Deconstructing the Obudu Airport Project By Chidiebere Onyemaizu

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In his inaugural address on May 29, 2015, Professor Ben Ayade was explicit on the tenor of his administration: aggressive industrialization and construction of signature projects that would change the economic narrative and deliver his vision of Cross River of tomorrow where economic prosperity holds way.
This Philosophy underpins his administration’s vision for a new Cross River. The Obudu International and Cargo Airport project embodies that vision.
However, as expected, the well thought out Airport project has come under the negative radar of a few in the state who are still stuck in the Cross River of yesterday and see every new and refreshing idea through the prism and template of the old order.
All arguments against the project are puerile, products of warped logic. Peddlers of misinformation are obviously on the loose.
It evidently smacks of mischief to suggest that the Obudu Airport will only be a Cross River affair, that is, its viability will depend on its patronage by the people of the state.
How could some people easily forget that within the locality of the airport is the iconic Obudu Ranch Resort, a tourist facility that attracts visitors far and wide, including foreigners?
An International Airport at Obudu will revitalise the ranch, increase tempo of patronage and ultimately place it on world map as a truly tourists destination as visitors can now fly straight there from any part of the world rather than flying into Calabar first,and then embarking on a tortuous 7-hour drive to the Ranch.
The harrowing road experience vitiates the enthusiasm of fun seeking tourists who find the Obudu Ranch Resort as an ideal place to commune with nature.
They never return after the road trip ordeal and this has been a debilitating and major drawback facing the ranch.
Now, its pedestrian to attempt to wear messiac toga and win cheap popularity by situating the feasibility and viability of the Obudu Airport using the income parameter of Cross River Civil Servants. To do so is to suggest that the primary purpose of the Airport is to willy nilly subject civil servant to its use.
Therefore, it’s a misnomer to question where and how Cross River civil servants will garner the financial muscle to purchase flight tickets to use the Airport.There is no where in the world where airports are built solely for civil servants.
Were it so, no Airport in the world, including Nigerian Airports, will be viable. Civil servants in Nigeria constitute less than 1 percent of the entire population of 200 million people, and they are never sole air travelers.
Obudu is located in Northern Cross River and anyone who is conversant with the geography of the zone knows that Obudu and other towns in the area are ringed by Ebonyi in the South east and Benue in the North central. In fact, from Obudu to Makurdi, the Benue state capital is less than an honour drive while many towns in Ebonyi state are walking distances to a plethora of Northern Cross River communities. And so, what does this tell us? The Obudu Airport will open a refreshing new vista to air travel within the North central and South east zones.
With the absence of an Airport in Makurdi, the frontiers of Cross River economy will further burgeon as the Obudu Airport will service air passengers from Benue and other near by North Central states.
In the same vein, Ebonyi indigens whose communities are adjacent Northern Cross River and far removed from the Emene Airport in Enugu, will no longer have any business travelling to Enugu, about two and half hours journey, to board planes.
While arguments have been advanced as to the proprietary of breathing life to the existing Bebi Airstrip to service visitors to the ranch, the topography of the ranch vis avis aviation safety concerns have largely been left unmentioned.
Essentially, the Bebi Airstrip is under utilised not because of lack of interest in the ranch by potential tourists but because of safety concerns.The topography of the ranch is mountainous and difficult and dangerous to be navigated by pilots not specialised in such air routes. And there are few of such specialised pilots in Nigeria.
This therefore, makes the Obudu Airport compelling and desirable.
It is restrictive mentality to insist that a proposed rail line that would straddle Obudu renders the Airport project illogical. The mendacity of this argument is ingrained in the short sightedness of its peddlers. Modern cities boasts of road, rail and air transport infrastructures for economic growth and sound living standard.
So, the Obudu Airport, the 274kilometre super Highway and the federal government’s planned rail project covering Obudu sit well with Professor Ayade’s economic blueprint for Cross River. The projects fit perfectly into his vision of Cross River of tomorrow.
Focused and visionary leaders world over espouse policies and take hard decisions that initially may be painful, but on the long run, positively shape socio economic and political destinies of the the people. That is what Ayade is doing in Cross River.
The Obudu Airport project, the Super Highway, the Bakassi Deep Seaport and other audacious signature projects of his administratiin define such hard decisions and polices.
Governor Ayade is not saturating Crosss River with life changing socio- economic signature projects and industrializing the state to acquire a fleeting vainglory.
The projects are designed to guarantee the future and long term economic posterity of the state and its today’s teeming youth population. There lies the the Cross River of tomorrow philosophy.

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