Seeing through Cross Rivers State

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Homethruths By Adeola Akinremi, Email: adeolaakinremi@thisdaylive.com

Politics is about momentum. For the moment some politicians are rolling downhill. Their current poor showing and rating after one year in the office reflect real disappointments.

For the governors, most of them have been in a pickle for lack of creative ideas to run their states without enough federal allocations to meet their daily financial needs.

Bayelsa and Osun States are basket cases. Let’s not talk about them.
With so much money it received in the past from federal allocations as an oil producing state, Bayelsa should truly live up to its nickname name—the glory of all lands—but Bayelsa is in a state of obloquy.

The situation of the State of Osun or Osun State, where Rauf Aregbesola became a governor in 2010 with re-election in November 2014, is troubling. The ‘redeemer’ of Osun who came to power on the strength of his slogan, ‘redemption’, is now a man asking for deliverance, both physical and spiritual. In Osun it’s a broken promise that leaves everyone absolutely cheesed off.

But, why looking at the mirror from the rear, where all you see is nothing. Why? Let’s see through Cross Rivers State, where, the change is tangible. Ben Ayade, a claimant to sewage treatment plant invention that depends on solar energy is the governor of Cross Rivers State. He’s a former senator. He’s also a professor. He’s 48. He’s of the Peoples Democratic Party’s stoic. That’s the summary of Ayade’s profile.

With the economy sputtering and lamentation is the lyrics, Ayade is making himself the ‘unusual’ governor. There are three possible explanations for Ayade’s accomplishments in just one year.

First, Ayade appears to be standing on the shoulder of giants. It is a good trick for success according to Sir Isaac Newton, the famous British scientist.
To be sure, the British two pounds coin emphasized it by placing a part of Newton’s famous quote at the edge of the coin—standing on the shoulder of giants. In a correspondence over accusation of plagiarism from Robert Hooke (another British scientist) to Newton, the response of Newton was simple. He described how his work was built on the knowledge of those that had gone before him. “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants,” Newton said dismissing the charge of plagiarism brought against him by Hooke.

In Cross Rivers State, Governor Ayade has been able to convince anyone that to succeed, you must put your shoulder to the wheel and do everything possible to stand on the shoulder of giants. The giants in his case are his predecessors, Liyel Imoke and Donald Duke.

While other governors were busy fighting their predecessors, Ayade cleverly considered his options. He must have acted like those in the boardroom who oftentimes busy themselves with SWOT analysis.

It’s debatable, but Ayade made the right decision to concentrate on governance than wasting his time on politics of name and shame without any serious job done.
He simply hits the ground running in his state and started earning the service stripes like an army officer.

The projects started by his predecessor became the launch pad for Ayade. The completion of the monorail linking Tinapa and Calabar International Convention Center—a project initiated by Imoke; the start of the construction of a super highway from Calabar to Obudu Ranch Resort and that of a deep sea port in Bakassi, among other projects, all bear evidence for how standing on the shoulder of giants is a recipe for success. It is what is commonly known as the low-hanging fruits.
Significantly, Ayade became the first governor in Nigeria to bring President Muhammadu Buhari out of Aso Rock on a state visit just four months into his administration, at a time when other governors hadn’t decide the direction of their governments.

Yes, Ayade certainly knows where to strike the right chord.
The second reason I could think of is that Ayade came prepared. He brought new order to governance in Nigeria. Paying workers in the civil service bi-weekly or on the first day of the month is novel on this side of the world. He surely knows how to excite workers and how to attract investors. For instance, by January, Ayade who arrived in the government house in May last year to be greeted by embarrassing labour issues over unpaid salaries has become a ‘labour-friendly’ governor.

Really, many other governors who met similar situation as Ayade’s couldn’t do anything to remove the jammed cork inside the bottle, even with the federal government bailout funds. They have indeed aggravated it. The best example is Imo State under Governor Rochas Okorocha.

So on a recent week when the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) published a report headlined, ‘civil servants donate four years promotion arrears to Cross Rivers State,’ i didn’t take it for a political spin as I would have done with stories of such nature from the other governors.

According to the report, the civil servants in Cross River State forfeited their promotion arrears amounting to N3.8 billion owed them by the state government for four years.The period covered between 2012 and 2016. If you asked me, I will say that is unusual. But the purpose is worth given a thought. They want the government to use the money for the development of the state.

John Ushie, the Chairman of the state branch of the Nigeria Labour Congress, said during his speech at the 2016 May Day celebration in Calabar that “The labour leaders and workers have observed with keen interest the enormous responsibilities shouldered by Governor Ben Ayade of the state in the area of projects execution.

“Following this development, workers have decided to support this administration by sacrificing all monies accruing from arrears of promotion within 2012-2016 to the tune of about N3.8 billion.

“The organised labour in the state is grateful to Governor Ayade for the prompt payment of workers’ salaries in the state.” Obviously, Ayade will have to respond to this gesture with extra care not to draw the ire of the organised labour in the future. The aphorism that ‘to whom much is given, much is expected’ must go along with his response in the months ahead.

For the investment part, Ayade is running 100 meters dash to impress investors around the globe despite Nigeria’s unfavourable climate at this time and he appears to be succeeding. His signature projects, the Rice City; the deep sea port in Bakassi; the garment factory; the super highway from Calabar to Obudu, and an International Airport in Ogoja are the stuffs on his card.
Undoubtedly, it would be a fantastic movement from Bakassi to Obudu with the super highway, but an international airport at Ogoja is what I am trying to understand in his lineups.

But the fact that his works are evident should make it easier to know where he’s going with the airport. Already, a consortium, Broad Spectrum Industrial Services, has raised 500 million Euros for the financing of the proposed Calabar Deep Seaport without any debt attached. That is superlative!
In another instance, Germany-Africa Consortium, led by Mr Martins Jevor, has disclosed the readiness of his organisation to establish a mining factory in Cross River State in view of the enormous potentials that the state harbours.

And this, besides the establishment of the factory, the consortium said it was ready to support the state financially towards the realisation of the state governor’s signature projects. There may be others in the queue and Ayade should keep the momentum.

I strongly believe that rice, cement palm and cocoa factories will help industrialise and change the fortunes of Cross River in the years to come. The state has enough palm trees and rice that can feed Nigeria. The cocoa that can boost the economy of the state since Cross River is noted to be the second largest producers of cocoa in Nigeria.

What’s next? Ayade should add value to these things to improve on their exports. In one of the criticism of Ayade that I have read, his chance and opportunities are equally in the wetland between Cross River and Akwa Ibom for massive rice production and he should look in that direction.

Now, the third reason I think Ayade has created a strong brand for himself in just one year as a governor has to do with his ability to move his kinsmen with him with words. It’s not every leader that has the gift of oration, but it’s an invaluable talent to those who have it and can use it effectively. I took out a part from his inauguration speech and you’ll almost think Ayade is Nigeria’s president. He said: “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 wend our way into the sunshine of a brighter day!
All in all, Ayade is a man of the moment, because he knows what momentum means to a politician.

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