BEN AYADE: ON THE MARCH

 Ayade is shining asset to the APC, writes Alhassan Auwalu

 As the 2023 general election approaches, it is timely to put some issues concerning the election in proper perspectives for Nigerians to make their viable choices. Considering that the presidential election has been narrowed to a three-horse race among the incumbent all Progressives Congress (APC), the major opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the Labour Party led by a former governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi playing an underdog, this intervention seeks to highlight the chances of APC with Senator Ben Ayade, Governor of Cross River State rallying support for the party and Bola Tinubu, her presidential candidate.

Governor Ayade is a shining light within the political annals of Africa’s largest democracy. Since his election into the 7th Senate in 2011, Nigerians have come to know and identify with this intellectual colossus. Instructively, his term in the red chambers was made more colourful by his unprecedented record of sponsoring 40 one bills. His bills centered on housing rights, employment, poverty reduction, social welfare and the advancement of Nigeria from third-world nations to a functionally developed one. Within his time in the Senate, the young and intelligent senator from Cross River was the envy of his colleagues, both ranking and fresh term senators.

In appreciation of his sterling qualities, the good people of Cross River state elected Ayade as their governor during the 2015 election. This was another ample opportunity for the intellectually laden politician to prove his mettle. Since assumption of office, the governor has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to industrialising his state and creating employment opportunities for the teeming youthful population. To his credit industries like the Pharmaceutical Factory, Vegetable Oil factory, Cocoa to Chocolate Factory, Poultry Factory, Seed and Seedling Factory, Feed Mill, Industrial Starch Factory and numerous others of strategic importance were established with some of them awaiting concessions while already operating.

 It was vintage Ayade who also earned the credit of being the governor with the highest length of dual carriageway in Nigeria with his dualization of the Calabar-Odukpani road; the Obanikwu-Bekwara road dualization; the Ogoja-Yala road dualization amidst other roads opening up rural communities. These roads have in no small ways enhanced agricultural and industrial productivity in the state.

Governor Ayade’s foundation prepared him for laurels he earned in his political sojourn. Born in Obudu LGA of Cross River State on 2nd March, 1968, he received his primary education at St. Stephen’s Primary School, Obudu before proceeding to Government Secondary School, Obudu for his secondary education. He earned his Bachelor of Science in microbiology at Nigeria’s premier University of Ibadan in 1988. He then proceeded to obtain his MSc (1990) and subsequently his Doctorate from the same prestigious institution of higher learning. He won the Best Doctoral Dissertation Award. His insatiable quest for knowledge saw him bagging an LLB law degree in 2010 from the Delta State University, Abraka where he taught and was appointed to the rank of professor.

When the erudite governor joined APC in 2020 following a protracted disagreement in PDP where he pitched his political tent, then Acting Chairman, Mai Bala Buni remarked that ‘’a giant has joined us and our chances are made even brighter with Nigerians.’’ That he joined APC with his robust followership across the country was an added advantage for the ruling party.

 In the APC, Governor Ayade has proved that he is a politician worthy of reckoning. During the party’s elective national convention in early 2021, he was a major factor that teamed with other notable leaders of the party to produce the Senator Abdullahi Adamu-led National Working Committee. His protégé who served as his commissioner for health with distinction, Dr. Betta Edu was supported to emerge as National Women Leader of the ruling party, a strategic position that could enhance the chances of the party in the forthcoming elections.

 During the runup to the national convention of APC to produce a presidential candidate for the party, Ayade considered a run for the highest office and garnered significant support across the country. Being a loyal party man, he realigned his aspirations with that of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, the eventual winner of the primaries where he played a vital role and earned the confidence of the candidate. He has campaigned with the candidate across the country and rallied support for victory.

Interestingly, governor Ayade has presented himself to the good people of Cross River North Senatorial Constituency as candidate for February’s senatorial election. His people now have another opportunity to send their best to represent them by ensuring his return to the National Assembly. When elected back into the Senate, his constituents would have given Nigerians a rare gift because Ayade possesses the necessary wherewithal to bring his wealth of knowledge and experience on board to lead the 10th National Assembly of the Federal Republic. His robust educational background, his continual commitment to the democratic process and the strength of his character marks him out as a clear contender for the exulted seat and Nigerians would be better for this.

APC’s chances in Cross River and everywhere else in the South South region, and by extension, the entirety of Nigeria is made brighter because of the dexterity and doggedness of the amiable governor of Cross River and indefatigable politician with effective network around the country. The party is urged to hold this priced possession with both hands and reap from his efforts over the years. During the course of a course at the University of Arkansas in 2008, I learnt how Senator William Fulbright enhanced the Democratic Party’s chances and Ayade seem to be in this league.

Governor Ayade is a force to reckon with and a role-model for millions of youths across Nigeria and Nigerians wait earnestly for the national assignment that awaits him after his term in office in Cross River and his coming back into the Senate.

 Alhassan, MFR, writes from Wuse, Abuja

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