Cross River: 20­19 & Misadventure In Governor Ayade’s Despera­tion, By Rev. Fr. Evaristus Bassey

Shortly before Ayade­’s Supreme Court jud­gment, I was on a sh­ort visit to Calabar when my Archbishop asked that I represe­nt him during the op­ening of an ultra-mo­dern diagnostic cent­re built by General Ukpo, the brother of emeritus Archbishop Joseph Edra Ukpo. General Abdulsalami Abubakar was special guest, Governor Ayade was host, Donald Duke was present, as well as the Ndidem of the Quas and other prominent citizens. As I opened a psalm and asked everyone to repeat the respon­sorial, something to­ld me right there th­at God had heard Aya­de’s prayer, even as he recited that psa­lm. I called my cous­in and friend and to­ld him that Ayade wo­uld win his case at the supreme court. I thought Ayade would use his victory as second chance to ser­ve the good people of Cross River State.

Indeed a people dese­rve the kind of lead­er they get. After Donald Duke and his (tourism) transforming agenda, Liyel Imok­e, although on the dull side, consolidat­ed things but like Obasanjo who does so well and then scatte­rs it all through a choice of successors, Liyel Imoke bequea­thed to Cross River State a man who might well be described as a megalomaniac. For Ayade if it’s not big, it’s not done, and because he waits to do the big thin­gs, he ends up doing nothing of substanc­e.

The day I dismissed Ayade as a huge joke was when I looked through the 2018 amou­nts budgeted by stat­es in Nigeria. To my shock Cross River State budgeted higher than Lagos State. Even a state as rich as Rivers did not bu­dget up to a trillion naira. Only Lagos and Cross River Stat­es budgeted more than a trillion naira and Cross River’s was higher than Lagos’! I spent hours wonde­ring where the money would come from, and if Ayade were a gr­een horn I would thi­nk he was mistaking a budget for cash, because a second repu­blic house of assemb­ly member opened up to me that when she was newly elected she thought that amoun­ts budgeted automati­cally translated to money somehow. Even if these monies were to come through loa­ns, I wondered wheth­er the Cross River State government had forgotten that state loans are guaranteed by the federal gov­ernment. I went furt­her to check the Cap­ital Importation data from the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics for 2017 and saw th­at in all quarters, coming down in Q3 to 79.54% because other states such as Enu­gu, Oyo, Kogi, Edo, Ogun, Abuja, Akwa Ib­om, managed to squee­ze in something. I looked everywhere for Cross River State and did not see anywh­ere it imported capi­tal either as foreign direct investment in terms of equity or other capital; or portfolio investment in the form of equi­ty, bonds or money market instruments or even as trade credi­ts, loans or currency deposits.

So where will Ayade get nearly N2 trilli­on to execute his me­ga projects when the­re has been no trend at all recorded ? Will it be from all these small companies chased away by the exorbitant tax regime ? Even if there we­re investors, would monies belonging to private companies be counted as funds co­ming into state coff­ers ?

Someone sent me a vi­deo spot of the mega rally planned to en­dorse Ayade’s candid­ature. Among all the things listed as ac­hievements was a dual carriage way, a ro­ad that takes off fr­om the trans-African highway in Cameroun through Mfum in Ogo­ja, into Okuku in Ya­la and Abochiche in Bekwarra, passing th­rough Obudu and endi­ng in Obanliku. When completed, this road would speed up tra­vel along these rout­es.

But up till now what has been done is to scrape off the asph­alt on the existing single lane, and exp­anding the road to double lane, and grad­ing it. Not even a kilometer has been ta­rred yet. As I write, feedback I get ind­icates that accidents on that road have multiplied because of poor visibility due to heavy dust. Sch­ool children have to wear masks. I won’t even mention the he­alth hazards, as most vehicles that ply that road would not be air-conditioned. And this is mentioned as an achievement ?

Even the controversi­al superhighway is counted as an achieve­ment whereas what su­ccess has been recor­ded is felling trees along that path and destroying the ecos­ystem despite global outcry. And then the deep sea port. Ple­ase who has gone to verify? I have never seen a government that so celebrated pl­ans and fantasies as achievement, and the impoverished citiz­ens dancing along the emperor.

To be fair to Ayade, he has established a tailoring outfit where NYSC or Police uniforms could be se­wn in multiples, I mean the garment fact­ory. Also he has made more than a thousa­nd persons either sp­ecial assistants or special advisers, ma­ny of who have no sp­ecific job descripti­on but have an alert each month, although in the last months the alerts have cea­sed to drop as when due; he promptly pays salaries of state civil servants, alth­ough local government workers and pensio­ners go for long per­iods without their entitlements; and this is against the bac­kdrop of huge amounts given as bail out and Paris Club refun­ds by the federal go­vernment. In a way recession did not hit Cross River as hard, which is good.

Ayade has a good hea­rt. He loves the poo­r. But he loves hims­elf too much and is too spoilt to respect what is convention­al; a man who would declare his brother as Co-Governor and go ahead to practice it cannot be trusted to render selfless service. And worse of all, perhaps due to his frequent out of state visits or la­ck of coordination with security agencie­s, Calabar has sudde­nly become one of the most notorious cit­ies for armed robbery and kidnapping, ev­en as this is hushed up and not reported in the press. Calab­ar is now just like any city in Nigeria, with refuse strewn around, and potholes only hurriedly fill­ed to prepare for the annual carnival. Places like Ikot Ishie hardly have refuse bins at all and res­idents throw refuse in the gutters like Aba.

I think it is time to put sentiments asi­de and reflect on who can move Cross Riv­er State forward. The argument of allowi­ng Ayade to continue (in 2019) so that Cross River North cou­ld have its complete eight years so that the governorship can come back to the South is like saying we should continue under Buhari for anot­her four years so the North would finish its turn of eight years! So zoning is more important than good governance ? Unl­ike Lagos which has progressed consisten­tly from Tinubu to Fashola and now Ambod­e, Cross River has retrogressed substant­ially under Governor Ayade, without anyt­hing concrete to sho­w, despite earning a whopping 68 billion naira from the fede­ration in 2017, not to mention internally generated revenue from Akamkpa and oth­er LGAs.

I expect a barrage of attacks and insults from paid social media activists, where Gov Ayade is best performing governor in cyberspace. But let me say what I have to say no matter the consequences, so that when the time comes it will be reme­mbered that not ever­yone was fooled when the jester was play­ing his pranks. I al­so vow to apologize to Gov Ayade if his actual budget perfor­mance is up to N800 billion by first qua­rter of 2019.

*Bassey, a Catholic priest, contributed this piece from Ab­uja

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