Mission To Rescue Cross River State BY EMMANUEL IBESHI

In Breaking News, Columnists, Opinion

Being full text of the declaration speech of Honorable Emmanuel Ibeshi for the 2019 gubernatorial election.

Fellow Cross Riverians, brothers and sisters!

May I use this opportunity to appreciate you for sacrificing your time and money to be here with me in this arduous journey to rescue our dear Cross River State from further drifting.

I thank you all, who could make it here in person and to those far from here, whose thoughts and prayers are with us – and I know they number in millions – we all stand in unison, to say we are ready, we are here, we are fully prepared, with one common goal in sight: to take up the challenge to rescue Cross River State.

Cross River State, the pearl of the nation, pride and destination of choice of international and local travellers and tourists for the Nigerian tourism sector, the hope of the agrarian industry, haven of peace with unmatched promise of home-made culinary expertise. Suddenly, all these have fallen to pieces; disappeared in our very eyes – in just three years, just three years! We lost and are losing all that Cross River State and the world has known about this state since its creation in 1967 – then known as South Eastern State.

When the subsisting democratic dispensation commenced in Nigeria in 1999, Cross River State was perhaps the most promising of all the states in the country. Available indices point so very well to this fact. But I shall not go into all those details today; let’s save that for another day.

We all recall with nostalgia those days when tourists from all over the world as well as their counterparts from all states of Nigeria, practically trooped to Cross River State, filling every available space in hotels, savouring the hospitality and beauty that our state offered – thanks to His Excellency, Mr. Donald Duke, who sold the state to the world, and made us the envy of all other states in Nigeria.

Yes, indeed, we can recall with joy still in our hearts, how the Obudu Cattle Ranch became a global showpiece of attraction, hosting The Mountain Race and presidential retreats time after time.

We used to have at least three airlines flying to and from Calabar on regular schedules with visitors, investors and seminar attendees. At the moment we have just one airline plying the Calabar route; a sad commentary on the ordeals of Cross River State within just three years!!

It is also still fresh in our hearts, the unforgettable strides of His Excellency, Senator Liyel Imoke, how he opened up the rural areas of our state, and gave our people access, how he brought hope for agricultural revolution with the Songhai Farms model. The projects established by the duo of Donald Duke and Liyel Imoke are fresh in our minds. And, I ask: is it not painful that in just three years, we have almost lost all that these two distinguished sons of the state worked so tirelessly to build in 16 years put together? I don’t think posterity will forgive us if we let the gains of those 16 years go to ruin as it is clearly the case now. Outside of these projects, our youth have never been idle, with no hope, no motivation, and no entrepreneurial skills to hold unto.

And this is why I ask you fellow Cross Riverians to give me a chance to get our teeming youth positively active again. In their hundreds and thousands today they roam the streets without direction. Some flee to foreign lands where they are in slave labour or as sex slaves and many die in those foreign lands unsung or noticed – give me a chance to get them back and give them chance to take back their lives, to actualise their dreams. When young people go to school, or learn a trade, they do this with hope, to turn such hope into reality; all of these hopes have been dashed in the last three years. We cannot continue on this downward trend.

Permit me to remind you of some international assets globally acclaimed that we proudly call our own in Cross River State. Let me begin with the Obudu Cattle Ranch or Obudu Ranch Resort. This is an exotic resort that globally every tourist wants to visit. Donald Duke tushed it up and gave it global prominence and made it a home away from home for tourists. By now we should be celebrating milestones and upgrades of this resort. Unfortunately, that resort is literarily dead today. The Cable Car, first witnessed in West Africa in the Ranch Resort is dead!

The Tinapa business and holiday resort; contiguous with the Calabar Free Trade Zone projected to turn around N200 billion annually is dead!

The Institute of Technology Management (ITM) is technically also dead! So is the Songhai Farms!!

The aforementioned Projects desperately need focused leadership with foresight and insight on how to actualise the vision behind their setup. These projects are phased projects that require clearly thought out projections and timelines with a vision to activate the Export Free Trade Zone (EPZ).

Foreign exchange income generated from these enterprises will make crude oil of little or no significance to Cross River State. The key to Tinapa and the Obudu Ranch Resort is entreprenurship, entreprenurship and entreprenurship!!!Be rest assured, I will make enterprenurship become synonimous with Cross River State if you give me the mandate as governor in 2019.

Having studied the natural agricultural endowment of our dear state and the human capital generated from our tertiary institutions, the value chains derivable to the investing public with well articulated policy by my government will endear the erstwhile scared public to again revisit Cross River State as an investor’s haven.

I must confess that this will not be easy with the lack of policy or focus for continuity exhibited so far, but with well thought out programs, exhibitions with tax breaks and other incentives using best global marking tools, Cross River State will be in the map again bringing in investors in droves. Government has no business meddling in entrepreneurship but government has every business in providing an enabling environment through providing the right policy framework and incentives attractive enough for the investor to make cross river state a one stop center for investors/partnerships!! that, I assure you, I will provide if given the mandate.

