Ben Ayade
According to John Maxwell, "Everything rises and falls on leadership". The reputation and image of any state or society is directly proportional to the quality of leadership of that society. A society with a responsible, responsive and proactive leadership, is likely to create a better reputation than the one with parochial, irresponsible and irresponsive leadership.

The choice of the caption, "Cross River Inglorious Fall From Glory to Grass" is not intended at taking an aim at anybody particularly but to make us have mental pabulum on where we're coming from as a state, where we are today and probably where we are heading to (that's if we're heading somewhere at all). It is carefully crafted to at least attempt to compare our glory days to the current state of our dear state which can best be described as an inglorious fall from glory to grass.

Since the return of uninterrupted democracy in Nigeria in 1999, Cross River state has produced some of the best governors in terms of appearance, oratory prowess, performance and innovations. The first democratically elected Governor of the state in the current democratic dispensation, Mr. Donald Duke, in his tenure won several distinguish awards for his proactive and responsive approach to leadership. In fact, as the youngest governor in his time, Duke was highly respected amongst his contemporaries that he was saddled with the leadership of the South South Governors Forum. Because of his outstanding leadership qualities, he moved from a zonal chairman to the national chairman of Nigeria's Governors forum.

Despite assuming office at a tender age of 37, Duke was able to transform the state to arguably  a paradise destination in Nigeria in terms of its serene, ever green and clean environment which made it a haven for tourists within and outside the country.

When he came on board, Duke initially introduced agriculture to be the mainstay of the state's economy. The cultivation of pineapple, cashew, castor and the revamping of the oil palm industry was to contribute to the fields of agriculture to boost all round development of the state. But along the line, perhaps for the obvious reason of the huge financial outlay that may accrue to this initiative, Duke diversified wholly into development of the tourism sector and giving teeth to development in environment, information and communication technology, investment drive among others. Through his work Calabar was seen as the "cleanest city in Nigeria,’’ and even won a laurel in national reckoning for this posturing.

It was during Duke’s days that the state boasted of such facilities as Obudu Ranch Resort that apart from serving as Nigeria’s Camp David [according to the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua] hosted many athletes of international repute in the then famous International Mountain Race. The event grew under Duke and the next administration to one of the most lucrative mountain running competitions in the world.

To attract tourist to the state, Duke opened the world class Tinapa resort. The state became an industrial hub as the Tinapa resort gained acceptance both locally and internationally. By the time he was rounding up his tenure, businesses of several kinds were booming in the resort.

Also, Donald invested substantially in the education sector. It was during his time that the famous Polytechnic Calabar metamorphosed into the fast growing Cross River University of Technology, CRUTECH. The secondary education was revitalized as the state education monitoring team ensured students and teachers were serious with academics. It was during this time that prep (An evening class session where students go for compulsory reading) was imposed on all secondary schools operating in the state. State quiz and debate competitions were also introduced to  encourage competitiveness among schools and students.

The three technical colleges established by former Governor Clement Ebri were properly funded. In fact, some of the best electricians and skilled craftsmen we have today in the state are products of the schools. At the primary level, parents and guidance were encouraged to send their children to school through the government Primary School free education scheme.

He (Duke), however, got his share of criticism as he was accused of being too elitist in some of his projects. Some of the things he established were said be beyond the reach of an average Cross Riverian who needed government most. Questions like how the facilities could generate the financial outlay to sustain themselves given that the economy of the state is majorly dependant on allocation from the federal coffers pooped up at the time.

When the immediate past governor, Senator Liyel Imoke came on board on the 29th of May 2007, throughout his eight years tenure, he showed little or no serious interest in Tourism as the former. The Tinapa Resort, Obudu Ranch Resort amongst others became comatose as such having no direct impact on the state's economy under him.

His administration witnessed a drastic change from Duke's concentration in developing the urban to rural areas. Imoke administration constructed the highest number roads which cut across every political ward in the state in the history of Cross River state. Although, almost all the roads have experienced very short lifespan, he was applauded at the time for his commitment in developing the rural areas.

Apart from that, the administration prioritized the development of the primary healthcare sector in the state. Functional health centre in almost every village in the state were established. I see why he was regarded by his admirers as a symbol of rural development!

In agriculture, his administration granted loans and grants to farmers. He attracted investors to invest hugely in the sector. For instance, Wilmer's palm investment is one of the largest palm estate in Africa. He also brought the Songhai farms. He revived the state cocoa estate which was contributing about 30% to the growth of the state Gross Domestic Product, GDP.

In education, he renovated primary and secondary schools in every single village in the state. He also established the world class Institute of Management Technology, Ugep. In fact, many people till date rate him in terms of his people's oriented projects as the state best governor ever.

His government enjoyed positive remarks in ensuring relative peace more than the Duke's dispensation. In fact, the state was regarded nationally as the most peaceful in Nigeria.

Despite the achievements of the past administrations which comunated into building a solid and favourable reputation for our dear state,  both governors ran a government with about fourteen to nineteen cabinet members. Two of them put together had less than fifty Special Advisers, Senior Special Assistants, Special Assistants and Personal Assistants.

As Imoke administration faded way into the thin air on the 29th of May 2015, Senator Ben Ayade, emerged as the new kid in the blog to take Cross River state to the promised land. Such was expected from Ayade being that he is the first Professor and the oldest man to become governor (any of his ages still put him as the oldest)  when he assumed office. Clement Ebri became governor at 39, Duke at 37 while Imoke assumed office at 40.

