…Zoning is Sacrosanct
…I have absolute and blind faith in Ayade
By Andy Esiet, Calabar
2023 is just by the corner and political gladiators are at it again. But Edem Okon Effiom, the Commissioner for Ministry of Rural Transformation in Governor Ben Ayade’s government decided to speak on projects in the state including that of his boss and the need for continuity. He also touched on the issue of zoning, his political future and others. Excerpts:
You have been in charge for two years now, how has it been?
We are doing a lot in terms of water in Obanliku. We are also drilling the state of the art bore hole which we have done about 10 now and we have also intervened in more than 23km of rural roads in Obudu. The Boki East-West road is another area the ministry has also intervened and we have linked up six rural communities in Boki. We would have moved a lot faster given our mandate but for scarcity of funds, we have done just about 40% of our mandate and in the next budget, we hope to intervene in some rural infrastructure in the South and Central senatorial district of the state
How would you describe the political situation in the state?
The political situation in Cross River State is a bit dramatic in the sense that His Excellency., Senator Ben Ayade has opened up a new vista in state’s politics. For those who are myopic in their view or those used to the status quo, they will criticize but I tell people change is a constant thing in life. The governor has actually truly shown us that we can embrace change. We are used to the three wise men all the time since 1999, they control our political and socio-economic destiny as a people and we have always depended on them for political direction but overtime, humans become over bloated with ego and as a result, they were not doing what was right again. Senator Ben Ayade said we can’t continue to put our political fate in the hands of few who determine who goes where, when and how and because he also had a bitter pill of this, as a sitting governor, are you going to say he won’t have control over his political apparatus? In their own time they had control and for us followers, we have been looking for ways to break the shackles of political slavery. Some of us who had always wanted a different path embrace this because he has actually taken us out of political slavery because we were mentally enslaved to look at one set of people as saviours and all-knowing but Senator Ben Ayade has shown us that we can look in another direction and achieve even better results than we have been achieving.
In this regards what is your take on zoning?
In terms of zoning, North sat for 16 years before it got to their turn for which we have Sir Ben Ayade as the governor. South also sat for 16 years waiting but central that is clamoring has only sat for eight years and so why can’t they wait for their own 16 years? Where lays our sense of equity and judgment? All the people doing this are leaders in churches and why can’t they face the truth? How will anybody in central want when you know that they have only stayed for eight years? So where lays your sense of equity? Where lays your sense of proper judgement as human? It is falsehood and treachery. His Excellency has said he is going to hand over to the South and he keeps to his words. And for those of us in the South, we are not unified to ask for what we desire but everyone is going separate ways but first the governorship must be domiciled before you can ask for it. So what have we done as leaders to say Central stop what you are doing, it’s not fair, because it is supposed to be our turn here. There is no cohesive voice. Zoning has brought about fairness, equity and has reduced the level of wrangling and ciaos. Anything that will bring normality into our body politics is accepted.
The governor has said this severally and I think the South needs to come together in solidarity and tell the governor to let his word come to pass but rather we are the ones attacking him as his biggest opposition is from the South which makes us not look like people who want the governorship to be zoned to us. I believe in zoning because it has brought about equity.
Some people are of the opinion that zoning has brought in bad governance and mediocrity and the tenure of the incumbent governor is an example, what is your reaction on this?
Prof Ben Ayade is one of the most brilliant governors we have had in recent time but people may not understand his style of doing things and if you don’t like his style doesn’t make him bad. In terms of intellectual capacity and huge vision, I have not seen any governor or anybody who can match him but people do not understand his approach towards achieving this vision. Take for instance Cally Air, a lot of people said it wasn’t going to be possible but today our airwaves is busy with Boeing 737, yet a lot of people castigated Ayade. His economic and social analysis is fantastic. In terms of human capacity, who would have believed this state would give out appointments to 6000 people? Whether you call it food on the table or not, there is an economic effect on the people as those 6000 people go to the market to buy. Go to Obudu and see the transformation going on there, go to Bekwara and see the coconut mill, go to Yala and see the rice mill which is one of the biggest in this country, go to Ikon and see the Chocolate and Cocoa blending factory, come to Calabar and who would have thought the Ayade industrial park would have come to life? Has anybody ever phantom or imagine it? We even have a running garment factory. If you look at his vision, you need to give to him.
Look at all Ayade has done, you will clearly see the vision in it. For the 226km super highway, he has actually de-bushed all and if look from Bekwara to Ikom he has done earthwork. Let us look at a scenario where there is no money coming in from the private sector and if every governor every year decides to add 10km to that road, within 8years, more than 50percent of that road would be done if a government makes at a point that it wants to have that road. That will be a major testament that will open up the frontier of our economy.
