Let me begin by congratulating you on the successful inauguration of your second coming, like I did in August of 2015 when, at the end of my congratulatory treatise, I suggested some of the cardinal problems you needed to confront within the first four years of your administration. Needless to say, not one of those suggestions was executed and the result as evident in your first term is lamentable.
As the sun rises in the morning of your second coming, we Cross Riverians are going to be more demanding than we were in your first coming. We are going to metamorphose from a docile people into a questioning people. We will scrutinise your policies. We will demand for thorough explanations for any decision you decide to make on our behalf. We are going to ask questions without an apology, and you must answer each of our questions if history must be kind to you when the sun finally set on your final tenure.
Your Excellency, as you step your feet into the next phase as governor of our state, it comes with a healthy opportunity to make important amends. I have outlined below just few of your missteps which I hope you strengthen as you make an entry to the Office of the Governor for the second time.
1. LOCAL GOVERNMENT ELECTIONS
Your refusal to allow local government elections in Cross River for the past four years is illegal and a flagrant display of totalitarianism. It was ultra vires your powers to so act. The implication of your illegal action is that you have deprived citizens of their legitimate right of representation in government. It means you consciously decided to keep the government several miles away from the people. Doing so is the same thing as staging a coup d'état against democracy. It is the same thing as strangling democracy right before our own eyes. This must stop forthwith.
2. THE “SUPERHIGHWAY” PROJECT
This is one of the most fraudulent projects I have heard about all my life and the funding is what raises more questions than any thing else. The sum of N648,870,730,739.23 (Six Hundred and Forty-eight Billion, Eight Hundred and Seventy Million, Seven Hundred and Thirty Thousand, Seven Hundred and Thirty-nine Naira, Twenty-three Kobo) is permanently unacceptable for the proposed “superhighway” at a time when roads within Cross River are in total shambles. More disturbing is the fact that Cross Riverians will have to spend 180 years paying back the loan for the superhighway! 180 years! That is approximately two centuries of debt! Like it has been reiterated more than a thousand times, Cross River does not need the construction of a “superhighway” that will put about six generations of Cross Riverians in perpetual slavery. Except, of course, you are unequivocally telling the electorates that it was a crime voting for you, not once but twice! What bothers me the most is your apparent resolution to proceed with the project in spite of the public outcry that has greeted it.
Respectfully, Your Excellency, is it true that in a correspondence dated 17th day of February, 2019, with reference number: SSG/S/300/VOL.XVII/1199, the Secretary to Cross River State Government conveyed on your behalf a request to the State House of Assembly to consider and pass a resolution granting approval for the State Government to issue an Irrevocable Standing Payment Order (ISPO) of N300,000,000.00 (Three Hundred Million Naira) monthly through the United Bank for Africa (UBA) in favour of MERRS SYDNEY CONSTRUCTION NIGERIA LIMITED for the construction of the said superhighway? Is this true, Sir?
3. ANOTHER AIRPORT IN CROSS RIVER?
I do not know exactly what crept into your thoughts that resulted in you imagining the idea of a THIRD airport in Cross River State. All I do know is that the people might be left with no alternative but to wrestle their State from your grip in the likely event that you insist on proceeding with the construction of this airport. Since we were born, never have we enjoyed the dividends of good governance. We have been left to either survive or die on our own. You are therefore without the competence to wake up one morning and send bulldozers to Obudu to reduce people’s homes into rubbles and equally destroy their farms, their only means of livelihood, just because you are governor. And as if that was not enough, you have drawn a red line between you and the people by your recent decision to send armed soldiers to beat up and even apprehend some of the youth who have been leading peaceful protests against the construction of the unwanted airport.
Your Excellency, you are forcefully taking people’s lands, destroying their homes and farms over the construction of a THIRD airport in the State and you expect them to not raise a voice? I shudder. Never before have we experienced this sort of subjugation and total repression in Cross River. Your Excellency, despotism is one thing we shall never accept, and now I feel as though we are being governed by an internal colonialist.
Respectfully, Your Excellency, is it true that you are distributing as compensation between N5,000 to N15,000 to victims whose homes and farms have been obliterated in a bid to pave way for the construction of a THIRD airport in Cross River State? Is this true, Sir?
Your Excellency, assuming without conceding that the idea of a THIRD airport is well in order and not a misplaced priority as it clearly is, how exactly do you intend funding such a project when, using the 2017 statistics, we are told that the State generates less than twenty billion Naira as internally generated revenue for a whole year? It is my contention, therefore, that both the superhighway and the Obudu Airport are misplaced priorities that should be jettisoned through the window.
Like I pointed out the last time before you let your media apparatus loose on me, all that Cross Riverians desire at this time are:
I. Good schools to send their children to.
II. A sound and reliable healthcare system.
III. Security to guarantee their safety.
IV. Good roads to go about their businesses on a daily basis.
V. Pipe borne water so that our people stop travelling to distant streams with basins on their heads.
VI. And other basic necessities that make life worth living.
You have done none of these in the last four years of your reign, yet you expect us to give you a standing ovation for proposing the construction of a superhighway and a THIRD airport in the State, both of which are primarily aimed at sentencing Cross Riverians to eternal poverty and slavery.
Your Excellency, beyond the familiar media razzmatazz, how do you intend to GENUINELY boost revenue generation in the State? This question bears more weight than the superhighway and Obudu Airport that you are determined to impose on us.
I shall round off with the concluding remark in my last essay in which I wrote extensively on the danger of proceeding with the superhighway:
Dear Governor Ben Ayade, attend to the relevant needs of our people and let the common man/woman for once enjoy the dividends of good governance. It is a right, not a privilege.
Elias Ozikpu is an activist and a professional playwright, novelist, essayist and polemicist.