental concerns previously overlooked, it can amount to a major international lawsuits with the state Governor and the President brought in as parties.
Getting it right and postponing the visit to complete all necessary due process is a blessing in disguise.
So Mr. Buhari’s decision to postpone the groundbreaking until all due process is observed and corresponding ministries are carried along is a step on the right direction, it is a clear indication that the President is informed, it is not politics as averred in some quarters.
Fourth, to the Cross River state social media community, the reactions have been divided. Some support the project while others don’t. Those who do not support the project or have objections to the mode of delivery should be given a fair hearing. Calling them names as being unpatriotic is not necessary.
In developed societies, I have seen it done here severally. In a project like this that will cut across farmlands, conservation areas, forest reserves, and plantations, a town hall meeting would have been called to get the input of all concerned.
Votes are cast and popular opinion adhered to. In our Nigerian setting, a town hall of this kind would have included all opposition groups, representatives from Ministry of Environment and Transport, representatives from affected communities this road will pass through, proposed financiers, environmental conservationists and real estate investors who will be willing to set up new stores and petrol stations on the path the road will follow.
In my judgement, inability to carry all stake holders along is the major cause to this misunderstanding and why certain persons are bent on derailing the project even if good intention-ed.
Fifth, lest, I forget, in reading different comments on Facebook, I noticed another group, some of whom are disgruntled about the project. Most people whose villages fall within Akampka through Ugep and closer to Ochon who were cut out from the road have also shown some form of concern.
These include villages and Local Councils like Adim, Ugep, Abi, Apiapum and Obubra. These groups constitute almost 40% of Cross River state entire population.
To these groups, they are concerned that while we clamor for the new superhighway, little or nothing is being said about the present federal road leading to their towns.
Issues like this would have been handled at a town hall meeting, and this would help the governor make informed decisions on plans to also intervene in the present federal road.
As a people, it is not unusual that we are divided over the project. It shouldn’t be seen as a bad thing, this is how democracy works especially in the social media age where every government policy is an open book.
Now, since the project and groundbreaking has been postponed, let us take our time to do it right instead of crash programs.
The Governors handlers in Calabar shouldn’t have waited for the federal ministry of environment to have raised those issues before they attempt to rebut the claims.
Rebutting a memo through which the nations President took a policy and invitation stand in some climes should have been sanctioned.
In other words, the rebuttal from the governor’s Press Advisers and aides should not have been done in the social media.
Technically, they were rebutting the Presidents informed position on the matter and decision to postpone the visit.
From an advisory perspective, all assigned federal agencies should have been carried along right from the start, all clearance should have been done, all stakeholders should have been carried along or at least well informed on the reports of the environmental impact assessment before the President is brought into the picture.
It is not the personal responsibility of the Governor to do these basics, it is the responsibility of his handlers.
While I understand this may not have been done because the state Exco has not been formed and the state government is broke, however, we shouldn’t rejoice on how all this played out, rather we should bring ideas on board to get it right and to help the Governor actualize his pet projects even if we disagree with him.
We can only have one Governor at a time, so let’s help him succeed. To those throwing stones and abusing opposition parties and individuals who feel the Governor’s handling of the project was wrong, we shouldn’t shut out opposition.
Constructive opposition is good for a viable democracy. Let us also applaud and give credence to those who had issues with the plan. Listening to all sides in a debate helps you make a definite and informed decision.
Sixth, attention should also be given to the present federal highway cutting through Ugep and Obubra axis, as accidents will continue to happen on this road where over 40% of our state indigenes will continue to ply even after the super highway is finally built.
As we prepare to receive Mr. President on a future date, plans should be in place to get this present road on the table.
A house divided among itself cannot stand. Mr. President is an honorable man, he would not stoop to cheap petitions to boycott a visit to the State. He is too honorable and disciplined to play politics with development projects; rather he took an informed decision based on an informed assessment tabled before him.
On a similar note, Governor Ayade was not snubbed as speculated on Facebook, he still enjoys a good relationship with Mr. President after the fact. Governor Ayade in my judgements remains resolute in achieving his projects and will try to meet all stakeholders concerns.
The ministry of environment was not being political or biased, they only performed a constitutional assignment mandated to their office.
The opposition groups are not left out, we should not throw them away or regard them as mere noise makers, there were some truths in their initial concerns, however, their method of delivery may not have given it the attention it deserved.
Let us take this as a lesson. It will only make all parties better prepared as we progress as a people. We can make our state great if all hands are on deck. At the end of the day, we are all winners.
Princewill Odidi is a Social Commentator writing from Atlanta USA (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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