By Linus Obogo
About this time exactly four years ago he blazed forth upon us like a comet. But unlike the comet which appears and never to be seen again, he has remained ever glued to us with such celestial phenomenon. The Ayade phenomenon. And with such singularity of purpose and clarity of vision, it was not long before he quickly morphed into a movement with an infectious and fanatical amalgam of disciples, apostles and converts.
Imbued with all the bravura and gravitas, he stamped his presence on Cross River political firmament with so much conviction. Often extraordinary in his ways, he made no bones or pretensions telling everyone that he was not your everyday politician.
His mantra of politics with ethics was no rhetoric. He lives it, exemplifies and practicalizes it. Following on the footfall of his predecessor of taking government to the people, Governor Ben Ayade set about taking it a notch further by not only taking government to the people but also bringing the people into government.
Today, Cross River ranks highest with a pool of political appointees numbering over five thousand and still counting.
Consciously, Ayade demystified governance by denouncing exclusivity as well as shunning political prebendalism which he railed, has characterized governance across the country. He broke the veil of cabalism, an exclusive clan of a few individuals sharing the spoils of office.
Despite severe austerity and crushing recession, the governor would not up give on his well-guarded philosophy of providing a shoulder for “our weaker brothers and sisters” to lean on. He calls it “putting food on the table”.
While many sneered at the policy and described it as totally unsustainable, others adopted a wait and see attitude, insisting he would sooner than later run out of steam. But as more doubt trails his steady pronouncement on bringing more and more people into government, the more exponentially the number grew with unremitting drop of alerts very early in the month. Four years down the line, the tables of his numerous appointees have not been empty of food.
His consistency in salary payments has earned him several sobriquets, from Salary Master, Governor-talk-and-do, Alerts Governor to a governor who will give his right eye to ensure no Cross River child goes to bed on an empty stomach.
Since his advent, many Cross Riverians who hitherto thought Government House or the Exco Chamber was a mystery have all woken up today to the realization that indeed, it is real as times without number, they have had uncountable sessions with the governor at his official residence as well as the Exco chamber as appointees. That is the extent to which Ayade has not only simplified governance but has equally commonized salary payments, while clawing many from the jaws and labyrinth of despair, despondency and hopelessness. Consequently, he has been able to quell the likely throwbacks of social tensions that would have sprouted.
No doubt, his ascension into the governance architecture of the state was considered by many as messianic. Instructively, he has never looked like one veering off and cutting short the expectations of those who hold him in such redemptive awe.
As a solution architect, the governor sees every challenge, every stricture and obstacle in his way as an opportunity to adroitly prove his resourcefulness and ingenuity in tackling the many socioeconomic miasmas he inherited.
A leader with I-can-do spirit, just when you doubt Ayade’s capacity, he springs forth and astounds you, leaving you captive and speechless.
Call him the Joseph of our time, if you like or the Nostradamus of our era, you will never be farther from the truth. As a dreamer, he has envisioned his dreams morphing into reality. For him, it does not matter how long it takes. But they will for sure,
assume a life of their own.
And as the Nostradamus of our time, Governor Ayade had long seen our tomorrow while we slumbered and snored, as he continues to hew a pathway to the state’s economic Eldorado in a bid to put the future in our hands and wealth in our pockets.
With a near zero allocations from the federal purse and a lean internally generated revenue, many in his position would have baulked or thrown in the towel and screamed in helplessness, the governor kept his eyes on the ball while yet focussing on his lofty dreams.
Obviously bent on punching above his weight and beyond the carrying capacity of the state, the teacher-turned Senator-cum governor would soon embark on a number of multibillion naira projects across the state, which source of funding could only be strange to Cross Riverians but not so to Ayade, the inventor of “Intellectual Money” and proponent of “Other People’s Money (OPM).
Ranging from the Calabar Garment Factory, the Rice Seedling and seeds multiplication Centre, Calabar Pharmaceutical Company (Calapharm), the 21megawatts power plant all completed under three years, with ongoing noodles manufacturing factory, chicken processing plant with capacity of processing 600,000 birds per day, located in the Southern Senatorial Zone of the state, as well as the recently commissioned toothpick factory in Ekori, Yakurr council area, the ongoing equipment installation at the 30,000 metric tons cocoa processing plant in Ikom in the Central Senatorial District and the vitaminized automated rice milling plant in Ogoja which equipment installation is nearing completion, the British/Canadian international school, the ongoing asphalting of the dualized 147 kilometre Mfom-Yala-Bekwarra-Obudu-Obanliku road, in the Northern Senatorial Zone, the ongoing dualization of Tinapa/Odukpani federal road, among others, Ayade’s financial wizardry remains the propelling force in the realization of these economically uplifting projects.
