The news of the reappointment of Dr. Stephen Odey as Chairman of Cross River State Universal Basic Education Board which has continued to make headlines on news feeds on social media and other news media, has been adjudged by veteran social analysts and critics – including the most relentless critics of Ayade led administration – as a square peg in a square hole, justifying the appointment as one of the most outstanding appointment made so far since the Ayade led administration began on May 29th 2015. This is not unconnected with the huge reforms Dr. Odey brought to bear in his first term in office from 2015 – 2019. Accordingly, the social media has been inundated with heartwarming congratulatory messages from media pundits, members of academic communities, ethical groups and the rank and file in educational administrative bodies within Cross River and in the diaspora. This adds firmness to the axiom that excellence has no enemy. It is an open secret that his superlative administrative behaviour laced with his deep sense of philanthropy constitute what has earned him these plethora of complements across political, religious and ethnic divides, borne out of his reappointment.
Undoubtedly, Dr. Odey’s eventful first term in office which he tagged, “Rescue Mission” was defined by full demonstration of positive administrative behaviour and robust reforms in Cross River SUBEB. Through rigorous inspections and supervision of schools; needs assessments and personnel audits that he conducted, apart from gathering firsthand diagnosis of the various schools across the eighteen (18) L.G.As of Cross River state, for instance, through the personnel audit that was meticulously carried out in the first quarter of his first term, the board was rescued from quackery in the basic education subsector as teachers without required credentials were fished out and were shown the way out of the classrooms.
On the flip side, the personnel appraisals that were professionally conducted led to the retraining of some of the teachers to upgrade to maximum level of requirements to meet with global standard nay best practices in attending to the cognitive, affective and psychomotor needs of the learners by teachers.
Nevertheless, To fill the vacuum of “ghost workers”, in order to reinforce teaching and learning, to fully and rightly consolidate efforts aimed at the actual implementation of the curriculum of the Universal Basic Education Programme (in line with the National Policy on Education) about Two Thousand (2000) Teaching Staff and Five Hundred (500) Non Teaching Staff were employed in January this year after thorough interview which gave adequate quality assurance of the employed staffs.
Needless to mention that the discovery of One Thousand Five Hundred workers with fake results and also “ghost workers” was tackled thereby further blocking financial leakages that was left unchecked for decades resulting in loss of hundreds of millions of Naira in servicing the liabilities of “unknown workers”.
In a related development, on the 30th May, 2019 he uncovered and raised an alarm over yet another attempted fraud of the tune of N1.3 billion on Cross River State Bank Account:
“On the 30th of April, I was contacted by Eco Bank to confirm my authorization for the transfer of the sum of N1.3b to an account number belonging to WRTS Nigeria Limited through a letter purported to have been sent by me to their Lagos branch. I was further informed that a certain Prof. Ofeimun had made several calls to the bank asking that the said amount of money be transferred to his account as the owner of the company, unmindful of the fact that SUBEB does not even have such an amount in its matching grant account.”
“The ill fated letter purported to have been signed and written by me was emailed to me from the bank. Based on the fact that Prof. Ofeimun is unknown to me and has no contractual relationship with my office and the said letter was forged, I quickly reported the matter to the Chief Security Officer to the Governor, Mr. Mark Anyogo and I wrote a petition to the DSS to intervene and track down Prof. Ofeimun with his phone number sent to me from the bank”.
In infrastructural development, statistics have it that his is the first administration to embark on such robust infrastructural development with about 480 projects bordering on construction/rehabilitation of classroom blocks, some of which are storey buildings, construction of sick bays, perimeter fencing, bore holes, offices, and lavatories. Most of these projects which have spread across the Eighteen (18) Local Government Areas in the State have been completed and commissioned while others are at various advanced stages of competition, delivering a new set of school plants in the basic education subsector with impressive looks and state of the arts facilities to enhance learning.
As an academic giant, veteran educationist, and seasoned personnel manager who understands the role of motivation in boosting performance of workers, under the auspices of his boss, the Executive Governor of Cross River State, sen prof Benedict Ayade, he ensures that no teacher goes to bed with an empty stomach as salaries of workers are been paid regularly and promptly to motivate and recharge them to remain committed to service delivery in their places of duties. Meanwhile, as it is obvious that there is no form of administrative wizardry that could have brought about the magnitude of reforms recorded so far without funds, and there is no way the source of funding cannot be traced to a particular brain with positive response to the course of transformational leadership: It is therefore in order noting and commending senator prof Benedict Ayade, the Executive Governor of Cross River State whom Dr. Odey ceaselessly describes as his second “Father”; his all-time backbone, inspirational tonic, and director of administration. As Governor, he has provided all the counterpart funds to access SUBEB funds. Suffice it to state unequivocally that “Prof. Ben Ayade led administration has been able to implement 2011 UBE intervention, access 2005 – 2007 CBN Excess Fund (which was left moribund by previous administration), access 2012- 2018 UBE Matching grant”.
