OP-ED Opinions 

Ben Ayade, The Worst Governor In Cross River’s History, By Elias Ozikpu

I do not have the temperament to witness the ongoing misgovernance in Ayade’s Cross River State without staging a protest, without putting up some resistance against such maladministration which is being forced down our throats in a civilised society.

The state continues to sink into the abyss without a trace of redemption, yet only a few Cross Riverians are interested in calling out an incompetent, disastrous governor who runs the state like his personal company, Ayade Limited, for example.

The rationale for this fatal silence cannot be farfetched. Most people are aware that there’s an ongoing bazaar in Cross River State, and if keeping mum in the face of these shambles will guarantee their participation, why not? It does not matter whether or not the state and the future of several unborn generations presently hang in the balance. It is the extent to which our people have lost their sensibilities – to the extent that our moral conscience has lost its soul.

I had my misgivings and predicted Ayade’s catastrophic reign even before he was elected in 2015, but majority labelled him the long-awaited “saviour,” with chants of “the eagle has landed” taking over the airspace when he visited Obudu for his campaign.

However, since his draconian regime came to life, it has been one of considerable embarrassment, replete with deception, fraudulent projects and attention-seeking budget titles that are crafted with the deliberate ploy to divert attention and avoid the scrutinisation of the contents of the budgets. Infrastructures are in a state of total decomposition like never before seen, yet the governor gives a cavalier attitude, moving around the city of Calabar with blaring sirens and an endless queue of vehicles as though the state is bustling with sound health. 

I will return to the subject of abject infrastructures in due course. There I intend to analyse and show pictorial evidence to put these assertions beyond the tag of “baseless allegation,” as the hawks around him may like to describe it in defence of their failed principal.

Since assuming office in 2015, Governor Ayade has requested money from the state coffers in the region of N4 trillion, according to the figures in his annual budgets between 2016 and 2022. The details of which are provide below:

2016: N350 billion: Budget of Deep Vision

2017: N707 billion: Budget of Infinite Transposition

2018: N1.3 trillion: Budget of Kinetic Crystallisation

2019: N1.043 trillion = Budget of Qabalistic Densification

2020: N1.1 trillion = Budget of Olimpotic Meristemasis

2021: N277.7 billion = Budget of Blush and Bliss

2022: N276 Billion = Budget of Conjugated Agglutination

Despite this colossal amount of taxpayers’ money, enough to transform an entire country where the political will to do so truly exists, Cross River State remains in a moribund condition, like a terminally ill patient resisting every form of medical intervention.

In the face of this historic failure, Governor Ayade insults the intelligence of Cross Riverians by announcing impossible, unrealistic projects that his repressive regime intends to execute. Besides the highly questionable superhighway, Ayade has also announced the Bakassi Seaport project, Banana Plantation in Boki, Rice City, Cassava Processing Factory in Obubra, International Cargo Airport in Obudu, Calapharm. Even the Odukpani Spaghetti Flyover, for which the state has lavished N42 billion in three budgets, remains a mirage. 

It is instructive to state that in 2018, Ayade’s budget of “Kinetic Crystallisation” set aside N18 billion for the Odukpani Spaghetti Flyover. In his 2019 budget of “Qabalistic Densification,” N16 billion was allocated for it, whilst the 2020 budget of “Olympotic Meristemasis” gulped up N8 billion for the same project, yet. . .

Nothing reasonable has emerged from any of these projects, and one wouldn’t be wrong to reach the conclusion that these projects are confined only to the imaginary realm – the metaphysical world that one’s natural eyes cannot behold.

The malaise in contemporary Cross River is deeper than any suspicion that the public may hold, and the symptoms are prevalent and acute. The sight of judges, pensioners, active civil servants and road sweepers who earn a meagre monthly salary of N7,500 protesting for several months of unpaid salaries is an open sore on the psychology of any responsible nation or state. And the images of how these old road sweepers were violently teargassed by the repressive regime of Governor Ayade for daring to demand payment for work done for the state, simply opened a new horrifying chapter in Ayade’s draconian measures towards the exercise of fundamental human rights in Cross River State. It equally depicted, sadly, a society with receding moral standards.

Insecurity reigns supreme in today’s Cross River, with people living in despair and uncertainty, totally unsure of what may happen next. This is so because cultists and other criminal gangs have taken over the state and are attacking people with stupendous impunity. A recent example is a radio presenter who was hacked to death along Murtala Mohammed Highway in the capital city of Calabar where Ayade’s office is!

