Navigating Towards Liberal And Economic Democracy; The Cross River Model BY EMMANUEL ETIM

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

Francis Fukuyama in his book “End of History and the last man” argues that the advent of Western liberal democracy may signal the endpoint of humanity’s socio-cultural evolution and the final form of human government.

Fukuyama drew his inference from Alexandre Kojève who posited that the progress of history must lead toward the establishment of a “universal and homogenous” state, most likely incorporating elements of liberal or social democracy; and emphasizes on the economic “post-political” character of such a state.

The objective of political democracy is for the emergence of leaders and peoples’ representatives and this must subsequently give way to governance. It has been established that the purpose of governance is to provide welfare, security, infrastructure and economic well being for the citizenry.

Government must be seen to be able to understand where partisan politics ends and the commitment to economic development begins.

The ability to navigate effectively towards liberal and economic democracy, thus creating the system needed to achieve fast track development for the benefit of the citizens, is one area where Cross River State has performed creditably and leaves a model for Nigeria to follow.

This treatise takes a closer look at this in a bid to encourage a conversation that can take the nation forward. Before we go any further, let us try to understand a few concepts.

Liberal democracy is a common form of representative democracy. According to the principles of liberal democracy, elections should be free and fair, with the presence of multiple and distinct political parties.

The liberal democracies usually have universal suffrage, granting all adult citizens the right to vote regardless of race, gender, or property ownership.

Liberal democracy traces its origins to 18th century Europe, also known as the Age of Enlightenment. The Enlightenment intellectuals believed that human affairs should be guided by reason and principles of liberty and equality.

They were opposed to the rule of undemocratic and illegitimate monarchies and aristocracies. Liberal democracies are currently the dominant form of political ideology in the modern world.

In the same vein, the central idea of economic democracy involves extending principles of popular sovereignty, most frequently applied to the realm of governance and politics to the realm of economics.

The purpose of political democracy is to provide for political empowerment to all citizens while the purpose of economic democracy is to provide economic empowerment to all citizens and all local communities, and to prevent the concentration of economic power that subverts mass political and economic empowerment.

To ensure economic empowerment, basic necessities and amenities and increasing purchasing capacity must be guaranteed to all citizens including local control of economic decisions, made on the basis of collective necessity. In addition to these, no outside interference in local economies or capital drainage is permitted.

On a more general level, as a guiding instrument for liberal democracy, the fact that economics need to be incorporated cannot be over emphasized.

Economic democracy still seems a rather unfamiliar concept in the continent generally and in Nigeria in particular. Our focus will be to attempt to shed more light on the leading role of Cross River State in promoting liberal and economic democracy in Nigeria.

It has become obvious that this is the basic ideal that has shaped the development philosophy of the state over the past sixteen years. Among the many states in Nigeria, it is clear to many political analysts that Cross River State is one of very few states that have a certified economic model which began from the administration of Mr. Donald Duke and continued through Sen. Liyel Imoke’s administration.

Sen. Prof. Ben, whose administration is in its early days, has shown undoubtedly that he is not only poised to continue the economic development vision of the past administrations but more importantly to get the state on a fast track of development for the benefit of all Cross Riverians.

Cross River State in seeking to realize the vision of the state which is “to be a leading Nigerian state with prosperous, healthy and well educated citizens living in harmony with people and nature and pursuing their legitimate interests in freedom moderated by good governance” has focused on economic development of the state including building infrastructure; both social and economic.

Through the various administrations, government has been able keep to its vision, investing in the development of critical economic sectors such as tourism, agriculture and recently solid minerals. The state also has framed Foreign Direct Investment promotion into specific economic growth policies and attracted investments into the state.

The development of physical infrastructure has been a key area of focus for the various administrations with urban development in Calabar, Ikom, Ogoja, Ugep and Obudu Local Government Areas.

There has been continuing commitment in the development of power infrastructure, increasing access to water and sanitation, providing efficient public transportation as well as development in Information and Communication Technology.

The state has also invested in the provision of social infrastructure such as education, health and housing which are essential to promote better utilization of physical infrastructure and human resource, thereby leading to higher economic growth and improved quality of life.