When I look at our state, our economy, quite a number of key areas readily come to mind. Take agriculture for instance. Almost all of our people engage in agriculture from the small peasant in subsistent farming to the middle and large scale farmers who engage in it as major commercial enterprise. But how do the farmers engage in agricultural productively irrespective of their size, when there are no rural or access roads?

Indeed, this brings to mind some unforgettable projects that our immediate past governor, Senator Liyel Imoke, introduced, and made sure he delivered results.

We all recall with nostalgia the Rural Development Agency (RUDA), which Senator Imoke established; because this agency was responsible for giving access to rural communities through the Rural Access Mobilisation Project (RAMP) a counterpart funded project of the African Development Bank. This project enabled rural dwellers to commute through asphalted roads instead of earth roads that collapse during heavy rains. Let me remind you that for some of these rural communities were seeing asphalted roads for the first time! Those roads have remained a saving grace, and have enabled revolutionary growth in economic activities in those communities. Of course not all of our rural roads were touched by that project, which was phase 1.

Three years after, there has not been a phase 2, to continue where phase 1 stopped; in fact, we should be talking today of not only completing the second phase, but of beginning regular maintenance work on the rural roads in the first phase. Neither of this is on-going today. How sad! Yet government is supposed to be a continuum.

Cross River generally is desperate for urban renewal!!

You can count the potholes on the one hand that dot Calabar metropolis and other major city centres across the state that are accidents waiting to happen and the putrid stench that ooze from the mass of refuse that have become a signpost of our urban centres on the other; an eyesore that convey the sad commentary our enviable clean state has become. The roads linking Yala to Ogoja through Bekwara to Obudu in the Northern Senatorial Districts tell the saddest situation about the status of our dear enviable Cross River State with the current administration! But I assure you that with you and I, the deal is, “Lets Fix Cross River!!”

Education somehow goes hand in hand with access roads; whether it is education at the primary school level or secondary or tertiary level, access roads play a key role for quality and skilled teaching staff, as well as timely attendance of classes.

Still on education, it beats one’s imagination that a novel project established by Senator Imoke, the Institute of Technology and Management (ITM) at Ugep, is today a sorry state of the original plan. This is an institute that has international affiliations that should have become a centre of excellence for entrepreneurship and agricultural value chain to boost our economy. How can you have a government neglect such a lofty project as this, where excellence in technology, education, economy and tourism are at the heart of its programme content to create entrepreneurs?

Why have I touched so much on projects established by both Governors Duke and Imoke? It is simple, to show that government is a continuum, these are noble projects which the state is proud of and should always be proud of, and this is even more important, that these projects need continuous upgrade analysis for Cross River State to realise her export processing potential which the Federal Government kindly bestowed to her as first partaker of such status in Nigeria!!! These are not just projects that make Cross River State popular and the envy of other states; they are life-touching and life-changing projects with uncountable ancillary benefits under the reigns of mature, focused leadership. I promise you, fellow Cross Riverians, I will bring all these projects back to life and reckoning to fulfil the goals they were set up achieve! Again the deal is, Lets Fix Cross River!!

I am not out to make promises of gigantic projects horridly conceptualised that are dead on arrival; rather, you will remember me as the governor who ensured that existing select projects become viable and completed the uncompleted ones. The governor who paid attention to fixing little things that matter to the common man. That is my promise to you and it shall be so.

For us in Cross River State, our unique selling proposition is tourism. This has been the focus for 16 years; but in the last three years we have simply derailed!

Talking about tourism, the Calabar Carnival, a globally acclaimed event introduced, was originally envisioned as a month-long programme. Reputable international/local artistes and musicians usually showcase their talents beginning from November 30, keeping the state busy with social and economic activities peaking at Christmas week and ending the year on high leisure crescendo. All that this program needs is an upgrade aimed at maximising the potentials with new introductions captivating tourists both local and foreign with new ideas, twists and turns that appeal to the ever leisure – loving tourists visiting from all over the world

But what do we have in the last three years? A watering down of this signature event that has been copied by several states already; in fact, many states that copied from Calabar Carnival are now doing even better than ours. Such a sad turn of events! We must and have to bring the Calabar Carnival back to what it used to be and better!! O yes, we must make it better! That is the promise I make to you: with your support, we shall take the Calabar Carnival to the greatest heights. It should and it shall be the leading happening event in Africa all over again, under my watch. Together, Lets Fix Cross River!!

Let me make it abundantly clear to all that my government will complete, actualise and activate all projects initiated and established by our very visionary governors, Donald Duke and Senator Liyel Imoke; because these projects have everything the state requires to make it great, self-sustaining and self-reliant. My focus therefore shall be to complete and actualise these projects, from agriculture, to access roads – especially rural roads, to health, to education, to support for traditional institutions, to women empowerment, to tourism and so on.

