Andy Esiet, Calabar
With high expectations greeting the swearing-in of Senator Bassey Otu as Governor, Cross Riverians have set a 10-point agenda for the new man in charge as he commenced his four years journey as the 5th civilian Governor of the State from 1991.
Amid pomp and pageantry, Pillar Today interacted with a cross section of the people and accordingly observed that many of the respondents believed strongly that “this is the season of the Sweet Prince, the man with the Midas touch who is coming with People’s First mandate.”
The respondent argued that with the People First manifesto and the new Governor putting in place a 10-point agenda as suggested by them, the people of Cross River would not only see the land of Canaan but would enter it with sweetness.
Accordingly, the common people demanded that the new Governor should: (1) Restore transparency and due process in governance. (2) Make civil service work again. (3) Restore the middle class, the contractors and make contacts go to genuine bidders. (4) Ensure that thuggery and brutality in the name of no parking agents or fake tax collectors do not return so as to make Cross River attractive to investors and ordinary business people.
The people further advised that the new Governor: (5) should not run state accounts from his pocket or phone and that the red ink should work again. (6) Should not engage in undue interference in World Bank and other international projects but that Prince Otu should follow due process.
He Should (7) prioritise Ayade’s Industries and make them work to become economically viable and not bite more than he could chew. (8) Should not contemplate embarking on ‘phantom’ or drain pipe projects. (9) Should stop current brazen illegal logging and deforestation in Cross River
According to them, Senator Otu should (10) create employment for the youths, encourage massive farming, check senseless and incessant communal clashes, strengthen security and make his ‘People’s First’ manifesto in the season of sweetness, a reality for Cross River to work again.
One of the people spoken to, Madam Nkese Etim, a trader in Watt market said, “please tell the new governor that we are suffering. For over eight years our businesses do not flow because many people do not come to buy as before.
“You can imagine we come out here from morning till evening, we cannot sell much yet different people still come around to tax or levy us despite the fact that the governor Ben Ayade banned taxation of low income people like us” .
A businessman and a contractor in Obudu, who pleaded anonymity said, “the eight years of Ayade was a disaster for us. Some people in Obudu have to beg and prostrate before the Ayades before you can even get small thing”.
Apparently angry, he opined that as a contractor ” I have not done any contract in the state yet I kept on renewing my documents hoping that a contract will come. Whatever contract that is available they give it to their family members and cronies. Sometimes they advertise for bids and after bidding and paying the fees no contact is given to anybody but themselves.
“My agenda for Senator Otu as he is sworn in today as governor is that he should not follow the pattern and style of his predecessor. Contracts and jobs should be thrown open to qualified bidders or contractors so that money will circulate and the economy will work”.
A Community Leader in Ekuri and Programme Coordinator of Worthy Association for Tackling Environmental Ruins (WATER), Chief Edwin Ogar decried the massive logging in Ekuri and the state government forest reserves under the out going government.
“We expect a drastic deviation from the norm. Senator Otu’s government should consciously protect Cross River forest which man relies on for survival,” Ogar stated.
Corroborating, the Chairman of the State Forestry Commission, Chief Tony Undiandeye said Senator Otu should roll up his sleeves and stop the madness in the State forest reserve.
“I cannot agree less. We are very thoroughly embarrassed with what is going on now. It is not easy for us to enforce the law without security agencies and when they connive with loggers, it is difficult.
“Government should take responsibility and give impetus to the commission to carry out its responsibilities. Security agencies need to have government’s approval. Some military men are used by loggers but feign ignorance when we seek their help,” he lamented.
Many others, who preferred anonymity, advised the new government to see how it could move from consumption to production economy, saying with some industries already on ground, Senator has no reasons to fail.
As the new Governor moves into Peregrino government house, it is expected that Senator Prince Bassey Edet Otu would bring his wealth of experience, maturity and exposure to bear on socio-economic dynamics of Cross River State as soon as practicable to avoid the State slipping into economic oblivion.