A few days ago, on The Platform Nigeria which the organizers describe as a Global Media Event, Peter Obi, the controversial ex governor of Anambra State in a widely broadcast event which included internet options to watch through Youtube chided the Cross River State Governor Sen. Prof. Ben Ayade on one of the signature projects of his administration; the Bakassi – Katsina Ala Super Highway.
In a speech in which he covered many issues ranging from borrowing to saving as a country and as a state, Peter Obi said specifically concerning the Super Highway and I quote; “You go to the states, it is the same thing. People are borrowing to do Superhighway, Superhighway to where?
This reference has elicited mixed reactions from a cross section of Cross Riverians in particular and Nigerians in general. It is most unfortunate however that a former governor would choose to play to the gallery and cast aspersions on genuine development effort and aspiration of another sitting governor in a state so far from his own.
Before I go on, I must make it clear that I am not against The Platform Nigeria and the objectives of the organizers, neither is it the intention of this writer to denigrate the person of Mr. Peter Obi. Rather, I perceive that one of the objectives of The Platform Nigeria is to create an opportunity to promote national conversation which is the Hallmark of Democracy.
It is in contributing to this growing conversation that I wish to take a look at Peter Obi’s assertion, attempt to answer his question about the Cross River Super Highway and throw more light on the Cross River State development vision under the leadership of Sen. Prof. Benedict Ayade.
Recently, I read a book titled My Vision – Challenges in the Race for Excellence written by Vice President of United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. In the book, the Ruler of Dubai which has become one of the leading destinations globally expressed a few thoughts on the philosophy of excellence and pioneering spirit driving the growth of the province.
Permit me to make reference to some of these thoughts here to help me put this conversation in perspective going forward. He said; “When we face challenges that demands a solution or a decision, you have two entities – you either emulate the example set by others or use your own creativity and intelligence to formulate a new idea.”
Continuing, he said “We believe that the shortest way to the bright future we seek lies in a creative and pioneering approach.” Then he added “We do not need the type of change that allows us to catch up or cope with others; we need the type that allows us not only to win the present race, but lead the next one.”
These are the kind of thoughts that define the quality of leadership that transforms a backward state to a world class destination which Dubai has achieved in a few decades and which Cross River State aspires to achieve in the next few years. This is the mindset behind the vision of Sen. Prof. Ben Ayade to achieve socioeconomic transformation of Cross River State.
In sharp contrast, leaders like Peter Obi will stand before an audience of present and future leaders in Nigeria and makes such a statement and all he can draw are laughs and perhaps a few claps. This makes me come to the conclusion that our nation is in deeper trouble than we all earlier perceived; more so, when The Platform Nigeria ought to be a place where critical thinking should be expected of both speakers and audience.
To consider that Mr. Obi, a former Chairman of Fidelity Bank was discussing borrowing by the nation and states makes me even sadder. Could this be a sincere advice of a senior banker to his public sector client?
What could be a more worthy cause for borrowing by a state or a nation other than a project like the Signature projects; the Super Highway and the Deep Seaport which have the capacity to generate the funds needed to pay back the loan and the interest within a reasonable time.
It may interest Mr. Peter Obi to know that first, the proposed Super Highway is not to be built with money borrowed by the Cross River State Government but through an investment portfolio using the Public Private Partnership PPP model and second; the Super Highway when completed will be tolled to generate income for both investors and the state government.
More importantly, the Super Highway is not planned to be a standalone project but to serve as an evacuation corridor for the Deep Seaport which is to be located in Bakassi.
In an obvious endorsement of the projects, the President of Nigeria Mohammadu Buhari at the ground breaking ceremony of the super highway said “Given the multiplier effect these two laudable projects are expected to generate, in terms of aggregate spin offs, I want to assure you of my determination as well as the commitment of the federal government to ensuring that the super highway and indeed the deep seaport run to a quick completion.”
Having said all these, it is important that I answer Mr. Obi’s question so it would not seem as if I am avoiding it. Peter Obi asked a simple question “Super Highway to where?” Before I answer that question, I would first answer a question Mr. Obi would have asked as a professional, but failed to do so: Super Highway from where? For there is a popular saying “If you don’t know where you’re coming from, then you won’t know where you’re going to.”
The Super Highway is planned to begin from the proposed Bakassi Deep Seaport and would serve as the evacuation corridor for this sea port. Without this being planned and executed alongside the deep seaport, one of the challenges facing the other ports in the country, which is poor road network for evacuation, will be a very big challenge also.
Now that we know where it is coming from, I will answer the question about where it is going to. The Super Highway is expected to empty into the land – locked region of the middle belt, northern Nigeria and countries north of Nigeria which are expected to be served by the Bakassi Deep Sea port. This is why the Super Highway terminates at Katsina-Ala.
I know Peter Obi will agree with me that it will be far shorter to move goods from the proposed Bakassi Deep Seaport to the entire northern region than moving them from Lagos as is presently being done. This is one of the key justifications for the vision of the Bakassi Deep Sea port, the other being that the Lagos ports have become congested with poor evacuation corridors.
After having answered Peter Obi’s question, let me give a little insight into the Cross River State development vision under the leadership of Sen. Prof. Benedict Ayade and the philosophy of excellence and pioneering spirit which has birthed these laudable projects.
Cross River State, Nigeria under the leadership of Sen. Prof. Ben Ayade seeks to pioneer the most ambitious socioeconomic development agenda in the region beginning with it’s signature projects the Bakassi Deep Seaport and the Bakassi – Katsina Ala Super Highway.
Beyond the Signature projects, the aggressive industrialization drive of the administration; the construction of the Cross River Garment Factory, the Calabar Pharmaceutical Company, the Thai Africa Rice City, the Calabar Mega Power Station, and many others are also geared towards achieving this socio economic transformation of the state as envisioned.
As a state, we are facing challenges that demand a solution, we will continue to employ the creative and pioneering approach and with a spirit of excellence we are convinced we will win the present race and lead the next one. We ask for the support of all stakeholders including Peter Obi and many others.
Emmanuel Etim is a development consultant based in Nigeria.
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