Ayade more visionary than most African leaders - UNDP

Photo caption: R-L Cross River State Governor, Professor Ben Ayade, Country Director of United Nation Development Programme, Samuel Bwalya and the Team Leader, Environment and Sustainable Development Programme UNDP, Muyiwa Odele, during a courtesy call on the Governor by the UNDP team in Calabar.

The United Nations Developed Project (UNDP) has hailed Cross River State Governor, Senator Ben Ayade's style of leadership which it described as development-driven through the use of technology and innovation with a vision that transcends governance.

The UNDP Country Director, Mr. Samuel Bwalya stated this in Calabar during a courtesy visit on the governor in his office where he also sued for improved areas of partnership beyond the United Nation's Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (UN - REDD) program.

Bwalya who said that he has been a follower of happenings in the state stressed that there was need to have “a broad vision to drive the transformation of any state in any country,” which according to him has been exemplified in the state as, “Cross River State is far ahead of African countries in terms of broad vision, and your vision is very bold.

"There is a lot of transformation and whenever I talk about transformation, we are talking about technology, and about the means of moving the economy forward. The use of technology and innovation to drive development is what we have seen in Cross River State and why Cross River State is succeeding in that direction which we have come to add value to what you are doing to enable you succeed the more.

“What you are currently doing is what we are implementing in Ethiopia and we are making effort to invite the Nigerian government over to (Ethiopia) to understudy what they are doing but I can tell you, Cross River is already far ahead,” Bwalya said, adding that “your policies transcend the borders of politics.”

Furthermore, he averred: “Cross River State is already succeeding in the area of industrialization which is extremely important to development, for poverty reduction and the creation of job opportunities.”

On Governor Ayade’s leadership role, he said: “We have seen your leadership role from when you were a senator but most importantly, your leadership and global role in terms of championing environmental sustainability of Nigeria.”

The Country Director said that the UN agency is ready to step up its partnership with the state from only the UN-REDD+ program to include the promotion of sustainable development, inclusive governance and growth that is beneficial to the poorest of the poor, agriculture and job creation.

Bwalya who also disclosed that the UNDP was already working with the Lagos State government in the training of youths to improve their employability and entrepreneurship averred that “if Cross River State moves forward, other states will move forward.”

To ensure this, he pledged the agency’s readiness to support governance and democratic institutions for peace building in line with the state’s goals.

In his remarks, Ayade commended Mr. Bwalya's bold moves in exploiting the core mandate of the UNDP which is in forest management, and expanding it to include areas that will directly impact on the people; a philosophy, which he said was lacking in Africa.

The governor said that when zeroed down, doing business with environmental sustainability needs dealing with governance and sustainability; issues the governor said were captured in the UNDP thematic areas and captured in the signature projects of the state.

Ayade who said the most important was inclusiveness, as the UNDP’s primary purpose is to take those below the poverty line and giving them a source of livelihood, disclosed that more than 80 percent of Cross Riverians reside in the forests but cannot benefit from the resources available to them due to a ban imposed by the state in line with UNDP regulations.

He sued for a review in the implementation strategies of funds and grants which he said usually end up being spent in the board room and logistics in order to promote inclusiveness, which alongside the happiness of the people and sustainability, are the key indices for measuring a government’s performance.

"The real development which is what United Nations has said today is the people. The indices for measurement of the performance of government are the happiness of the people; it is the sustainability, the inclusiveness of your policies and programs, otherwise you would have failed. And any program that is not people-centered has failed,” he said.

He continued: "In Cross River, we have placed an absolute ban on deforestation and 80 percent of our citizens are forest dependent… they live in those forests but we have dislocated them from their dependence on those forest resources without providing for an equilibrating calculum for them to be able to sustain their growth and survival.

"So, the issue of inclusiveness becomes a serious one. How can you therefore deny somebody the luxury of benefitting from the natural resources abound to the person yet not providing an adequate bypass mechanism for survivability? Therefore, his children, his social dynamics and anthropology gets completely disjointed. You create a social distortion in society and now you have new wave of youth criminality, youth misadventure and you don't know that it has a link to the poverty you have orchestrated on the family.

“So United Nations, focusing on these three thematic areas particularly in sluggish and development economy like Nigeria gives you a clear understanding of the concept of UNDP,” Ayade said.

According to the governor, when accentuated, the signature projects encapsulate all Mr. Bwalya had said because, “if you look at institutional governance, Cross River State needs support to be able to build the superhighway which creates 65,000 jobs during construction and because it is a tolled road, it creates permanent jobs, creates new apertures for new businesses like motels, restaurants and fuel stations to exist along the corridors of the superhighway.

"It creates ambulatory services and provides steady 25,000 jobs because it is a superhighway fully digital and requires sustainable maintenance. Looking at it from the point of inclusive growth, it then means that there is an adequate provision in this super project of ours, our major signature projects to create temporary and permanent jobs.”

While soliciting the agency’s partnership in the signature projects, Ayade expressed optimism that despite the basic objective seemingly far from the concept of the projects, they fit into the UNDP’s thematic areas especially as the reforestation and jobs to be created form part of inclusiveness and sustainability, core areas the United Nations prioritizes. Ayade equally announced the donation of a building to house the UNDP office in the state.
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