By Our Editorial Team
May 29 of each year has come to be known as Democracy Day in Nigeria following the restoration of democratic governance on May 29, 1999, which ushered in the Fourth Republic after gaining respite from about 16 years of military dictatorship.
As a result of the restoration of democracy, democratic structures at the Federal and State levels including swearing-in and handing over and anniversary celebrations are carried out on May 29 of every year with exception of few states whose election calendars have been distorted due to election/mandate cancellation by the courts.
The Federal Government also declared the day a national public holiday. It therefore falls into line that most state governments as well as those on the saddle at the Federal government, will celebrate their one year anniversary in power today May 29.
Keeping to that tradition in Cross River State, today, the democratically elected administration here headed by Senator Benedict Ayade as the governor of the state is also joining other states and the federal government to observe the one year anniversary of the swearing in of the current political leaders.
Senator Ayade came into government with a lot of juicy campaign promises including the two key projects he unfolded to the electorates on the day of his inauguration at the Calabar International Convention Center (CICC).
The star projects which he dubbed, “The signature Projects” are the construction of a 260km super high way, from Esighi in Bakassi, in the South to Bekwarra Local Government Area in the northern part of the state; an evacuation route to the second star project, the Bakassi Deep Seaport.
During these 365 days, there has been arguments in favor and counter arguments as to the sincerity or otherwise of the administration of the Obudu born incumbent governor of Cross River State.
While others out rightly posit that he is not living up to expectation and means no good for the people of Cross River and its economy, but rather deceiving the people with phantom projects, others see him as the ‘Messiah’ that God has sent to liberate the people in this early hours of the 21st century.
Sincerely, it would be completely unreasonable for anybody to dismiss the Ayade led government and identify it with total failure, more so in just one year of a four-year tenure.
While we in CrossRiverWatch do not subscribe to such blind condemnation of Ayade’s leadership, we however agree that there have been many instances where the government under Ayade’s watch has not lived up to its promises.
CrossRiverWatch, having reported and followed up the activities of the government in the past one year, it is the considered opinion of our Editorial Team that the governor has achieved modest and commendable strides in some key areas while at the same time failing in several other critical areas.
It is on record that the Ayade administration beat other states, including those led by the APC to make Cross River the first State that Mr. President, officially visited to carry out the ground breaking ceremony of the super high way, and the first state in the South South region of the country that the Wife of the President, Aisha Buhari equally visited to launch her pet project, “Future Assured” despite the difference in political affiliation.
Early into the Ayade administration, the government announced that the poor, low income, and certain categories of civil/public servants should be exempted from payment of tax, though some economists criticized such move as a ‘socialist’ agenda.
He established the Food Bank Commission and expanded the food bank program to all the 18 LGAs.
The administration has succeeded in signing into law over 10 Bills most of which were initiated by the Executive. Some of the vital laws passed include the Social Housing Law, the Cross River Infrastructure Development Fund Law, the New Cities Development Law, Anti-Kidnapping Law, Water Front Infrastructure Laws, among others.
In March 2016, the governor travelled to 10 countries including Germany, France, Switzerland, Austria, Belgium, United States of America, Mexico, United Arab Emirates in search of Foreign Direct Investments, FDI.
Upon his return, the governor reported that he had engaged with leading investment companies and investors in real estate and infrastructure, power generation, tourism, banana and plantain export, shipping, education, solid minerals and agriculture among others.
He said the engagements were set to bring in Foreign Direct Investments worth billions of United States Dollars which are set to transform Cross River State to an industrialized economy.
The governor established the Green Police which has successfully recruited 1500 cadets who have resumed work, set up a security outfit, ‘Operation Skolombo’ to tackle insecurity in the state capital.
The Ayade administration has also been able to complete the Calabar Monorail project which he inherited from the previous administration and it is expected to be commissioned by Mr. President.
The governor has also completed the very publicized Calabar Garment Factory and it is also expected to be commissioned by the Wife of the President, Aisha Buhari in the coming days, while the Calabar Pharmaceutical and Cosmetic Company, CALASPHARM and Rice City Institute are located around the Garment Factory, making the location a would-be Industrial hub.
The government also commissioned the Obudu General Hospital, the 3 megawatt diesel fired Obudu Electricity Project, a Hydro Power project in Ikom and provided a Gas Turbine to power Tinapa.
The administration is known to be workers friendly and noted for paying state civil servants salary regularly and timely and sometimes even before they work; this is commendable especially in a country where most State governors are owing their civil servants up between five and eight months salaries.
The government had procured 200 transformers of various sizes to light up rural communities across the 18 local government areas of the state and also reactivated the state scholarship program which has been moribund for many years.
The feedback we got from the rural communities reveal that the administration is getting it right in community and primary health development with the renovation and re equipping of primary health centers, training of Traditional Birth Attendants, initiation of the one health center per Political Ward and more importantly advocacy on how citizens can have access to polio, malaria, measles and cholera vaccines across the state.
Within the period, Governor Ayade received an Award of Excellence from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) for his leadership and foresight in improving the life of the people of the State and was rated as Nigeria’s Most Labor-Friendly Governor by the Nigeria Labor Congress NLC, Cross River State chapter.
