One of the things Nigeria’s governors are famous for in recent times, is appointing hundreds of aides once elected into office. This is for them a means of creating employment and spreading patronage across their respective states.
Ben Ayade, however, has taken this to a new level. Where other governors appoint ‘only’ a few hundred aides, he has employed over 5,000 since coming into office in 2015.
His justification is very explicit. Back in November 2016 in Ikom Local Government, Ayade said he would appoint an additional hundred aides from Ikom, saying that the exercise was for wealth creation and poverty alleviation. He said: “instead of shrinking, we are expanding government to take the people out of poverty and a way of getting the people out of recession”.
This pledge came after Ayade employed over 1,000 aides at once in October 2016, to much criticism. Attah Ochinke, who was appointed the chairman of the Cross River Diaspora Board Fund, even declined his appointment based on concerns he raised privately on the size of the government.
That was in 2016. By 2017, over 5,000 aides had been appointed. These appointments were made with no thought given to whether they were necessary, what roles the aides were to perform, what value they were bringing to the table, or even whether the state could afford to pay them.
In an amusing twist, the numbers had even swelled to the extent that the governor requested an audit of the appointees, saying that many of the appointees were fake.
It is no surprise that the mass recruitment of appointees got out of hand, because that is totally in keeping with the character of the Ayade administration as grossly incompetent, and incapable of running a barbershop, never mind a functioning government.
Cross River clearly cannot afford such a bloated government with its limited resources. The state is currently heavily in debt and has been bailed out on two separate occasions by the Federal Government, just to enable it pay salaries. Yet, Ayade continues to saddle the state with an unsustainable wage bill.
Even now, many of the aides complain of not having office space, tables and chairs. Only in April this year, one of them was quoted as saying: “When our names were finally confirmed as S.As, I thought my problems were over only to realize that after three months, there is no accommodation for us, no office space and no salary.” In fact, there is no communication whatsoever from our employers which is the government and right now, we are just roaming the streets of the capital and waiting to hear from the government”.
The government’s role is not to create jobs through appointing thousands of aides. The role of any government is to put in place policies that will stimulate the economy and lead to jobs growth through private enterprise. The government’s role is not to break the backs of citizens with multiple taxation, but to create the enabling environment for local and foreign investment to thrive. This involves shutting down the activities of cultists, which Cross River is currently bedevilled with.
On this score, Ayade has failed. High insecurity in Cross River, both in Calabar and the border areas, have led to kidnapping, armed robbery and communal clashes that have led to loss of life and destruction of property. As a result, many business owners have gone to Akwa Ibom, taking their jobs with them and increasing unemployment in the state. A state that was once the pride of the South is struggling to survive and threatening to implode.
The Obudu resort, Tinapa and the Marina Resort, all of which could have been harnessed toward creating prosperity in the state, have been left to rot; the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) because of non-payment of taxes recently shut Tinapa down. What a waste of time, energy, and the goodwill of citizens of the state.
The 2019 elections are close by, and the good people of Cross River will soon have a choice. Do they want to continue with Ben Ayade, a creator of phantom jobs, or will they vote for a candidate with the ability to #RecoverAndRestore the genuine prosperity of the state? Time will tell.
By Samuel Bassey