As a child, if you had the option of either being born in Cross River or any other state in the country, where would you rather prefer?
No doubt, many a child would gladly jump at the prospect of being born in Cross River for obvious reason.
Any child born in Nigeria today has the most chances of survival in Cross River state, according to a survey carried out by UNICEF and the federal government.
The the result of the survey is not a happenstance. Rather, it is the culmination of the policies and investments made in the sector by the state governor, Prof. Ben Ayade the past three years.
As such if the governor boasts that Cross River is the safest state for children and infants in Nigeria today, he is not being bombastic.
He stands on a solid pedestal of verifiable facts because in today's Cross River, infant and child mortality is almost zero.
The feat is in line with Ayade's vow that parents will no longer suffer bereavement on the account of avoidable death of children and infants. He said he does not want to see parents' tears anymore. And indeed, tears and anguish arising from loss of children are fast becoming alien to Cross River because Governor Ayade is walking the talk in the health sector.
In the state, pregnant women and children not older than five years get free medical care, new hospitals are springing up across the state, including hard to reach areas, existing hospitals are being renovated and equipped, state of the art medical equipments are being procured, health officers are being trained and retrained, accreditations have been secured for hitherto unaccredited training institutions.
Shortly after assuming office as governor, he lifted embargo on employment in the state health sector, beefed up boarders security in collaboration with WHO to curb disease migration and influx and launched Public Health Emergency Operations Centre, first in any Southern State and 4th in the country with donation of vehicles to ease work of the centre, especially in the area of tackling disease outbreaks
Interestingly, it is not only the UNICEF report that is giving credence to the good works going on in the state. This is because the state has lately received accolades locally and internationally for the amazing exploits in the health sector.
Some of these awards include the World Bank award in partnership with the Federal Government as the Best Performing state in health in the South-South region and one of the best six states in the country.
The World Bank award, which is in recognition of the effort of the state government in combating diseases and health challenges in the state across board did not come as a surprise.
Cross River State is today unarguably the best state in the South-South region with a track record of breaking new grounds and reaching new heights with the shrewdness and innovativeness of a highly competent workforce manning the health sector.
The state has also won awards from Thisday Newspaper, Independent Newspaper, Cross River watch, among others as the best performing state on Key Maternal newborn and child health indicators.
In addition, General Hospital Calabat now enjoys functional haemodialysis unit. Endoscopy unit has equally been activated at the hospital.
Clinical governance and e-health are key in modern health care delivery hence in Ayade's Cross River; all the secondary health facilities in the state enjoy the services in addition to focal persons protecting patients' rights.
In line with the administration's resolve to ensure that public health institutions in the state are equipped with much need facilities to aide Healthcare delivery, there is now functional X-ray equipment in four state General Hospitals, (Ukem) Odukpani, Calabar, Ugep and Ogoja.This is a major departure from what obtained before Ayade came on board when most public hospitals were mere empty buildings, bereft of needed medical equipment.
In pursuit of his policy against infant and mother mortality in the state, there is a medical welfare programme wherein pregnant women and children not older than five years enjoy free medical care.
This policy is helped by the renovation and handover of the post natal ward of three general hospitals - Calabar, Ugep and Ogoja.
In order to complement this policy, the governor launched the universal healthcare insurance dubbed Ayadecare, which gives access to Medicare to all persons in the state, including those without income.
There is also the Ayadecare home service where Medicare is taken to the doorestep of the poor and those living in difficult to reach areas.
As it stands, Cross River is the only state in the South South to win the bid for the MTNF support project.
All round revolution in the health sector in Cross River by Professor Ayade's administration has given birth to the first ever functional eye care hospital in the state situated at college of Health Technology and General hospital Calabar where a number of surgeries performed increased from 5, 223 in 2014 to 29,192 in 2017 representing 458.42% increment. Another first in that sector is the multi drugs resistance Tuberculosis treatment unit second to one in South Africa at Dr Lawrence Henshaw Memorial Hospital, Calabar.
A number of committees and groups have been inaugurated to give fillip to the administration's health care drive. These include: TB/HIV Technical Working Group, NTD Technical Advisory committee, zero morbidity from Guinea worm infection team, response Team for the lasser fever among others. Government has equally put mechanisms on ground to tackle pre-natal health issues via the establishment of pre-natal Diseases Surveillance Response.
