Government is a continuum; and democracy as a form of government leverages on continuity to engender consistent development and progress in the society.
It is on this premise that Engr. Ben Akak, a governorship hopeful on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC) saw the need to embark on an assessment tour of factories and projects established by Governor Ben Ayade in order to harness their economic potentials for the overall development of Cross River State if elected governor in 2023.
The governorship aspirant was full of praises for Prof. Ben Ayade after seeing the massive industrialization that has unfolded, with factories dotting the landscape of the 18 local government areas in the state.
Speaking shortly after inspecting facilities at the Garment factory and Cala Pharm, Engr Akak said: “Governor Ben Ayade is a genius. I cannot imagine what God has deposited in such a being. You need to see what is happening here. Do you know with this factory Nigeria is going to cut half of its importation of drugs from India and all other Asian countries. Currently, do you know how much Nigeria spend on importation of drugs? We are talking about 30billion dollar. With the factory alone you are cutting it into half. This is exceptional. We need to have a way of thanking this man. I wish Cross Riverians could troop in here and see what is going on. The only thing I want to tell us is that I thank the day God brought him to Cross River and I am happy that one is having the privilege to learn from him and possibly to succeed him.”
The business mogul who was accompanied on the tour by some members of the House of Assembly and Vice Chairmen of Councils, asserted that Governor Ayade has simplified and made easier the work for whoever that would come in as governor in 2023, adding he has laid a solid foundation for the industrial development of Cross River, which he would build upon if given the opportunity to serve. He also expressed optimism that in a matter of time the state would be a one stop destination in the African continent.
“I think I’m shock. These are just few projects we’ve seen. We need to, with what we have seen, encourage Cross Riverians to applaud him more; and if there’s a special award it should be given to him, for not just the initiative but the bold step to lead the state from civil service state to an industrial base. These factories that we have seen, toured and inspected, are things that would crystalized the entire economy of the state, and turn Cross River to not just a state of an industrial base, but a state that is self sufficient.
“Having laid this foundation, let me make this point also that he has created enabling environment to value-chained the process and which makes my job very easy. Being somebody who is in the private sector, linkages is not the problem. What we’ve discovered is that there are just few little touches we need to bring to bear to ensure that the people begin to reap the necessary dividends, and then the impact is felt. The bottom line is to create a state whereby we will begin to produce more and to export less”, he said.
Akak who frowned at the media for not shining the spotlight on the “industrial revolution” that was taking place in Cross River, charged them to project the industrialization agenda of the Ayade-led administration, as this was the only way to get people, especially Cross Riverians to take advantage of the laudable initiatives. He, however, promised that if elected, his administration would make use of what is on ground to create jobs.
His words: “I think the first point I want to make, I don’t want to sound maybe very hard on the press, but I think governor Ayade’s programme on industrialization is under reported, and I don’t know what is the reason. Maybe it could be deliberate conspiracy of silence. Maybe there are other factors that we don’t know.
“We want the world to see that light is shining in Cross River and it is courtesy of Prof. Benedict Ayade. We are not mincing words. We are clear about that. He has come to do something that has never been done. I’m somebody who creates a lot of businesses and I know what it means to set up a business, to make it to this level and to make it to run. He’s done well, more than well.
“I encourage Cross Riverians to come and key into the privatization programme of this government, but beyond that I still want to maintain my stand. The media hasn’t done well. The world is media-based. The kind of reportage I expected from this should have been something that the whole world should be turning to Cross River. There’s no way you can ever become sufficient without food. He’s taken time to put the necessary machineries to make us to be less hungry and be food sufficient.
“Beyond that he’s also been able to create a market for us. I wish the media could report it more. The media could channel its activities to the industrialization programmes of governor Ben Ayade. I know what that can do for the state. I’m charging you to take this as a call from well-meaning Cross Riverians. Look at the Assembly members here, look at distinguished Cross Riverians – Vice Chairmen of Councils. These are people who believe in the future of the state, but a lot of us are amazed. We are humble. I haven’t seen this before.
“Let me further make an appeal to Cross Riverians – we need to invest more in the state and that’s why I said in my declaration that the next governor should be talking about job. We didn’t visit here, but we knew that the destination of Cross River is job. He’s laid the foundation, the next governor should come and create job. And I tell you, Ben Akak will create the job that will be necessary for Cross River State to move forward.
“Again, do you know how India started? Do you know the foundation of Singapore? We’ve seen those things. In few years to come the destination of Africa will be Calabar, and it will be Cross River. You and I will be proud of that”, he said.
However, the option of privatization was not off the table, considering that few months ago the state government had contemplated privatizing most of the factories. This move was however halted by an unfavourable public opinion after it was thrown open for Cross Riverians to decide upon. But Ben Akak believes that a robust economy is one in which the private sector plays a key role, while the government creates the enabling environment for businesses to thrive.
“I have always said government don’t run business. Government is to provide the enabling environment, provide the infrastructure – which he’s doing and which he has done. So what we will do is to encourage Cross Riverians to key into the privatization programme of the governor. We have Cross Riverians who are intelligent, who are smart and rich. Let them seize this opportunity. Our government will be to encourage them to do it. And again, the part that he has not completed we will complete it to ensure that we have an efficient system for people who would come to buy, because you must have a good thing for people to buy and we have one here.”
Identifying power supply as a catalyst for economic development, Engr Akak said his government would take step to ensure that the power from the 10MW power plant established by governor Ben Ayade is evaluated and distributed to residents of Calabar.
