Cross Rivers State Governor Ben Ayade

Dear Governor Ayade,

I must begin by saying a huge congratulations on your electoral victory.  I must apologize for the tardiness in issuing this congratulatory message, coming five months after citizens and well wishers from Cross River State declared you their preferred leader for the next four years. It is hoped that your emergence will openly elevate the people of Cross River after sixteen years of what may be construed as oppression and darkness.

That said, it is crucial to remind you that the job ahead is considerably tasking, especially on a path that is so replete with potholes. In simple terms, I must say that you were handed a state in complete shambles and a people who have lost hope in their leaders. Most of us do understand that the People's Democratic Party (PDP) is the leading party in Cross River State at the moment. But your electoral victory did not come as a result of the huge influence of the PDP in the state. I have been reliably informed that you were considered a credible candidate by the electorates, and that it was on the strength of this that the people joined your queue. The PDP, in spite of its political dominance in the state, could not have coerced anyone to vote for you. Prior to the elections, I remember spending several minutes over the phone with relatives and friends who presently reside in Cross River State. I remember also what their responses were: “Ben Ayade is our next Governor,” they chorused. It is yet to be known whether or not you will sustain this confidence and ensure the people's aspiration come to fruition. What I do know, however, is that these sixteen years of misery must end with the advent of your administration.

One of the major challenges for your administration, known or unknown to you, would certainly be the need to restore the people's confidence in their government after successive disappointments by your predecessors. One of these would be the immediate need to debilitate the distasteful corruption that has, for too long, been responsible for the dissipation of the people's resources. This state of affairs has become so customary that challenging it is not only unheard of but has sadly become the norm. And so in the face of this unprepossessing situation, the people have always been at the receiving end – victims of the same leaders that they ushered into their State House. Quite simply, the scale of such injustice on an innocent people is simply unacceptable. I must reiterate that this has to change with your emergence as governor.

It is now time to discuss one of the major issues that propelled me into penning these words: development. As you and I know already, it is a measure of our self-delusion that we can think Cross River is truly a paradise, as the state's slogan says. In fact, to state with unreserved frankness, Cross River is one of the most underdeveloped states in Nigeria. Your predecessors only succeeded in presenting a false image of the state by simply beautifying the capital city, so much so that it has been considered one of the most beautiful and neatest cities in Nigeria. But this “beauty” is a misrepresentation of what contemporary Cross River State is. There is immense suffering and poverty behind the glittering facade one sees in the City of Calabar.

Going further, my analysis will center on Cross River North, a region of highly enterprising people, but sadly marginalised by the previous administrations. These people live in squalor and often disappear from the public eye shortly after electoral campaigns are over. I am aware that you toured this region during a campaign period that culminated in your emergence as the governor of the state, during which you were welcomed with chants of: “THE EAGLE HAS COME!” in my Local Government Area (LGA) of Obudu. Quite clearly, this tour could not have ended without you witnessing the humiliating living conditions that are so pervasive in the region.

In Obudu, for instance, the people of Alege, Ukpe, and Ubang still journey to distant streams to fetch drinking or bathing water from mostly polluted streams. Pipe-borne water is a necessity that has remained elusive to these indigenes. The story is the same at school. Desks, for instance, are too much of a luxury for primary school pupils, and so they find themselves sitting on terrible-looking planks! Yet, the people of this region stream out every four years to elect political leaders at various levels.

Reflecting on personal experience, I remember so vividly when I was a pupil at Community Secondary School, Ubang: the floors of these decrepit school buildings knew no cement, and there was not a single desk throughout the entire school that was provided by the government.  We went to school with our lockers! And so children of indigent parents shared lockers with friends. It turned out, quite naturally, that these lockers were more overcrowded than necessary since pupils greatly outnumbered the available lockers! The story was not different in the surrounding schools at Ukpe and Alege.

In retrospect, I see now that we simply were victims of those times. We were victims of successive failed government administrations at a time everything appeared so ideal before our innocent eyes. It was this innocence that blinded us so terribly that we could not understand the unfolding corruption that was crippling and stripping us naked before the very eyes of the world. But I think it is a crying shame that such an awful state of things should endure to this day, at a time when the outside world is moving with the pace of a flying jet.

And the roads in these areas? It is better to admit that they do not exist. Or there will be no degree of elucidation that will adequately capture or project tracks that are presently being referred to as roads.

So, Your Excellency, this is why your emergence as governor, along with your popularity among the people, gives life, or at the least an air of relief, to a highly marginalized, forgotten, and frustrated region with a handsome percentage of promising youths. It remains to be seen how things will turn out under your watch, but I certainly do hope that they turn out positively. This is what the people desire whilst hoping also that you arm yourself with the required determination to attract justice in order to unleash fearsome missiles on that vicious virus that has eaten up the heart and soul of our state and of our people: CORRUPTION.

So, Sir, it is time to get seriously to work. The sun of your administration has just risen. It will, as usual, walk slowly through the middle of the sky, before disappearing with great suddenness to pave way to dusk.

Elias Ozikpu

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