The nursing profession is also at the heart of Professor Ayade's health blitz hence, among others, he ensured accreditation for the six schools of midwifery and schools of Nursing in the state was obtained. Similarly, the governor awarded scholarship to Nurse Tutors in Training Institutions to regain the Accreditations. In the same vein, he has approved the implementation of Task Shifting /Sharing policy by training 50 Nurses and midwives in the 10 pilot local government areas of the State on treatment of pre- eclampsia and eclampsia as well as training 50 Nurses and midwives and 50 CHEWS /CHO on new born care.
Setting up of Human Resource for Health unit in PRS State Ministry of Health has helped to bridge the gap between partners, donors and NGOs in health. This is directly connected to the development of ward/community health committees across the State. In addition to this, the need to ensure every community in Cross River has easy access to quality health care accounted for government's decision to donate lands for building of health facilities in all the local government areas of the state under World Bank Assisted Community and social development programme. Government is equally into partnership with the Mediatrix Development Foundation (MDF), Her Excellency, Dr Linda Ayade's pet project, Nigerian army, Nigerian Army wives Association, Medical Women Association of Nigeria (MWAN), Cross River Chapter, professional bodies and organizations, Lions Club, Rotary club and other partners and NGOs to carry medical outreaches, treatment and humanitarian services.
Ayade is leading the fight against NTDs towards the 2020 elimination. In furtherance of this, the governor recently made a presentation at the NTDs forum in Geneva, Switzerland with the nomination of Dr Inyang Asibong, Commissioner for Health as a member of the WHO International Working Group on Investment for Impact.
Under Ayade's guidance, two local governments in the state have gained international recognition for achieving a health feat. Essentially, Obanliku Local Government is the first council in West Africa to be certified open defection free while Calabar Municipal is the first city in the world close to achieving 90:90:90 HIV /AID target.
Indeed, as a professor of Microbiology, Ayade is Champion in health care delivery and the people of Cross River across ethnic and political affiliations say health delivery has never been this rosy and efficient in the state. They agree that Governor Ayade's health sector exploits have raised the bar of health sector performance and saved many lives. And for this, they root for his return as governor in 2019.
2019: A Referendum On Ayade Waiting To Happen…
The 2019 Governorship election in Cross River State is essentially a referendum on the performance of Governor Benedict Ayade in office. In spite of vast resources being expended to shore up his abysmal performance in office by political operatives, hirelings and paid hacks procured to embellish and influence public opinion, the prognosis to state the least in not encouraging. Ayade came into office in 2015 with a litany of promises. The governor who is notorious for bombast swore to transform the state into an economic Eldorado. He said, “We are fully loaded to make the state the construction hub of Africa. With sincere commitment, with the love and fear of God, with all your support, Cross River State indeed shall move from 3rd world to first under my watch. “And to convince those who doubted his sincerity that he meant business, he invoked the wrath of God, warning that God would throw him into the pit of hell if he failed to deliver on his numerous promises to the people
With his first term in office drawing to an uneventful end and with elections looming in 2019, the day of reckoning beckons on Ayade. If the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) puts him forward as its governorship candidate in spite of disastrous performance in office, then Ayade will first of all, face the judgment of the people who are the repositories of power before keeping a date with his creator to find out whether he will occupy the lowest part of the pit of hell for his mindless and serial betrayal of his people.
At the onset of his administration, Ayade made a lot of promises to the people. His promises include but not limited to the construction of a 260km superhighway stretching from calabar - Ugep- Obubra –Ikom-Ogoja to Katsina ala, a deep-sea port and a garment factory. Ayade also promised to build three new cities across the three senatorial districts in the state. He also promised a 1billion dollar Cross River virgin city. However, after a groundbreaking ceremony, the project has stymied. Just as citizens were yet to come to terms with him and his plethora of promises, he reeled out even more promises. Ayade is arguably the most travelled governor in this dispensation. While the affairs of the state has suffered due to lack of sufficient attention and the instability spewed by his numerous trips abroad under the guise of wooing foreign investors, Ayade has continued to regale the state with more empty promises in the name MOUs to justify the waste of taxpayers money on needless trips abroad . For instance, under his watch, the state entered into partnership with equipment maker, Liebherr on superhighway, seaport, signed MOU with an American firm for the development of a new city, an MOU with partners in Canada to set up an International school and Canadian building and construction academy.
Within his first term in office, Ayade also promised to ensure 24-hour power supply in Calabar and its environs, the installation of internet enabled street lights in the new industrial layout in Calabar, and to make the state a net exporter of banana.
