Echoes of Osinbajo’s Visit To Cross River


Officially, Acting President Yemi Osinbajo’s two days visit to Cross River State was in continuation of Federal Government’s efforts and commitment towards finding lasting solutions to the twin issues of sustainable peace and development in the Niger Delta region. But admirers and critics alike agree that the Governor Ben Ayade-led administration emerged the greatest beneficiary from this highly-celebrated event. Our Assistant Editor, UBON EKANEM reports that the visit provided the much-desired verve and opportunity for the State government to re-calibrate its much-touted industrialization vision for the state.

With eyes on the daunting task of building bridges of understanding; engaging Nigerians of all creeds and ethnic leanings; institutionalizing people-oriented programmes for sustainable socio-economic development; and promoting all-inclusive practical solutions in the oil producing Niger Delta region, Acting President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo stormed Cross River State to deliver the Federal Government’s message of hope and future rosiness in the ancient city of Calabar.
Indeed, the Acting President had his ears full as the people reeled out their tales of woes, fears, agitations, expectations and conceivable aspirations within the contentiously flawed Nigerian Federation. True to public acclamation, Prof Osinbajo was his usual articulate and humble self, delivering President Muhammadu Buhari’s inspirational message of unwavering partnership, hope, peace, collaboration and workable development to Cross Riverians during the visit.
Governor Ayade’s admirers and critics may have gotten it on spot as Prof Osinbajo endorsed the state government’s developmental strides, especially in projects initiation and drive for timely completion. On focus here were the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) clinic; Calabar Pharmaceuticals, (CalabarPharm); exhibition of made-in-Nigeria products; ground breaking ceremony for the Rice City project; Cross River Industrial Park; commissioning of the Cross River State Mono Rail project; and the controversy-ridden Garment Factory located along Goodluck Jonathan avenue in Calabar.
Describing as ‘unique’ the choice of projects earmarked for industrializing Cross River, the law Professor said if carefully implemented, these ventures are capable of making the State competitive among the comity of states in the federation with a solid economic base to cater for its people.
Away from the fanfare of projects’ commissioning, ground-breaking and sight-seeing, the Acting President noted with delight the State efforts at becoming a tourist destination with its globally acknowledged festival, the annual Calabar Carnival that continues to set the pace in Nigeria’s tourism and hospitality industry.
But Prof Osibanjo was quick to admonish Ayade and his team to ensure speedy completion of the projects since they are capable of turning around the economic fortunes of Cross River while also generating employment for the teaming youth population. He assured Cross Riverians that with President Muhammadu Buhari’s endorsement of the visit, all on-going federal projects in the State would be completed before the end of the present administration.
He said part of Federal government’s intervention in the state and region are on-going erosion control and road projects that include the Calabar-Ogoja highway; the Odukpani-Ikot Ekpene Road; and the Lagos-Calabar Railway line captured in the 2017 budget which have great potential to support huge economic activities within the Cross River axis and beyond
No doubt, Acting President Osinbajo was upbeat promoting the message of peace and unity in the State and the scenario was not different when he paid homage to the Obong of Calabar, Edidem Ekpo Okon Abasi-Otu IV, who conferred on him the highest traditional title in Efik kingdom, “Ada Idaha ke Eburutu”. Full of thanks to the people, Prof Osinbajo told them that Nigeria is today highly respected on the global stage because of its existence as one strong united entity.
Interestingly, the revered Efik monarch told Prof Osinbajo that the well-deserved chieftaincy title was in recognition of the present administration laudable development strides as well as love for Cross River, which is evident in the appointment of over ten distinguished indigenes into strategic federal executive positions, including Head of Service of the Federation, Chief Mrs. Winifred Oyo Ita who was on the Acting President’s entourage.
Edidem Abasi-Otu, who expressed delight that the visit is ‘unique and devoid of political considerations’, used the occasion to decry the ceding of 76 oil wells to the neighbouring Akwa Ibom state, even as he urged the Federal Government to initiate ways of adequately compensating Cross River to heal the deep wounds inflicted on the psychic of an average Cross Riverian by that ugly development. The Acting President did not allow the opportunity to slip by as he carefully steamrolled the Federal Government’s resolve to effectively address the age-long challenges and visible neglect of the Niger Delta region.
Unarguably, Prof Osinbajo made good use of this duty tour, as he unequivocally maintained that leaders in the South-south geo-political zone must not shirk their responsibility of engineering positive transformation within the region. Deploying the Buhari’s administration’s suavity at continuous consultations with stakeholders, irrespective of gender, age or class, Prof Osinbajo allayed the people’s fears and boosted their confidence that the Federal government is committed to deliver on its contract with Nigerians.
Reacting to issues raised by political and community leaders during the Town Hall meeting held at the Calabar International Conference Centre (CICC), the Acting President assured that serious attention will be given to the pressing issue of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Bakassi local government following the ceding of their ancestral homes to Cameroon.
He cautiously explained this distressing issue on three fronts, covering Nigeria’s loss of sovereignty over the oil rich peninsula; catering adequately for the displaced Bakassi people; militancy in the area, response of security agencies, and distressing fall-outs adversely affecting the people.
According to the law professor, on the first score; the ceding of Bakassi due to “the International Court of Justice (ICJ) judgment is a development that we all consider a great loss.” Similarly, he said in ruminating over the legal issues that cost Nigeria the Bakassi peninsula, President Buhari believes that Nigerians living in Ikang and the adjourning villages should not be abandoned to their fate, adding that, “The Federal Government will certainly do more and engage more with the displaced persons in Bakassi. This is our duty and our commitment.”
Not done yet, the Acting President said government was working assiduously to address issues of militancy, security forces’ activities and the obvious harmful impact on the people, assuring that a lasting solution would soon be found for the disturbing challenges. Amplifying the government’s resolve to effectively collaborate with all stakeholders in the state as part of its efforts at sustaining socio-economic development and growth in the region, Prof Osinbajo said, the Buhari administration’s vision is one where government will constantly engender partnership with States to create professional, industrial and commercial opportunities for all citizens to favourably compete and thrive on a level playing field.
However, sign-posting memories of this timely presidential visit is the electrifying connect between the Acting President and the endless streams of children who refused to be outshone by other groups that remained active features in the reception party. Swarming around him everywhere he went, the enthusiastic kids gave their all welcoming the presidential entourage. With affectionate smiles adorning their faces for Professor Osinbajo and his team, the children’s innocence should serve as a constant reminder that continued betrayal of their hopes and demand for a better Nigeria would be an inexcusable dent on the conscience of this generation of leaders.
Strikingly, the Acting President, in line with the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration’s vision of investing in the youth populace, did not take this delightful reception by the kids for granted. His instant bonding with them proved inspiring and certainly left lasting reminiscences for these leaders of tomorrow’s greater Nigeria.
But sadly, this presidential visit was not all about pomp and pageantry as a sour taste was left in the mouth of some families when the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC)’s Managing Director, Obong Nsima Ekere’s convoy was involved in an accident that claimed the life of a police orderly.
Though only the Police Inspector’s death was confirmed, others were reportedly rushed to the hospital with unconfirmed reports that they sustained various degrees of injuries.
Also, with about 48 hours to the presidential visit, peaceful ambience of Calabar, the Cross River capital was seriously disrupted with an unfortunate but avoidable security breach involving some Naval and Police personnel. Though the clash was quickly brought under control, there was loss of lives with property valued at millions of Naira destroyed.
Now, the question renting the air is: ‘What happens next; after this highly-celebrated presidential visit, with all the mouthwatering assurances and promises?’
Time will tell!

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