Exactly 1,095 days today, the incumbent governor of Cross River state, Senator Benedict Bengioushuye Ayade, during his inauguration at the Calabar International Convention centre (CICC), Calabar, left nobody in doubt from the inception as to the direction his administration was going to take as he brilliantly articulated and marshaled out his development roadmap and blueprint to the people of the state.
In his inauguration speech, the newly sworn-in governor of the state, Senator Ayade, entered into a pact with the people of Cross River following the electoral mandate he obtained from them as he assured that he will build on the great tradition left by his predecessor, Imoke, and assuring that the people have “entered a social contract with us, compelling us to hold aloft the banner of our collective dreams and aspirations as a people for the next four years. I assure you that this is a sacred mandate that we shall handle with utmost respect and commitment.”
The then newly inaugurated governor, with resolute faith on the support of the people as he was equally full of hope for the future, though not oblivious of the teething challenges that were so glaring as a result of the falling oil prices, almost zero allocation from the Federal Government and the general hopelessness being experienced nationwide, the state and its people will remain undaunted by digging deep into the creative and intellectual prowess to chart forth new paths and prosperity for the people.
Not minding the unnerving challenges enumerated in his speech and glaringly verifiable, the Obudu born Professor of Environmental Science went ahead to fearlessly announce his signature projects which includes the construction of a super highway linking the entire state to the northern part of Nigeria and the construction of a deep seaport in Bakassi; the two projects to serve as catalysts for the industrial and economic revolution in the state and much more as this writer shall henceforth mentioned.
“Fellow Cross Riverians, we have come to that bend in the river where we must all rise to our full height to envision and carve out a better future for ourselves and posterity. True, it seems such a daunting task with the falling oil prices and dwindling revenues. It is further compounded by the general atmosphere of despondency across the country. But with our backs against the wall, we must dig deeper into the wells of our creativity and hew out a new pathway to greatness. In doing this, we must be guided by the immortal words of Dr. Nelson Mandela that ‘it always seems impossible until it is done.’ Fellow Cross Riverians, we shall overcome the present bleakness and find our way into the sunshine of a brighter day!
“Let me use this opportunity, to announce our signature projects; we shall undertake the construction of a dual carriage super highway from Calabar through Ikom and Ogoja to the Ranch Resort in Obudu. We shall also build a state sea port. We shall do all these and more. In God we trust.”
In the speech which succinctly outlined his blueprint, Ayade also promised in a very lucid term that his administration will ensure that he was out to reconstruct the state using new ideas and technology, work to usher in reformation to the education sector and also ensure to build a solid foundation that will guarantee first class education and the right skills acquisition to the youths and our citizens.
He declared, “And by ensuring that every foot is on the pedal, we aim to harness new ideas and technology to reconstruct our state, reform our schools to guarantee first class education for our youth and empower our citizens with the skills they need to engage a brave new world!”
He revealed that he was coming with the high desire and commitment to provide jobs for the youths, bring about prosperity to the working class, ensuring that the burgeoning middle class discovers support for their roots, that there shall be independence and pride in working as honest labor wages shall bring families from the shackles of hardship and poverty, ensuring that no child goes to bed with an empty stomach, just as no mother would be dejected for lack of access to medical care for their children, themselves and other relatives, because there would be a place and indeed hope for all in the new Cross River State of his administration’s dream.
“In the new Cross River of our DREAM, there is a place and hope for everyone. There will be jobs for the youths and prosperity for the working class. The resurgent middle class shall find anchor for their roots and everyone shall find independence and pride in their work. The wages of honest labor shall liberate families from the jaws of hardship and no child shall go to bed with an empty stomach. Neither shall any mother be depressed by lack of access to Medicare for her children and loved ones. Brothers and sisters, this is our DREAM!” Ayade maintained.
In that well-crafted inauguration speech which can be described as well written and motivational, Ayade assured that with his sufficient ability and reservoir to dream, the people must learn to collectively dream and look beyond the present difficulties with the eyes of faith for a better Cross River to provide him with the necessary impetus to accomplish his vision to plant the trees of hope as well as water the garden of liberty from the cocoa plantations of Ikom, forests of Boki, hills of Obanliku and Obudu to the creeks of Bakassi.
He further stated, “This is what this moment requires. The capacity to dream! That is what will give real meaning to our belief. We must all strive to dream, to lift our eyes beyond the horizons of the present difficulties and visualize a better day! And we must all do this… from the hills of Obanliku to the thick forests of Boki and from the Creeks of Bakassi to the Cocoa plantations of Ikom, we must join hands to plant the trees of HOPE and water the gardens of liberty!”
The Governor, Senator Ayade in that memorable inaugural speech recognizes the prayers and support of the people and still do so to enable him surmount these challenges and take the state and its people to the socio-economic, political, and industrial heights, never before envisioned by the people in the history of the state, nor by other Nigerians.
“Today, as I raise my hands to lift up the Ark of history I pray you to stretch your hands along with me and together we can force the Spring of Greatness on Cross River State. We are only as big as our imagination. Brothers and sisters, if we can dream it, then we can achieve it!
