Words are powerful but can be lost when used arbitrarily and out of context. For those given to trifle and populism, it is easy to use certain words out of season in the hope to titillate a tiny segment of their naysayers’ horde.
It is pertinent, to begin with the simplest aspect of the word SOLEMN so that the mischievous and irrational can learn a thing or two.
The Britannica Dictionary definition of SOLEMN, amongst many others, puts it as being “very serious or formal in manner, behavior, or expression.” It gives the example, “a solemn occasion/moment, he spoke in a solemn and thoughtful manner.”
It further gives a second definition to mean “sad and serious,” and a third, “done or made sincerely.”
So, it is heartwarming to have a governor who understands the solemnity of the task before him, a governor who is thoughtful, serious, and at once sad at the decay, despondency, and deplorable nature of the State he inherited. That governor is one that should be applauded, encouraged, and supported.
So, if there is a feeble attempt to derogate, and mock Governor Bassey Otu’s commitment to gather the people who are predominately of the Christian faith to seek the face of God and invite the presence of the Omniscient into the affairs of the State, then it is a no brainer.
It is better to be a Solemn Assembly Governor than be a raucous, pagan worshipping and hedonistic administrator as it is alleged in the case of some other entities. Our governor is proudly a Christian and will not hide his Christian heritage under the bushel.
When Senator Bassey Otu assumed office as governor on May 29, 2023, there was a near-general consensus that he was inheriting a State that was lagging behind on several development indices. Data is the fodder for proper planning it is agreed in development economics. BudgIT, the data analytics group in its recent State of the State report 2022 shows that year-on-year growth, Cross River State performed poorly.
On internally generated revenue, the State recorded a -10.32% (minus 10.32) decline, for inflow from the Federation Allocation Accounts Committee (FAAC) it stood at -1.84%, while capital expenditure was a telling -14% (minus 14%).
What this simply translates to in terms of ranking amongst the 36 states of the federation is that Cross River State ranks 19th in IGR accruals, 23rd in what it gets from FAAC, 5th on the size of its debt, 7th on domestic debt profile and 4th on the foreign debt scale. Shocking right?
It may shock not few to know that the State’s debt profile grew 64:85% from 2016 to 2021 with a domestic debt of N197.21 billion, and $209.53 million (N168 billion at N800 forex rate) in foreign debt.
The report further highlights that the State spent only 1.89% of its budget on health, 9.61% on education, and 16.85% on debt servicing, translating to a measly N645.46 on each person as health benefit against per capita income.
Faced with such a magnitude of challenges, it is fitting for any leader who is desirous of changing the status quo to be solemn in action and carriage.
It is accepted that it is 170 days and counting of leadership that is deliberate, measured, and focused on delivering impactful development rather than the gymnastics of haste and cosmetics.
What Governor Otu did and keeps doing is to evaluate, reevaluate, and act in the best possible ways for the citizens of the State. His first task was not just to study the report of the Transition Committee as well as that of the Review Committee, but to visit all the legacy projects across the State to have a firsthand feel and information of what is on ground. Starting from the State capital Calabar, he went up north and came back through the central giving firm commitments to completing and rehabilitating all abandoned projects and facilities with economic and historical value.
As it is today, the Bebi Airstrip and aviation school are on course for delivery. The aviation school will provide an opportunity for Cross Riverians to have world-class aviation training at subsidized rates while generating massive revenue for the State. The International School of Aviation, Ilorin, Kwara State statistics show has applications in excess of 7, 000 annually with the school fees in excess of N12.5m while it has space for below 300. Imagine the leverage Cross River will have when the school births in the first quarter of 2024.
For the non-initiate, it would have been glory hallelujah for Senator (Prince) Otu to jump into the governance fray without stock-taking just to gain ephemeral applause of the pliant and gullible. He is too experienced an administrator to have done that.
At present, verifications and screening of civil servants at the State and local governments are almost completed to determine the actual number of those in the government’s payroll to allow for proper planning.
Also, the restoration of the Calabar metropolis is on course with potholes disappearing, refuse cleared with regularity, and installation of solar-powered lights ongoing. After a lull in Carnival Calabar due to COVID-19, there is festive air as the biggest street party is on course promising to be bigger and better.
A more conducive business atmosphere is being created with tax incentives, waivers, and ease of doing business which investors are seizing on. It should be of interest to note that the governor’s stride in improving the fortunes of the State through constructive investment engagements has yielded an urban waste management investment of €1.2 billion Euro, a €700 million Euro Calabar water treatment management and reticulation, an ICT skills development hub to be situated in Obanliku at a princely N10 billion and a cassava cultivation and processing hub in Odukpani at N500million.
At the last State Executive Council Meeting, N400 million was set aside under the Agro-processing Productivity Enhancement and Livelihood Improvement Support (APPEALS) to improve the livelihood and productivity of citizens.
All of these are because there is coherence and direction by the Chief Driver of the State, Senator Bassey Otu. He has in place a team of dedicated women and men carefully picked and given a mandate to deliver on the People’s First Agenda. The least expected of anyone desirous of seeing Cross River State move forward is to ask the right questions and offer their support.
For those who are looking in from the outside, there is a guarantee of your civil liberty to contribute to the growth of our State through constructive criticism. What does not help the State is relying on second-hand, sometimes third-hand narratives to speculate, insinuate, and reach untenable and outrightly false conclusions.
It is a season of sweetness!
Emmanuel Ogbeche is the Chief Press Secretary to Governor Bassey Edet Otu, a Cross Riverian and writes from Calabar.
NB: Opinions expressed in this article are strictly attributable to the author, Emmanuel Ogbeche, and do not represent the opinion of CrossRiverWatch or any other organization the author works for/with.