Indeed his litany of promises is endless and has remained a pipedream. Given the paucity of funds in the state and the rapidity in which these promises came down in torrents, it is now evidently clear that, these promises were made without any intention of keeping them. In the visual dimension, it evokes the picture of a cruel hoax contrived by a visionless administration to dupe the masses. Basking in the euphoria of his supreme court victory in 2016, Ayade promised to create 50,000 jobs in 2017 to alleviate the employment problem in the state. He told his supporters who had converged on U .J Esuene stadium to welcome him “Today, I have known the benefit of being a child of God. I enjoin detractors to sheathe their swords. From January, you well see a different Ayade as I will be wearing T-shirts and jeans to work for the state. From January 2017, I will create 50,00 Jobs “
The jobs Ayade promised have since joined the long list of unfulfilled promises which reads like a parchment of corruption and scroll of iniquities. Leadership is a public trust which Ayade has betrayed with impunity .Today, the state is in dire straits as a result of his misrule and failure of governance. All the critical state institutions hitherto maintained by his predecessors are in varying degrees of neglect and decay.
The Obudu cattle ranch, once the pride of the nation and the preferred tourist destination which attracted tourists from all over the world is today a shadow of itself.
The neglect of the Ayade administration has left this once pristine tourist haven in smoldering ruins. The state library once the melting pot of learning and knowledge under the administration of Ayade is a monument neglect and decay. The once well maintained road networks within the Calabar metropolis is today punctuated by craters as the city has lost its enviable position as the cleanest state capital in Nigeria. Under Ayade, the performance of the state in education is abysmal. As a matter of fact, with the living conditions of the people plummeting and state infrastructure in decay as result of the poor management of the state resources, the state has lost much of the its allure and the frontline position it had occupied before Ayade mounted the saddle.
Across the state, the failure of the Ayade administration is evident and cries for redemption. The strength of true leadership lies in the constant engagement between the government and the people. This essential ingredient which oils the rubrics of democracy is totally lacking in the state as Ayade spends most of his time travelling the world. He lacks the common touch and therefore incapable of feeling the pulse of the masses. The result of his aloofness is the existing disconnect between him and the people. In his first term in power, all he has delivered to the people is more and more of empty promises without any commitment at fulfilling them. While the people wallow in abject neglect and deprivation, the governor travels the world immune to the demands of his high office.
As the 2019 governorship election draws nearer, his spin doctors, political operatives and influential agents of the state who now erroneously see themselves as the new agents of history have launched blistering propaganda campaigns to shore up the battered image of the governor. That this insulting attempt to hoodwink the masses is doomed to failure is as clear as daylight. For the avoidance of doubt, the 2019 governorship election in the state will be a referendum on Ayade's performance in office, an opportunity for the people to pay him back in his own coin.
No amount of propaganda will obliterate the colossal failure of the governor. His spin doctors will soon find out that governor Ayade's second term gambit is dead on arrival, a hard sell precisely because they will be campaigning on a non-existent track record of projects and service.
From the hills of Obudu to the Cocoa belt of the state; from the marshlands of the agricultural trough of the state to Calabar, the commercial and administrative capital, Ayade's failure sticks out like a sore toe. In spite of his bombast and his fictional make- believe world where he is cast in the mould of a stellar performer, in reality, he cannot boast of completing a single project in the state. Where ever he and his motley of supporters go, they will be confronted by his abysmal performance in office. Given this stark reality, it is safe to conclude that those who still support his second term bid in spite of his disastrous performance in office are not being fair to the state. Their clarion call is therefore misplaced and self serving. Already, the people are resolved to reclaim the state from Ayade and his coterie of supporters and no amount of propaganda will change this reality. Those who have not seen the handwriting on the wall are indulging in exercise in futility and self delusion. In a recent explosive interview he granted to Calitown.com, an online publication which captures the mood of the people, Donald Duke, the former governor of the state said, “Ayade was served a bad hand and he was ill prepared for the job. I don't think Ayade really understands Cross River State but at the point, he is the undertaker to close down everything. When he was sworn in, he said he was going to build an international airport in Ogoja. That was when I knew he had a problem. When he said he was going to build a superhighway and a deep sea port, I wondered how that was going to be feasible”.
Duke's damning verdict on Ayade's performance reflects the overwhelming feeling of the people. He has failed woefully and the state cannot survive another four years of his inept and disastrous rule.
* Omini, a public affairs commentator contributed this piece from Calabar, Cross River State.