It was indeed, a great cause for concern, when in late 2020, Cross River State, once known for her hospitality and peaceful nature, rather became fragile, instead of wearing its characteristic enviable shoot-up status that has always made it the choice-destination of the world. Ridiculously, it was occupied by hoodlums who took advantage of the
#EndSARS# Protest to cause indescribable havoc that escalated kidnappings and other crimes that sadly occupied a large space in the once peaceful State. “Cross River, popularly known as the ”Most peaceful State” in the Nigerian Federation, suddenly was severely tempered with, giving room for many to begin questioning Governor Ayade’s unwavering position that the State remained, still, the safest in the Federation, even in its ugly predicament.
Before now, Cross River had been rated as having just 1.1% of total crime in the oil-rich Niger Delta region, and of course, its South/South side of the divide. But, the State, like every other State in the country, was not absorbed of
the wanton destruction that took place across the nation, as well as other forms of strives, occasioned by the infiltration of hoodlums during the Nation-wide #EndSARS # protests.
In the midst of all these challenges, the people still walked proudly with their heads held up high. Reason being that the State Governor, Sen. Prof. Ben Ayade, armed with the Boy’s Scout spirit, “Be Prepared”, is always on hand, equipped with innovative strategies that offer succor and psycho-social support that gives them complete sense of belonging, even in the midst of worst times. He is providing timely political goodwill with great capacity that provides prompt basic necessities, as well as, safeguarding the security and human rights of the people of the State, as a matter of priority concern. All geared towards truly strengthening the capacity of the State to fulfill the quest to provide people of the State opportunity to take shared responsibilities and be actively involved in the key role of effective representation in good governance and service delivery.
Building peace and security mechanism is at the heart of Ayade’s utmost desire to achieving lasting peace and
poverty reduction in the now, highly fragile environment. Peace remains the most valued and indeed, the greatest human need in life’s history. Aristotle posited that, it is the essence of human existence. Of course, we have lived to see that the world has never relented in the quest for termination of conflicts. When therefore, Ayade set up to secure the State and return its almost dwindling status, it was obvious that he had taken the steps of a wise leader, who knows how to source for the greatest resource for sustaining peace. He set up to ensuring that the State becomes more responsive to supporting durable peace, by getting the peace initiatives deeply rooted in the people themselves, including youths and traditional institutions and offering workable strategies that are fundamental to making progress.
Within the local setting in the ancient city of Calabar, the State’s capital, the Governor first did his best to pacify the youths, who of course, were the major actors in the protest. Knowing also that the unavoidable greatest resource for sustaining peace in the long-term is always rooted in the local people, their Leaders and culture, as also knew that
within the ancient city of Calabar cultural settings of the people takes precedence, he led a powerful delegation to reverence the Obong of Calabar, His Eminence, Edidem Ekpo Okon Abasi V and sought fatherly advice, as it concerns restoring peace, securing lives and property and building back, better, together. The Governor’s official visit to the Monarch leaves no one in doubt that the traditional institution plays a very important role in development cooperation.
Both State building and peace building are long term, highly complex political processes driven by a range of factors and incentives that must not neglect or relegate the traditional institution to the background. Sir Ayade thanked His
Eminence for the uncountable fatherly advice and unwavering support he has received so far from the Monarch since he mounted the exalted seat of governance from his first tenure till date, assuring him that he will continue to hold
his persons and royal position, in very high esteem.
Going down memory-lane, the Governor recalled how the Royal Father had always stood by him, encouraging
continually, recalling further, how the Obong took center-space during his electioneering campaigns at both the first and second tenures.
While reiterating his resolve to always advise the Governor on the right path of governance, the Royal Father who equally recalled how he has always offered his full support for the Governor from inception, re-assured him of his
continuously support to complete his tenure. Ayade also mediated a post #EndSARS# settlement with an aggressive launch in the fight against kidnappers and other criminals, by end of 2020. This led to the citizenry enjoying full peace and safety before, during and after Christmas, until now, in the New Year.
There could never have been a more auspicious season than using the excitement and joy that come with the
yuletide season, to heal wounds, mend broken hearts and inject the spirit of peace, love and friendship that ignite unity of purpose. This is particularly true, as we watched with keen interest, the uniqueness of Governor Ben Ayade with regards to re-building Cross River State, nay, Calabar city, after the wanton destruction witnessed at the last lap of year 2020.
