Every ambitious person develops a set of blue prints to guide him or her through the journey to his/her expectations. Senator Benedict Ayade must have proven himself an ambitious and serious minded leader upon his assumption of office, in fact, in his very inauguration ground, he made bold statements about some key signature projects he was going to execute in order to better the lots of Cross Riverians and change also the general purview and perception both insiders and visitors held of the State.
These pronouncements brought excitement and gained acceptability in a short while such that terminologies drawn from his inaugural speech circulated rapidly within the social lexicon of the State. Terms like the “Deep Seaport” and “Super Highway” rang like jingles in the ears of all and sundry especially among urban dwellers in Calabar metropolis. This ubiquitous ambiance and enthusiasm that was created in the hearts of sublime Cross Riverians soon started to fade away by reasons of human impatience and “Get It Done Quick” syndrome that has bedeviled an average African mindset.
This enthusiasm did not die alone, it came with lots of ugly utterances and castigations of the Governor Professor Ben Ayade. It became difficult at this point to sell the good intentions of the Governor. In fact, my opinion about what was happening in the State at this time was dragged to the fence as I also was not sure which way the pendulum will swing. This was however normal, for every change that is worth the while, there most likely would be an initial period of retard before the gain of speedy momentum.
Four years going, and my opinion of the person of Senator Benedict Ayade has changed, having taken sometime to appraise what he has done so far. My three consecutive visits to Ogoja for the cancelled presidential elections and gubernatorial elections, prodded a rethink and a reappraisal of the Governor’s performance as well as a contemplation that led to my convictions and conclusions. A sequence of thoughts ran through my mind and a template as may have been conceived in the Chief Strategist mind dropped in my mind with deep clarity. So that I could not help but utter audibly, that is right!
Senator Benedict Ayade started the moment he assumed office to dismantle carcass structures that had every iota of political relevance and enchantment rest on the bosom of the boss. And every other person around these lions in the political jungle were conditioned to obediently submit in total worship of the only cock that crowed at that time. No wonder political gladiators challenged the collapse or disintegration of Ministries, Departments and Agencies in Cross River State. For they knew the end has finally come for them. Although many enlighten political class were not at home with this initiative, the zealous Governor was willing to step on toes to get the needed results.
The retirement of a certain recycled political class of course meant the birth and propagation of a new political era. Where youthfulness is deemed a plus and not a curse. A new era where leadership is acquired through mentorship and constant field practice. “With do it yourself” or “Show Me What You Got” mentality. Rather than the “Wait For Your Time Mentality” that never got to be. To Professor Benedict Ayade, the youth are the leaders of today and not tomorrow. Instead of recruiting them as thugs during the elections and body guards at other political events. He chose to make youths Commissioners, SSA’s, SA’s PA’s and so on.
By so doing, these youths today are bolstering ubiquitously with great energy and hopes for the future. A sense of confidence, relevance and of wellbeing is felt all around them and a more divulge spirit of servitude can also be deciphered among them, but this time for public interest and not for the interest of one overrated individual.
In my opinion, Ayade has just established a practical political leadership school in Cross River State and this school should position the State for national youthful leadership especially now that it is obvious the country Nigeria is in dare need of youthful leadership. This proactive approach is insightful and futuristic and I make bold to say that it takes wisdom to build for sustainability. Meaning that His Excellency is giving Cross River State wise leadership. It is worth mentioning that for instance, in some quarters it is held, that the number of appointments made by Ayade exceeds that of the Federal Government of Nigeria. What a historic record!
What surprises me more however, is that he runs this human capital development scheme with about the same amount of resources that was used to service previous scanty cabinets if not less. It takes a detailed strategist to do this and I applaud His Excellency for this feat.
This unbundling drive did not take place in the political administrative domain alone. No, it delved into the general socio-economic being of the State. As we can see the same template play out in his industrialization drive in the State. A tour of Cross River State today would reveal flash points either mapped out or with work on going, all with the aim to revolutionize that industrial stand point of the State. What perhaps is very peculiar with this, is the fact that these factories are evenly distributed amongst the three Senatorial districts in the State according to their areas of strength or comparative advantage. Again the carcass structure has been badly dealt with, structures that made it appear illegal to have refined productive sectors spring up in other Senatorial zones but Calabar. Most times, it feel that productive ventures with Calabar not having the requisite capacity to accommodate should rather be excused than be allowed to spill into other zones in the State.
Today, we in Cross River State have an even industrial representation. There is today a mega industrial hub in Calabar where we have the Calabar Garment Factory, Calabar Pharmaceutical Factory (CalaPharm), Rice Seedlings and Multiplication Centre, Frozen Chicken Processing Factory (CalaChika) and so on. There’s a pile and poles or pylons factory in Akamkpa, an ultra-modern tooth pick factory in Ekori yakurr LGA, a Yellow Maize Cultivation programme in Obubra, an Ultra-modern Cocoa processing facility in Ikom and a fully automated and digitalize rice mill in Ogoja. There are lots of other positive initiatives done by this administration. The spread is what perhaps attracted me to the ones mentioned here.
Professor Ayade has shown that a systematic approach to developing the State is possible and can run concurrently in all the senatorial zones of the State. This wow approach to Governance by His Excellency should not be doused by self-centeredness or tribal priorities and sentiments. Rather, all Cross Riverians should drum up support for him for a job well-done. By the time all of these factories are up and working in full capacity a decongestion of the metropolis is prospected, employment would have been created and living standards improved. As these factories would have initiated Semi Urban areas in their operational locations that will further trigger the emergence of small businesses around their environment.
Yes, Calabar and not Cross River was ranked as the cleanest city in Nigeria and perhaps beyond. A clean environment that does not support the engagement of its people in constructive means of livelihood should most likely breed a crime prone environment. Yes, we have annual carnival that in my opinion betters more the lives of the artist on stage than the common man in the street. Yes, the Obudu cattle ranch resort brought Cross River to limelight in the international scheme of things but left poor inhabitants within it vicinity poor, so that till date crude resources around Obanliku are still crude. Non of these highly influential individuals attracted even a simple method factory to these nearby villages.
To the distinguished Senator Benedict Ayade environmental cleanliness without a clean bill of economic health is inexplicably a filthy psychological trauma and tourist attraction with no attendant economic activities within it vicinity breeds a zoo like feeling. All of these daring facts staring at him may have informed why he decided to work for the common man on the street rather than the elites. He has chosen to emancipate the average Cross Riverian from political, social and economic slavery, these gestures should not be taken for granted, for they are rare to come by.
By way of conclusion, Professor Benedict Ayade has fractured the rungs of political ladder in the State, making simple bureaucratically complicated systems that made it near impossible for the common man to reach out to an acclaim political class of elites cum deities. Democracy is Government by representation, today in Cross River, there is even representation both in terms of persons in appointments and in people friendly investments. Ayade had aimed at the sun with the key signature projects mentioned earlier that is the Deep Seaport and the Super Highway, yes he is yet to get there, he has however landed the moon in my opinion with what he has so far achieved. Who knows his second tenure might just get Cross River to the sun. The most important thing is that there is the will and zeal to work for the common man. He has done well in my judgement and I trust he will do more now that a mandate of confidence has again been bestowed upon him. That’s why Cross Riverians went out in their numbers during the elections to affirm the campaign slogan “Senator Benedict Ayade Tutu-Nkpong”.
Olang Abraham writes from Calabar.
NOTE: Opinions expressed in this article are strictly attributable to the author, Olang Abraham, and do not represent the opinion of CrossRiverWatch or any other organization the author works for/with.
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