Dear Governor Ben Ayade, What Will You Be Remembered For? BY ELIAS OZIKPU

In Breaking News, Columnists, Opinion, Politics

You may have been tired of reading my essays about your uninspiring leadership as governor of our state, but you should be prepared to read tons of them, not just from me but from other Cross Riverians who are of the view that your burdensome leadership and policies are not in the best interest of our people. As an Obudu son, you should know the saying that when a leader becomes insensitive to the plight of his people, his followers converge at the village square at cockcrow to ask crucial questions.

Other concerned Cross Riverians and I are presently seated at the village square with bags full of questions. But the tragedy about your leadership is that you seem to have an ingrained aversion to genuine questions. You have not answered one question since you ascended Cross River’s highest throne. In July of 2019, to start with, Comrade Agba Jalingo asked a legitimate question about the whereabouts of a N500 million meant for a microfinance bank in Calabar, but you ignored the question, ordered for his arrest and had him dragged by road from Lagos to Calabar where you had him chained to a refrigerator for more than a month before dumping him in prison. It was the same with Paul Ifere and Joseph Odok who were dragged from Abuja to Calabar by road for asking questions and expressing disapproval over your policies. You always forget that a wise leader is one who has the strength of a tiger but chooses to walk by the side of the road.

May 29, 2020 marked the commencement of the sixth year in the life of your administration, yet there is hardly any achievement to show for it. Since 2015 when Cross Riverians trusted you with their lives, properties and welfare, you, in turn, offered them terrible infrastructures, mass poverty, mass unemployment and mass illiteracy in recompense for their trust in you.

After five years in office, all that you have done is to move from one project to another without recording any meaningful success in any. From the toothpick factory, instant noodles factory, rice mill, etc., the story is the same.

In August of 2019, you commissioned a 23 megawatts power plant which was supposedly meant to supply uninterrupted power throughout the capital, but it was shut down only three days later. These lines from The Guardian newspaper cannot be forgotten:

“Barely three days of test transmission, the 23 megawatts Calabar Power Plant has been shut down raising the fears of its reliability… The diesel-driven 23 megawatts power plant on test run to evacuate power to the governor’s office, the state Water Board, Calabar Industrial Park, 8 Miles, Akai Efa, State Housing Estate, as well as powering all the street lights in the Calabar metropolis, on Sunday stopped working raising speculations that the turbines were refurbished and not good enough for a sustainable power supply.”

This was not a strange occurrence in your administration.

In 2018, you broke Nigeria’s budgetary record by becoming the first governor to present a trillion-Naira budget when you signed N1.3 trillion “Budget of Kinetic Crystallisation” into law. This was followed by 2019’s N1.043 trillion “Budget of Quabalistic Densification”. This is 2020 and we live in the days of “Budget of Olimpotic Meristemasis” of N1.1 trillion. What this means is that between 2018 and 2020, you have “invested” the total of N3,450,134,000,000 (Three Trillion, Four Hundred and Fifty Billion, One Hundred and Thirty-four million Naira) in the state. Yet, looking at the appalling infrastructures in the state, no one can competently sustain an argument with any visiting person that a billion Naira has been “invested” in Cross River during the period under reference. Cross Riverians have seen nothing except the highfalutin words that accompany your budget titles.

Dear Governor Ben Ayade, how much do you need to transform Cross River State? How can you possibly “invest” over three trillion Naira in a single state with no visible trace of the purported investment? Schools and hospitals have remained in deplorable condition under your watch. Just for example, the primary and secondary schools I attended are now worse than they were in my time – more than a decade later! Not even the schools’ floors have been cemented. In fact, some of the walls are still naked as I write, exposing the mud blocks with which they were built. There is no security throughout the state, whilst internal roads within the state are better described today as death traps. It takes about six backbreaking hours of driving from Obudu to Calabar owing to the horrendous condition of the road! In all of this, you did not bother. You surprisingly said you wanted to construct a superhighway, all in a desperate bid to plunge unborn generations of Cross Riverians into a record-breaking debt duration of 180 years – approximately two centuries! Never before have I heard of the existence of such a loan anywhere in the world!

For a long time, security has been one of the major challenges confronting Cross Riverians, a situation that culminated in the recent protests in the state, resulting in traders locking up their shops in protest against the abduction of their colleague which occurred over two months ago. But that is not all, cultism and armed robbery are commonplace and they operate with stupendous impunity.

Dear Governor Ayade, do forgive my curiosity, what exactly do you do with the N500 million you get every month for “security vote”? Why the incessant kidnappings and killings of our people on their own soil?

More disturbing is the fact that your government is presently embroiled in a shameless land tussle with the people of Biakwan and Biajuan in Boki Local Government Area of Cross River State. Today, Anthony Bette, an indigene of one of the communities, lies in hospital struggling with a damaged leg from a soldier’s bullet who shot him from close range for not running when he saw government officials on a land locals believe that your administration is forcefully taking from them with the help of state might. The trigger-happy soldier, who destroyed Anthony’s leg in the presence of state government officials, has gone on with his life as though nothing happened whilst Anthony has been abandoned in hospital for daring to defend his own heritage!

Dear Governor Ayade, I must let you know that it amounts to sheer cowardice for a government to turn against unarmed citizens at a time when the state is besieged by miscreants, cultists, armed robbers and all sorts of criminals who unleash mayhem on law-abiding citizens on a daily basis.

But I acknowledge that you are not our sole problem in Cross River. The predominant problem is with the 25 men at the State Assembly. A powerful group of people who have inexplicably become soft like butter. They have long aborted the interests of the electorates and are now accomplices whose preoccupation is to collaborate with the executive to ensure that pro-people policies remain a mirage in the state.

You and these 25 men have had a field day all along because you succeeded in weaponising illiteracy and poverty amongst a mass population of our people, majority of whom do not know that the government ought to be accountable to them – the summary of our collective tragedy.

Besides these cardinal issues, a recent revelation that you struck a deal on behalf of the state with an Israeli company that has questionable credentials is embarrassing and heart-rending at the same time, to say the least.

In consideration of all the issues analysed here, I must now ask the crucial question: besides having a reputation for detaining citizens who express genuine concerns over your policies, what else will you be remembered for when the sun sets on your administration on Monday, May 29, 2023?

Elias Ozikpu, a protest writer and Cross Riverian writes in from Lagos. He tweets via @ProfOfDrama.

NB: Opinions expressed in this article are strictly attributable to the author, Elias Ozikpu and do not represent the opinion of CrossRiverWatch or any other organization the author works for/with.

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