As part of the then Eastern Nigeria, South-Eastern state was created in May, 1967 and renamed Cross River State in 1976 while the current Cross River State was reconfigured in 1987 when Akwa Ibom State was carved out of the former South Eastern State structure.
With a population of about 3 million persons (2,892,988 from the National population Commission, Abuja official gazette), the state shares common boundaries with the Republic of Cameroun in the East, Benue state in the North, Ebonyi and Abia States in the West, Akwa Ibom State in the South West and Atlantic Ocean in the south.
Having a land mass of 23,074 km2, Cross River State is home to rich stock of arable land, forest and mineral resources inclusive of but not confined to limestone, quartz, natural gas, clay, salt, tin, granite, kaolin, basalt, lead/zinc, manganese, barite, uranium, amongst others.
Thus sitting on this biodiversity hotspot, one at once imagines that Cross Riverians of every extraction will tap into their past to examine where they are coming from to enable them assess the present, just as they figure out how to shape the future against the backdrop of their institutional, education, religious and cultural orientation.
Cross River State being the microcosm of the Federation of Nigeria has a lot in common to share with the rest of the country as the last vestiges of the old colonial regime with its emphasis on training people for white collar jobs as against blue collar ones had left it numb with the teeming unemployed graduates constantly stoking up its conscience. And if not massaged, the figure is staggering.
At least a flicker of light can be gleaned beyond the tunnel as the bar placed over employment has been raised by the Governor Professor Ben Ayade with the distribution and /or issue of forms to qualified persons in the state, after several years of mismatch between retirement and employment which may render the state’s civil service almost comatose from regular employment/replacement fatigue or from the lethargy of the inexperienced army of newly recruited persons or both.
Simply put, when the chain of succession in the civil service which transmits experience from top to bottom is severed or broken, the inestimable and inescapable consequence is homogenous recruitment exercise with its attendant wishy-washy services offered at best in the short run; as the state embarks on training and retraining of staff who would have otherwise transited seamlessly in an experience laden heterogeneous environment, with more cost on the long run. This is why governor Ayade’s timing is critical.
In this regard, it takes two to tango. Those to be recruited must be competent and of good character. This goes far beyond paper qualification(s). Yes, both character and competence are, of course, necessary, and they are also mutually and individually inclusive to function or lead in the twenty-first century.
Now that the Ayade led administration has thoughtfully introduced a reward system of top performing MDAs every 6 months, the likely temptation is for those MDAs to slip over from the expected constructive and functional synergy between them to an incongruous competitive spirit analogous to an ill wind that blows no one any good.
That is why the recipe for good character of integrity, maturity and abundance mentality becomes necessary as a lee way to see the privilege so offered to serve as a cornucopia of ever enlarging opportunity, resources and wealth, short of being threatened by the successes of others.
“Character, in the long run, is the factor in the life of an individual and of nations alike”, said Theodore Roosevelt. And this must dove-tail also both in short and long run into the bedrock of the states’ citadels of learning like the Cross River State University of Technology (CRUTECH) and the Institute of Management Technology in all ramifications in order to sharpen the overall prowess of cross Riverians, as we prepare ourselves physically, socially, emotionally, mentally and spiritually to roll back the loses we have incurred over the years due to our lethargy.
This is to guard against the institutional, infrastructural and the developmental strides of government being hi-jacked by the more instinctual, adventural and seemingly resourceful persons who would, like water, naturally find their level to occupy the entrepreneurial vacuum so created. Nature itself hates vacuum remember!
Cross River State has been plenteously endowed by God through various natural and mineral resources, located within the tropical rainforest belt of Nigeria, with largely an agrarian economy of rich arable land, its minerals deposits of limestone, quartz, natural gas, clay, salt, tin, granite, kaolin, basalt, leade/zinc, manganese, gypsum, barite, uranium and mica amongst others makes the newly created Ministry of Solid Minerals in the state a dream come true.