Security situation in Cross River has reached alarming proportions despite the fact that the state receives a monthly security allowance of N500 million, and N6 billion annually from federal coffers. What this means is that Ayade’s repressive regime has received not less than N36 billion for security votes during his six woeful years in power with no accountability on how these funds have been spent. He will get an additional N12 billion for the same purpose before he leaves office in 2023. That is N48 billion in eight years! Fellow Cross Riverians, the bazaar I told you about is real!

I must now return to the disturbing subject of infrastructural decomposition which I kept in abeyance at the start of this treatise. Infrastructures are tragically in a coma in every part of today’s Cross River State. Roads, healthcare, education, etc are precariously gasping for breath.

I shall be craving the indulgence of my readers to outline few instances below, with pictorial support, to breathe life into these claims:

Example 1:

During my recent visit to the state, I took out time to visit my former school: Community Secondary School, Ubang-Ofambe, in Obudu Local Government Area. This was after friends had informed me that the school was in a lamentable condition despite paying outrageous fees every term. WAEC registration at the school, according to them, cost as much as N70,000. This does not include the fee for NECO registration, in a state-owned school!

But what is more disturbing is that despite these sky-high fees, as I found out during my visit, the school is in a deplorable condition, an eyesore, with students learning under an open roof. Since some parts of the junior block was blown open some four years ago, the Ayade regime has not bothered itself to fix it. 

The other building, meant for senior students [SS1-3], is made of mud blocks with sandy floors in every class! No attempt has been made by successive governments to plaster the walls and cement the floors since we left there more than a decade ago! Things have now deteriorated under Ayade, a self-styled “Digital Governor” who also promised to focus on infrastructures.

The door to the staff room, which has not been changed since we left, now looks like a doorway to a shrine under a “digital governor!”

See below photos from Community Secondary School Ubang, Ofambe:

Example 2:

Governor Ayade has made several bogus claims in the Nigerian media to the effect that his vision is to drive and transform Cross River through industrialisation. However, besides the usual media razzmatazz, these claims have not been placed under any microscope. To start with, for instance, how do you actualise such a vision of industrialisation, if any, with the deathtraps masquerading as roads in Cross River State today? In many parts of Cross River, farmers cannot ship raw materials such as cocoa, cashew nuts, palm fruits, banana, yam, cassava, groundnuts, etc to the outside world, yet the governor preaches agricultural revolution in the state.

A bridge in Amukwong, an important town in Obudu Local Government Area, which links to several agricultural towns and communities, is currently impassable. For several years, through communal efforts, the bridge has always been rehabilitated, with Amukwong residents replacing the bridge’s old planks with new ones and carrying out general maintenance. However, its major pillars collapsed in 2016, and crumbled into the water, making it a major risk and totally impossible for vehicular movement.

When I visited, a motorcyclist arrived at the foot of the bridge, begged his passenger to alight to enable him face the perilous battle of crossing the bridge without an additional weight. It was after the rider negotiated his way to the other side that his passenger mounted on the bike again.

The implication of this is that towns such as Ngorkpu, Okikwo, Bihue, etc whose only link to the world is through this dilapidated bridge cannot transport their agricultural produce outside of their immediate environment.

The situation is the same at Okordem where another major bridge connecting the town has been in utter shambles and now poses a major threat to both residents and several other people who depend on it to access the world. 

Similar cases abound throughout the 18 local government areas of Cross River State. Rather than confronting these crucial problems which are urgently begging for his attention, Ayade prefers to embark on a wild-goose chase, preoccupying his thoughts with the idea of enslaving several unborn generations of Cross Riverians with a loan scheduled to be paid back for a period of 180 years – approximately two centuries! All of this for a superhighway which has no relevance to the people he purports to serve.

Ayade had a total of eight years under his feet to transform Cross River beyond the pages of newspapers, which would have reserved a place for him in history. But he bungled it spectacularly by consistently announcing fake projects, fraudulent budgets, supervising infrastructural decay and turning Cross River into a dictatorial jungle after outlawing all fundamental human rights in the state.

We have a saying that a wise person does not begin the search for a black sheep at dusk. In the same vein, will Ayade begin the needed transformation at the twilight of his deceptive regime? Except he has a miracle up his sleeves, one spectacular enough to pass for the eighth wonder of the world, he’ll go down the infamy as the worst governor Cross River has had in the first 24 years of Nigeria’s democratic history.

Elias Ozikpu 

Playwright, novelist, essayist, polemicist, citizen journalist, permanent enemy of oppressors

Sourced From Sahara Reporters

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