One irrefutable mainstay of the governor’s rusty compass is his choice of projects, specifically the variable length but most probably the 260km Bakassi – Katsina-Ala superhighway. A project so porous that it was rejected by the Federal Government for miserably failing the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) – a study that noted the project would destroy a significant portion of Cross River’s forests.
It is therefore utterly laughable for Mr Bette Obi, CEO of the state Forestry Commission to state that “the governor has put in place a task force on anti-deforestation and has also introduced policies to checkmate illegal wood logging activities with a total ban on timber exploitation in the state…” in one breath while supporting by the lung-full the administration’s deforestation campaign physically manifested in the needless and duplicitous 260km superhighway.
At the close of 2017, the Governor Ben Ayade shocked the concerned public by announcing and subsequently signing into law a whopping N1.3 trillion budget for 2018, drawing the rebuke of many, including Fr. Evaristus Bassey, CEO of Caritas Nigeria who said: “The day I dismissed Ayade as a huge joke was when I looked through amounts budgeted by states in Nigeria for 2018. To my shock, Cross River budgeted higher than Lagos State. Even a state as rich as Rivers did not budget up to one trillion naira; only Lagos and Cross River States budgeted more than one trillion Naira and Cross River’s was higher.”
As the steely cold grip of austerity tightens around the necks of governments worldwide, one cannot help but wonder or dream how Governor Ben Ayade and his team plan to finance such gargantuan expenditure outlays.
According to the National Bureau of Statistics report on States for 2017, Cross River State reported an internally generated revenue (IGR) figure of N18.1 billion; a 22% increase from the previous year’s N14.77 billion. A welcome improvement in the state’s affairs and a small ray of hope, especially when combined with the (measly and dwindling) Federal Allocation of N22 billion, but ultimately a futile drop of water personified among a parched people considering the gargantuan financial outlay and debt set to overwhelm the state.
Opposition spokesperson for the All Progressives Congress (APC) Mr. Mens Ikpeme summarizes the bearing of Governor Ayade’s administration: “What the masses are experiencing is a catalogue of misdirection and disorientation mission shaping up to be the relics of totalitarianism in all its expressions; massive fraud, poverty, pervasive corruption, consanguinity of rouge leadership, infringement of people’s rights and grossed tinkering of basic tenets.”
Even the endorsements for the governor are messy and incoherent, much like his government. In light of the forthcoming 2019 gubernatorial elections, the Cross River Women Emancipation Initiative (CROWEI), an umbrella body for all women associations in the state, has emphasized its support for the governor’s re-election bid. The group believes that his administration can emancipate the women of Cross River State economically and increase their political awareness; they further expressed confidence knowing that all the women of the state want the governor to return and finish the good work in a second term.
Dr. Linda Ayade, wife of Governor Ben Ayade, established CROWEI, which makes the entire story awkward regardless of how you dice and slice it. According to the governor, Dr. Linda Ayade had cautioned him several times not to think of seeking re-election in 2019. The wife of the governor was worried over the type of unwholesome politics being played in the state, fearing that it was going to endanger him or dent his hard earned reputation.
However, in a confusing about-face, the first lady of the state later made an abrupt U-turn, switching lanes and joining the rest of the state’s womenfolk in blindly endorsing her husband’s return bid in 2019.
That endorsement is unlikely to count for much, however. The people of Cross River are gradually being made aware of other options at the ballot box to recover and restore the People’s Paradise to its former glory. Time is running out for Ayadeism.