By Robert Egbe
Some Cross River State residents have said that Governor Ben Ayade’s performance at state level qualifies him for national assignment when his tenure ends in 2023.
They said Ayade had attracted “massive investments” and revamped the state’s economy despite meagre federal allocation or internally generated revenue (IGR) when he took office in 2015.
According to them, the state’s ‘Green Money’ project was a case in point, while the “33 industries” across the three senatorial districts was another.
They also credited Ayade with boosting health, housing, the environment, social security and rural development in Cross River.
Those who spoke include national publicity secretary of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN), Bishop Gospel Emmah Isong, the state’s Commissioner for Finance, Mr Asuquo Ekpeyong Jr, the state’s commissioner for Health, Betta Edu and Chairman of the state’s Universal Basic Education (SUBEB), Dr Stephen Odey.
Isong said Ayade had proved himself at state level and would certainly do well if given a national assignment.
“This is not a political propaganda…we have seen someone who has miraculously transformed the state with the meagre resources from the federation account and the low Internally Generated Revenue (IGR).
“Despite the low IGR, Governor Ayade was able to plant about 30 industries, gave 52 houses to the internally displaced people (IDPs) in Bakassi, establish social programmes where poor people had been exempted through the anti-tax law from paying tax.
“He appointed about 10,000 people as special advisers and assistants; he has put food on people’s tables, paid salaries to workers before month end to the extent that the workers sometimes protest that he was paying their salaries too early. All these attributes makes Ayade capable of taking a national assignment,” Isong said.
For finance commissioner Ekpeyong Jr, despite the loss of oil wells to Cameroon following the ceding of Bakassi, loss of 76 oil wells to neighbouring Akwa Ibom State and 30 percent derivation, which worsened the state’s revenue profile, Ayade, changed the narrative.
“Immediately he came on board, the state began to witness a turnaround in its fortunes owing to the kind of policies and programmes that he initiated”, Ekpeyong said.
He maintained that through Ayade’s industrialisation policy, the state’s garment factory was established with over 3000 unemployed youths and widows becoming gainfully employed, even at the toothpick factory in Yakur Local Government Area and other factories set up across the state’s three senatorial districts.
He added: “The country for now needs someone who has worked and done exceedingly well. One of those who can salvage the situation at the national level is Professor Ben Ayade.
“I see him as someone who is capable of transferring the skills which he has acquired from Cross River state over the years to national assignments then at federal level.
“Despite the fact that Cross River suffered a lot of economic hardship because it went against financial projections from derivation on oil earnings, Ayade was able to fix the state”.
On her part, the health commissioner, who doubles as the COVID-19 taskforce chairman, described Governor Ayade as a “humane and compassionate leader” who is concerned about the underprivileged.
Dr Edu said: “With the garment factory to seedlings, ultra-modern cocoa processing factory, Calapharm, Calachicka, toothpick and a host of other factories, families in the state have been taken out of the poverty list.”
According to her, what Ayade had done in the state beginning from healthcare in respect of the fight against the coronavirus pandemic to other spheres, such as the economy, were the kind of innovations that Nigeria needs to take the country to higher pedestal.
“Based on the type of policies and programmes which he initiated, we believe that if he is asked to pick up a national assignment, he will do extremely well.
“Our confidence is that if the governor takes all the skills that he has to the national level, the country will become a better place for all of us to benefit”, Edu said.
Odey also sang Ayade’s praises.
He said, “A professor, a lawyer and a man of proven integrity and you are asking if he would be capable of taking a national assignment?
“Do you people have anybody in Cross River State to compare him with? Governor Ayade is one man in the state that, if given the opportunity to serve the country at the national level, would contribute immensely.
“The machinery of government is the same; it all depends on the individual. It is all about individual approach. Ayade has done a lot in Cross River State. The paucity of funds had been a problem, yet he has done a lot to salvage the situation. He is one of the best governors that the state has ever produced and he will do better if asked to go to the national level.