CLEMENT JAMES reports on how the frequent travels of Cross River State governor, Prof. Ben Ayade, has negatively affected governance in the state
s people across the world ushered in the year 2020, corporate entities, governments and even individuals are setting goals and articulating objectives in order to better their respective achievements of the past year.
Government in particular, which exists for the purposes of security and welfare of citizens, has the responsibility to improve on infrastructure and security as well as prepare the ground for citizen’s participation in economic activities.
And a responsible government, which provides the needed infrastructure such as roads, water, electricity and other social services, has a enough reasons to demand for taxes in order to improve on such welfare packages.
As the year 2020 begins therefore, there are high expectations by the people of Cross River State. One of such expectations is the provision of infrastructure for the people. So, all eyes will be on the governor of the state, Prof. Ben Ayade, who is on his second term as governor of the state.
The first thing the people expect of the governor is his presence in the state because it is on record that Prof. Ayade, as governor of Cross River State has travelled around the world more than even President Muhammadu Buhari.
The governor, under the guise of looking for investors, has often left the state unattended to. Many say miscreants often take advantage of his absence to kill, maim and destroy properties in the name of cultism and kidnapping.
In the last five years under the present leadership, the state has witnessed more communal clashes than it did during the era of Governors Donald Duke and Liyel Imoke. In almost all the crisis, whether instigated by cultists, bandits or drug addicts, the governor has always been outside the shores of the state.
So, the people expect Governor Ayade to stay at home and work for those who voted him into power as nobody, including the foreign investors, will pack his bag and head a state that is crisis-prone.
If citizens of the state are being kidnapped and killed and beheaded at random, what is the guarantee that foreigners, or investors, would be spared the agony of such treatment?
In any case, after five years of nearly living abroad, the people have not seen a single “investor” coming to do serious business in the state, the main reason the governor should be tired of “wooing” them.
To some analysts in the state, if the governor remains in the state, like most of his colleagues do, he will be able to know when those who voted for him sleep by the road side along Calabar-Itu road, just after Odukpani junction. He will know that by now, his “dualization” project between Odukpani junction and Tinapa junction, a distance of just about 15 kilometers, has remained at the level of grading, three years after the commencement of the project. He will know that his “Spaghetti flyover” at Odukpani junction is still under incubation two years after the people who were earning their living at the location of the project were sacked.
They also say that if the governor stays back and concentrates on governance, he will be able to fix the internal roads along the major highways, including Murtala Muhammed road, Marian road, Etta Agbo and Goldie among others as well as work on the drainages along Target and its environs, which have so far defied community efforts.
It also believed that if the governor refuses the temptation of travelling abroad so frequently as he has done in the last five years, he will be able to know that sensitive documents owned by Cross River State have always found their ways into various business centres in the state capital, Calabar.
According to an attendant in one of the business centres, “we receive vital documents, which are not supposed to be made public for photocopying, printing or typing. We know that some of these documents are sensitive but what we do here is to do our job and delete the documents immediately.”
The attendant, who works in one of the business centres along Atimbo road, initially refused to talk to our correspondent, but later opened up. He said the situation is becoming embarrassing “because sometimes one is surprised that Permanent Secretaries and Directors come here with very sensitive documents to either print, type or photocopy. Although we do not revisit the document after they leave, it can be dangerous.”
A director in one of ministries, who pleaded for anonymity, said the situation has affected all the Ministries, Department and Agencies (MDAs) in the state “because anybody who wants to photocopy, type or print any documents in the state now has to do that in the open business centres because there are no photocopying machines, computers and printers functioning in any of the offices.”
Even at the Office of the Head of Service, a source said that most machines have broken down. “This informs our going to business centers to transact business. We know that it is dangerous, but there is nothing we can do in the circumstance given the fact that almost all the machines have broken down,” he said.
The situation is the same in the governor’s office, where most of the machines are not functioning, and this has often prompted workers to take government documents outside for typing and other transactions.
“We cannot do anything with any of these machines because they have packed up since. How do we work with broken down machines? It was not like this when Duke or Imoke were governors. Not even when we had military governors did we find ourselves in this situation,” a staff in the governor’s office lamented.
It is against these backdrops that many reasoned that if Ayade decides to stay back in the state in 2020, he will discover that the Governor’s office has often been in darkness in his absence and this has often prompted workers to desert their duty posts.
Those who reasoned along this line wondered how one would explain the sudden “disappearance” of Press bus in the Governor’s office last year if there was light and effective security.
The problem of electricity in the governor’s office persisted last year because of lack of diesel to operate the two huge generators. A source who pleaded anonymity said the situation is likely to continue except money is made available for purchase of diesel.
The source also noted that the governor’s presence will assist security chiefs in the state to meet regularly and review security situation and come up with measures to enhance security in the state.
According to him, the governor will be able to hold those who foment trouble accountable, no matter how highly placed and this will send stern warning to others with similar intentions.
“If our governor, Prof. Ben Ayade focuses his attention on the state and develop the power station that he started, but which has since lost its rays, it will bring in investors and boost the state’s economy. What is the reason for spending public funds to build a power station that has no facility for provision of electricity?
“If the governor stays back in the state, he will realize that contrary to what his social media propagandists have been telling the world, activities in the state are at the lowest ebb, while electricity provision has been abysmal.
“Last year, there were a lot of protests by various interest groups in the state. One of the highpoints of the protests was when commercial cyclists’ breached security; forced their way into the governor’s office and dumped the corpse of one of their colleagues, who was knocked down by a police vehicle.
At that time, the governor, as usual, was in faraway China, looking for investors.’
But, this year, the people of the state are expecting that Governor Ayade will remain at home and tackle the myriads of social, economic, infrastructural and security challenges bedeviling the state.
Many said the governor ran a one-man show last year after his re-election as he appointed commissioners and inaugurated them last December.
But, to these political observers, it now behoves on Ayade to spur his commissioners into action and ensure that they brief him weekly on their achievements because his administration will leave office in 2023 and posterity, not propaganda, will write its story.