In spite of these modest successes and very commendable achievements, it is also the considered opinion of our Editorial Team that the Ayade’s government is yet to come to terms with openness and transparency in government business.
There is no effort on the part of government to come clean before Cross Riverians on questions bothering on some very critical matters of public interest, since it is trite that public office is not a private estate and people have a right to know what government is doing on their behalf.
Till date, the ownership of the Cross River Garment Factory Ltd, details of the state’s equity in the company, details of the contract and contractor who constructed the factory are all matters of speculation as administration officials are not willing to disclose information that is statutorily supposed to be available in public. It is the same case with other government projects and Special Purpose Vehicles, SPVs including the Deep Sea Port, Super Highway and the Thai-African Calabar Rice City Project.
We also believe that the Governor is talking and promising far more than he can actually do or give to the people. Promises of turning Bakassi to Lugano, commissioning of the garment factory in first 100 days in office, providing between 500-1000 jobs in his 100 days in office, of building houses for every civil servant, of making sure no Cross Riverian goes to bed hungry and hinging same to specific timing, has constrained the governor in many instances causing him to fail in meeting some of those datelines.
We hold that on several occasions, there has been too much enthusiasm in project execution and this has led to putting the cart before the horse. The commencement of work on the super high way and the deep seaport without a duly approved Environmental Impact Assessment EIA, and other procedures required to carry out projects of such magnitude, is one of such cases.
Also, the present situation where garbage bins are overflowing with dirt in most streets of Calabar is unacceptable. The aesthetic and green Calabar is giving way to a stinking Calabar that is making national headlines for all the wrong reasons. The governor must shore up effort in this regard and return our Clean Calabar.
We also think that the Governor should consider fixing and dealing with some bad roads in Calabar and other urban centers in the state while efforts are ongoing to restart work on the super highway as the “Operation Zero Pothole” launched towards the Yuletide season proved ineffective partly because its planning and execution were short termed with giant potholes reappearing on streets in Calabar and across the state.
Our Editorial Team also disagrees with the governor that government appointment should be to “put food on more tables and more mouths”. We are vehemently convinced that public office is strictly for service and should be gotten on the basis of merit and capacity to deliver.
In our opinion, the cacophony that has greeted the huge number of appointments in the name of expanded government, has not only diminished the value of public office in the state, it has also increased the wage bill of the state with no measurable value for money.
Also of note is that, Governor Ayade set an uncanny ball rolling when he pronounced his younger brother, Dr. Frank Ayade as the co-governor during his thanksgiving service held at his home town, Kakum, Obudu, last year.
We reason that, this public pronouncement by Governor Ayade concerning the role of his brother in his government may have provided, Dr. Frank Ayade the impetus to assume functions and perquisites that are strictly for designated public office holders.
Perquisites like long convoys with screaming sirens are official insignia which even the Deputy Governor of the state has not employed along the road or streets of Calabar but they are at the beck of Dr. Frank Ayade.
Also, taking up official roles like commissioning scheduled government projects when there are other designated officials who should have performed those functions, as we saw when Dr. Frank Ayade commissioned a general hospital in Obudu recently, smacks of denigration to the collective integrity of the Cross River electorate and give credence to rumors that the governor may have relegated the Deputy Governor to a ‘spare tire’.
We strongly advice that Senator Ayade should run an open government, give political appointees their full entitlements, not the current reduction of their salaries from the constitutionally approved wages in order to cope with the huge number of appointees.
The heightening level of insecurity across the state occasioned by the increase in abductions, kidnappings, return of the Skolombo Boys, and increase in snatching of valuables across the state does not speak well of a state reputed to be the safest and most hospitable across the country.
The failure of the current administration to address the issue of communal wars also taints the reputation of the state as a peaceful state. In the last one year, there have been over ten inter communal clashes, often with communities that share same ancestry, across the state and the state government still seem lost as to what long term strategy could be employed to end the feuds.
While the prompt payment of salaries to state civil servants is commendable, the delay in doing same to pensioners and local government employees will in the long run create disaffection between these categories of workers and may lead to a scramble for state civil service jobs, thereby creating a vacuum in the local government system which is already plagued by gaping manpower shortage.
The seeming abandonment of the comprehensive sports development program initiated by the immediate past administration does not bode well if the governor intends to really tackle issues of insecurity.
CrossRiverWatch will also want to stress that, it is imperative for the governor to make his spin doctors and image makers understand that their job is not to fight or quarrel with an inquisitive public but to make the image of the governor and communicate his vision appropriately.
A trend where those who are supposed to explain the administration’s policies pick up quarrels at the slightest provocation from the public clearly reveals the need for additional training and capacity enhancement for the administration’s officials who are meant to interface with the public.
These are some of the red signs we have noticed in the administration this first year and we will encourage Governor Ayade to urgently and drastically address them as he commences the second year.
We have no doubt about the capacity and good intentions of the governor and his earnest desire to transform Cross River state, but we are also aware that, that alone will not bring the desired development.
We encourage the governor and the government to remain focused on the goal of transforming the state while calling on all well-meaning Cross Riverians to join hands with the government to ensure the maximization of the potentials of the Peoples Paradise. This is our candid opinion.
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