May 29, 2020
The current administration in Cross River state has just 1,095 days left in office before its statutory four year tenure elapses yet Cross Riverians have always been regaled with comical acts from elected and appointed office holders in the past one year; a situation that has placed a people once known for their adeptness in governance in some sort of jinx that may require a decade to fix when this administration of “emotions” eventually fizzles out by May 29, 2023.
The inauguration of any administration usually gives an insight into the priorities of the government and we (CrossRiverWatch Editorial Team), were not impressed with the position of Governor Benedict Ayade in his second term inauguration when in a classical display of using intelligence for seemingly cunning acts, he reminded those who watched him struggle to walk his talk from his first term inauguration in 2015 on the signature projects amidst others that indeed, ‘a leopard can’t change its spots.’
As expected, he screamed at the top of his tone on that fateful day at the U.J Esuene sports stadium in the heart of Calabar; “Be committed and steadfast Cross River state will be an industrialized state under my watch. In this my second tenure, I will no longer be the governor, my deputy will be the acting governor while I will become the project manager of Cross River state as I will relocate to Ikom local government area.”
As if that was not enough, he continued; “This tenure will be food on the table, hands on the plough, no amount of investment in infrastructure will be equivalent to taking care of the well being of the people, paying salaries and employing them. We must understand that anytime our problems can only be solved by money, then our intellect has failed us.”
Fast forward to today, Mr. Ayade may have come full circle as his intellect has failed with systemic issues such as micromanaging appointees schedule of duty at wish, and a lackadaisical attitude towards bureaucracy, showing a rather collapsing system everyday. His penchant for using the House of Assembly and the forum of Heads of Local Government Administration across the 18 local government areas to craftily withdraw funds from the local government coffers smacks of one whose intellect has failed in Internally Generated Revenue but is smarter in cunning approaches to ripping off the third tier of government.
On his much talked about industrialization, this administration is yet to find a proper footing and grasp of what it takes to lead an industrialisation drive. We believe that the grabbing of land by government without due recourse to appropriate compensation as well as the seemingly spontaneous decisions to construct factories across the state are not the right way to industrialize a state as the residents are not part of the drive, hence, will not take ownership of such to grow.
The now shelved plans to sell these factories to the private sector is clearly a deliberate process to shortchange Cross Riverians whose taxes have been used to fund these white elephants.
In the past year, Mr. Ayade is yet to fulfill his promise of becoming the project manager as asides globetrotting, he spent more time in Abuja than in Cross River until the novel Coronavirus forced him to stay back since March 2020.
This is despite the arrival of a Residential Vehicle rumored to have cost up to NGN45 million and a BMW 740Li sedan which costs over NGN40 million too in Nigeria; both, procured and maintained with taxpayer’s monies but not utilized for the purposes meant for.
With his approval ratings in free fall, one wonders exactly when he intends to assume that role especially after relegating his Deputy, the supposed ‘acting governor’ to the fringes.
Asides the automated rice seedlings and seed multiplication center and the garment factory of recent, the governor has paid lip service to other factories. One would expect that the noodles and chicken processing factories would have been ready as promised to deliver palliatives, but that has not been the case.
Also, his spontaneous discussions in the media on leading the research for a vaccine for the COVID-19 pandemic in order to fund the Calabar Pharmaceutical company is in bad taste as that will be in variance with his promise and mandate to Cross Riverians.
The administration has become increasingly hostile and dictatorial in its approach to dealing with dissenting opinion holders, critics and journalists. The civic space in Cross River despite witnessing a boom in recent times shrunk drastically in the last two quarters of 2019 when no fewer than six journalists, critics and dissidents were hauled into either police detention or jail with the state continuously denying its involvement, even where it was very self evident.
The cases of Agba Jalingo and Joseph Odok exposed the fact that, the administration despite being headed by professors whom by all logic should have not just high intellectual quotient, but social, emotional and moral quotients, actually do lack the ability to withstand criticism and opposition.
The show of emotions at the State House, Abuja where the Governor tried to spin a narrative that backfired only days later also shows lack of strategy even in the masterminding of these undemocratic acts. The back and forth decisions and directives especially on talking to the press, issued on appointees further lends credence to this.
On security, we believe the events of the past week are a welcome development. However, a blip of light in a dark void is not enough to illuminate sustainably. The lack of attention paid to the security of the state and the criminal justice system is legendary. One wonders how an administration with thousands of appointees, some of whom are known gangsters, will not be able to bring down criminal gangs that have terrorized the state – indeed, it takes a wolf to catch another but here, the reverse has been the case. The AK 47 economy has blossomed and kidnappings as well as gang clashes have become a normalcy not worth reporting. This, Cross Riverians must reject.
The demolition of two buildings owned by suspects over the killing of another suspected gangster only shows that unless it hits closer to home, the administration does not care. This probably, was the case with the interest showed by the state in the killing of one James ‘Jay’ Real, a student of the Cross River University of Technology. His death drew the attention of government and a delegation visited the varsity and condemned the management. But, a reprisal attack did not bother these public office holders who assaulted the institution’s public relations officer when he tried to intervene in a shouting match between the management and the visitation team.
And, the inability of the state to announce vacancy for the position of a Vice Chancellor for that University is hurting the school. From the Governor’s decision to extend the stay of the last substantive Vice Chancellor for two months in order to ensure he is re-elected, to the subsequent appointment of three acting Vice Chancellors in the space of 13 months; when added to the delay in approving fund for the conduct of primary six school certificate examinations, the sack of school teachers in secondary and tertiary institutions as well as delay in accreditation of courses at the College of Education, it only paints a picture of an administration that cares less about the future of the State.
We believe that no matter how grandiose, the idea of the industrialization drive is, education remains the bedrock of a society that can sustain itself.
And, on health; while we commend the state’s approach in ensuring that the dreaded Coronavirus does not pitch a tent on Cross River soil, the lip service paid in the shutdown of borders, enforcement of the ‘no mask no movement’ policy; needless media face-off with the Nigerian Center for Disease Control and the grey areas of the next to non availability of information regarding the status of the isolation and holding centers as well as the scenarios; mathematical modeling of cases expected; low testing; issues with sample collections; aid, donations and grants received; secretive procurement exercises and frosty relationship with medics are not in the best interest of the state.
There is no trophy in being the last state to record a confirmed case of Coronavirus infection neither is there one for not safeguarding the health of Cross Riverians. But, we must deliberately resist attempts to insult our collective intelligence by public officials who toot their horns when the battle is yet to reach its peak.
The governor has always played the victim card to portray himself as one doing so much with so little resources. These gimmicks must stop! With less than two active years left in office before the politics of succession and his next political office set in, the Governor has less than no time to correct the paths of some uncanny balls he has set rolling since his first term. These includes attempts to justify the abolishment of non existent taxes; the reversal of self to appoint thousands of aides despite promising to run a leaner government; resorting to play politics over policy as can be seen in his deliberate attempts to ensure there is no third tier of government and deliberately misleading residents on the true nature of systems.
With just 1,095 days to go, the ball is indeed, in the court of this administration. Crying does not solve anything, but proper deliberations, planning and implementation of policies and programs will: For a man who chooses to wail while his waterfront house is burning will have no one but himself to blame when he is rendered homeless.
Thank you and God bless Cross River state.
NB: Opinions expressed in this editorial are strictly attributable to CrossRiverWatch and represent the opinion of the CrossRiverWatch Editorial Team.
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