For Ayade, wishes could never be horses. And so, it was a new age, a new dawn; a time to ride without let, where every step must morph into a stride and where every stride must be a conquest over the tides. It was time to defy the odds.
Shaped by these dialectics, hopes immediately sprang eternal in the leader that has come to be viewed every passing moment as a sphinx. In his audacity to dare, Ayade is one leader who easily gets his mojo from difficulties and daunting challenges. And like a Delphic Oracle, the more of him you assume you know, the more enigmatic he unravels before you.
That is the stuff the governor is made of. Doubt his capacity and get the shocking surprise of your life.
For instance, when he made it a cardinal plank of his administration to ensure an early and an unbroken flow of salaries for the state’s workforce, coupled with the enlarged political appointments, his critics hissed and huffed and concluded that he was merely on a flight of fancy. Today, the over five thousand appointees can only revel in the value addition the governor has wrenched upon their lives.
When he dared to magnify his dream of a deep seaport and a superhighway, that would create an elixir for economic emancipation for the state, same armchair critics insisted he was merely chasing after a wild goose. But with the spate of work currently going on at the Bakassi deep seaport and the 276 kilometre six-lane superhighway, the governor has beaten them to a silent stupor.
In what began like an eerie and mysterious start to the superhighway and the deep seaport, is gradually showing the way to an epic adventure that will definitely end in a flourish.
Industrially, he has continued to point the way forward and raising the bar, quietly challenging leaders at all tiers of government on what a difference vision, creativity, focus and persistence can make in the life of a state.
In every direction one turns in the state, the marks of good governance are all too striking: industries with zonal spread, reengineered schools, rehabilitated and well equipped hospitals, peace and security, economic empowerment and agricultural transformation.
Allied to these laudable feats is the enthronement of inclusive government where his politics with ethics has ensured the appointment of some opposition elements into his government as well as guaranteeing of contrary views on matters of state.
He has re-defined the concept of leadership and effective governance by effectively re-orientating the mindset of the political class to see politics as a call to service.
As we march to the polls a few days hence, let us collectively do so, with a retelling of countless stories from his glittering and robust achievements in the areas of industrialization, socioeconomic uplift of Cross Riverians, all taking place on a shoestring budget.
As we file out to vote on March 9th, let us be conscious of the fact that our votes are a poignant statement of validation of Governor Ayade to return to complete the many industries and allied projects scattered across the state. Our return to the polls on Saturday places on us not only a civic but equally a moral responsibility to reinforce the true meaning of equity, justice and fairness, that what is sauce for the goose is also sauce for the gander. Let our outing be a mark of appreciation for a man who labours in the face of nothing to change his state’s ugly past by trying to pen a new chapter worthy of flipping over.
As he turned 51 a few days ago, on March 2nd, he could hardly remember it was his birthday. It came and went like every other day. Not exactly because he forgot, but simply that he was not ready to yield himself to the needless distractions of a birthday bash amidst pressing demands of office. Little wonder when he touched down at the Margaret Ekpo International Airport from Abuja, a day after his anniversary, he could only be reminded of the august date by well-wishers who came to receive him.
That said, it could as well mean that he did not forget his birthday but merely postponed it for a double-barrel celebration after his March 9 divinely ordained victory. Until then, the only spice or ingredients we can add to make the festivity enduring and joyous is our votes to ensure his unassailable return to Diamond Hill Government House. But for now, we can only hold our applause and await the second coronation of Ben Ayade as governor of Cross River State to be delivered on March 9. For it is only after eight years of his stewardship that we can truly evaluate and appreciate his essence as a servant leader who has earned his rightful place among the pantheon of Cross River State past leaders. As anything short of this is a gross travesty of justice.
* Obogo is Deputy Chief Press Secretary to Governor Ayade
By Linus Obogo