Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River state is an intellectual whose foray into the murky waters of politics has led to the deployment of cerebral capacity in resolving societal challenges. Unlike in most cases in Nigeria where politics has been left largely to politicians of low academic quality that are now mostly fortune hunters, this professor of science has now become a metaphor on how scholarly insight can become a potent force in navigating challenges militating against the development of society.
Whether for good or bad, the footprints of Ayade since 2015 as Cross River state has ignited discordant voices over his style hinged on intellectualism as the pivot upon which the ills of society can be identified and combated. Not a few are impressed with the manner he has deployed scholarly perspective in approaching issues plaguing the people of the state.
As a former university don whose primary focus was then more on theories than practical, Ayade combines the brim of youthfulness and deep grasp of the issues militating against the development of the state he has governed for over five years.
Dissonant tunes, mostly from the opposition, have described Ayade’s strides as a mirage, and that more of his achievements are more of a perception than reality. For the academic don that rose to become a professor by the Delta State University Abraka, he is fully aware that for development of any state to take place, it must understand its present challenges before setting forth to confront them.
Ayade’s art of scholarly discourse in defining his current handling of COVID-19 has not only pointed the way for others to follow, but also reveals the need for proper education as a staircase to evolving an ideal society. In bringing new measures aimed at discouraging the spread of Coronavirus, the governor had refused to embraced lockdown measures as announced by the federal government and some states. Instead, he opted for the option of locking out the state against the pandemic.
Unlike some of his colleague governors who refused to acknowledge the reality of the pandemic, Ayade declared that as a scientist, he was convinced of the existence of the virus, but quickly faulted the means through which many states were only resorting to lockdown measures in total denial of other measures to curtail the spread of the infection.
In locking out Cross River against the infection, Ayade did not only set up a response team of the State COVID-19 in line with guidelines issued by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), but he also led from the front by visiting border communities with a bid to avoiding the deadly spread of the virus that have that have so far killed no fewer than 700 Nigerians.
The success of the war against the pandemic has been hinged on Ayade’s capacity in understanding issues behind the plague and evolving templates to effectively deal with the infection. Little wonder, the near absence of the virus in the state has attracted much envy against the backdrop of many deaths and spiraling spread of the infection in many states.
While some states have deployed whopping resources to fight this unseen plague that has left devastations on its trail, the Cross River governor is quick to appreciate the complexities associated with the virus that is still a subject of scientific research in order to find cure for an infection that is putting developed societies on tenterhook.
Not a few are impressed with the response of Ayade over a pandemic that has left many states in lockdown and sending fears in the hearts of citizens whose future is becoming worrisome in the face of galloping spread of the virus.
Apart from his sterling qualities in combating problems ailing development, Ayade has shown a capacity to use political will in order to serve the interest of the majority good by facilitating projects relevant to the needs of the Cross River people. Recognising the fact that the state is largely agrarian, the university don scored a point when President Buhari commissioned the first automated rice seedlings and seed factory in Africa. The major focus behind this project was to free the state from dependence on Federal Allocation.
The setting up of the automated rice seedlings company serves as a prologue for the take-off of the CrossRice, a multi-billion naira commercial venture that is promoted by the state, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and Sterling Bank. Even before the projects matures, no fewer than 2, 000 citizens of the state have been directly or indirectly engaged, with no fewer than 5,000 to be employed when fully in operation.
In acknowledging the remarkable strides by the governor, the state has raised the bar in increasing the capacity to raise its internally generated revenue and supply the entire African continent with the required rice need. Commending Ayade for the singular feat of turning around the fortunes of the state agriculture sector for good, a former governor of the state, Mr Donald Duke, applauded this visionary project aimed at attaining food security, saying, “If that is the only achievement the governor is able to attain, then, we must applaud and appreciate him for this.”
More than any state government, Cross River state under Ayade has been engaged is pursuing aggressive efforts aimed at empowering youths and providing critical infrastructure for industrialisation. Apart from
Establishing various employment creation initiatives like Cala Chika, a frozen chicken factory to be engaged in processing 22,000 birds daily; a feed mill; a noodles factory, among others, the governor has facilitated empowerment programmes that are committed to making 1,000 youths millionaires.
The inability of Africa to add value to its agricultural products has been identified as one of its greatest misfortunes. It is on this note that no matter how Africa engages in producing raw material, without the setting up of agro-based industries to add value to them, the continent will still remain in the backwaters of development. To change the story and ensure the present gloom is turned into hope for a better tomorrow, the Ayade-led government is building an industry to process cocoa produced in the state.
For instance, records have shown that Cote d’Ivoire produces 33% and earned a paltry sum of $2. 5 billion from exports to manufacturers such as Hershey’s, Mars Inc. (both in the US) and Nestlé (Switzerland) in 2015. However, importers of cocoa from Cote d’Ivoire made a whopping sum of $18bn in the same year. The setting up of the cocoa processing factory is to process 50, 0000 tons of cocoa beans from the state and neighboring West African countries. The facility is expected to process 240 tons of cocoa daily that will be turned into liquor and chocolate bars for export.
However, no society is bereft of development challenges even in developed countries. One thing that is important here is Ayade has not only set the foundation for development, but has also not rest on his oars in attracting foreign investment of $10 billion from China, Japan and Thailand. By this act, he has also set certain processes in motion that would ultimately lead to development.
Having acknowledged the relevance of not losing out in the intellectual discourse for development, the need to retool strategies for societal progress is a continuous process that cannot be ended as it is a journey and not a destination. What has become obvious is that the former university, amidst challenges of the present, has found strong political will and intellectualism as best tools in confronting the challenges of development.