Assessing the progress made (or not made) by Cross River State under Governor Ben Ayade’s administration is necessary as elections draw closer. Certainly, the time has come for the electorate to evaluate the performance of their elected officials and decide whether a change in leadership is needed.
Former attorney general of the state, Eyo Ekpo, who is now running for governor on the platform of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), has sharply criticized Ayade’s stewardship of the state. “Under Governor Ben Ayade, we had a fullscale burial of all the various policies. It [Cross River] is no longer a destination today, but a place where people run away from. I believe it is high time we recovered our mandate first, which we gave him in 2015; we have to restore the fabric of good governance in the state. It’s not rocket science”
Ekpo lists an emphasis on functional government, human capital development, security and tourism as his focus to recover and restore Cross River.
A peek into other affairs of the state will show that the security situation in the state has not fared any better under Ayade, with armed gangs of boys aged between five and seventeen assuming the face of an increasing menace to the State.
Ayade’s attempts to ameliorate the security crisis has been characterized by ineptitude and chaos. “Operation Skolombo,” inaugurated by the governor and comprised of soldiers, policemen, and civil defense corps (NSCDC) empowered with vehicles and special communication equipment was tasked with tackling the unpleasant upsurge in crime but the group’s impotence has been highlighted by victims of criminals. Many residents have complained that the security apparatus did not respond to their distress calls when armed robbers and other cult gangs terrorized them.
A victim in Anantigha, Mr. Nakanda Iyadim, who incidentally is an information officer to Governor Ayade, confirmed that his home was burgled and his valuables carted away. He complained that despite his calls to security for help and even posting the unfortunate event on Facebook, no one came to their rescue. He further lamented “Over 50 armed boys are now robbing from street to street, house to house. They are carting away valuables from terrorized residents. The whole Anantigha community now lives in total fear, without police presence. Please help.”
On the governor’s peculiar style of [mal] administration, Anietie Akpan reports for the Guardian from Calabar: “Stakeholders in the state, including religious leaders/groups and civil servants are insisting that Ayade does not deserve a second term due to perceived poor performance. Other allegations against the governor include running the state like a sole administrator, neglect of critical stakeholders, initiating phantom and mindboggling projects that exist mainly on billboards.” Truly, Governor Ben Ayade is known to administer the state in an atypical manner, such as having his younger brother lead the affairs of the state while he travels abroad, eschewing conference with his government officials while consulting with close family members or sending memos to his staff via WhatsApp instead of in filed papers.
Father Evaristus Bassey sums up his conclusion on the current government: “No meaningful progress has been achieved in the state under the present administration. We have a government in power that does not know how to preserve or work on what they inherited from previous administrations. If you cannot build on what you inherited, at least do not let it deteriorate.”
“The civil service of the state is worst hit by maladministration. It has never been like it is presently. The government also talks about making numerous appointments and providing monthly stipends to them but even with that, those same persons are crying in their closets, because the situation is rather creating much poverty in the state.”
Father Bassey is referring to the appointment
of over 5,000 aides by the Ayade administration at last count. It is, using the governor’s own words, a poverty alleviation move, but one wonders how the state will pay for this based on its meagre federal allocations, and non-existent Internally Generated Revenue.
Rather than alleviate poverty, this only increases poverty by taking away funds that could have been used for other projects that will deliver value for the state.
It is hard to escape the conclusion that Cross River has gone backward since 2015, hence the growing discontent from many parts of the state. What remains to be seen is if the election results in March 2019 will mirror the mood in the state.