One of the main fixtures of the Ayade administration has been the steady decline of a functional government in Cross River state. Prior to now, citizens and the government had a semblance of and very many layers of connection. Citizens were involved in the process of governance wherever they were in the state. It gave Cross Riverians a sense of belonging which led to a harmonious state of affairs. This is no longer the case.
The local government structure was a key part of this functional government, with elections holding regularly and as when due. Since the expiration of the tenure of local government chairmen in December 2016, however, there have been no LG elections in the state, a hitherto unheard of situation. The elections were initially slated for June 2017, but were suspended due to the Continuous Voter Registration which was to take place between April 7 and July 25 last year. Over a year later, no elections have been held, and it’s safe to say that we will go into another general election in March 2019 without elected local government chairmen.
This state of affairs has continued to widen the gap between the grassroots and the leaders. Local governments are the closest to the people and everything cannot and should not be centralized in Calabar. However, that is exactly what Ben Ayade has done. He has made the ‘governance’ of Cross River a family affair, abandoning the structures and norms that made the state one of the most progressive and admired in the country.
Rather than strengthen established norms in the state, Ayade prefers to hire an army of aides, many of whom he cannot pay. He would rather build personal loyalty to himself than further the development of Cross River.
This desire to centralize power which manifests in the governor’s decision making, reveals how Ayade really sees his position: to simply loot the resources of the state without anyone to question him. He has given his ‘co-governor’ and brother, Frank Ayade, powers over key projects, sidelining duly elected officials.
One of the candidates for governor, Eyo Ekpo, has noticed this gap, making a return to functional government one of his priorities in his manifesto. He has pledged to restore a collegiate system where decisions are taken collectively. This would be a clear departure from the current situation.
The Cross River State Independent Electoral Commission (CROSIEC) has said repeatedly that they are ready to conduct the elections whenever the state government is ready with the funding. From Ayade’s body language though, that day may never come.
It is time for the people of Cross River to remind their governor that Cross is bigger than Calabar and Diamond Hill. It is now up to them to decide whether they want to continue with no representation at the grassroots or whether they will vote to recover and restore functional government in the state.