Even if the Cross River State governor, Ben Ayade, does not do anything else for the rest of his remaining four-year tenure, his place in the history books of comical/ridiculous//bizarre governance in Nigeria is well assured with six landmark achievements he has so far recorded in his six-month old tenure.
The first is his ‘humanitarian’ exemption of the ‘poor’ from taxation. At a time when all heads of governments in the country are cracking their brains looking for ways to shore up their dwindling revenue profiles through taxation and other ways, Ayade, in his gubernatorial wisdom, decided, barely a month into his administration, to exempt a class of Cross Riverians he termed ‘too poor’, from paying taxes.
Yet, he has come up with some project plans two of which will cost hundreds of billions of dollars. Some of us are waiting with bathed breath to see how he will finance them without the support of taxation.
Unfortunately, before anyone could say ‘Gov’ and try to gently reason him out of this obviously dangerous brainwave, he caused a law to be passed, post haste, by the state House of Assembly freeing levels 1- 7 civil servants, commercial cyclists, mechanics and other informal sector workers he deemed poor from fulfilling one of their cardinal citizenship obligations. In fact, I am told he rules and reigns by brainwave. No time for thinking, planning and execution. No body of coherent policy to guide his actions. No time for consulting with wise elders in politics and administration. He is the visioner and sole custodian of his vision. He is the sole proprietor of Cross River State Incorporated. He is all action, a one-man philosopher-king who is all- knowing and all self-sufficient.
Yet, we are told in the Bible that even God who is all-knowing, all-seeing and unchallengeable is teaching us a great lesson in proper decision-making protocol when He said in Genesis 1: 26: “Let us create man in our image’’. Two great Biblical commentators Rashi and Nachmanides said respectively that God was consulting with the angels and with Mother Earth, both of whom He created, in order to create man.
The sages say that that verse of Scripture is to teach all big men, such as Governor Ayade, proper conduct and the trait of humility, that a great person should consult with and receive permission from a smaller one while taking very important decisions.
Two, his 260-kilometer super highway of indeterminable cost, indeterminable design and still indeterminable source of funding. Since his ascension to the exalted throne of governor of CRS, Ayade has unveiled to the people two projects dear to his heart which have since become known to all as his signature projects: a 260-kilometer super highway and a deep sea port. The first and by far the more important to him of the two is the 260-kilometer super highway from Calabar to Obudu of which President Muhammadu Buhari did a ground-breaking ceremony a few days ago with much hoopla.
Yet till date, no one seems to know just what this project consists of. Has it been designed? If so, just how does it look like? How much will it cost the government and people of CRS? And more importantly, how will it be financed as the governor himself is heard to have boasted that not one kobo of CRS money will go into it? Will it be executed by benevolent spirits in this season of cash crunch? Or will it be concessioned to a foreign or local consortium seeing that such a gargantuan pursuit by a state government of the federation will cost an arm and a leg far beyond its means?
To my mind, the most monumental of Ayade’s record-making achievements so far is the third one namely, the list of 28 commissioner nominees he has submitted to the state House of Assembly for confirmation. If the state legislators concur with their governor, Ayade will easily go down in the record books as the governor of a state of the federation with the largest cabinet since Independence.
The question some simple folks like me are asking is: will our dear governor create more ministries to accommodate the number of commissioners to be appointed or is the state going to have a commissioner OF, IN, and WITH a particular ministry?
Four, his Mansa Kankan Musa Convoy. Gov. Ben of CRS has also entered the record books with what is easily the largest, the noisiest and the costliest executive convoy in the whole country. He has a 30-car ensemble that by far surpasses that of Mr. President’s in numbers, demonstration of opulence, sophistication and the sheer volume of noise and the public nuisance it causes.
It consists of some of the most intimidating looking SUVs, state of the art cars, trucks and buses ever manufactured in the auto factories of Western Europe. It is also complemented by eight powerful power bikes whose acrobatic displays and noisome ways are second to none in the country.
What makes it a most awful experience for all who dwell in the land of CRS is that an hour before this cavalcade sets on its not too majestic sail, the sirens will wail and scream non-stop, announcing to all the deaf, the blind and the unconcerned that His Imperial Excellency is in town and about to go somewhere.
Those who are close to the governor say he said he went for such a magnificent convoy in order to restore the dignity due the gubernatorial office which was destroyed by earlier occupants of that most exalted seat which is why the costly pursuit of the ceremonial aspect of that office seems to be one of the cardinal programmes of his administration.
To be concluded next week, God willing.