2019: Why Ayade Must Be Stopped In His Tracks

On that day of his inauguration on May 29, at the Calabar International Convention Centre (CICC), where thousands had defied the sweltering sun to behold his formal coronation as the first governor of northern Cross River extraction, Senator Professor Ben Ayade was like an athlete in a relay team handed the baton to continue the race. That much was perhaps on everyone's mind. He was expected to continue with the new normal. Struggling and sluggish.

He was inheriting a state where its citizens were happy and content, a state of affairs where existence was all that preceded essence and survival was all that mattered. We were all happy with our civil servant toga as a state. We did not want any “disruptive influence”, no matter how well intended. Just continue with us the way you met us.

Everything was “just okay”. In our servile existence, we had for long worn our docility like a badge of honour. We venerated the then existing club of a few “noblemen” as idols and in our idolatry, we worshipped them, kowtowed to them for our basic survival.

In those days, the city of Calabar was like Lagos, Abuja or London to rural dwellers. Not many ever dreamt of stepping foot. It was an enclave for a few privileged fellas we held in awe. Next to the elite and privileged clan were the civil servants. They were few and far between. A gulf had existed then between them and us.

There was “quiet”, “peace” and “order” in the land. We were greatly bonded by our subservience and resignation to fate. We were quite comfortable with the socioeconomic circumstances that were our lot or that were foisted on us. And we accepted them as our due share from God.

Our dear Cross River! We wallowed in laughter and joy in the face of our deprivation of lack and want.

It meant nothing to us even when our land was reckoned in excess and a juicy part of it was negotiated away without any formal conversation or due consultation and no resistance either. As if we knew ahead that oil was no longer going to play a major role in the international politics, we simply laughed it away and thanked our leaders for supervising or doing nothing over the relocation of 76 oil wells to a neighbouring state.

As serfs, we dared not say a word because whatever that was considered alright to our feudal Lords was acceptable to us. We were happy to be so unfamiliar and unbothered with such terminologies like internally displaced persons (IDPs) such as being enjoyed in Bornu, Benue, Plateau and Adamawa today.

We have always been a happy and acquiescent people. Even when government was being run like a secret cult, we were the happier for it. What did it matter anyway, even if we knew it was only 60 or at best persons that made up the government? After all, what you dont know, doesn't hurt you. Ignorance, they say, is bliss. We found joy living from hand to mouth and living one day at a time as long as we remained a civil service state. This appellation gave us so much pride and we wished it did not have to go away one day.

For over 23 years, long before our 76 oil wells were donated to a sister state, there was a freeze on recruitment into the civil service. It made good sense then not to recruit people into the state's workforce because it was better to offer them fish than to open their eyes to the art of fishing, which in the process could have created an egalitarian society. God forbid!

Ichabod! Ichabod! The glory hath departed from our state.

We were in such a blissful state until Ichabod left us on May 29, 2015. Until 2015, the word industrialization was not native to us. Totally alien. It only existed in the vocabulary of other states, not our Cross River.


Then came Governor Ben Ayade with his egalitarian pursuit of happiness for all. Haba!

On the day of his swearing in, he clearly cut the persona of a gadfly. An avant-garde with an uncommon approach to governance. He spoke with so much gusto and bravura. Like an eager beaver, he evinced a leader in a hurry to make an impact. He burned to recalibrate the economic architecture of the state.

His advent signposted the emergence of a new generation of leader. A paradigm shift. Cross River was on a cusp of history. A new song was being written. A whole new chapter was being penned. The very “disruptive influence” we so much feared became the highpoint of his governance- prompt and regular payment of salary, lifting of a 23-year-old embargo on recruitment into the civil service, tax exemption for zero income people, establishment of the largest garment factory with spinoff benefits for over 3000 women, most of whom are widows, the setting up of the state-owned pharmaceutical company (Calapharm), the first in the whole of the South South of Nigeria; the Rice seedling and multiplication centre; the San Carlos banana plantation in Odukpani; the cocoa processing mill in Ikom; the Ogoja automated vitaminized rice mill; the British/Canadian international school in Obudu; the ongoing construction of noodle factory; the toothpick factory in Yakurr, among several other “disruptive” ventures across the state in just less than four years. Why does he want to vanquish our time-honoured laidback, civil servant status we had long held so jealously? 

It is on account of this wind of industrialization currently sweeping across the state that the governor must be stopped in his tracks before it is too late. Why shouldn't he be stopped?

Why should he attempt to decouple us from our dependence on measly federal allocation with his unrelenting industrialization drive and his insistence on constructing a deep seaport when all we want is to continue to function as a state reduced to want in body, soul and spirit?

For no just reason, this governor that has become the pride and jewel of the state's workforce decided to give a sense of belong to thousands of Cross Riverians, many of whom have nicknamed him the “Alert Master”, on account of the regular salary alerts they have become accustomed to for the past three years. That is why he must be stopped in his tracks, ahead of 2019.

