Every era comes with its challenges. But, for Sen. Ben Ayade the executive governor of Cross River State, is, a man of stoic politics who has chosen a path where only angels trek, rebuffing the politics of daggers and stabbing of political opponents. Right from the beginning of his active political career in the seventh senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Ayade has left no one in doubt that he is a man of great honour, when he coined the slogan of his campaign as “Politics with Ethics” as his guiding principle. While in government house, Calabar, Ayade has acquitted himself creditable as a statesman with compassion a clear departure from one other ex-governor whose slogan in office was intimidating “If not him, who?” and a funny coercive slogan from another former Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the State “Monkey Work, Monkey Chop”. Ayade’s world views when juxtaposed are consistent with his politics. Ethics in politics pre supposes that one maintains “table manners” which conform to the Biblical injunction “do to others what you want them to do to you”.
In 2015, when Ayade took over office as governor of Cross River State, the reality of hunger and famished population was evident everywhere. He needed no soothsayer to tell him that something urgent needed to be done. And in his innocence, he announced to the whole world that he was going against the tide of recession by “Expanding government”. To a casual and bewildered observer, it would have been crazy to do that given the economic meltdown of recent years and the State’s lean revenue purse. But, not for Ayade, who as of today, has made about 4,500 political appointments spread across the 196 political wards of the State and pays regular salary to both the appointees and other State workers. This has earned him appreciation and the nick name “Paymaster” or “Alert master”. Indeed, the Unified Trade Labour Unions in the state, that is, the Nigeria Labour Congress and the Trade Union Congress had to crown him as early as 2016 as the “Most labour friendly governor in Nigeria”.
In piloting the affairs of the state, Ayade has proved wrong the assertion that “might is right”. For four years going, he has had no cause to pursue political or perceived enemies of his administration as it is done elsewhere. Standing to his credit, is the fact that no single political killing has taken place under his watch. No one has been sacked or victimized for opposing his government. Even though some of his Aides in their own political permutation have joined opposing camps to fight against his second term bid, he still allows them to withdraw their monthly salaries unhindered. This, certainly, is not an obtainable situation in the Nigerian political landscape. If not for his rare ethical maturity which other Nigerian politician can tolerate disloyal appointees and still pay their bills?
Interestingly, a new development is unfolding in Cross River politics. Revelations have started coming out from past gladiators in Government House Calabar, about the parlous and debt ridden profile of the state he inherited since 2015 from past Chief Administrators of the state. The two Ex-Governors: Mr. Donald Duke and Sen. Liyel Imoke have gone berserk in public space granting press interviews to punctuate on their past stewardship to the state thereby opening up a can of worms. Hear Donald Duke speaking about Sen. Imoke, “Cross River died since 2007”; “He is a total failure as a minister and a governor”. And the counter attack from Sen. Liyel Imoke “It is his spirit that died since 2007”; “He has been a serial failure since we parted ways” and another “It will take monthly deduction of N1billion for twelve years to clear the debt left behind by Donald Duke”. In spite of inheriting a debt ridden and unserviceable state, Ayade has kept mute and shot optimism to its peak when he announced to the whole world that he inherited a state with great potentials and resources. Rather he prefers speaking in tongues to capture the sorry situation he found himself. One of his favourite speech is “When you put your spirit above your soul, the body will follow”. And, “I will give my right eye to develop the state and decouple it from Federal allocation”. Certainly, Ayade’s buoyant spirit and ways of doing things beats the imagination of ordinary men.
Today, Cross River state stands out as the only state in Nigeria which has a law abolishing taxes for low income earners which is in furtherance of Ayade’s avowed commitment that “Under my watch, no child should go to bed hungry”. Besides, thousands of job have been provided for widows, youths and the vulnerable in the State’s Garment Factory, Cross River Water Board Limited, and the automated Rice Seedling Factory. Other upcoming thriving industries about to go fully operational such as CALAPHARM, Calabar Power Plant, Ikom Cocoa Processing Factory, Ogoja Rice Processing Factory and other agricultural ventures like the Banana Plantation in Odukpani and Cocoa Nurseries in Akamkpa are also providing jobs and ancillary services to the people of the State and beyond which is adding to the economic value chain in Nigeria.
Although Ayade inherited the problem of displaced people of Bakassi who have been made “stateless” by the Federal Authorities which ceded their ancestral land to Cameroon Republic in 2007, he has made bold efforts to tackle the issue head long. As at the moment, about 5,000 housing units are under construction and near completion to accommodate the IDPs from Bakassi. While the Cameroonian refugees who have been flooding Cross River due to the separatist crises in their country are also being cared for by the State Government in several camps across the state.
Suffices, is, to say that, His Excellency, Prof. Ben Ayade in his three years at the helms of affairs in the State is not immune to political dagger-stabbing, but his innocence in handling the affairs of the state which he has diligently deployed through good governance stands him out as a man with clean hands. And, as, it is often said, “A man who goes to equity must go with clean hands”. Therefore, judging by his ecclesiastic performance, he stands acquitted in the court of men and God. It is for this reason that I am more than convinced that as political daggers of intrigues, blackmail, intimidation, lies, evil plot and counter plot which has started flying ahead of 2019 cannot smear the reputation Governor Ayade has built for himself over the years. Surely, heaven will speak for him!