By: Egbelo Ntebri Edward
Growing up in the ancient town of Ogoja is one experience I can never forget in a hurry. Childhood in Ogoja is very interesting. I remember how during electioneering campaigns we will sing songs praising leaders we only wished we will meet one day. No child cared about competence. Most times we would argue on the aspirant with the highest number of campaign posters and most captivating billboards. I remember this song we use to sing for the then Local Government Chairman of Ogoja, Chief Igbaji Monkom, that song is one that can never escape my memory.
The beautiful campaign posters of the then Governor, Mr. Donald Duke was also one picture to behold. Many never cared about what Donald was bringing to the table, they only cared about his looks. I remember how I would argue with school mates from other states that I have the most handsome Governor in Nigeria. Very sorry to say that Donald failed some of us that expected so much from him.
Personally I didn’t enjoy Mr. Duke’s style of Governance. I believe he paid less attention on pressing issues. Some friends have always criticized my opinion on Donald. But I won’t be fair to my conscience if I glorify Duke.
Unlike many who were privileged to grow up in castles/mansions, I grew up in a simple house with a mother and father that are both civil servants. I remember how it was difficult for me to go back to school in a particular year. Things were very tough for my parents and every other civil servant in the state. Why? Because my parents and many other parents were owed salaries for 8 months. Although we had projects going on around the state, but who would prefer unstructured infrastructures to workers welfare? It is important to note that Cross River State was counted among the richest states in Nigeria then, we had booming oil reserves, the state was one among the very few treasured babies of the Federal Government then. We had fat federal allocations.
Another ugly development of Donald’s era was when he graded major streets in Ogoja and abandoned them with thick brown powders, no stone base, no asphalt. Those roads stayed brown and dusty for years. Many thanks to Sen. Liyel Imoke those roads were tarred on assumption of office. To me, Donald’s tenure meant political violence and unequal development.
Sen. Liyel Imoke is one man I will forever be proud of, he did what Donald failed to do. When Nigeria returned to Democracy in 1999, many states had to choose between two paths “Industrialization or Rural Development”. I wonder what gave Donald the conviction that tourism will thrive in a state that had no world class industry or good rural road. Well, maybe he had his reasons. But I believe Donald didn’t lay a good foundation for his successor. Imoke massively invested in rural development. Imoke was distracted with political litigations, but he still has a wonderful success story.
And then came the Ben Ayade’s era. Ayade is a successful businessman with broad understanding of Governance. Unlike Imoke and Duke, Ayade is not a traditional politician. Ayade understands the importance of industrialization. Have you ever imagined if Donald had focused on industrialization and Imoke on Rural development what Cross River State would have looked like today? Unarguably, Cross River State would have been the most economically vibrant state in Nigeria today.
Most times one wonders how Ayade does what he is doing. Every right thinking person knows that Ayade is working. Many might not know that presently states like Kogi and Yobe receive much more federal allocations than Cross River State, but the pace of development in Cross River State is far beyond what can be seen in these states. When many saw recession as the worst of all things, Ayade saw it as an opportunity to prove his competence. When many states in Nigeria were struggling to pay salaries, Ayade wasn’t just paying salaries, he was also building factories.
One dangerous pill some members of the opposition are pushing down the throat of some Cross Riverians is the deceit that Cross River State still gets what it previously got during her days of oil boom. The fact is, it took the wizardry of Ben Ayade to prevent Cross River State from collapsing under recession.
It is mere fiction to think Cross River State can grow above this pace of development as currently experienced under Ayade.
No doubt, Ayade will complete his 8 years as Governor of Cross River State. To set the records straight “Cross River State has never had it this good”. Ayade is paying salaries to over 6,000 state appointees and civil servants, servicing huge debts, rehabilitating rural roads, constructing new roads, constructing a deep seaport and still building factories.