It is disturbing to see the rising level of lawlessness and tyranny in Cross River State which, ironically, is championed by the state governor Ben Ayade.

It is important to note that since assuming office in 2015, Ayade has been at the forefront of the illegal campaign for the strangulation of free speech as well as the suffocation of other fundamental human rights in Nigeria. 

Recall that in August of 2019, Ayade called for the regulation of social media, saying:  “If we don’t regulate it, if we don’t control it, if the society doesn’t have a poise, we would have had more cataclysm before us.”

No doubt, these were not comments made by a democrat. They were comments by one who holds extremely strong tyrannical views.

 I have written in the past how this governor bundled Paul Ifere and Joseph Odok from Abuja and arbitrarily had them incarcerated in Calabar for simply expressing critical views that the governor inexplicably considered offensive. In a similar fashion, Comrade Agba Jalingo was dragged by road from Lagos to Calabar in August of 2019 and chained to a refrigerator for weeks after a 25-hour gruelling journey.

Ayade assumed office on the back of a democratic process for which several patriotic Nigerians paid the ultimate price whilst they led pro-democracy campaigns against the juntas of Ibrahim Babangida, goggle-wearing maximum ruler Sani Abacha and the incumbent tyrant Muhammadu Buhari who spectacularly squandered a rare opportunity to re-write history about his old, terrible dark habits.

According to his official date of birth, Ayade was born in 1968, which means he was 25 years old in 1993 when the June 12 struggle erupted in Nigeria following dictator Babangida’s criminal annulment of the presidential election that year. Despite being a full-grown man at the time, there is no photo or video showing Ben Ayade campaigning for democracy. What this means is that Ayade was hiding under his bed whilst these campaigns were taking place throughout Nigeria. Yet, after becoming a senator and now governor on the back of the gruesome sacrifices of several people, Ayade is now committed to the strangulation of democratic principles he has no idea how they came to life. It is for the likes of Ben Ayade that our people say:

“A child strapped to his mother’s back does not know the excruciating distance covered by her weary feet.”

In a similar vein, Ben Ayade who cowardly hid under his bed whilst true patriots were on the streets can so easily decide to destroy our democratic values since he has no knowledge about how democracy, through which he suddenly became a wealthy politician, came to be in Nigeria. He might even think that it fell from the sky, like Elijah’s mannas in the old testament. 

The executive rascality exhibited by Ben Ayade during the recent June 12 protest was nauseating. From the preparation of the protest in Calabar up to the day of the peaceful demonstration, Ayade threw out more than enough shenanigans to frustrate the protest, as though the protesters were the armed robbers or kidnappers who continue to cause mayhem throughout Cross River State with unmitigated impunity.

First, police in Calabar who were working in cahoots with Ben Ayade barred protesters from holding the June 12 peaceful protest at the slated venue, despite the fact that it was a public place. Agba Jalingo then changed the venue of the protest and informed other comrades that the protest would hold in the premises of CrossRiverWatch, his media organisation.

A day before the protest, Comrade Agba Jalingo, leader of the protest, was arbitrarily arrested and detained by the police over a frivolous petition claiming that the activist had links with some imaginary firearms. More nauseating was the fact that the so-called petition upon which the police based their detention of the activist was not signed, and name(s) of the petitioner(s) were unknown. There also was no phone number on the petition. How the police admitted this petition and considered it worthy of being investigated is puzzling enough to explain the executive force behind it.

Agba Jalingo was released hours later after the illegal arrest went viral and the public condemned such utter lawlessness.

On June 12, being the day of the protest, armed police officers acting on the instigation of Governor Ben Ayade resumed early at CrossRiverWatch office, new venue of the protest and violently disrupted the peaceful demonstration, activists teargassed. In fact, Ayade drove to the venue of the peaceful protest to supervise the illegal arrests and utter dehumanisation of comrades who were merely exercising their constitutional rights in strict compliance with sections 39 and 40 of Nigeria’s Constitution.

So, whilst his counterpart Seyi Makinde was marching with protesters in Ibadan, Ben Ayade was unleashing violence on peaceful protesters in Calabar. Two governors in one country!

Comrades Agba Jalingo, James Ibor (a lawyer), Jonathan Ugbal (CrossRiverWatch’s News Editor) and others were heavily brutalised and detained for daring to exercise their fundamental rights.

Jonathan Ugbal’s account of how he was brutalised is chilling. Writing on Facebook after their release, and with direct reference to Ben Ayade, he said partly:

“Dear Benedict Ayade 

I await the video and photos of me from Mary Slessor roundabout made on the orders and direction of your Aide De Camp.

After all, he ordered that my hands should be tied behind my back like a pig to be roast, I was slapped and punched several times, flogged mercilessly and my head hit on the Ford Ranger pick up truck a couple of times. Furthermore, I was dragged on the floor like a traveling bag!”

This cruelty for merely exercising basic fundamental rights is unacceptable. If Ayade had been this committed against criminals and cultists tormenting law-abiding citizens in that state, Cross River would have been a crime-free state. But no, despite receiving a monthly sum of N500 million for security votes (N6 billion annually), criminals roam freely in Cross River State but the governor prefers to torture and dehumanise peaceful protesters for demanding good governance.

Upon their release from illegal custody, Ben Ayade insisted that Agba Jalingo leaves Cross River State that day, and even made arrangement for an aircraft that was to convey him to Lagos.

Obviously, here lies one of the fundamental problems presently confronting Cross River State: Governor Ben Ayade assumes he has unlimited powers to do as he pleases. Which law empowered this governor to bundle a law-abiding Cross Riverian out of his own state with no justifiable grounds? Does Ayade think that being governor is synonymous with being Cross River’s landlord?

This is a democracy, and I have made it clear to the governor in previous treatises that he is advised to resign if he is unable to submit himself under strict democratic rigours. We will continue to defend our rights even if Ayade visits the grave sites of Idi Amin, Sani Abacha, Adolf Hitler or any other role model of his to solicit their support.

Throughout history, no dictator has succeeded in winning a fight against his employers. It will not start with Mr Ben Ayade whose days in that office have been defined with a definite date. The days will not be extended by a split second beyond May 29, 2023.

We were here when Ayade came, we shall still be here to look at his back as he exits ignominiously into oblivion after eight years of reckless human rights abuses, uncompleted projects and the introduction of the world’s most fraudulent project – the superhighway!

Elias Ozikpu – protest writer, human rights activist, playwright, novelist, polemicist, citizen journalist, arch-enemy of the oppressors

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