Cross Riverians had expected that Ayade would either take the state further or maintained the level he met the it. But very unfortunately and highly disappointing, the hopes and aspirations of such people is gradually fading away. Eighteen months (18) down the line nothing is really showing that those who insisted that it was either him or nobody were right.

While the past administrations had clear policy plan in Agriculture, Tourism, Education and Health development, the Ayade administration has not shown a clear cut plans for these very relevant sectors of our economy. His administration is now known by the governor's oratory prowess which can be best described as unbridle lips doling out voodoo promises than any tangible achievement.

In Agriculture, rather than building on the existing structure to expand the horizon, the governor has destroyed almost everything he inherited from the sector. The Songhai farms is now comatose. Nothing is happening there. The state has or is about to lose the five years world bank commercial agriculture development project at the expiration of the current contract later this year for failure of the governor to approve the list of successful candidates early enough for training which would have given the state opportunity for renewal. Even the state agriculture loans for women and youths has long died a murderous death caused by this administration.

The cocoa estate which was contributing hugely to the state economy has been politicized. By the end of this year, cocoa farmers would have lost two farming seasons to the disagreement between the government and host communities on allocation of the estate to farmers. While farmers have insisted that real cocoa farmers should be allotted the blocs, the government is bent on floating the place with Calabar based politicians. This development has led aggrieved youths of the host communities to form a militant group called "Etung  Avengers" which they have used to chase everybody away from the estate.

In education, the government has left the state tertiary institutions as orphans. The state only owned university recently lost accreditation of two major courses (Architecture and Wood Product Engineering) as a result of failure of the government to fund the university properly to prepare for accreditation. Several months now, the government has sat on the statutory monthly subvention of the institution. All projects going on in the institution has been placed on hold due to paucity of funds. This development recently led the Council of Traditional Rulers to demanding the privatization of the institution. What a shame!

The Institute of Management Technology, Ugep is now moribund. Lecturers are owed over eight months salaries. The hopes of the students is hanging in the balance as lecturers are leaving on daily basis. The Highbury University that had agreement to run the institution for the state has terminated the contract due to government inability to keep to the terms of the agreement. The dream and aspirstions of the founding fathers of the institution has been dashed.

The West Africa Examination Council has held on to the results of candidates from the state as result of backlog of debts which the governor has not shown any serious interest to address. Our three technical colleges have become shadows of it itself. Instead of working on reviving them, Ayade said he has signed MOU to establish new once which is still flying in the air. In the primary education, pupils can no longer sit for common entrance as a result of the failure of government to organize the examination.

The state tourism potentials has succumbed to insecurity. A state once regarded as the most peaceful barely seventeen months ago is now topping the chart in insecurity in the country according to police report. Corpses are now litter everywhere in the street of Calabar. Kidnapping, cultism and broad day robbery has become the new oder in Calabar. The state is now known for killings and robbery than the great tourism potentials that brought it to limelight.

To make matter worst, Ayade has reduced governance to a huge joke and comedy as indicated in the appointments of retinue of political office holders and aides in both the state, senatorial district and local government levels. He recently unleashed terror on the state crunched economy with the appointment of 1,106 which when added with the existing 800 would take his tally to 1,906. The categories include Personal Assistants, Special Assistants, Senior Special Assistants, Special Advisers and commissioners. He ridiculously appointed people to some boards and agencies that has no legislative backings. For instance,  Maize, Banana and Cassava Development Agencies.

Apart from duplication of offices, he also appointed embers and chairmen to some nonexisting commissions. For instance,  board of Cross River state Seaport Authority, Portside Authority, Wharf Etc. All these commissions are not seen anywhere near the state. The state House Assembly which is obligated to question this is a rubber stamp to the governor.

With Nigeria economy in recession, one would have expected the governor to runn a lean cabinet to cut down cost of governance to reflect the  state economic reality like his contemporaries in other states. How a state which receives one of the lowest allocations from the  federal government and has witnessed a drop in the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) from N1.2 billion to about N800 million monthly recently harbour a cabinet lager than that of even the federal government is amazingly comical.

This is a state which sits third in terms of debt profile of states in Nigeria. According to research by Web Management Office, Lagos still tops the charts with the debt rate of about $1.17 billion Dollars, Kaduna with $234 million Dollars and Cross River in third place with $142 million Dollars.

With the debt of $142 million Dollars and a huge task of paying civil servants salaries and allowances there is no argument that instead of increasing the nineteen SAs appointed by Imoke administration to 1,106 and thirteen Commissioners to 29, he should run a lean government to reduce the cost of governance in the state.

This is how much Cross River, which has a capital that pride itself as the nation's paradise has fallen from glory to grass.
While other states like Ebonyi, Lagos, Kaduna, Adamawa, Abia, Anambra to mention but a few are moving from glory to glory, Ayade has taken us back to Sodom and Gomora; we have returned to dark days where everything bad is associated with. We are surviving in the land where evil hold sway.

The eighteen months of Ayade has been nothing more than an icing on the cake of bad leadership. To say the least, the Biafra tales as chronicled in Chinue Achebe literature "There Was a Country" can be reframed to say, there was state before Ayade came on board.

Ayade should urgently return to the drawing board and come out with plans that can revamp the education, agriculture, tourism and health sectors. Development and improvement of our economy should be giving more attention than building political empire. He should as a matter of necessity, cancel his appointment bonanza; people should only be appointed into government to serve a purpose of growing our economy.

His projects and program should at every time reflect the reality of our state financial position. We should not only have governor but there should be government in place. Cross Riverians should feel the impact of his digitalization like he promised. The time for this administration to work her talk is now. There should be less promises, more action.


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