Sunday, 26 August 2018

Ben Ayade, The absentee governor


Governor Ben Ayade once remarked: "I am not a politician but an agent of God, I have seen wealth and poverty but what I seek now is God. The treasury of the state is in my hands, I am going to shock this country because I am the one who is indebted to God." Clearly the governor has a gross misunderstanding of the basic tenets of democracy and elected office; he is indebted to his electorate first and foremost and their mandate is his mission in office. This amusing gaffe will indeed shock everyone in Cross River, in Nigeria and beyond. 

Nevertheless, the people of Cross River State have not been amused by the revival of irresponsibility in governance manifested in Governor Ben Ayade's disjointed administration. He has accumulated monikers such as "MoU governor," "absentee governor," and "lead from Abuja."

Following the governor's perceived excesses, a spokesperson for the Cross River Transparency Network International (CRTNI), Mr. John Agbor has called on the State House of Assembly to commence impeachment proceedings against Governor Ben Ayade. Mr Agbor noted: "since Ayade came on board, he has spent more days in Abuja or abroad than he has spent in office. Out of 365 days in the year, he spends less than 100 days in the office."  The group was saddened by the governor's habit of proceeding on month-long trips outside the country under the pretext of looking for investors without properly handing over to his deputy. 
Prof. Ivara Esu is officially the deputy governor of Cross River state and lieutenant to Governor Ben Ayade. Unofficially and in reality though, he doesn't even come close. The people of Cross River are all too familiar with the title of "co-governor," borne by the governor's younger brother and de facto second-in-command, Dr. Frank Ayade. The younger Ayade, with no clearly defined position or role in government – elected or appointed – practically doubles as a second governor by commissioning state projects, making public appearances for state functions, running government establishments and occasionally steering the affairs of the state when his governor brother proceeds on his month-long overseas trips.

Co-governor Frank Ayade is a serial detainee of the anti-corruption ombudsman EFCC, who have swooped in on him on a number of occasions regarding fraud and allegations of fraud consequent to his unofficially official dealings within the state government. 
Sankara Unung, a spokesperson for the opposition party APC noted that: "Ayade is running Cross River like a fiefdom where he designated his younger brother as the co-governor with state powers." Unung further lamented that the poverty and suffering among the people of the state should be of more importance than the governor's phantom projects.

Governor Ayade's administration is also notorious for having a record 4,076 political appointees. Could that be a novel job creation approach or an attempt to run an inclusive government? One would expect that wealth of counsel was his reason having a record number of political appointees, but it seems buffing up his public image and silencing would-be critics was the higher cause. After witnessing poorly attended official outings, the governor directed the secretary to the state government (SSG), Barrister Tina Agbor to take attendance at public functions to ascertain the number of public functionaries who attended. Failure to comply would attract punitive measures such as queries or stoppage of salaries. But then, who wouldn't relish a round of applause from over 4,000 happy clappers? 
Other allegations leveled against Governor Ayade include the refusal of the state government to have its accounts audited by the Auditor-General's office, confirming the colossal fraud that has characterized the administration and the abandonment of Cross River students on scholarship in the Russian Federation. 

There is no reason why the good people of Cross River should continue to put up with this kind of irresponsible leadership. The time to go to the polls to render a verdict on the first four years of Ben Ayade is almost upon us. Hopefully, a massive turnout will result and Cross Riverians will come together to reject this corrupt and incompetent regime.