Wittingly or unwittingly, he is succeeding in completely blurring the line that had existed between “them and us”, no thanks to his inclusive governance approach where every hamlet now boasts of an appointee in government. So what is going to happen to the master/servant status quo relationship that was once the defining feature in governance? 

Again, just when we thought we had put the wounds of the brazen expropriation of our Bakassi Peninsula and the attendant ceding of our 76 oil wells behind us, the governor has been crying his eyes out for redress while those under whom the unconscionable infraction actually took place continue to play the ostrich. What kind of a defender of the people does he think he is anyway? Are we not happy that this happened? After all, we did not raise an eyebrow.

Again, hear this: Politics with ethics. What's that? Who plays politics with ethics in this part of the world? Providing a shoulder for your neighbour to lean on? Haba Governor! This sounds so strange! Your neighbour must not lean on you! Let them fall and die. Yes, fall and die. That is correct politics. Now you can understand why you must be stopped in your tracks for being Bobo Nice with the so called neighbour whose brand of politics is rather an undiluted PHD (Pull Him Down).

In absolute fidelity to what you said then on May 29, 2015, “The wages of honest labour shall liberate families from the clutches of hardship and hunger, no longer shall children go to bed on an empty stomach under my watch.” It sounded then like an empty boast, but then, you went ahead to abolish taxes for civil servants below N30,000 a month as well as the exemption of levies for artisans, petty traders operating in the state, created at the last count, about ten thousand jobs. Yes, you must be stopped, since you do not know that politicians, particularly in Nigeria promise in poetry and deliver in prose, so that you don't go on and create one million jobs when you would have been sworn in on May 29 2019, as it is obvious that there is no contender against you.

Mr. Governor, you came at a time when the state was on a razor edge between renewal and collapse; hope and despair. Change was all that was needed, but change has never happened so easily, as each time it is to happen, the status quo always pushes back. So expect a push back.

But because you came like a mystery wrapped in an enigma of riddle, you remain the protagonist in the big story of Cross River State until 2023. Continue to put your shoulders to the wheel and strive for what is best for the state. For that is the stuff legends are made.


* Obogo is Deputy Chief Press Secretary to Governor Ben Ayade

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Looking for PDP Ticket In Bayelsa? …..Let’s Meet At Toru-Orua

As political parties get prepared for their primary elections in Bayelsa state, political godfathers are putting spanners to work to ensure that their preferred candidates emerge for the 2019 general elections. In the Peoples Democratic Party in the state, the battle for candidacy had since shifted to Toru-Orua following the death of Mrs. Goldcoast Dickson, mother of the state governor.

That is where plans to perfect the candidature of the 'anointed' ones are made, hence the exodus of politicians to the country home of governor Seriake Dickson who is currently mourning over the death of his mother.

For the senatorial and House of Representatives positions in the state, political observers can figure out some of the aspirants that may clinch the PDP tickets at last.


Bayelsa West:

In this senatorial district for instance, it may be an uphill task for the incumbent, Senator Foster Ogola, who according to political analysts, is no longer in the good books of the governor, to pick the ticket.  Rather, pundits are of the view that a loyalist of the governor, Mr. Lawrence Ewhrudjakpor, who has already submitted his intent form, is expected to emerge. It has been widely speculated that the governor has some secret deals with Ewhrudjakpor who serves as the commissioner for works and infrastructure in the state.


Bayelsa Central: 

ln this senatorial zone, Dickson is said to be having a vested interest in the incumbent member, Yenagoa/Kolokuma/Opokuma Federal Constituency, Mr. Douye Diri to go for the senate. Diri, who hails from Sampou community in Kolokuma/Opokuma Local Government area, has equally submitted his senatorial form and is favoured to pick the PDP ticket. The coast may be clear for Diri afterall because the incumbent senator in the Bayelsa central, Emmanuel Paulker who is running for his third term in the upper house may have jettisoned his fourth term bid. Diri would now be slugging it out with  Prof. Seiyefa from the same local government with him who has also picked and submitted his form for the race under the platform of the PDP.


Bayelsa East:

It is too close to call who will finally emerge from this district under the PDP. The reason is not far- fetched. There is an existing political power sharing formula otherwise known as zoning. If the zoning arrangement is anything to go by, then the party will have to pick her candidate from Nembe Local Government Area which the zoning now favours. If that happens, then, the likes of the pioneer Deputy Speaker of the Bayelsa State House of Assembly, Chief Ayebaesin Edoghotu Omoh and Bright Erewari-Igbeta, also a former deputy speaker of the state assembly, who are natives of Nembe, could become the party's flagbearer.

Meanwhile, the zoning arrangement does not mean anything to the incumbent senator representing the district, Mr. Murray Bruce who hails from Brass local government area. The media mogul and owner of Silverbird Television and Rhythm FM has since picked his PDP form for a second term battle. Bruce is seen to have got the financial might to influence delegates to his side during the upcoming primaries. Also, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria SAN, Birigha Dambo who has not been in the political picture before now, has joined the race. Also in the race for Bayelsa East is the immediate past chairman of the Bayelsa state Independent Electoral Commission, Ipigansi Izagara.


