By Chidiebere Onyemaizu
When two Professors are Pilot and Co-Pilot respectively, and are at the helm of affairs in the cockpit, there must be a difference. This is true of Cross River state under the innovative leadership of Professor Ben Ayade and his Deputy, Professor Ivara Esu.
The last three years of the Ayade administration has clearly defined him as a governor with a difference in terms of the tenor of his achievements in office: Ayade has now and again demonstrated his focus is industrialization of the state hence under his watch, avalanche of multi-billion Naira, jobs creating industries now dot Cross Rivers state.
Some of the Ayade signature industries include a massive rice seeds and seedling factory, garment industry-the first of its kind in Africa with over 2,000 sewing machines, Calabar Pharmaceutical Company, the Bakassi deep seaport, Cosmetics factory, a 30000 tonnes per anum cocoa processing plant, and the ultramodern rice milk in Ogoja among other.
Speaking on Thursday amid cheers from farmers at the Cross River state Rice city situated at the Ayade Industrial Park in Calabar, venue for the Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN)/ CBN/Cross River inauguration program said, the idea was to create jobs., the governor advised Cross Riverians to embrace agriculture, describing that sector an untapped goldmine: Anybody who has never believed in farming, this is the time to believe. It’s the future; it takes the federal government #460 billion and additional #60 billion in the month of December to import Rice”
The governor stated that the state was ready to harvest a whole chunk of the money because “we are producing seedlings in this big (Rice) factory”. He expressed the hope that a minimum of #100 billion will come from the Rice factory to help fund the state’s #1.3 trillion budget.
On the federal government’s decision to support about 25 thousand rice farmers in the state with N10.8 billion, the governor said: “We appreciate the gesture but what we will appreciate more is when our farmers don’t have to till or toil under the sun. Let them have the opportunity to use the latest technology in farming and not put them through the mercy of rainfall to be able to have their yield and harvest. Let them not toil in vain because by the time they harvest, there will be nobody to buy off the crops from them.”
The National deputy President of Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN), Segun Atoh applauded Ayade for embarking on agricultural ventures that will boost food sufficiency for self reliance.
Ayade’s performance has won him accolades and effusive praises.For example, on a visit to the state last year, former Deputy Senate President, Ibrahim Mantu hailed him as an achiever saying: “You have turned this state to into a role model; getting the least allocation yet paying salaries on or before the 25th of every month, a feat only good governors and prudent managers of resources can guarantee”. And in recoginition of his giant strides in Cross Rivers, Vanguard Newspaper in 2016 awarded him Vanguard Man of the year 2016.
Essentially, governor Ayade has at every fora explained and justified his industrialization drive.In his words: “I know what I am doing when I made a choice to go into industrialization. I can build a road from here to Ougaduogu, it would not create jobs, but when you build a factory it creates jobs…why are you a governor when your people go to bed hungry?” “These factories have been built in just under three years in a state where we get near zero allocation from the federation account, a state that is the first to pay salaries ever since I came into office in spite of the fact that I have brought thousands of people into the pay roll through appointments.”