As Nigerians are smarting from the excruciating pains foisted on them by the COVID-19 plague, Cross River State governor, Prof Ben Ayade given his latest efforts has shown that this is not a moment of lamentation, but one to encourage his people and also take proactive action.
While most of his counterparts are spending millions or perhaps still waiting for key foreign suppliers from China and the World Health Organisation to get them face masks for safeguard from the killer pandemic, Ayade mandated the Cross River State factory to produce face masks to be distributed free to citizens and residents alike to fight the pandemic.
Following the proliferation of new cases of Coronavirus in neighbouring states, Ayade imposed new restrictions on residents of the state, cautioning that no citizen or resident of the state will be allowed to leave home without a face mask from Friday April 3, 2020.
Failure to adhere to this directive will lead to the arrest and quarantine of the offenders for 14 days.
Also, he has ensured that all exit and entry points into the state are now completely shut as no human or vehicular movement is allowed into the state under any disguise.
He also made sure that all public gatherings equally remained banned, just as markets should remain closed except where foodstuff is sold.
Reports show that he is on top of the situation, perhaps the reason the state is yet to record any Coronavirus case.
Working with lean resources and what he aptly termed intellectual money, the Professor of Microbiology has shown that he can make things happen.
Within four years, he has put in place the Ayade Industrial Park, which plays host to the Cross River Garment Factory, the Cross River Pharmaceutical Company (Calipharm), Calavita Noodles, Cross River Feed Mills, the Cross River Rice Seeds and Seedlings Factory and other agro value chain projects in Calabar, the state capital.
With what he has put in place so far, Ayade believes that within a short period, the state would be on the verge of replicating the 1876 agro-industrial revolution in Europe, targeted at achieving self-sustenance in the entire agricultural value chain.
The enviable list of his giant stride in agro revolution speak volumes.
While some of the factories are nearing commencement of production, some have started full production.
When all the industries become operational, it is believed that his upbeat approach to industrialisation will likely turn the state into a business hub for Nigeria and Africa in the near future if sustained.
In a recent remark, Ayade said: “Agro-industrial revolution is the first step to take. It is indeed, an only agro-industrial revolution that allows you to industrialise, revolutionise your economy and yet carry the people along because the essence of industrialisation is to create social harmony. The problem with Africa is the extemporaneous excitement of attitude to catch up with the Western world. In the process we miss the strategic steps that are required towards growth.”
Also in one of his outings, Ayade had boasted that at the moment in Ogoja, they have the first vitaminised rice mill in Africa, in Calabar; they have the first seedling rice factory in Africa, and also have a cocoa processing and the first cocoa processing plant that goes from cocoa beans to chocolate bars- the very first in Africa.”
Whether within or outside the country, Ayade has continued to use every available opportunity to advertise and invite investors to the state ‘to come and see.’
Ayade’s Cross River State may unarguably pass as the tourism destination of Nigeria with Carnival Calabar as the apex annual event in the country, staged every December.
Amazed at what he saw after a tour of the park, former governor of the state Donald Duke said Ayade deserves a Nobel Prize for his industrialisation exploits wondering how the governor was able to record such feat despite the state’s huge debt profile.
Although Ayade unarguably has recorded great feats given his visible achievements, critics say his government is gradually deviating as the state is becoming a den of repression.
His involvement in the arrest and detention of Agba Jalingo, publisher of Cross RiverWatch, has cast a slur on his administration. Jalingo was detained for 174 days before he was granted bail.
Jalingo was arrested on August 22, 2019, after he published an article on how Ayade allegedly approved and diverted N500 million meant for Cross River State Microfinance Bank.
He also accused Ayade of withdrawing N4.3 billion from the local government funds to fund his campaign.
Amnesty International media manager, Isa Sanusi, also accused Gov. Ayade, of running a repressive government, insisting that “ the state is fast becoming a den of repression where an increasing number of people are being clamped into detention.
While some members of the opposition group in the state say Ayade is performing, some told Sunday Sun that the purported achievements seem to be bloated out of proportion.
But the majority of those that spoke gave the governor kudos for his vision and efforts at translating those visions into reality.
Benedict Bengioushuye Ayade was born on March 2, 1968. He studied at the University of Ibadan, Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma, and Delta State University, before becoming a lecturer.
He ran successfully for the office of governor in April 2015 on the platform of People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and won. Before that, he was a member of the 7th Senate of Nigeria.