The moniker of “co-governor” within our well-defined political spectrum is an amusing one, but the people of Cross River State are all too familiar with such a nickname and the accoutrements.
Enter Dr. Frank Ayade: younger brother of the current governor of Cross River State, Senator (Prof.) Ben Ayade. That the younger Ayade wields considerable influence in Cross River state afforded by his brother’s position of authority is stale news.
Dr. Frank Ayade has been detained by the anti-corruption sentinel EFCC on a number of occasions, with a number of those detentions not being unconnected with fraud regarding the Calabar garment factory.
Of great bewilderment is the fact that Dr. Frank Ayade – who holds no clearly defined appointment or elected office – is at the helm of affairs at the Calabar Garment Factory, which is 100% owned by the State Government. In his capacity as “head” of the facility, he has failed to give credible account for over N2 billion received in funding from his brother’s government.
Dr. Frank Ayade’s other exploits include receiving a contract of N500 million to supply dustbins, commissioning the Obudu general hospital, filling his brother’s shoes as acting governor while the latter was away for more than two months (without any proper delegation of powers whatsoever), overseeing the bidding process for contracts and making public appearances on behalf of the state government.
The “co-governor’s” imperious carriage has resulted in extensive scrutiny, with heated debates questioning the legitimacy and sincerity of the current administration in light of Dr. Frank Ayade’s excesses. Some concerned individuals have even gone as far as writing petitions against him to the government demanding a curb to his reach, while lamenting the unfortunate relegation of the deputy governor’s office (currently filled by Prof. Ivara Esu) to ceremonial status.
Indeed, the governor, in a sober albeit shallow expression of remorse made clarifications regarding his brother’s heroics, insisting that his younger brother had no stake whatsoever in the running of the garment factory in particular or the state in general.
However, the governor’s dithering stance and seeming inability to put a leash on his brother’s misbehaviors can and will be seen as abetting the latter’s obnoxious mischief-making, albeit with more than the generally accepted gratuitous pinch of nepotism.
Videos and pictures of Dr. Frank Ayade hosting lavish revelries and spraying huge sums of money on his fellow partygoers make the cover pages of the dailies and can be found littered over the internet. His penchant for exotic vehicles and convoys is a well-documented nuisance.
The danger of this is all too obvious. Frank Ayade is an unelected and unaccountable operator within the Cross River government, who wields far more power than any Cross Riverian who really loves the state should be comfortable with. The stench of scandal has followed him throughout his brother’s tenure.
His continued overbearing influence on the way government runs, despite having no portfolio, is an affront to established norms of functional government, setting a precedent that could be hard to roll back. Any future governor who allows a family member so much leverage in the corridors of power, will cite Frank Ayade as precedent.
It is urgent for Cross Riverians to think very carefully about the kind of state they want to live in going forward. Is It one in which the rule of law and established governance norms are followed? Or do they prefer a puppet governor controlled by his younger brother? Only time will tell.