When very important personalities (VIP) among which was Senator Godswill Akpabio trooped to Calabar recently to celebrate High Chief Ekpenyong Asuquo 70th birthday, little did they know what was in stock for them. Little did they know that a surprise package was awaiting their arrival! So, it was before setting off to Calabar International Conference Center (CICC) venue of the celebration, His Excellency Sen. Prof. Ben Ayade took Senator Akpabio on a quick facility tour to the Ayade Industrial Park situated at Goodluck Jonathan Byepass in Calabar, where several industries have sprung up in the last three (3) years of this administration.
The Ayade Industrial Park as the place is now popularly known is warehousing or hosting several industries such as: The Rice City (Rice Seedlings and Laboratory Factory), Cross River Garment Factory, Calabar Pharmaceutical (CALAPHARM) and a Perfumenary Factory.
The short tour which Governor Ayade conducted took Sen. Akpabio round the complex to see things for himself. But at the end of the facility tour, Akpabio who has a penchant for coining words and who at the height of his own rule- as the Governor of Akwa Ibom State became popular as the “Uncommon Transformer” had to deliver a definitive opinion on what he saw. He instantly nick named Ayade the “Digital Transformer”. Akpabio also had this to say about the Cross Rievr Garment Factory “I commend Governor Ayade for this initiative which is the biggest garment factory I have ever seen in my life”.
This verdict delivered by a serving senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Senate Minority Leader is to say the least very impactful.
It must be noted that at the onset of this administration, the area at which these industries are located, three years ago was a hilly landscape made up of green thick vegetation.
Today, however, the landscape has changed to an industrial zone and the Cross River narrative has also changed from a “Civil Service state” to an “Industrial hub of Africa”. This is courtesy of Governor Ayade whose approach to governance and development of the State is visionary, unmatched and radical. Such that pundits or book makers have appropriately summed as “Digital”! This “Digital Transformer” to borrow the words of Senator Akpabio as brought a new thinking of industrial revolution to the state aptly applying the philosophy of “thinking outside the box” in the state being counted as the least among the comity of States because of its pitiable slot of hovering around the 35th in the allocation index of Nigeria.
The Cross River situation is among the most hopeless in the country given that it has become a serial loser in Nigeria’s political chase board. Firstly, the State is counted as the minority within the minorities with its location in the South-South region of Nigeria ala Niger Delta Region. Secondly, by a stroke of conspired ill-luck the State lost part of its territory-the Bakassi peninsula in 2007 to Cameroon Republic in a hurriedly signed agreement otherwise known as the “Green Tree” agreement authored by the United Nations (UN) and accepted by the former President of Nigeria Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo. The resultant effects of which has left some citizens of the State as Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and stateless. Thirdly, by virtue of losing the Bakassi peninsula, the State had to fall into another political logjam and lost its 76 Oil Wells to a neighbouring State of Akwa Ibom. The fall out of which resulted in the loss of its status as an oil producing State and by implication, delisting from benefiting from the 13% Oil Derivation Fund. Other ancillary losses are also colossal. For instance, a drop to the lowest rung of the Federation Allocation Index and becoming a nominal member with little or no benefit from the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) an agency saddled with the development of the Niger Delta region. Besides, I may not even bother you with the pitiable situation of the IDPs dislodged from the Bakassi peninsula who have been abandoned by the Federal authorities over the years or the reversal of fortunes being suffered by the citizens of Western Cameroonians demanding a separatist State of “Ambazonia”, who have been driven away by their home government and are now refugees in Cross River State. Again this same Cross River is saddled with the responsibility of caring for about 100,000 Cameroonian refugees from its lean resources.
Obviously, one would not be far from the truth to conclude that the Ayade’s era in Cross River State have a divine colouration and the magic wand which he uses to make things happen is spiritually crafted by the Creator who is not at sleep in the State.
Therefore, one would also be right to say that Ayade’s personal attributes have greatly change the course of development in the State-being an academic professor of repute, a business czar, and having a rich political resume as a former Senator and a passionate leader, well prepared him for the tasks as governor of Cross River State.
Again, apart from his intellectual acumen, Ayade has displayed excessive zeal, energy and panache to create an Eldorado out of Cross River. This is to say, that, in Ayade’s Cross River: “Intellect meets hardwork”, – a fitting tribute to a man who has digitalized governance and development in Nigeria.