The year 2020 was indeed, most challenging to the whole world. Cross River State was no exception. The storm came so very strong, such that was capable of dashing the hopes and aspirations of the good people of Cross River but in
the uniqueness of Ayade’s proactive nature, we could see that life is not all about waiting for the storm to pass, it is about learning to dance in the rain. As the warm breeze of yuletide began to blow, Ayade seized the occasion to drive home the message that Christmas season is perfect time to turn over a new leaf and follow our dreams, making rife the saying by Oliver Wendell Holms Jnr.that, “A mind Stretched by new experiences can never go back to its old dimensions.” So, for Cross River to keep evolving, growing and changing, it is important that we keep moving with a deep sense of purpose. Ayade’s doggedness makes this possible with his forward looking wonder strategies for “healing the land”. Strategically, the Governor chose to restore hope and dignity of the people by, launching an aggressive attack against kidnappers and other criminals in the State. Our hearts leapt for joy when the “Operation
Akpakwu” was launched. It was obvious that our peaceful Cross River had sadly become most vulnerable, and was gradually declining. And so, building back meant, beginning with ensuring that the State isn’t open to attack or damage of any kind, from any access point. We see that the beauty of life, as Ayade exhibits, depends on how happy and save you can make other people feel with your leadership. Suddenly, everybody was living in fear. Kidnaping and other criminals seemed to be everywhere but the Governor put a stop to all that and hopes were suddenly restored, too, even before the Christmas celebrations. His assuring words as he launched “Operation Akpakwu”, came with great relief. “Today is the end of armed robbery, banditry must end Cross River must Remain safe.” Blaming the spate of kidnappers and robberies in the State on outsiders, Governor Ayade who citing the police records of the
arrests made so far, in the State over crimes, detailed all landlords in the State that, they, “must account for every tenant, as part of the regulations which they have signed into law, under the Homeland Security”.
While drawing the attention of all that the instruction is clear from Abuja for the “Operation Akpakwu” squad to deal decisively with any form of banditry, cultism, kidnaping or any form of criminality in the State, he charged, “Let this
be a message to every strong Cross Riverian and non-indigene, alike, that, as far as you are resident in Cross River State, criminality of any form has ended.
“Operation Akpakwu”, the special operation that is impressively flushing out criminals in the State, has top military personnel from the Nigerian Army, Navy, Air Force and Civil Defence, equipped with over 100 patrol vehicles fitted with cutting-edge communication gadgets, power bikes and drones with cooperation from all Service Commanders in the State. To this end, the Governor vowed to return peace to the State, particularly, City of Calabar, to the Paradise it had been noted for, even as statistical indicators still show the State as one of the safest in the country.
Looking at possible solutions that could help to maintain peace and order in the State, Ayade, in his unassailable commitment to the welfare of the people, is burdened by the non-inclusion of the Bakassi Strike Force in the Federal
Government Amnesty Programme as it has been done in other States of the Federation. He drew the attention of the Federal Government, demanding, “We want to ask the Federal Government why the Bakassi Strike Force has not
been given their proper restitution, rehabilitation and re-integration as it has been done in other States, even after they voluntarily surrendered their arms at the behest of both the State and Federal Governments?”
And in another development, the metropolitan city of Calabar also, began wearing a new face, shortly before
Christmas celebrations. This is courtesy of the State Governor’s commitment to provision of good roads network and making transportation affordable and easy in the State. In an effort to build back better, Governor Ayade, ever
proactive in nature, issued an order for immediate rehabilitation of deplorable roads in the State and went further to ensure that the order was taken seriously. Beginning from the Calabar metropolis and its suburbs, the potholes and bad channels have all been fixed, leaving commuters excited and jubilant. Lead Project Manager and Chief Consultant, Engr. Mustapha Uyvuran, disclosed that the time frame given for the completion of all the rough paths was just 60 days and contractors truly delivered, leaving up to expectations of the Governor and the generality of the people. “ To make it right, in the first 30 days, attention was focused on the potholes identified and other bad channels around the city of Calabar, as coordinated by the State Ministry of works”, he disclosed.
Evidence can be seen in the asphalting of the roads between the Army junction, Nigerian Television authority , NTA and Ekorinim by the First Bank axis, where early work began before spreading across the city where all bad spots have been permanently rehabilitated with hard core and stone based laying, asphalted, accordingly.
There is indeed, significant value in addressing state building and peacebuilding, together as both are fundamentally linked to the evolution of an-inclusive political re-engineering and acceptability.
Ayade’s integrated approach brings together, support for an all -inclusive political goodwill. His innovative strategies like developing the State survival functions that are equally responding to public expectations by addressing causes of social problems and building long term solutions to lasting peace in the State, will not be forgotten in a hurry.