Globally, there are established norms which regulate the relationship between leaders and the led. These norms are typically captured under terms like ‘rule of law’ and the ‘social contract’. These concepts, if adhered to, increase the possibilities of harmonious relationship between citizens and those they choose to lead them. Where they are disregarded, discord and the unrest are the result.
Nigeria is no stranger to such violations of rule of law by the powerful, especially public office holders. They carry out their actions with impunity, safe in the knowledge that ‘nothing will happen’. The Governor of Cross River State, Ben Ayade, has established himself as one of the leaders of the lawless public officials club.
As a first example, consider his frequent foreign trips abroad in search of ‘foreign investors’. Apart from the wastefulness of these trips, the governor does not handover to his deputy, Professor Ivara Esu, to be acting governor in his stead. Ayade does not transmit orders to the State House of Assembly to this effect. What happens rather is that the governor’s brother Frank Ayade becomes de-facto governor, attending functions and taking decisions in the name of his brother. It is important to note here that Frank does not have any official role in government, and as such there are no avenues to hold him accountable for his actions. Is this acceptable in a democracy? Is Cross River State their private property?
In fact, Frank has long since been known as ‘Co-Governor’, to the dismay of many who have the best interest of Cross River at heart. Whenever governance of a state with various ethnic and tribal leanings becomes a family affair, it does not end well. When the structures that ensure governance and developmental projects are equitably distributed between citizens and their communities are abandoned in favour of nepotism and favouritism, chaos ensues.
This is not the only example. The controversial Calabar Super Highway is another instance of Ayade’s lawlessness. The project is clearly very high on his agenda, but the path of the highway goes through existing farmland and settlements. In the 23 conditions given by the Federal Ministry of Environment to approve the project’s Environmental Impact Assessment, the ministry said:
“CRSG shall ensure that the initial land clearing of the road corridor that was carried out without due inventory of the third-party properties/farmlands is revisited to adequately compensate the project affected persons (PAPS) in line with National and International standards of practice on resettlement and restoration plans. This shall be done prior to project commencement.”
Clearly, this was not done, an act that is in violation of the 1978 Land Use Decree, the 1992 EIA Decree and even the Constitution.
In fact in February, the Okuni community in Ikom Local Council sued the state government and two other defendants for N2 billion as general damages. According to them: “The proposed road project would take up its entire lands, forests, river, rivulets, ponds, streams, brooks, businesses, churches, shrines, mines, minerals, ancestral artefacts, graves and other monuments.
“Our economic trees and crops affected by bulldozers of the defendants include cocoa, oil palms, mangoes; yams, cassava and timbers. These farms span about five hectares put together valued at N100 million per hectare.”
All this would have been averted if there were interactions with the affected communities, and adequate compensation paid before any clearing was done. In the 4th Environmental Impact Assessment submitted, only N700 million was budgeted for compensation, an amount that is wholly inadequate for a project of that size.
It is not only the lands in the forest that the Ayade administration takes without compensation. Rice farmers in Obubra Local Government are also crying out over being dispossessed. The state government allocated land to a South African firm for agriculture, but once again, rather than reach agreements with the farmers on compensation first, bulldozers were sent in to destroy crops, which were planted just 2 months prior.
What kind of progress impoverishes people and takes away their sources of livelihood? What kind of agenda by a government in power exists only to enrich the puppets around the governor’s table to the exclusion of citizens of the state?
This tendency to executive lawlessness has set the tone for a growing disregard for life and property in Cross River, and it will only get worse in an Ayade second term. This wickedness must be nipped in the bud. Cross River deserves leadership that is inclusive and representative of the wishes od the people, and this is clearly not the case at this time.
The time has now come to for Cross Riverians to render a verdict on an administration that has impunity as its hallmark. Hopefully, they will vote to #RecoverAndRestore the People’s Paradise.