The governor had during the ground breaking of the superhighway that within four years the President will come back to commission it but this is not the case today
The governor made that promise based on certain indicators but unfortunately, the economy of the state took a nose dive coupled with the covid-19 pandemic. A lot of investors who were supposed to be key player were no longer interested. But it is not the fault of the governor. He took a deep plunge assuming certain variables but sometimes those variables but sometimes those variables don’t work and even in global economy. So do we put that on him but at least he had that vision and even used his own resources to open up that road so you can see clearly from the coastal area of Esighi in Akpabuyo , in Bakassi down to Gakim in Bekwara.
But those places have grown back again.
No it is not so. Have you gone to Gakim in Bekwara down towards Ogoja and Ikom you will see that the road is still standing a lot of earthwork have been done. I don’t expect His Excellency to finish such a road in his own lifespan; I expect that there should be a clear cut policy in place that says the next government coming in to continue with that dream.
But it was widely said that the road was not feasible in the lifespan of his administration
The governor is a big believer in his own capacity and what he believes in so you will excuse him for that. He believed that this is achievable and he worked towards achieving it if not of those variables I told you about.
What will say about the deep seaport?
Assuming that I come in as the governor, I will continue with the deep seaport. The basic infrastructures for the deep sea port are on ground. Outside dredging what else do you need? You need the pile and pylon factory because the bulk of what you will be doing is driving piles into the ground and you raise a platform which becomes a platform for the deep seaport. So the basic infrastructures are on ground and anybody coming in has to continue. But the problem we have is lack of continuity. I am praying to the almighty God that the governor should support a young man who can continue with his dream. He problem we have is the lack of continuity. Look at Ebonyi state, no matter how they hate one another, every governor has come to continue the previous person’s projects. So irrespective of how they hate one another, every governor who has come in continues with the previous person’s projects. I believe Ayade’s projects would survive provided there is somebody to continue with it his dream because I believe all the projects on ground will survive provided there is somebody that will continue with it.
In governance sometimes a governor will come in and say this project is not viable like it is said of Tinapa, don’t you think this will happen to Ayade’s projects?
Sometimes is not necessarily so because the indicators on ground are not favourable to that venture but it is because every incoming governor wants to do his own and be known for it which is wrong. That is why I say government is continuity. By the way why do I want to create a different name when there is a name my people have invested upon already? Why I can’t I carry the public investment and bring it to fruition. Why abandon it whereas the peoples fund has been sunk into it.
If you have an opportunity to advise or take on the mantle of leadership what will be your main focus
If I have the mantle as a governor, I would apply trinitization, that is, bringing the three projects together and look at them as a state concept and also allocating resources to them in a manner that none is allowed to fail. If I come in as a governor I don’t necessarily need to create something new for myself. What I need to do is to continue the work the other people started. For example, the governor is thinking of bringing in some flat bed ships to bring in goods here and so if that is done, why won’t Tinapa and its hotel function? It will definitely stimulate the local economy. People will stay in the hotel because the paper work to clear goods can’t be done in one day. So are we not reawakening Tinapa. The concept is beautiful and if we want to take Donald’s tourism, maybe we would have to re-engineer it a little. He created the Ranch but how many of us were empowered to go for holiday in the Ranch? If I have the opportunity, I will say for every State Director please keep aside five percent and government will add five percent and every end of the year go with your family to the Ranch for holiday.
So if you are governor, will you will complete all old projects?
Yes If I am governor, I would bring back all of projects and complete them because it belongs to the state and state funds have been sunk into it, even if it takes the entire eight years span to do it, it is for the glory of the state without necessarily creating something new. We are not even talking about the money but it is about the time and the fortification of your own mind because money is a function of time. If I know I will have for example N500 million every year and I know that my N500 million can solve two abandoned projects every year, over eight years you can imagine the number of abandoned projects I would have taken care off. The major thing is that you don’t allow these projects to die because state funds have gone into it. You don’t need to create a new name for yourself. Which other name that you want to create that is higher than that of the state?
In all these, will like to throw your hat into the ring?
Throwing my hat into the ring is the function of my boss. My boss that is His Excellency is the only one who can tell me do this and I will do. He holds the key to my own political future. God holds the key to all of us but as far as I am concerned, he holds the key to my own political future and he is the only one who determines where I will go, when and how. I have absolute and blind faith in him and I have trust in his decision.
What is your parting shot?
I want to add that the status quo should give Ayade a chance because this ego conflict is not necessary. The wise men should give Ayade chance. They are not interested in their party necessarily but the control of the state. They are not taking their eyes off Ayade. This reaming months they should allow him concentrate. They had their chance yet nobody contested it with them.
But politics has started and you cannot isolate it?
We tend to look at politics and economy as a season but they are both inter-related. We can play politics without unnecessarily hitting up the system and making it impossible for the government of the day to perform. What I am saying is that they should give him the opportunity to work to bring his own capability to the fore at least in this 18 month that is left. Within my party APC, I will say they should believe in Senator Ben Ayade. They should have faith in him. He is a very smart man with great level of compassion too even though you may not like his style on a short term but in the long run you will realize there is sense in what he is doing. For those in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), they should hit the politics slowly so that at the end we can have a state we can actually call our own.