More than a year ago, precisely on January 2nd 2015, in a semi rural community called Oban Town, then Governor Liyel Imoke brought then candidate Ben Ayade as part of his entourage, to grace the Akachak Festival, the annual community carnival organised by the Ejagham East people in Oban Town.
Imoke had promised to rank Akachak as a state event, in order to further the tourism potentials of the event. To make good his word, he attended it personally.
As part of the event, a missionary priest from the community was launching a book he had written about the customs and traditions of the people. He had served in the most rural parts of Southern Sudan and Kenya and taken time to put the book together and was home to launch it.
Not only was that book to be a source of knowledge, it was also meant to be a source of support for his ministry in Bauchi, where he presently served in a rural part of the state, where he had passion about girl child education.
It was a good opportunity to seek the support of the Ejagham East people. Liyel did his best to promote the book. He offered to launch it unsolicited and directed all local government chairmen present to launch it with a certain amount of money and all the commissioners and special advisers who were there as well.
Even Senators who were there made pledges. The funny part was that, after Liyel made the pronouncement, there was a stampede for the books. Community people went over themselves to get a copy since the governor had launched it on behalf of everyone.
The priest just wanted a simple launch by community members and whatever guests were present, but it turned out to be a big thing after all, and the governor himself became the chief launcher. I wrote the foreword to the book.
When we spoke afterwards the priest was expressing doubts about the veracity of the governor’s action; hinging it on the ‘intrinsic’ untruthfulness of politicians.
His lament was that even the ordinary sales he hoped to make did not take place, because of the stampede, so it was a total loss, economically. I tried to encourage him.
I told him that politicians often want to impress to score points, that being a priest and a missionary one at that, the governor would want to fulfil his promise, even if it were the tiniest bit of it, the part that concerned himself.
Perhaps we should have educated ourselves more to the fact that such pronouncements are to be followed up with a formal request letter.
But how many people really know that when a government official makes such unsolicited ‘commitments’, one is to then write a formal letter requesting?
I know that sometimes governors make promises and intend to fulfil them but there is no efficient channel; no one to get reminders across, which get blocked off by dutiful or overzealous aides.
Of course, it is a million times easier to talk to God than to talk to any highly placed (elected) official in Nigeria, more so His divinity, a governor; for that is what our governors are, gods of the Nigerian Pantheon.
I was surprised therefore that with a state chairman who could walk into the governor’s office without prior appointment, no guidance came as a way of which such a pledge could be redeemed.
It’s over seven months since Liyel Imoke left office. One would have said that his successor, who witnessed it, for whose political benefit the whole show was mounted, would do something about it. But one doubts if there is a link between this government and the last.
Imoke either willingly or otherwise does not seem to have any influence in the seven-month-old government.
The new man is doing his best to stamp his own footprints on the sands of time. He is so full of innovations that he has left everyone confounded.
He seems zealous and impatient to move the state forward but he requires a little more orthodoxy. He is young, but actually the oldest democratically elected governor on assumption of office.
Ebri, Duke, Liyel, were all much younger when they became governors. There is no shame in being inexperienced and needing help. His Excellency, Professor Ben Ayade should really calm down and listen and learn the ropes.
He is obviously the most academically qualified governor, with six degrees, and has some of the brightest ideas. He doesn’t need to have gone through it all by himself; there are lessons to learn from others.
At the risk of being ambushed and abused by his social media hawks, I am sincerely praying that Professor Ben Ayade would turn around and accept that governance is not about impulsive pronouncements and actions that are not firmly grounded.
Already our Efik brothers are dismissing him with a wave of the hand as ‘Atam, as if nothing good can come from ‘atam’ no matter how educated one professes to be.
It is important that while a leader should dream dreams, he should not remain a dreamer. Ayade may be a man of the future, and it might take time before he is really understood by the people.
But as the Emeritus Archbishop of Calabar said when I paid him a courtesy visit: “I thought he would use the opportunity offered by the Buhari government to repair federal roads and get the money back, so I can drive to Ogoja and you can drive to Oban.
But I hear he wants to do a super highway, which, good as it is, I might not drive on before I die… ”
While he plans for his signature projects and programmes which may sound futuristic, let him see how he could ease life for the ordinary people in the immediate.
There were things which stood Cross River State out: clean streets, regular exco meetings, a vibrant Obudu Cattle Ranch, Tinapa, Carnival Calabar, a democratically elected local government system etc; let him sustain and improve on these things while he initiates his signature projects.
Fr. Bassey works at the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria as Executive Secretary of Caritas Nigeria, Abuja.
Culled from Guardian
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