Godwin AJOM, Calabar
It was supposed to be an event for a few, just selected party members from all the wards that make up the 18 local governments of Cross River State. The event was supposed to commence by 11am at the main auditorium of the Ikom Local Government Secretariat. The day was Saturday, April 30. And Chris Agam Agara was to make a formal declaration for the position of governor of the state under the banner of the APC.
But by 10am, there was no space in the hall. All available seats had been taken by people who felt, even though invited, they needed to hear Agara speak on his ambition.
Those who got there around noon must have been shocked that there was no more seat in the main auditorium. So, they had to make themselves comfortable outside the hall. But in a few minutes, all the seats outside had been taken. The crowd had become overwhelming for the organisers. By the time Agara drove in, donning a white shirt with crested logo of the APC and his name boldly written at the back of the shirt, the environment caught fire.
With smiles, he acknowledged cheers from the crowd, waved at, hugged some of them before he was escorted to his seat. When it was time for him to speak, he said: “When I got into this arena, I saw a people who are eager and hungry to have the best in service delivery from their son, neighbour, kinsman, brother from a different mother, friend, political associate and partner in development. I saw a large crowd of people who are willing and ready to be part of a fresh wave of burgeoning growth in our state.
“I saw a people with the determination to conquer fear and intimidation. I saw Cross Riverians from the creeks and fishing settlements of Bakassi, the hills and mountains of Obudu and the rich and fertile lands of Obubra. I saw a people with so much hope, a people that are ready to work together to take Cross River, our Cross River State to the next level of good life. I saw a people who are ready and willing to speak with one voice, regardless of their dialect, status or senatorial zone, to achieve one purpose. I saw soldiers and disciples of development, I saw purpose driven sons and daughters of Cross River who have come to contribute their quota, declaring loudly and showing the ‘WE CAN DO SPIRIT.
“In the past few months, I have reached out to scores of Cross Riverians as I ruminate over what I can contribute to take our state to a more glorious level. I got invigorated and fired up by the kind words and actions of most of the owners of this state-the common man, the farmers, the critical stakeholders, political leaders, the clergy and our traditional leaders. From all the consultations I had, including the ones I had with members of my immediate and extended family, and the media, one thing was clear: Cross River is work in progress and now requires the dexterity of a technocrat, the brain and mind of a successfully tested manager of human and financial resources, someone with the proper private sector managerial and leadership finesse, someone who will midwife the birth of the new Cross River, who will have the courage and selfless spirit to aggregate the contributions and achievements of previous and present governors of our state and come up with a template for a brand new Cross River State.
“In the course of the consultations also, I came face to face with some people who asked to know why I was bothered about how to get involved in the day to day running of the affairs of our state, considering how successful, by the grace of the Almighty God, I have been as an entrepreneur in the oil and gas sector and of late, in the agro business sector. In fact, someone put it to me that I was not a career politician and that I would not measure up with the political manoeuvring. My answer was very simple-the business of governance and transparent service delivery to the common man is a very serious business that cannot be left to career politicians alone.
“For the better part of my adult life, I have endeavoured to touch lives and change the fortunes of people for the better. There are thousands of people that I do not even know, who have benefitted from my modest benevolence, particularly through the Chris Agara Scholarship Foundation. As an entrepreneur, I have used my contacts in Nigeria and outside the country to attract development programmes and projects to our state. I have partnered and supported our leaders in government at various levels to improve the living conditions of our people. I did these because I love my state and I pledge on my honour, to continue to do this and even much more.
“I had a very humble background. There were times in my life that I was not sure of the next meal. There were times I was not sure of where I would lay my head at night. I am humble enough to say that I had to obtain all my academic certificates and degrees through part time study because my parents could not afford to give me a regular education. I always told myself that I will not be a failure. I always assured my parents that I would make them proud. I always assured my community that even in the midst of poverty, I would not steal or engage in any act that would tarnish the good name of the family.
“Those who have felt the impact of my contributions to individuals and our state believe that with me on the driving seat, our state will get closer to that Eldorado that we have been praying for. This is why, with all humility and after those consultations, I, Chief Chris Agam Agara, a Cross Riverian, member of the All Progressives Congress, APC, friend of the unknown poor, an unrepentant apostle of development of Cross River State, do hereby present myself to you for consideration as your governor, from 2023.
“Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, we all know that our dear state is heavily endowed with tremendous resources that can be life changing. I have come to the scene to harvest these natural endowments and turn them to wealth machines for the good of all our people. My conviction is that TOGETHER, WE CAN create an all- inclusive and integrated production economy that will put our state on the world map.
