By Jonathan Ugbal: Government House Correspondent
Cross River Governor, Senator Ben Ayade has said that as a son of the Northern Senatorial District of the State, it is his desire to strengthen the people of the area to become more cohesive and united.
“I will focus on the dual carriage way from Mfom down to Obudu ranch as this will bring us together, increase our intermarriages, make us grow closer and become one family in the entire north and above all reduce the travel time from 56 minutes from Obudu to Yala to 17 minutes,” Ayade told a mammoth crowd drawn from the five local government areas that make up the district while addressing them at the second edition of the Cross River Northern Festival (NorthFest), Saturday in Ogoja.
He challenged the youths of the zone to participate actively in agriculture as a means of wealth creation and pointed out that he was ready to uptake all produce from their farms at a cost above the market price, if the youths could take to farming.
At the RIce mill complex, Ogoja, venue of the event which is in its second edition and celebrates the harvest season especially of yams, the governor charged: “As young men, if you want to make money from me, bring your produce here and Ayade will buy all. The significance of this NorthFest is not only to encourage our people to seek integration among us but above all to focus on agro industry.”
Ayade noted that, “this second edition of the northern festival represents a journey towards the actualisation of a paradigm that will guarantee the classical demonstration of the peace and unity of the people of the north.”
While commending the organisers and participants for the improvement on this year’s event, Ayade who took an inspection of the yam barns, the arts and crafts as well as the mini market displayed by the various local government areas, announced several changes to make the event bigger and better next year.
He listed the changes to include an amazing royal ensemble by the various local government areas where the paramount rulers, clans and village heads will lead their people with the swagger that characterises a typical northerner, pounded yam competition and the native soups, pointing out that “this is our culture and we must sustain it for the festival to be the biggest in Africa.”
Other changes Ayade announced were “inclusive participation of all in a carnival-like version as there will be a band for every local government area to participate,” adding that “we will not have a situation where a large chunk of the population will be standing and watching.”
According to the governor, “everyone who comes here next year will have something to eat, there will be food for every local government area, this gate will be widely open as we make this event a strong competition to every sociocultural program in the state, country and Africa at large.”
He used the occasion to applaud sons and daughters of the senatorial district for believing in his administration’s policies, programs and visions as demonstrated in members of other political parties returning to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), to support his return as governor till 2023.
Paramount Ruler of Ogoja, Buturu Godwin Denis Udu, who spoke on behalf of the traditional institution in the area, described Ayade as an accomplished intellectual and scientist cum entrepreneur who remains a blessing to his people.
The Royal father maintained that “the governor has also applied his intellect in every respect through the various industrialization drives so introduced upon assumption of office,” intimating that “the traditional institution will swim and sink with Ayade in appreciation of all he is doing for the good of the citizenry.”
The chairman, central planning committee, Chief Peter Ojie, in his remarks, thanked Governor Ayade for, “rejuvenating the agricultural base of the people by considering agriculture as profitable and something that can be done to put food on the table of the children while earning an income.”
Ojie also said: “We thank you because you have revolutionized our thinking as we can no longer till the soil but can work with our brains and achieve a lot,” adding that “this indeed, is a new way of life and revolution that will take us to compare with China and all the big nations that have done well.”
Affirming that the people of the northern senatorial district were occupationally agrarian, a vocation the governor had identified through mechanized farming, by occupation and the governor thought it wise to bring in industrialization and mechanized farming, Ojie said: “All we have to pay you is to join the rest of Cross Riverians in renewing your mandate by 2019 because four more years of the Ayade revolution will certainly take us to where we want.”
Earlier, the Head of local government administration (HOLGA- Ogoja), Mrs Margaret Asu, disclosed that the essence of the festival was to cement the existing bond of ancestral relationship of the people of northern Cross River.
The event featured cultural dance display, pageantry and presentation of prizes.
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