For Governor Ben Ayade, Life Begins @50

By Christian Ita

At 50, Ben Ayade comes almost fully made. He has conquered two of the most important spheres in life – the academia and politics. Not many governors in Nigeria had become a professor, a senator and a governor before they turned 50. Not many shall ever attain that feat in years to come. But Benedict Bengioushuye Ayade did. And in so doing, he did not only set himself apart but he has also made himself a man to watch!

Indeed, Governor Ayade is classic case of guts and glory. Guts, because he overcame incredible odds that would have intimidated many people to accept a meaningless existence on the margins of life. Born into a struggling family in the pastoral village of Kakum in Obudu Local Government Area of Cross River State, young Ben knew poverty like the back of his hands. There was no basis for hope and he could have led his life listlessly among the nameless folks who felt that a life of greatness was beyond their wildest dreams. And he would have been justified. But he showed extraordinary courage in the face of squalor and rose from the ruins around him to prove himself an outstanding scholar at the University of Ibadan where he earned a Master’s Degree in Microbiology.

Ayade confirmed his mettle in the pursuit of knowledge when he undertook a PhD in Environmental Microbiology in the same university and his dissertation was adjudged the Best PhD Dissertation in Environmental Microbiology. His brief stint at Delta State University as a lecturer was rewarded with an appointment as a professor. He did not take much time to justify the confidence  of the academia in him as he was subsequently honoured by the Japanese government for his outstanding research on global warming in Africa.

But even when his future in the academia seemed headed to the stars, it was not long before the young professor began to take more than a passing interest in politics because he painfully agonized about the best way to make the most impact on the greater number of people. This was the reason he swiftly accepted an appointment as Chairman of Cross River State Ecological Fund, Chairman, International Institute of Environmental Research and of course Member, Cross River State Poverty Alleviation Board.

After testing the waters with a string of political appointments, Ben Ayade burst onto the political arena with his winning streak. His rare drive for excellence found immediate expression when he won the ticket to represent Cross River North Senatorial District in the 7th Senate of the federal republic of Nigeria. His remarkable ebullience and feisty intelligence came to the fore in the upper legislative chamber and before long; Ayade had drawn considerable attention to himself. He sponsored the highest number of bills from a private member and was honoured as the Best Member of the 7th Senate.

It is therefore not surprising that Ayade has carried his winning torch into the Government House, Calabar since he defeated all other candidates to emerge the governor of Cross River State in the keenly contested gubernatorial election of 2015. Since settling down to business, Governor Ayade has demonstrated an astonishing grasp of the basic issues of governance. It took him little if any time at all to outline the core areas of his development plan for Cross River State and the steam engine of his economic strategy. His clear-eyed implementation of his plan has not only turned Cross River into an oasis of calm and stability while the country stutters from the gale of bad economic decisions but it has also turned Ayade into a folk hero among his people. And this is important!

Prof Ayade has never defaulted for a moment in the payment of salaries to workers at a time when most states of the federation prowl Abuja with begging bowls. He placed his beloved Cross Riverians on top of the pyramid of his administrative thrust and has continued to ensure that workers are adequately taken care of. This is why the people have chosen assorted nicknames for him in pure fondness. Some people affectionately call him “Salary Master” while for some others he is simply a “Labour Friendly Governor.” The true testimony of leadership is planted on the lips of the ordinary people, the vulnerable folks who have not lost their sense of wonder and do not harbour a residue of bitterness to suppress their appreciation of what they like. The ordinary folks of cross River State are behind Ayade.

They are behind him for his big dreams that have come to pass. And for the ones that are on their way to pass. They applaud him for dreaming of the Garment Factory and bringing it to pass. They are grateful to him for creating 3000 jobs for the people with this singular initiative. The everyday people are also happy with the great vision he demonstrated with the conceptualization of the Bakassi Deep Seaport project along with the 270km six-lane superhighway which will catalyse the emergence of a whole new economic zone in the region.

 Indeed, the people are most grateful to Ayade for completing the 5000-seater Calabar International Convention Centre which is reputed to be second only to the one in Cape Town, South Africa. But at the same time, they urge him to continue his far-ranging efforts to build iconic projects like the Calabar Pharmaceutical Company which is expected to create at least 2000 jobs as well as the multi-million dollar Calabar Rice City Project which is a product of a successful partnership with the Thai-Africa Group of investors.  

 Similarly, it is inconceivable to imagine that the people would not be happy with a visionary leader whose thinking transcends his immediate environment; a leader who completed the first functional monorail in sub-Saharan Africa. This singular achievement places Cross River on a whole new orbit from other Nigerian states. It is one of the most ambitious and contemporary initiatives to come out of black Africa. And Ayade is behind it. While this may surprise us here, it will not surprise the Japanese who had long spotted his genius.

It is for these outstanding achievements that Governor Bendict Bengioushuye Ayade deserves the attention and respect of people who value visionaries and competent leaders. It is for these reasons that Vanguard Newspaper and Tell Magazine have all conferred him with the rare honour of Governor of the Year. It is also for the rare touch he carries that all eyes are on the people of Cross River State to know what they would do with their votes in the 2019 gubernatorial elections. To most Nigerians who have been observing Cross River under Ayade in the past three years, his second term in office is already a forgone conclusion!

And, as he turns 50, Governor Ayade has finally earned his stripes as an accomplished leader whose sole obsession is to improve the material wellbeing of his people and whose decisions have become the standard benchmark for any forward-looking society.

Christian Ita is SSA on media/Chief press secretary to the Governor


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Posted by on Mar 7 2018. Filed under Ben Ayade Desk. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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