“As we climb this imposing mountain of HOPE, we shall widen our scope, broaden the horizon and sharpen our instincts for fresh and big ideas that will galvanize this great state to achieve its full potential and usher in a prosperous Cross River, where our people will live in peace and harmony with one another and with nature. We count on your prayers and support to achieve this.
“In doing this, we must be guided by the immortal words of Dr. Nelson Mandela that “it always seems impossible until it is done.” Fellow Cross Riverians, we shall overcome the present bleakness and find our way into the sunshine of a brighter day! Ayade resolutely avowed.
In conclusion, Ayade, promised and affirmed, “I will live and lead by these principles; to serve the public interest with courage, to speak for greater justice and compassion, to call for responsibility and try to live it, as well. In all these ways, I will match the values of our past to the promise of tomorrow. We shall bring a new vista of hope by expanding the means of production, increasing access to capital and catalyzing our value chain.”
Taking a cursory look at the promises outlined in the Ayade’s inauguration speech on May 29, 2015, this writer seeks to attempt to do an analysis of those promises which I will refer to as a pact with the people and match those promises with the reality on ground after 1,095 days and will equally go ahead to attempt what has been achieved and what still needs to be done in the remaining one year in the first tenure and four years of the second tenure by the grace of God.
In his development compass and written pact with the people of Cross river as adumbrated in that memorable inauguration speech, Ayade, promised to build a super highway cutting across the entire length of the state bursting out at our boundary with Benue state that will serve as an evacuation corridor for the equally promised deep seaport to at Bakassi that will serve the interest of the entire Southeast, South-south, Northeast and land lock countries of Chad and Niger republics as well as part of Cameroon; projects he collectively tagged, “Signature Projects” of his administration.
Today, Inspite of orchestrated vicious fight against the realization of those start projects, de-bushing of the route had earlier been carried out, the President of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari personally came and carried out the groundbreaking ceremony, Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) documents and approval designed/written by no other less personality than the very eminently qualified Soil Scientist, former Vice Chancellor of university of Calabar, former Minister, and the incumbent Deputy Governor of Cross River state, Professor, Ivara Ejemot Esu, who Governor Ayade refers to as the Vice chancellor of Cross River state, has been approved, and preliminary works ongoing on the projects sites.
The Obudu born governor also promised to dig deep into his capacity to dream big dreams which the people must equally key into, with glaring poor federal allocation, biting recession, general despondency, among others, the people from across the state must work and support his administration to tape the resources and plant trees of progress from the creeks of Bakassi, the forests of Boki, coco plantations of Ikom to the hills of Obudu and Obanliku, among others.
In keeping with those promises, in three years, an ultra-modern cocoa processing plant is currently under construction at Nkum, Ikom to process our rich cocoa into finish products, add value to the chain and boost earnings; an automated rice milling factory in Ogoja to process our rich harvest in rice into finish produce and restore the lost glory of the northern part of the state as the major rice cultivators/producers in Nigeria as we remember the famous Bansara rice mill with nostalgia.
It is to that effect that the Odukpani Banana plantation for export, the Boki and Akamkpa Banana plantations for processing into finish produce, the Woda cotton farm in Yala, the various rice farms across the length of the northern part of the state in particular and the entire state in general, the maize farms to be processed into finished products among others are jealously anchored.
Again, the Woda farm will serve as catalyst for the ginnery and textile industry that will feed the Calabar garment factory already in operation, the vitaminized Rice seedlings plant at the Ayade industrial park, Calabar is meant to supply highly improved and disease resistant seedlings to farmers in the state, Nigeria and across Africa to energize and boost the agriculture and agro-allied sector for increased earnings, employments and mechanized farming in the state and Nigeria.
In the same vein and in keeping with his pact to the people to sustainably and prudently harness the forests for the benefits of the people of the state, and to ensure that citizens have access to qualitative medical care, the soon to be commissioned Calabar Pharmaceutical company (CALAPHARM) Limited has been established to produce World Health Organization (WHO) standard drugs that will take care of common tropical diseases; the AyadeCare, a social health insurance scheme has been established to provide access to drugs for all people, and aggressive building and renovation of primary healthcare centres have been carried out, just as financial medical assistance are offered to citizens with critical ailments to travel abroad for thorough medical treatments.
Ayade promised an environment that will ensure jobs for the youths, joy for earning an honest wages, hope for the upcoming middle class and skills acquisition for the citizenry. Facts on ground are clearly indicative of the fact that as a result of the numerous ongoing projects in the state; a new class of middle class finding a firm footing; thousands of appointments have been given to the teeming youths of the state with the promise of nine thousand more jobs. Agreement has been reached with Skyrun, a Chinese firm to train and provide skill acquisition to Cross Riverians, there is a robust relationship with the labor leaders in the state with salaries being regularly paid on time and at times even before the time. There is promise to release promotion letters, implement promotions arrears and interview those who have not been interviewed for promotion.
