The Cross River State Governor, Prof Ben Ayade has every cause to beat his chest about his achievements in the past three and half years he has been in power. He himself has acknowledged the fact that with the lean resources available to the state, he has been able to change the landscape of the state through agricultural revolution and unprecedented industrialization drive.
He took over the reins of power at a time the entire country was entering into economic recession and the debt profile of the state was almost strangling it. In fact, the huge debt the state was owing was almost bringing it down on its knees. Any incoming governor could have thrown his hands in the air in despair for inheriting about N120 billion debts from his predecessors. Not so for Governor Ayade who has the knack for confronting challenges head-on. Being a man with a clear vision and knowing the direction he was going to steer his government, he set about putting the right structures in place to change the pathetic story of the state to that of a positive one in spite of its parlous finances.
The governor created jobs by increasing the number of political appointees to at least 6,000. With his understanding of the dynamics of having people usefully engaged, he said he settled for this huge number of appointees to reduce social tension and combat hunger.
It is amazing that in the past three and half years he is yet to owe salaries despite warnings from people in high places that he would find it difficult to fund the hefty wage bill of the thousands of political appointees and civil servants in the state. He has never wavered in his resolve to pay salaries promptly and sometimes ahead of the beginning of a new month.
Again, it is the first time in the history of the state that a governor would show the kind of commitment to the industrialization of the state as Governor Ayade is doing. No wonder he anchored his re-election mantra on sustainable industrialization. He is not just paying lip service to his desire to industrialize the state. He has many projects to show for it. Is it the rice seedlings plant in Calabar, the Ikom cocoa processing factory or the vitaminized rice mill in Ogoja that should be mentioned, all geared towards creating employment and improving the economic fortunes of the people and shore up the revenue base of the state? How about the toothpick factory in Ekori and the banana plantation in Odukpani? There is also the super highway and deep seaport which, when completed would be the greatest legacies of the Ayade-led administration. The two projects are the ultimate game changers which the governor said would be accorded utmost priority when he begins his second term.
Besides, the 148 kilometres mini super highway spanning the five local government areas in the northern senatorial district is already taking shape as asphalting has commenced. Commmunities along the road corridor from Mfom, Okpoma, Okuku, Ogoja, Bekwara, Obanliku, Obudu would witness the kind of transformation never heard of by the time the road is completed.The dualization of Tinapa to Odukpani junction road is very much in progress as well as the 28 kilometre Boki East –West road which has been completed. There is also the 2.5 kilometres Usung – Esuk road in Odukpani, another 2.5 kilometres road in Ikpakapit, Yakurr, and the 5 kilometres Ovukwa road in Obubra. Altogether, the Ayade-led administration is hgandling about 400 kilometre road projects in the state, besides the asphalting of existing roads that had potholes.
The noodles factory, Calapharm where drugs and syringes are to be manufactured for local and international markets, the shoe making factory, not to mention the garment factory which has employed hundreds of women and other projects too numerous to mention, are also part of the industrialization drive of the governor which has been applauded by many, including President Muhammadu Buhari who was on a visit to commision the rice seedlings factory some months ago.
All these accomplishments basically aimed at replacing the ignoble tag of civil service state foisted on our dear state with that of an industrial state wouldn't have been possible if not for the dogged determination of the governor to do things differently by deploying what he calls intellectual money to full advantage. It takes only a visionary leadership to achieve this feat. This feat which would be stretched further till 2023 in the governor's second term would definitely be difficult to match by his successors after he leaves office in 2023.