The performance of every government, whether at the state or federal level, in this part of the globe, is partly measured by the number of infrastructural projects executed and employment opportunities created within a time frame and how it impacted the physical, mental and spiritual well-being of the people. Some people measure the success or failure of government partly by these time-tested indices which have far reaching impact on the lives of the people. In this case, road construction, provision of hospitals and other health facilities, schools, water supply, physical infrastructure and industries go a long way in giving a government a pass mark or otherwise in the estimation of the vast majority of the people because the presence or absence of these facilities affect everybody's well-being directly daily.
Governors who see provision of infrastructure as their priority have been praised to high heavens while those who shifted their attention on other things, no matter how lofty the projects are, seem to be castigated and derided as failures.
The governor of Cross River State, Prof Ben Ayade belongs to either of these categories, depending on which side of the divide you belong. He has appointed thousands of special assistants in his bid to put food on the table of Cross Riverians. He also pays salaries regularly which he sees as an achievement, especially when viewed from the point of view of the fact that many state governors with much more money, are not able to meet up their obligations to workers.
A tour of some of his projects shows a man in a hurry to accomplish so many things at the same time even with the lean resources at his disposal. He is dualising Mfom-Okpoma-Okuku-Bekwara-Obudu road, he is constructing the Ogoja Rice Mill, there is the ultra-Modern Cocoa Processing Plant at Ikom, the Ayade Referral Hospitals are undergoing construction in the three senatorial zones of the state, there is the Banana Plantation at Odukpani, there is the massive British-Canadian School undergoing construction in Obudu, the construction of the Institute of Management and Technology (IMT), Ugep started by former governor, Liyel Imoke, is on-going, he is dualising the Tinapa junction/ Odukpani junction axis of the Calabar Ikom highway, among many others. Those yet to take off fully are signature projects such as the 275km Super Highway, the Bakassi Deep Seaport and the new cities such as Calavagas considered to be grandiose.
Ayade has so much on his plate that we wonder how soon he is going to complete and commission some of the gigantic projects. He plans to establish cottage industries in every community across the 18 local government areas of the state to create jobs. He once said his energy drives him; and that he is a man who leaps before he looks, thus defying the universal aphorism that says you must look before you leap, to avoid leaping into an abyss.
In the course of touring some of his projects, a common refrain among the people was: If only the governor could pick a few projects, execute and commission them before taking on new ones, his critics, especially the opposition APC, wouldn't accuse him of non-performance.
We share in this assertion that the impact of the government would have been better felt if he had concentrated on a few projects and completed them before taking on other ones. There are so many on-going projects that some may be completed late this year while others may be completed in the first quarter of 2019. It is after the completion and commissioning of the on-going projects that the governor's performance could be objectively and properly measured. For now, his rating is based on what the people can see: the Rice City, Garment Factory, Calapharm, construction of the Boki East/West road which is already being put to use, rehabilitation of Ishibori road in Ogoja, UBEC Model Junior Secondary School, Itigidi, the tooth pick factory in Ekori which has been completed and ready for commissioning, among others.
If the slogan, that Cross River State is the destination for tourists is anything to go by, then the state should live up to that mantra by doing better in the area of tourism which appears to have been neglected by this administration. For a state which is in dire need of revenue, tourism which is a major source of revenue for some countries, should not be toyed with.
The governor's efforts to diversify the economy into agriculture are commendable. There is no doubt that the value chain that will be generated through the rice mill, cocoa processing plant, rice city and banana plantation would create huge employment and business opportunities for people of the state.
However, we advise the governor that rather than dip his hands in so many pies, he should concentrate on completing and commissioning the on-going projects in the last lap of his first four-year term so that they won't turn out to be white elephant projects if they are abandoned, like the stadium in Ogoja and other projects elsewhere in the state. The completion of those on-going projects will be used as his performance index during electioneering campaign. He should not embark on new projects in this remaining one year of his tenure until the existing ones see the light of the day.
His critics have often said they can't find anything tangible to point to as the governor's achievements in the past three years of his tenure. They even point to some collapsed infrastructure in the cities as evidence of failure. We believe the critics justifiably maintain this hard line posture because most of the projects are still on-going. It is until they are completed and commissioned that the governor's performance could be placed on a proper pedestal.
In all, after three years on the saddle as governor, we can conclude that Ayade has made Cross River a work in progress.