With the start of the fourth republic in Nigeria in 1999, Mr. Donald Duke was elected governor of Cross River State and was sworn into office on the 29th of May, 1999.

Duke has been praised for his contributions to the fields of agriculture, urban development, environment, information and communication technology, investment promotion, and tourism.

Through his work, Cross River State was brought back into the center of the national conversation. Donald Duke revamped the Obudu Cattle Ranch, created the idea of the Obudu International Mountain Race, started the Calabar Festival and Carnival Calabar and built the world renowned Tinapa Business Resort to boost business and tourism in the state.

In achieving these he successfully set the state on a pedestal for innovative growth and laid a solid foundation and roadmap for the transformation of the state from a political to a liberal and economic democracy which has continued growing over the past few years.

Sen. Liyel Imoke took over the mantle of leadership in Cross River State on the 29th of May 2007. Upon coming to office, because of his conviction that government is a continuum, the governor scaled up the Calabar Festival and Carnival Calabar started by the Donald Duke Administration.

He also pressured the Federal Government who finally approved the operating procedures and guidelines for the Tinapa Business Resort. The resort was finally granted a retail free trade zone status which helped activities pick up after initial clamp down by the Nigeria Customs Service.

In his citizens focused development plan Sen. Imoke through the Cross River Rural Access and Mobility Project CR-RAMP provided surfaced roads in the interiors of all local governments which served as evacuation routes for agricultural products for farmers in the state. He also expanded the Urban renewal program giving it momentum in many other local government areas in the state.

Sen. Liyel Imoke oversaw the transformation of Cross River State from a plantation economy to a service economy developing the Summit Hills Project with the world class Meetings, Incentives Convention and Exhibition (MICE) facility, the Calabar International Convention Center (CICC) being the signature project of the initiative.

Also located within the precincts of the Summit Hills are the International Golf Course, the Golf Estate and the proposed world class Specialist Hospital. These legacy projects of Sen. Liyel Imoke are expected to further promote the conference tourism, health tourism and sports tourism in Cross River State and increase the number of tourists visiting the state annually.

These and more were the contributions of Sen. Liyel Imoke in the growth and development of the economic democracy in Cross River State.

Sen. Prof. Ben Ayade took office on the 29th of May, 2015 and immediately set off to honor an appointment with history and destiny.

In his inaugural speech, he announced his signature projects which include the Bakassi Deep Sea Port and the 260 km Bakassi – Katsina-Ala Super highway which will serve as the evacuation corridor from the Bakassi Deep Sea Port to Northern Nigeria.

In so doing, he initiated an advanced stage of transition from a political to an economic democracy in Cross River State.

The proposed Bakassi deep sea port and the evacuation corridor, the Bakassi – Katsina-Ala super highway are seen as keys to economic revolution in Cross River State.

Research has shown that the world over, deep seaports engender economic development and the proposed Bakassi deep sea port in Cross River State will do the same especially with the strategic location of the state, being the shortest distance between the Atlantic Ocean and the landlocked Northern Nigeria and other countries north of Nigeria.

Having established the importance of the Bakassi deep sea port, the most important infrastructure after the port becomes the evacuation corridor of the port to Northern Nigeria which is the Bakassi Katsina-Ala superhighway.

The Sen. Prof. Ben Ayade’s commitment to building the 6 lane super highway complete, with all modern facilities, is based on the role it is expected to serve in easing transportation from the deep sea port.

These two projects will no doubt open up the economy of the state in the next few years ensuring economic prosperity for the citizens and the region.

In addition to these, the Government has proposed the development of new cities in the 18 Local Government Areas in the state and the identification, production, processing and marketing of at least one economic resource in each local government areas.

Many of these projects which are expected to be through Foreign Direct Investment will contribute to the industrialization of the state. Together, these are expected to further strengthen economic democracy in Cross River State.

It is clear that with this consistent focus and growth, Cross River State is providing a model for Nigeria in navigating towards Liberal and Economic Democracy.

The nation must follow the Cross River State example and rise above political democracy and partisanship to the unveiling and building of a sustainable economic model that will take the nation to a new pedestal for its growth and for the benefit of its citizens.

Emmanuel Etim is a development consultant based in Nigeria. (emmanuel.etim22@gmail.com)

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