In spite of the humongous achievements recorded so far, at the end of his first term, in his valedictory speech, before handing over to Cross River SUBEB Director of Administration, Mr. Emmanuel Ojong, Dr. Odey averred:
“We may not have been the best, we may not have achieved all we set out to achieve, but at the very least it will not be said that we have not made a mark here. We will be remembered for the employment of 2,500 teaching and non-teaching staff, the personnel audit exercise to rid the system of ghost workers and quacks, the execution of the highest number of projects ever witnessed in any administration and a host of other achievements.”
Apart from his reappointment by his boss which, by all standard is top notch reward, other significant rewards that have so far added credence to the popularity of his exceptional performance and distinguished socioeconomic worth are the concrete awards from reputable philanthropic, academic, administrative bodies; integrity groups and professional organisations as aptly captured in the long list of his well deserved awards below:
√ Best SUBEB Executive Chairman South – South geopolitical zone, presented by the President’s School Debate Nigeria (PSDN).
√ Award of Backbone of Functional Basic Education in Cross River State, presented by Nigeria Union of Teachers(NUT), Cross River State Wing.
√ ALGON’S Grassroots Community Philanthropist Award, Presented by the Association of Local Governments of Nigeria(ALGON).
√ Award of Excellence in Public Service, Presented by University Professional Administrators, University of Calabar Branch(ANUPA-UCB).
√ Distinguished Service Award, Presented by The Rotary Club of Calabar-UNICAL.
√ PAN-AFRICAN Prize for Excellence Award, Presented by the African Students’ Union Parliament(ASUP).
√ Award of Excellence, Presented by Young Lawyers Forum(YLF) Calabar Branch, in recognition of his positive impact in the basic education sector.
√ Award for Distinguished Professional Contributions to Public Service/ Fellowship, Presented by the Institute of Corporate Administration.
√ Award of Honour, Presented by the World Council for Curriculum and Instruction of Nigeria Chapter, Calabar Branch.
√ Award of Excellence, Presented by the Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Calabar in recognition of recognition of his contributions to the growth and development of the Faculty and his developmental strides in governance, education and community.
√ Award of Excellence in Public Service, Presented by the Faculty of Education, University of Calabar.
√ Award of Recognition, Presented by National Association of Cross River State Students ( NACRISS), ABU Zaria Chapter, in recognition of his dedication and commitment to service and the timely resuscitation of the Basic Education Sector in CRS.
√ Award of Honour, Presented by the Social Sciences Students Association(SOSSA), UNICAL chapter.
√ 2017 INTEGRITY STEWARDSHIP AWARD, Presented by the Centre for Save & Serve Humanity Organization, for being ethically responsible and serving as an advocate of good governance.
√ Diligent Service to Humanity Award, Presented by Members of the Grassroots Newspapers Publishers Network( GNPN), SOUTHERN COUNCIL.
In recognition of his outstanding contributions towards the socio-economic development of Nigeria, through his relentless efforts, also showing integrity in professionalism in the discharge of his duties.
√ Merit Award, Presented by Ogude Makuojuabuode Yache Development Association FCT- Abuja Chapter in recognition of his meritorious service in the Development of Education in Cross River State.
√ Award of Honour, “ODUBOR 1 OF GABU” (Great Helper of GABU), Presented by the GABU Community, YALA LGA for his contributions towards the development of Basic Education and his laudable achievements in Cross River State.
√ Award of Honour “OJRADIZI 1 of Ekpari Land”, Presented by Yache Nation, Yala L.G.A. in Recognition of his Selfless Service to Humanity.
√ NAGS Personality of the Year Award, Presented by National Association of Gabu Students Calabar Chapter.
√ ONYA-OCHWA 1 of Yache Land, Presented by the Uchu Community, Yache, Yala L.G.A.
√ Obla Tuole 1 of Akreha Kingdom, Presented by the Akreha Kingdom Yala L.GA. The list is endless.
Finally, in his book, “A Leap in The Dark”, John Ferling aptly pointed out that the visible is a reflection of the invisible. By this logic, it is apparent that with Dr. Odey’s excellent appetite for transformation as evident in his breathtaking innovations in the first term, there is hope of advanced developments in his second term in office.