I have developed a 5-point development and reconstruction agenda that will guide my activities once I have your approval to get into office as your next governor.”
From his speech, Agara seemed to have serious bias for the agriculture sector, even though he said he would also give attention to tourism, social engineering, security, peace and unity, as well as research and development.
He said agriculture “will form the fulcrum of my people-oriented government. I have a well thought-out plan to re-invent and re-calibrate agricultural architecture in this state. As a private citizen, I have been able to work in partnership with the current state government and will continue to collaborate with stakeholders towards the promotion of agro based projects. For example, I was privileged to be involved in the design and construction of two of such mega state government owned projects-the rice processing factory in Ogoja as well as the cocoa processing factory in Ikom, both of which are ready for commissioning and commencement of production activities any time soon.
“I am glad to also inform you that I have used my contacts and connections to attract a mega agro industrial processing project to our state. It is called Special Agro Processing Zone(SAPZ), a federal and states government and African Development Bank programme, which is also supported by other financial institutions like the Islamic Bank and the International Funds for Agricultural Development(IFAD).
For a clearer understanding, let me inform you that this same project is approved to be sited in all the six geo-political zones in the country. Through my efforts, our state was approved as the location for the south-south region. Again, I ensured that it is located in Ikom because it is central to all the three senatorial districts of the state. It is basically intended to add value to the farm products of our people and by implication, put more money into the pocket of these farmers. It is common knowledge that most of the farm products-banana, cassava, plantain, yam et cetera-are perishable. If they are not sold by the farmers within a particular time, all their efforts become wasted because their farm yields would have gone bad and become totally useless. The SAPZ is therefore to mitigate this type of losses. This is my dream of a production economy and that is what you will see in our state when you give me the mandate to become your governor.
“For the avoidance of doubt, let me restate that this project which is government enabled but private sector driven, will boost development of agro business in our state, generate employment for our people and give life to our economy. I call it the game changer because of the impact it will make in the pockets and bank accounts of the people of Cross River State. I invested personal funds into making sure that this project is located in our state because I know that once it takes off, our children will gain employment directly and indirectly, while the farmers from Cross River and beyond will be able to process all their farm products and make so much money from there. Cross River will boom. Power supply, IT, research and development facilities that are coming with the project will give life to this state. There can’t be a better time to be a Cross Riverian.”
Deputy state chairman of the party, Prince Eka Williams who represented the party chairman at the event assured of a level playing ground for all aspirants including, Agara.
He said: “Barrister Christ Agara’s contributions to the All Progressives Congress is noted, the good things he has done for this party are unprecedented. And the party is with you. Whatever it takes to make your work easy, the party will do it. And whatever it takes to make sure that the forth-coming election is free and fair, the party will do it. The party is like a church, there are about 18 of them contesting for this position; on that note, we promise that the primaries will be free, fair and open to all.
“Barrister Chris Agam Agara is a very good man. If you want him to be governor, all of you have to be campaign managers for him. Voting for him is not enough, you have to go to other local governments and talk to them. For me, he is an old man and my friend, I have seen the good message, I will carry the good message back to the party.”
Others who spoke at the event extolled Agara, even as they declared their willingness to stand with him all through, till the battle is fought and won. Ebaye Akunjom, a lawyer, in his remarks said “I want to thank the Ikom people for coming to receive their son. My advice is that you put him in your prayers and go round the state and campaign for him so that power can come to Ikom. For the party, the back to south formula that we are hearing is from PDP, not APC, so we don’t know back to South in APC. It was formulated by APC, afterall, the zones have taken turns, the back to south is a hate speech. The party should discourage it; let every district contest for the position, let the APC ticket be domiciled in the central, let it come to Ikom, because if it goes too far, we don’t have the capacity to force them to vote against their nearby cousins, so let the party, bring the ticket close, so that voting will be easier. We need this power very, very seriously.”
A former member of the state house of assembly and chieftain of the APC, Mr Cletus Obun also spoke. He said “on this project of Chris Agam Agara, our paths have crossed. So if a man is talking about our cocoa and cassava, then he is certainly talking to you and me. Please the youths, do not go to people who come to you only during elections, from Nkpura, to Alesi, to Bashu down to Ekpache Nkome, we should be able to tell ourselves the truth and with God on our side, we shall make it”.
Mr Kenneth Kajang, Chairman, National Youths Council of Nigeria, Ikom, said “if you (Agara) carry the youths along, then we assure you of our 100 per cent support.”