Nobel Laureate and Holocaust Survivor, Elie Wiesel, once stated: “Just as despair come to one only from other human beings, hope, too, can be given to one only by other human beings.”
The import of the above quote is seen in the humanitarian efforts of the Governor Ben Ayade-led administration in the Cameroon crisis that has left Cross River State with over 75% of the total Cameroonian refugees in Nigeria.
The ongoing political unrest between the Paul Biya-led Cameroonian government and the Southern region (Ambazonia) – clamoring for secession, threw Nigeria with an influx of refugees from her neighbouring country; with Cross River State worst hit by that situation.
Such unprecedented influx of refugees to the State – nay Nigeria and its attendant challenges, posed enormous danger of outbreak of epidemic, spread of diseases, hunger and even death. The situation drew international attention.
The State Governor, Senator (Prof.) Ben Ayade, in his empathic disposition, partnered the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), enumerated, transferred refugees from Ikom to Adagom Refugee Settlement in Ogoja and ameliorated the living standard of refugees in Cross River State. Governor Ben Ayade went ahead with the provision of nursery, primary and secondary schools, medical centre, pipe borne water, as well as other amenities, in a bid to making the centre habitable for the people.
Governor Ayade, humane as he has been, has made the welfare and wellbeing of the refugees his utmost priority, with interventions through the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) and his wife’s Mediatrix Foundation.
Governor Ayade also made sure that there was peaceful coexistence between the refugees and their host communities, while stressing on the need to reintegrate the Cameroonians into the society.
The following remarks by notable stakeholders in the refugee situation in Nigeria, speak eloquently of the governor’s effort in ensuring that a shoulder is lent for our fellow African brothers and sisters:
On the 20th of May, 2019, at the event of Cameroon’s Unity Day Celebration, held in Calabar, the Cameroon Consul to Calabar, Mr. Onana Patrice said: “I thanked Governor Ben Ayade and the people of Cross River State, as our hosts, for their hospitability, especially during the recent refugee crisis in Cameroon.”
On June 20th, 2019, UNHCR’s Senior Protection Officer, Ntampaka Clarisse, gave the commendation at the World Refugee Day, held 20th June, 2019, at the Conference Hall of Channel View Hotel, Calabar.
“We want to thank the Government of Cross River State for all the support. We also want to recognize and thank the host communities who opened their hearts and homes to the refugees. We want to thank the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) for working with us, and the Federal Government’s National Commission for Refugees, Migrants, and Internally Displaced Persons (NCFRMI), and our partners, UNICEF, Fhi 360, CUSO, Mediatrix Foundation, etc, for the great work,” Clarisse remarked.
In November, 2019, Speaking as one of the panelists at the “Conversation,” an orientation programme of the Ministry of Information and Orientation aimed at creating a mix between the government and the governed, held at the Conference Hall of Ogoja Local Government Council, the UNHCR representative to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Mr. Antonio Jose Canhandula commended the Governor Ben Ayade for “his empathic disposition and tremendous support towards alleviating the living standard of refugees in Cross River State.”
Another representative of United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), Mr. Muhammed Rafiq Nasry, also remarked: “in all my years with United Nations, I have not seen the type of commitment like that shown by Senator Ben Ayade.”
With a leader like Ayade – imbued with so much empathy and the penchant to positively affect humanity, he is replete with the wherewithal to change humankind and deserving of a Nobel award/recognition for his entrenchment of peace and humanitarian efforts.