Efforts have been adequately made to fulfil the promise made in the area of education with the establishment of the Canadian International School in Kakum, Obudu, aggressive renovation and improvement and funding of our Basic education system, improvement in our WAEC and NECO ratings and fight against examinations malpractices, tackling CRUTECH and COE Akamkpa challenges such as accreditation of courses and programs, training and retraining of teachers leading to the siting of the Continuous Teachers’ Training Centre (CTTC) in Biase local government Area of the state and the granting scholarships to deserving citizens of the state.
Apart from the super highway which was clearly stated in the inauguration speech of Ayade in 2015, the administration has gone beyond that and embarked on the ongoing construction of N33Billion and approximately 148 kilometers dualization of Mfom-Okpoma-Imaje-Abuochiche-Obudu-Obudu Ranch road cutting-across the five Local Government Areas of the northern senatorial district of the state, deliberately designed to lubricate the commercial viability of the area, and the 27 kilometers Kanyang-Kataba-Boje-Onijafang ( Boki East-West road) cutting across thick forest, costing over N4 Billion, a road which will for the first time in history of the area provide a clear access between the people of eastern and western Boki.
Work is equally ongoing on the Yahe-Wanakom-Wanikade-Wanihem-Benue state border road, the dualization of Calabar-Odukpani junction axis of the Calabar-Ikom-Ogoja and Calabar-Ikot Ekpene Federal highway, several urban and rural roads are currently being renovated or reconstructed in the state among so many others which the scope of this article will not grant me the allowance to dwell on.
To provide adequate power supply for the state and Calabar in particular and standard infrastructure, a 21.3 megawatt Independent Calabar Power Plant located along Parliamentary Extension, put in place to drive the industrialization agenda of his government and bolster economic viability of the state and improve the rating of the first capital city of Nigeria is near completion, the Calabar Haulage city in Odukpani, Calabar Virgin City Project, the various hydro-electric power projects, quarry factories, and the planned new cities in the three senatorial districts of the state, etc.
In the area of water supply and sanitation especially for the rural dwellers of the state, an ultra-modern automated and highly sophisticated, dynamic multi-million naira drilling rig capable of drilling a standard bore-hole to the standard depth in hours, digitally complex and suitable to our complex varied, landmass has been purchased by the Ayade administration for the Cross River State Rural Water supply and Sanitation Agency (RUWASSA) to take water to the door steps of Cross Riverians, ensure it provide bore-holes to 500 communities yearly, and has since been commissioned and is in operation; just as efforts are constantly being put to improve the quality water supply to city dwellers and semi-urban areas of the state.
In keeping with the spirit of continuity in governance, Senator Ayade continued with and completed two monumental projects, the CICC and the Calabar monorail initiated by the immediate past administration of Senator Liyel Imoke, as well as increased the momentum of the Carnival Calabar started by Mr. Donald Duke.
To bring succour to the suffering and displaced people of Bakassi, as part of his social agenda, a new permanent resettlement with all the facilities and conveniences of modern life is currently under construction in Bakassi for that purpose so the people of Bakassi can have a permanent place to rest their heads and be succored from the effects of that 2002 ICJ Judgment and the Green Tree Agreement of 2006 as well as the neglect of the Federal Government of Nigeria.
This writer wants to state without fear of contradiction that by own estimation of the projects that have been completed, those that are ongoing and those that shall still be initiated by the administration of Ayade before the expiration of the first tenure as well as the second tenure by the grace of God, vis-à-vis the promises outlined in the inauguration speech in 2015, or Ayade’s agreement with the people of Cross River State, viewing from unbiased background, not minding whether the man loves my face or your face or not, or vice versa, it is clear that in three years, Ayade has achieved more than he promised in that memorable speech in 2015 at the CICC, Calabar.
Agreed that the signature projects should have gone to an appreciable level of completion than they presently are, it should equally be understood that these projects suffered undue delay as a result of the actions of certain persons in the past which we are all aware, coupled with the fact that projects of such magnitude and national interest would normally be bugged down by political interest, besides the fact that everything or document must be done according to international specification.
In three, the types of monumental development and achievements recorded and ongoing projects within the period under review is unmatched by any previous administration in the state, perhaps with the exception of the administration of late Brig. U. Jacob Esuene, and by the time he finishes his first tenure and complete his second tenure, certainly there will be no past rival and present rival in the near future.
This writer is not in anyway advocating that Governor Ayade has done it all and that there is no more room for improvement. No! that is not what this article is articulating, rather, the crust of this write-up is that in three years , Ayade has recorded land mark successes that should be appreciated by Cross Riverians and their friends, but that a lot still needs to be done by the administration to arrive at that lofty vision and dream of a new Cross River State which the governor adumbrated in his inauguration speech in 2015. This is so because any society that feels it has achieved all the development and progress in aspects of its national life, is saying that it does not need any further light and direction from God, it will not only remain stagnate but with time will begin to regress, as diminishing returns will certainly set in terms of progress and development.
As we celebrate 1,095 days of Senator Ben Ayade in Cross River and equally felicitates with all Nigerians for the 19 years of unbroken democracy in the country and urged us to keep hope and faith alive.
God bless us all.
Solomon Asha is an aide to Governor Ben Ayade on Media and Publicity