House of Reps:

YELGA/KOLGA Federal Constituency:

Three son of Yenagoa and Kolokuma/Opokuma Local Government areas have bought the PDP forms to contest the house of representatives seat. They are: Prof. Steve Azaiki who is the chairman, Governing Council of the Niger Delta University, a two time serving lawmaker in the state assembly, Mr. Gentle Emela and the immediate past president of the Ijaw Youth Council, Udengs Eradiri. There are indications that among the three aspirants, Azaiki enjoys the support of the governor.


 Ogbia Fed. Constituency:

The member currently representing the constituency, Mrs. Sodagwo Festus-Omoni is in the race for a second term. Also in the race are former president Jonathan's god son, Mr. George Turnah, Mr. Claudius Enegesi, Fred Obua and Dan Igurubia, all of the PDP. It is, however, not clear who has the support of Jonathan  or Dickson.


 SILGA Fed. Constituency:

 Southern Ijaw federal constituency parades two aspirants under the PDP. They are the incumbent, Henry Ofongo and the speaker of the state assembly, Mr. Friday Kombowei Benson.

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Watch Out For These Aspirants

The die is cast as governorship aspirants in Cross River state brace up for their parties' primaries in the next couple of weeks. Although there were many aspirants for the position, especially in the All Progressives Congress (APC), not all of them picked nomination form to contest the election.

It is clear that those who did not pick the nomination form may have fallen by the wayside even before the primaries if they fail to meet the deadline for the submission. The APC governorship form was sold for N22.5 million and perhaps the cost of the form made it unaffordable for some of the aspirants. Those who did not obtain the form at the time of this report were Paul Adah, Venatius Ikem, Odey Ochicha, Dr. Nya Asuquo, Emmanuel Robson all of APC, and Paul Udayi and Emmanuel Ibeshi both of PDP.

In the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the incumbent governor, Prof Ben Ayade will have Emmanuel Ibeshi to contend with at the primaries. Although, party stakeholders have already dismissed the chances of Ibeshi as they expectedly are backing Ayade as the favourite to pick the party's ticket.

In the Social Democratic Party (SDP) which has merged with the Labour Party (LP) in the state, former Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice in the state, Eyo Ekpo, is expected to be the standard bearer of the party. no other person has bought the party's form.

For those who have obtained the form, such as APC aspirants Senator John Owan Enoh, Prof Etim Nyong, Usani Usani, John Upan Odey and Edem Duke, their chances at the primaries will be determined largely by the home work they have done, their financial capacity and the extent to which their aspirations will be accepted by the members of their parties.

Despite the fears, the aspirants are going into the contest believing they have equal chances of picking the APC ticket. However, aspirants from the same senatorial zones will have their votes split in that senatorial. For instance, southern votes will be split between Nyong and Duke, while the votes from the central will also be split between Owan Enoh and Usani Usani. Incidentally, the perception is that Usani may have lost out of contention because the party structures have since been taken away from him. Only Upan Odey is from the north as others from the zone have fallen by the way side.

Despite the splitting of votes between some aspirants, it does not presuppose that such aspirants can't get votes from other zones. Indeed the votes from other zones may decide who emerges victorious after the primary. The direct primary adopted by APC has been described as the best option as every registered member of the party will have the opportunity to vote for an aspirant of  his choice.

The issue of zoning has also come to the fore, ahead of the APC primary. Though zoning of the governorship seat is a creation of the PDP, some monarchs in the north have advised all aspirants in PDP and other parties to forget about their ambition. The monarch admonished the aspirants to wait for their turn after the north completes their term in 2023. But the monarchs can only advice. They do not have any voting right at the party level. Also, most people from the three senatorial districts believe that the window remains open for anyone to contest, since it has always been so since 1999.


A chieftain of APC and former member of the Presidential Committee on Constitutional Reform, Chief Utum Eteng, joined the zoning debate when he warned aspirants from the south and central senatorial districts to withdraw from the gubernatorial race because running for governorship would amount to injustice done to the entire people of the north.

Eteng, who comes from the central senatorial district of the state told journalists in Calabar that “the central senatorial district has just left power, the north should continue and where this is not feasible for obvious reasons, the south should take it after 12 years of exit.

However, those opposed to zoning say it promotes mediocrity. Even the chairman of PDP in Cross River State, Ntufam Edim Inok Edim, whose party has entrenched zoning in the state since 1999, recently told members of the National Assembly seeking re-election and others aspiring for the same position in the House of Reps and the Senate in the state to go to the field and test their capacity and popularity.

He said the seats they were vying for were not zoned to any particular part of their constituencies. Presidential aide Okoi Obono Obla also does not believe in zoning.

Convinced that they could offer better governance than what the state is witnessing now, aspirants from all the three senatorial zones in the state have decided to contest their parties' primaries. All of them claim they are on a rescue mission. The best among the lot would carry the day.

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