He said one of the ways to go about it would be to liaise with the Nigerian Governor’s Forum to get the National Assembly remove power generation from exclusive to concurrent list. By this, Cross River would be able to use the power it generates without the usual legal encumbrances.
He as well hinted that other sources of power generation such as gas power plant and hydro power would be established across the state to equally provide electricity.
“The state independent power plant is working as you can see it. As we speak it’s currently powering the street lights. The only stop gap we have as we speak is the legislation from the federal and the state that has stopped it from being linked to the national grid. The state power plant established by governor Ben Ayade is working.
“We know that it’s in the exclusive list, that’s why I said we are going to do a lot. Number one, within the Governors Forum, which is very powerful, we will do a lot to lobby members of the National Assembly to change that legislation, to make it concurrent list for the state to begin to generate power. That’s the only way we can achieve development and progress faster.
“Look at what is happening in Itu. I am suffering just because we are waiting for Itu to be put together, but if this power was generated here I don’t need to bother about what happens in Itu. We must look at ourselves and say the truth. And I’m saying that Cross River State through the effort of Ben Ayade has been able to start a process and we, taking over from him will make sure that that process doesn’t die. This project will not die.
“Any state that is capable to generate power should do it, even individuals, if you have the capacity you do it. But again, we do not want a situation whereby it’s going to be abuse. So there’s going to be a process and legislation put in place – there’s going to be strict adherence to due process and to ensure that the standard is maintained.
“Again, the environment is very important and you know power generation is very sensitive. All that put together is what is going to give us the best in this country. And you know power is very important in development – if you get it right you get every other aspects.
“We have discussed it. We also talked about the hydro. Thank God we have the Senior Special Adviser to the Governor on Technical, who is able to share to us deeply the plans of the governor, that beyond just setting this is the hydro power plant, which we talked about the Qua Fall, the Agbokim Waterfall and the Ranch. All these are ways of making sure that we liberalized the process and have more power in circulation for our people.”
At the General Hospital, Obudu, Ben Akak and his team were amazed, leaving the APC gubernatorial aspirant saying “the infrastructure (hospital) is similar to what people all over the world fly to and that’s why the first thing that came to my mind was at the completion of that project in the next few weeks, we will cut short most of our trips abroad for medical treatment because everything you need is there. I’m proud to say that being a Cross Riverian and having somebody like governor Ben Ayade is not just a great thing for us but its also the fact that he has been able to match his words with his actions and that is why we are doing this to let the world know he’s doing a lot that they know not of.
“If you go through the hospital, you’ll see that everything is completely digitalized. It is based on smart mode and you don’t need to have interface with the next person because with the card you can get all the points and so it’s indeed a blessing to us and moreover, putting it in a community whereby even the ordinary people can access it is another scoring point for him. Governor Ben Ayade has done well and is doing a lot, so we need to blow our trumpet to let the world know. Beyond politics is the fact that you need to say it as it is. There are people out there who have been unable to access this thing because they are unavailable, not because he’s not doing it but because people are not marketing and showcasing it the way they should. As citizens and indigenes of Cross River state, we should first think Cross River State and how we can better our lives.”
Also inspected was the 148km Mfum-Okpoma-Bekwara-Obudu-Obaliku dual carriage highway in northern Cross River, where Akak said, “we are going to do more on this road. The man has constructed 148km of road connecting five local governments and it’s not been heard of compared to those commissioning 1km of road and the news is all over the place.”
On how he was going to raise money to complete some of the projects, the businessman turned politician, said “Raising money is not an issue. By the grace of God, we have a framework in place on how to access money and funds. We are not good at borrowing but we made our commitment to service the debts. Creating money requires our intellect and we are going to continue the intellectual money way of Governor Ayade and then you’ll see a different aspect of intellectual money. This intellectual money is consolidation and continuity and that’s what we are going to do moving forward.”
Concluding the tour, Engr Ben Akak spoke about its essence, even as he stressed that it was borne out of the desire to break away from the tradition of lack of continuity in government’s projects.
“I’m inspecting these projects because first I’m a Cross Riverian, secondly I’m a businessman and thirdly I’m interested, just like everybody. We need to understand that not everything is about politics, this projects have to continue. From 1999 to 2023 that we will, by the grace of God assume position, there are not many continuity projects we can lay our hands on except the ones Ayade have put in place. We want to start that in Cross River state and show to the world that you can inherit something, consolidate on it and continue from there because all these are Cross River state’s money and investment.
“Again, assessing this thing from outside is different because even if you’re working with him, having an independent assessment is very important as it will build up our capacity in terms of the manifesto we are going to present to the public. It will be a manifesto of a true Cross River state in the future and that’s why we are in this tour. And again, let it be on record that as a private citizen, and as an aspirant running for an election, there is need for us to know what is happening in our state and if you’re desirous of change, you need to know the impact of the kind of change you must bring to bare. If I never toured these projects, there wouldn’t be a company in India that is talking about taking over the Calapharm. So the benefit is already here and more benefits are going to come by the grace of God.”
The 12 projects toured include the Pile and Pylon factory, Awi, Akamkpa; Advanced Teacher Continuous Training Institute, Biase; 148km Mfum-Okpoma-Bekwara-Obudu-Obanliku dual carriage highway; General Hospital, Obudu; Cargo Airport, Obudu and Canadian International School, Obudu.
Others were the Garment Factory, Cala Pharm, Kisimie Instant Noodles Plant, Calachika, Rice and Rice seedling factory and Power plant, all in Calabar.