By Ubi Okoi Ubangha
Awards and prizes are recognitions accorded individuals, groups or organizations whose actions have impacted society or mankind positively. For instance, the Nobel Prize, easily one of the most influential awards in the world is a set of annual international awards bestowed in several categories by Swedish and Norwegian institutions in recognition of academic, cultural, or scientific advances according to the will of the Swedish chemist, engineer and industrialist, Alfred Nobel, who established it in 1895. In literature, some of the most prestigious awards include: the Nobel Prize for Literature; the Man Booker Prize, the Pulitzer Prize, the Neustadt International Prize for Literature, the Costa Book Awards, the Women’s Prize for Fiction, etcetera. Also, some of the world’s most influential leadership awards include: the World Leadership Congress & Awards, the Vital Voices Global Leadership Awards, the Mo Ibrahim Prize for Achievements in African Leadership named after the Sudanese-British Billionaire Mohammed Ibrahim, the Zik’s Prize for Leadership, etcetera.
It is interesting to note that whereas most of these international awards are motivated by the need to celebrate excellence and also to encourage the awardees and other leaders to go beyond the common herd, the media in Africa, especially in Nigeria, have polluted the concept as it is largely motivated by profit motives. Hardly does any year pass by without some media houses rolling out the drums to celebrate some state governors and other men or women of means as personalities of the year. Of course, a few media houses still uphold some modicum of decorum in choosing those to honour. But a good number of these media organizations throw caution into the wind by going cap in hand to solicit patronage from non-performing state governors in exchange for their annual awards.
This is not to say that all the governor’s are into this award racketeering. Far from it! Some of the state governors more than deserve commendations. Yet, unarguably, others are not worth more than the papers or plaques on which the vended awards are written. In the present dispensation, one of the governors who should be stripped of any recognition due to their failure to make life meaningful to their subjects is Sen. Prof. Sir Benedict Ayade of Cross River State.
Towards the end of November 2019, Gov Ayade’s media goons circulated in the social media that their principal had Governor of the Year Award of a certain Lagos-based newspaper. But anyone living in Nigeria who is conversant with developments in the media industry would readily attest to the fact that that newspaper hitherto one of Nigeria’s prime newspapers in its hay days, has ceased to robustly grace the newsstands as it used to do. Aside from its occasional online edition, it barely prints these days. Ayade whose aide once quipped that the governor deliberately craves for media awards but refuses to pick calls from the editors and other top management staff of such media houses thereafter, probably settled for that newspaper because no major newspaper in the country would dare extend an award to him given their sad experiences with him.
In the first place, Ayade who boasted recently during the signing ceremony of the state 2020 budget, that he had established 33 companies for Cross River State in four years, cannot point to one formidable achievement recorded by him since he became governor in 2015. It is against this backdrop that the purported declaration of the governor by an Abuja-based newspaper as its Governor of the Year 2019 is unsettling and insulting to Cross Riverians. More troubling is the recent announcement of Ayade as its Man of the Year 2019 by an otherwise objective Lagos-based newspaper. What due diligence did these papers do before announcing Ayade their Governor of the Year? You cannot develop your state but you have money to buy the media to cover up your tracks. Cross River State, hitherto a haven for peace and tranquility is now the headquarters of kidnapping, violent robbery and other vice crimes in the Niger Delta. What a governor!
In just four miserable years, Ayade whose achievements and industrialization revolution is seen only in the pages of newspapers and on billboards, has brought Cross River State to total extinction. Almost immediately after inauguration for his first term in 2015, Gov Ayade was the first state chief executive to pull President Muhammadu Buhari from the Aso Rock Presidential villa to his state to lay the foundation stone for his so-called signature projects. This singular act attracted screaming headlines in the media. More than four years down the road, the path on which the “digital super highway” should be built has not been cleared.
