I read with sufficient laughter the doomed riposte issued by one Christian Ita, Governor Ben Ayade’s ‘Chief Press Secretary’, in his desperate attempt to misrepresent the submission made in my previous treatise. The principal aim of Christian Ita’s perfidious rejoinder was to further delude nescientCross Riverians who for so long have been deprived of a decent lifestyle and have consistently been inflicted with a five-star impecuniosity by a chain of disastrous leadership that has held the State hostage for a sustained period of twenty years.
In his statement, Mr Ita alluded to the completion or commencement of several projects by the Ben Ayade-led government. In fact, reading through that misleading statement, one would think he was responding to a citizen who has never resided in Cross River and therefore not knowledgeable about happenings in the State. Anyone who has been in Cross River State, with the exception of the state capital, will readily see that the projects referred to by Christian Ita, are mythical achievements. It is a trademark that is customary with media aides; they have the knack for inventing fictitious stories in defence of their principal. A difficult job I must say, one that has to do with the deliberate assassination of one’s conscience in defence of an anti-people policy.
Beyond the several mendacities in Mr Ita’s ‘purple prose’, it is important that the truth be laid bare for the sake of posterity, namely that Cross River is one of the most poorly governed states in the world, a State whose achievements are only confined in the imaginary realm without a physical effect on the lives of its people. It is a State dominated by a penurious population, a shambolic healthcare system, a collapsed education system, and other infrastructures that are perpetually in ruinous condition across the State. At the top is a culture of corruption combined with a political elite that is completely out of touch with the daily struggles and travails of the average Cross Riverian.
Education has been so paralysed and totally defeated in the State that Mr Ita does not believe there exists sensible Cross Riverians who can rise to question Governor Ben Ayade’s crumbling administration. So he resorts to make very laughable claims that I was sponsored by a certain Odey Oyama, whom I do not know and have never met all my life. So ludicrous and so unfounded was Ita’s assertion that he failed to present a single bank transaction of any payment made to me by the said Odey Oyama. He also failed to present any evidence of a meeting between Odey Oyama and I or even details of telephone call(s) between us. From that speculative submission, replete with invectives and whatnot, and hurriedly concocted to save a face, it is deducible that Governor Ayade’s administration is one that thrives in speculations and propaganda.
One of the fundamental problems confronting Cross River State is that Governor Ben Ayade and his predecessors have succeeded in creating mass illiteracy in the State to birth a population devoid of the needed intellectual capacity to ask crucial questions on government policies. They have succeeded in creating a people who have a defeated mentality and a self-esteem so battered that they must applaud their ruthless oppressors in the face of widespread illiteracy, underdevelopment, poverty and numerous other anti-people policies presently ravaging the lives of everyday Cross Riverians.
According to BudgIT, “The total debt of Cross River State as at the end of 2017 was approximately N177.16bn, with external debt growing to $167.9mn in 2017.In the whole of 2017 Cross River was only able to generate revenue of N41.6 billion, with its internally generated revenue accounting for 34.58% – N18.10 billion.”
Is it not preposterous, therefore, that Governor Ben Ayade, knowing the heap of debt on the weary shoulders of the State and with its thin revenue, should pass a budget of N1.043 trillion for the 2019 fiscal year without clearly stating how he intends to fund it? Now the Governor and his people are hell-bent on mortgaging the future of our people and several generations yet unborn for 180 years – approximately two centuries, in exchange for N648,870,730,739.23 (Forty Eight Billion, Eight Hundred and Seventy Million, Seven Hundred and Thirty Thousand, Seven Hundred and Thirty-nine Naira, Twenty-three Kobo), funds purportedly meant for the proposed “superhighway”.
The Governor ought to employ viable means of boosting revenue for the State, rather than accumulating debts large enough to last the people for close to two centuries! Cross Riverians are not asking for heaven on earth at the moment. They simply want a decent life, with reliable medical facilities, well-equipped schools, good water (most of the people presently journey to distant streams for water), good roads to go about their businesses, etc. Sadly, these cannot be achieved by issuing lengthy rejoinders with the aim of vilifying anyone who holds a view that is antithetical to those in Ayade’s-led administration. They can also not be achieved by pointing out projects completed in the imaginary realm.
It is an intellectual insult of monumental proportions to lead a people and expect them to not ask questions in the face of hostile economic policies. Public office is no private business enterprise. The people whose resources you manage have every right to ask questions, and you are without the competence to act as you please. A public official, paid from public coffers, is without the competence to acquire the status of a demigod over his employers. That will forthwith not be acceptable.
An important thing that must be made abundantly clear is this: Cross River State is not the same as Ayade & Co Limited. It follows therefore without saying that the people must have a say in the running of their State. If this is not acceptable to the Governor, he has the option of resigning immediately. But one thing is certain: the proposed “superhighway”, with a staggering budget of N648,870,730,739.23, seems totally fraudulent and therefore unacceptable. It is a project several miles away from the innumerable challenges presently haunting Cross Riverians.
Dear Governor Ben Ayade, attend to the relevant needs of the 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