BY UBON EKANEM
The opposition voices are loud and clear that Cross River State is certainly in for another four years of clowning and dream journey as Governor Benedict Ayade takes a new Oath of office for his constitutionally guaranteed second four year tenure.
Though still mulling their woeful failure to team up and galvanise electoral support against the kinetic Governor, the opposition elements are quick to claim that Ayade’s acceptance speech and unofficial disposition during his swearing-in at the U.J Esuene Stadium on May, 29, 2019 gave adequate hints on what the people should expect in the next four years.
Stunning the motley crowd that gathered for the ceremony with his boastful rhetoric, Professor Ayade, was in his element, delivering the now popular signature tune of turning the state into construction site with the location of industries in each of the 18 Local Government Areas of the State.
Characteristically, Governor Ayade designated himself the State Project Manager, while proclaiming that the Deputy Governor, Prof. Ivara Esu would act as the Governor. Playing back the tape of his first four years’ governance style, Prof Ayade, in the same manner he told people way back on May 29, 2015, said foreign investors are already on ground to boost his industrialization policy drive across the length and breadth of the State.
But four years after and despite the governor’s continuous assurances that everything is on course, opposition elements and even some of hid ardent admirers have admitted that the state is yet to reap the benefits of any industrialization project initiated and completed by the state government.
Flowing from his re-election at the March 9 gubernatorial poll, the joke in the state political circles about Governor Ayade’s typical industrialization policy drive is readily around yet-to-be completed road dualisation project between the popular Eight (8) Miles and Odukpani junction by Calabar-Itu Federal Highway after more than three years and still running.
Knocks have also come in torrents for his administration’s lackluster attitude that has seemingly buried the once popular 12-kilometres annual Obudu Mountain race initiated by former governor, Dr Donald Duke as part of measures to drive his robust tourism vision for the state on a sustainable basis.
Also interred with the Mountain race that was already attracting global attention is the cable car initiative used in ferrying tourists from the mountain base to the Obudu Cattle Ranch.
Similarly, the Monorail Car planned to transport tourists and conference participants between deteriorating Tinapa Resort and Calabar International Conference Centre (CICC) has been grounded even without its being fully functional.
Allegations trailing the unattractiveness of Ayade’s first tenure are also amplified by the dysfunctional State-owned Microfinance Bank that has remained under lock and key since it was commissioned in 2018 as well as the still-born State power plant, located along the popular Parliamentary Village extension in Calabar, the State capital.
Other issues that have further dramatized Ayade’s so-called industrialization policy include complaints by the German Engineer handling the power plant construction, who told close confidants that the project looks dead on arrival, as many stakeholders are still wondering how a 1935 German technology found flowery attraction in the 21st century Nigeria, given that it would be utterly difficult having any company willing to fabricate parts for maintenance purposes.
Without doubts, claims of dormancy and white Elephant contrives also surround the Governor’s much-touted signature projects of Super Highway and Bakassi Deep Seaport have sadly enjoyed permanency in the consciousness of many with unrelenting knocks coming from environmentalists, forest activists, and Non Governmental Organizations (NGO). Their grouse being that such multi-billion Naira projects are way out of the State’s reach given its obvious poor revenue base, heavily dependent on the average N2.6 billion monthly allocation from the Federation account and the huge re-current expenditure as first charge.
Another obvious snag is the Federal Ministry of Environment’s debilitating 23 point conditions slammed on the State before it can receive final approval for these projects. On the list of conditions are Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA); Impact Assessment Report (IAR); Source of Funding; Enumeration Report; and compensation payment plan for economic trees, ancestral tombs and shrines, which the State is so far finding it impossible to meet.
Away from his initial boast on taking office in 2015, the governor seems no longer upbeat about these projects being financed by international investors with high dreams of deploying his vast intellectual know how to make them a success.
Just before the March 8, 2019 gubernatorial elections, Governor Ayade was curiously enmeshed in a controversial N680 billion request memo he sent to the Cross River State House of Assembly seeking approval for United Bank for Africa (UBA) to grant the loan that translates to about N300 million monthly deductions at source from the Federal allocations to the State.
In the heat of a public backlash, the State lawmakers did the needful by rejecting the governor’s request that financial experts suspect would have inadvertently mortgaged the state’s fortunes to UBA for the next 168 yearss.
For now, it is another ‘on your marks, get set and go‘ for the digital State number one citizen as he takes Cross Riverians on a new level of jolly ride till May 29, 2023
– Ubon Ekanem is an Assistant Editor with Forefront News and writes from Calabar.