The arm chair chronicle of the litany of the states’ mineral blessings, without more is of little or no avail. The pioneer spirit of the Governor Ben Ayade led administration that had midwife the birth of this Ministry and other new ones in the state has a positive trajectory that has placed the state in the league of manufacturers or industrialists, when driven to its concrete occlusion.
The growth and development of the economy of any given geopolitical entity depends largely on manufacturing, but less and less on handouts from the Federation Account, more so when the recent global oil glut had, sad to say, witnessed the free fall of prices from over $200 per barrel to a ridiculous low of less than $50.
It is only instructive that this worrisome trend occasioned by the unseen but manipulative hands of market forces in collaboration with pockets of oil racketeering in failed/conflict crude oil producing states, coupled with global conspiracy of oil consumers’ insatiable appetite for storage of same and like products; not to mention the present global race against time to reduce carbon emission to less than 20f, due to climate change; oil producing countries ought to look elsewhere, indeed to agricultural and manufacturing sectors.
There is no gainsaying the fact that the 2015 CALABAR FESTIVAL/CARNIVAL THEME: CLIMATE CHANGE, drives this awareness more than anything else in the state, just as more than 150 world leaders gathered in Paris under the auspices of the United Nations in their bid to hammer their commitments into enforceable agreements to reduce carbon emission or to de-carbonize energy use or switch from fossil fuel to renewable energy in the world- the first of its kind in the millennium.
Our progenitors through their brief pilgrimage on earth may have suffered hunger, deprivations and neglect, with these minerals still buried in the ground, they owned them merely in principle and is trust for their offspring. And the taste of a pudding is in the eating. No bread, no matter how well nourished it appears, remains useless until eaten, digested and assimilated to produce energy in the eater.
Thus with the influx of investors expected in the state against the backdrop of the prerequisite of setting in place the requisite MDAs to Co-ordinate their activities, it is expected that the guarantee of investor confidence had been thought through, in an atmosphere of mutual trust amidst an environment of congenial bureaucracy and less red tape, as they come poised to exploit these minerals.
Calabar, the state capital city, was capital of Nigeria and also home to Nigeria’s pioneer Free Trade Zone (FTZ) and Tinapa, Africa’s premier leisure and commercial resort with all the trade incentives as harnessed by the Obudu Ranch Resort.
As business men navigate their way to the state known for our hospitality, Cross Riverians would cease to be hospitable if we allow our differences in politics, religion, culture, tradition and primordial interests or impulses to dictate the pace and take the better part of us, sending an obnoxious tell-tale clues for the world that the state is least prepared for them.
Opposition should not derail the train on course. Far from fanning the embers of opposition; but is it not true that in advanced democracies all over the world a viable opposition is a veritable instrument used by the governed (on behalf of whom the instrument of power is held in trust) to check the arrogance of the ruling party, which may, as frequently happens, even crumble under the weight of its own contradictions if left unabated?
Some states’ free thinkers may unfortunately suffer demographic disadvantage arising from the fact that they hold little or no lever to trim their sails to suit the establishment to effect the needful change; but the fact remains that, the loud and shouting realities of our political antics and the demagogue in us can only clog the wheel of growth and development in the state, but would also not assist to deepen democracy as it were in the entire country.
And not least is what the former President Goodluck Jonathan (GCFR) calls political prostitution of carpet crossing, and demonization of the “Former” party.
Ironically, if it hadn’t been for people like Bola Tinibu, Mr. President, Mohammdu Buhari and others, we may not have had the ruling party in All Progressive Congress (APC), whose persistence of a bulldog and the tenacity of a hermit defied the dogged hegemony of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for 16 years (1999-2014).
This state is in urgent need of political, social, economic, cultural, intellectual regeneration.
At all times, a combination of strategy, patience, commitment, trust, education, character and above all love, is key to all successful political and economic business.
Twenty first century Cross River under Ayade needs nothing less. This is the legacy we all owe the state.
Barrister Agabi Oko is a Barrister-at-Law and writes from Calabar
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