The state is yet to get the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and Federal Government approval for the 275 kilometre super highway originally budgeted at N800 billion. What you see or hear about Ayade’s super highway is mere media hype. The so-called “Deep Seaport” project exists only on paper. Gov Ayade left the Atlantic Ocean where the project ought to sited to build something that looks like a warehouse along the Calabar-Odukpani Highway near Eight Mile with a huge signboard with the inscription: “THE CALABAR DEEP SEAPORT.” Nothing is there. The Calabar Pharmaceutical Company has not produced starch not to talk of paracetamol. The so-called Power Plant has not generated a spark of electricity two years after commissioning. It is to be powered by diesel. The Cocoa Factory at Ikom and The Rice Factory at Ogoja have been abandoned as there is virtually nothing working there. Another deodorization of excrement by Ayade is the media hype that he has built a factory that manufactures iron and corrugated roofing sheets in Yala local government area. There is nothing as such.
The most notorious hoax in the state is the Obudu Cargo Airport. That conduit pipe is not even a priority to the state as there already exist the Margaret Ekpo International Airport in Calabar and the Bebi Airstrip at the Obudu Ranch Resort which has kicked the dust under Ayade’s unimaginative administration. The Ranch which was consistently maintained by the Donald Duke and Liyel Imoke administrations and which attracted big organisations including banks, state governments and even the Presidency to the state for retreats, has gone into extinction due to neglect by the Ayade administration. The recent Calabar Carnival code-named by Ayade as “Olympotic Human Carnival” was a relic of its old self. Since its introduction in 2004 by the Duke administration, the picnic that used to attract people from all over the country and even beyond to the state has never been as poorly managed as as it has been under the Ayade administration.
Talk of the Calavigas, a sort of resort on the island by the Marina along the Calabar River? It is another big fraud on the lean purse of the state by Gov Ayade’s reckless administration. The so-called Spaghetti Flyover from Odukpani Junction to Calabar is another huge deficit for our state. The poor quality of materials at the sight is enough to scare travelers stiff. It might not even be completed until he leaves office. But everywhere you ever go, what confront you are posters and billboards with the inscription: “AYADE IS WORKING” with ubiquity and constancy.
Under Ayade’s government of comic tragedy, Cross River State budgets deliver absolute emptiness. So sad that in the governor’s jaundiced philosophy of “AYADEISM”, the word “budget”, in his eerie self-absorption or dejavu, is more a silly metaphor than a reasonable denotation. He would revel in unimaginable and bogus projections with ruthless pomposity. In the end, the budget would achieve nothing thereby making the state a laughing stock in the comity of states in Nigeria. From a whopping budget of N301 billion in 2016 to the N701 billion in 2017 to the extra-bogus budget of N1.3 trillion in 2018 to the N1.043 trillion in 2019 and to the N1.1 trillion for 2020, tagged budget of “Olimpotic Meristemasis”, it is all egotism. If his budget of “Deep Vision” of 2016 was tragically shallow; if the 2017 budget of “Infinite Transposition” could not transform anything in the state; if the 2018 budget of “Kinetic Crystallization” could not crystallize any iota of change in the lives of Cross Riverians; if Ayade’s 2019 budget of “Qabalistic Densification” brought untold densified hardship to the people, what then is the motivation for the award of “Governor of the Year” to Ayade?
Is it the jaw-breaking bombastic indulgence or Gov Ayade’s hallucinating street dancing showmanship that attracted the award? Or is it the grandiosity of Ayade’s budget proposals which cannot be interrogated by his errand boys in the State House of Assembly that attracted the award? Or is it because Ayade runs one of the most indebted states in Nigeria with a foreign debt profile of $192.73million, the fourth highest in the country and a domestic debt profile of N168.82billion, ranking the fifth in the country with nothing to show for it? There is a sense in which these award vendors could be seen as promoters of Ayade’s spacious and base glorification of oddities in our dear state.
*Dr. Ubangha, a lecturer, wrote in from Ugep, Cross River State.