So when you talk of tourism, you talk Cross River State; with such exotic tourist sites and projects as the Obudu Ranch Resort, the Afi Mountain, the Agbokim Water Fall, the Tinapa Business and Leisure Resort, New Yam Festivals, Leboku and many more then you realise that we have lost it in the last three years.

In simple words, I shall initiate Tinapa Phase 2, Obudu Ranch Resort Phase 2, Enterprenurship Development Phase 1.

There used to be a time people used to come from other states to Cross River for a peaceful and secured life and tasty cuisine. We have lost that in the last three years. Our people are noted for a culture of cleanliness; but what has become of our capital city, for instance, in the last couple of years? Heaps of refuse now compete space with motorists and commuters!

In the midst of all these our teeming youths, in their hundreds and thousands need just an institutional push through the ITM to unlock their entrepreneurial spirit and the state would transform their energies into a bubbling commercial hub. But that too is lacking, leaving them despondent, hopeless and dejected, enslaved by monthly alerts that neither meet their needs nor make them sufficient but eternally enslaved and beggarly for crumbs ill-advisedly distributed by government for work not done! How did we degenerate to this sorry state?

When we used to talk of our youth, bustling with ideas and energy in the creeks, in our villages and cities our women, hard-working, ceaselessly in their effort to support family and society, then we talk of our traditional institutions; how they have held the fabric of our state together with high morals; but today, how much respect does our government give to the traditional institutions, our traditional rulers, our Royal Fathers? I don’t see much support or role being given to these institutions that are the repository of our heritage and civic mentorship.

That perhaps is why there is high moral decadence; My administration will stem this moral decadence, which in turn also helps to stem and significantly reduce crime. We will strengthen the traditional institutions under my government, by giving respect and support again as it used to be, to our traditional rulers, because respect and support for the traditional institutions also means inspiration for the youth, as they will always look upon the traditional heritage with respect and admiration, and uphold the morals imparted to them from the homes.

Governance anywhere in the world rests on some key principles to achieve the goals of serving the people. There must be inclusion; my government will be participatory – it will not be a government of one-man-knows-it-all; there must be rule of law; I will govern through and only by the rule of law; I will demystify governance by being transparent. This is so elementary, yet so difficult by the current administration. It is difficult to get a buy-in without transparency. Imagine budgets that make no meaning to the average literate Crossriverian as we have seen so far. Government facilitated projects/investment that leave the citizens guessing whether they are individual programs or government programs. The confusion is endless in a cloud devoid of transparency. People-oriented programs originating from needs with a bottom-up approach translates government activities into actions that give the people an opportunity in town hall meetings and other fora to ask questions of their representatives at local, state and federal level for accountability and responsibility. I promise you a transparent government.

A good government must be responsive; there must be consensus building as a policy framework. How can any leader lead by merely imposing his or her will on the people? My government shall be one that listens and responds to the yearnings and aspirations of our people. Therefore, this will lead to other key features, namely equity, effectiveness and efficiency.

I will promote regular town hall meetings for citizens to meet their councillors, local government chairmen, house of assembly members, governor and the national assembly members for accountability through briefings and needs assessment.

A government that does not anchor its focus on probity and accountability will surely not serve the people that elected it.

I call on you fellow Cross Riverians, dear party loyalists of the Peoples Democratic Party, it is time to take back our state; let’s rescue Cross River State, now before it becomes too late.

Ladies and gentlemen, esteemed people of Cross River State, our traditional rulers, our unrelenting party members, it is time to press the RESET button to prevent Cross River State from spinning out of control towards self destruction.

And so, I step forward before you all, and I ask those of you who are delegates or who know delegates for the forthcoming Primaries to vote for Emmanuel Awhan Ibeshi as the PDP candidate for the 2019 general election so we can together Fix Cross River State!

Finally, let me quote former President Jonathan’s parting words to Nigerians before the 2015 Presidential elections. He said, “the choice before Nigerians (In this case, Crossriverians) in the coming elections is simple: A choice between going forward or going backwards; between the new ways and the old ways; between; between freedom and repression; between a record of visible achievements and beneficial reforms – and desperate power-seekers with empty promises”.

The ball is now in your court, to make it happen by supporting me based on my track records provided in my Manifesto. I am fully ready, willing, capable and able to serve you.

Now for the records: if you give me the opportunity, I am here to serve you for just one term of four years, completing the two terms of Northern Cross River Senatorial District under the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP); a precedence already benefited by South and Central Senatorial Districts respectively in keeping with the zoning arrangement designed by our leaders as boldly printed in my 71-page manifesto hereby presented.

My official website emmanuelibeshi.com will be open to the public this evening with my manifesto, blueprint and itinerary.

I thank you for your time and attention. God bless you all!!! God bless Cross River State, God bless Nigeria!!!

culled from emmanuelibeshi.com

Hon. Emmanuel Awhan Ibeshi is a Cross River State PDP governorship aspirant

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