Cross River: Impossibility will be possible, says Ayade
SIX months into office, the people of Cross River State are expecting so much from their governor, Senator Ben Ayade as so much was promised during campaigns. Certainly the governor is doing much to keep to his campaign promises with many mega projects on the pipeline and some actually on ground.
Flagship of his projects is the 260km super highway which President Mohammadu Buhari performed the groundbreaking ceremony recently and the Bakassi deep-sea port. Others include the proposed poultry farm in Ikom, Rice City in which an MOU was signed with the government of Thailand, mega cities of Calasvegas in Southern Senatorial, Centicut in Central and Nostraderm in North, the garment factory, forming of the Green Police, among others.
Giving a brief run down of his achievements, Senator Ayade in an interactive session with some newsmen recently, gave a rundown of his stewardship saying: “The critical concern is the well-being of our people. We set a very clear agenda, robust as it where, big and very strong. Obviously the ambition in some quarters look impossible but impossibility only exists in the mind of the small. We thought that it was wise for us to maintain Calabar as the cleanest city in Nigeria that is characteristic of us. It is an inheritance I got from Senator Liyel Imoke, which I intend to sustain. We talked of creating 1,000 jobs; those jobs are now real and feasible. The adverts have been sent out”.
On issue of the sea port, he noted, “as I speak to you, the biggest and number one company in harbour design and construction in the world which is the China harbour Engineering Company is right there at the seaport in Calabar. Design work has been completed, construction work is ongoing, geophysical studies, foundation studies, and sea-pilling work is ongoing at the site. The 260km super highway, which is supposed to take off from the Seaport and terminate at Gakem in Bekwara, the boundary with Vandykkia is also on going.”
However Ayade who is now famous with a new dress code akin to that of a Catholic priests- French suit, a roman collar and punk-like hairstyle is easily thrilled with MC. Galaxy “shokky” music tune but is reported not to be friendly with criticisms. The six months in office has attracted knocks and commendations.
X-raying Ayade’s performance and style since assumption of office, a prominent social critic and senior legal practitioner in the state, Chief Utum Eteng said “For me objectively speaking, I have not seen his style of governance as a serious style or anything well intended. We pray to God to give him the grace to come down to the real basis of governance. He has fallen fowl of the law in many areas. We want him to succeed but he should not take us for granted because the way he is going about governance is like he has found an estate and he is running it that way, no it is not correct”.
“If you sit down to analyse what he has done, they are falling short of legal expectation,” Eteng said adding, “the governor is not just running the state as a sole administrator but as a sole administrator extra-ordinary because up till now one cannot really identify the policy trust of his administration. The state is not a limited liability company that can be run with money coming from the governor’s pocket as it is claimed. This is unfounded in governance and in law. Government has appropriation law for which all these things are streamlined.”
On his part, the Chairman Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC) Mr. Goddie Akpama accused the governor of ignoring internal and external roads in the state. Akpama had in a text message with the governor said, “Super highway is all you want to do, you don’t have a plan A and plan B, this is not good for our development and democracy. Politics is all about people. Our internal roads need urgent attention sir. Save our roads, save our Crossriverians. May God bless us.”
Ayade who did not take the criticism lightly responded saying, “I earn N1.5 billion for State Civil Service and I need N2.5 billion. This is outside over 22 agencies of government. What do you know about government? I hate your style of seeking money and ones there is a delay you criticise, do you know how I pay salaries?
“Other states want to downsize but I am not, the state has not put a dime on the super highway. It is shameful that you attempt to blackmail me.
“You worked against me but I put you up for appointment and you still can talk filth. How much have I given you so far? Blackmail does not work for me. Do you know how those streetlights come on every night? How I use my own money to buy bins and trucks to keep Calabar clean? How water flows? How salaries are paid? You are wicked for a brother.”
Irked by Ayade”s response, Akpama said: “Governor, you sound funny on issues when you talk of how much you have given me. It’s funny if people hear this. In your entire life you have given me less than N200,000. You gave me life too? Appointment and all that, does life start and end with your appointment?
Rising in defense of the governor, his Chief Press Secretary Mr. Christian Ita said the governor’s conversation with Akpama was private and going public with it was mischief.
He said the state government ”had uncovered a plot by those it described as ‘reactionary elements’ to blackmail the state governor, Senator Ben Ayade, and cast doubts on the activities of his administration, however well intentioned.”
Ita, noted: “the ‘elements’ who have made blackmail their stock in trade, had in their febrile effort in the last five months tried to distract the governor, essentially on social media, but all to no avail”.
Also defending the governor, the State Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Ntufam John Okon commended Senator Ayade’s leadership saying, “In less than 100 days in office, our vibrant and visionary governor’s achievement speak volumes of what is yet to come. Some of the notable and remarkable landmarks include: regular /prompt payment of salaries to civil servants; employment of about 2,000 youths under the Green Police Initiative, lifting of ban on employment, sponsoring of executive bills to the State House of Assembly” and few others.
Ntufam Okon said, “we in the PDP pledge our total support for a purposeful administration reflecting in the lofty ideas of Senator Ayade … having identified poverty as the greatest challenge facing the state, has adopted measures to confront them through economic reforms. This he is doing by vigorously pursuing the process of industrialization”.
Another incident that characterized the governor’s six months in office was his media interactive session where probing questions were asked.
Reacting to the questions raised, Ayade said,
‘The problem with life is that when you are working so hard, the cheap minds begin to find reasons why you are working so hard.
“I gave N1.7 billion (Local Government salary), check my records from the last income that we got from federation allocation and their wage bill is N2.1 billion. I have a deficit there. I am not talking of deductions that were taken from that. For state Civil Service, I gave N1.87 billion but I have N2.4 billion to pay. I have outstanding bills, debts that must be taken from ISPOs (Irrevocable Standing Payment Order) immediately the money comes. I have internally generated revenue that is neither here nor there struggling to approximate between N500 and N600m. If you add up the sum, I have deficit of N2 billion every month.
“I don’t do this because I have enough but I do this because I care. If am to run the state the normal way I run business, Cross River State will not be the way it is. The refuse people you are talking about, how many times have I asked that all of them have to go? The bill I was getting was N97 million to be precise, I pay from my pocket because I don’t have a budget cover and you dare ask a question? My brother told me if this is the way we go, this family would go bankrupt before I leave office.
“The EFCC is doing their job and you are asking me what I am doing to protect (immediate past government) because the other government protected the other government. I can’t believe Journalists will ask that kind of question. Please let’s stop compromising government.
However the drive of the governor to bring in foreign investors is commendable said, Mr. Etim Asuquo, a businessman adding, “We must commend this young man for dragging in the Chinese with 10 billion dollars investment. We should encourage him. We believe with sincerity of purpose coupled with his vision, Cross River will be a state to emulate if all these come to fruition”.