OPINION : C'River and Ayade’s Referendum Victory By Christian Ita

Mr. Christian Ita, Chief Press Secretary/Senior Special Assistant, Media/Publicity to Gov. Ben Ayade
Leadership is not a tea party. This is why in a competitive, participatory democracy like ours, leaders with stellar leadership qualities, and not empty rhetorics and bare-faced lies, easily sway the led and stir them into unquestionable acceptance of, and unalloyed loyalty and support  to their leader.

In Cross River state, we are lucky to have such a leader in Professor Ben Ayade. And he has never hidden he too is equally lucky to have appreciative followership.

Three years ago Ayade entered into a social contract with the people of the state when he sought for their vote to become governor in return for purposeful and people oriented governance. Professor Ayade has kept faith. The people have also kept faith.

It has been a rock-solid symbiotic relationship that pernicious propaganda has failed to break. While Governor Ayade clinically delivers on the social contract in the mold of good governance, the people in turn, at every juncture, reciprocate by showing unwavering support to him.

Last week, Cross Riverians again, via the Peoples Democratic Party's landslide victory in the Obudu state constituency bye- election, emphatically and loudly stated their readiness to swim or sink with Ayade in appreciation of his magical re- making of the state for the better. Stakeholders, including Ayade, an indigene of Obudu himself, agree the bye-election was a sort of a vote of confidence, a referendum.

Hear Ayade: “The election was more of a referendum on my acceptability and stewardship to my people. There couldn’t be any more resounding affirmation from my people than this. Basically, it is more or less like a referendum… it is a validation of my own service. I am a member of the PDP and definitely I am happy the party won” 

Indeed, the bye- election and a similar one held in Yakurr Local Government  Area of the state in 2016 which the PDP also won, were a referendum, not only on the popularity of Professor Ayade but also on his performance as governor since taking office. The two electoral victories by the PDP have confirmed the opposition only has a feathery presence in the state and has therefore been overrating itself. But of course, talk is cheap.

The opposition's emptiness in the state was rudely exposed by the outcome of these bye-elections. Of course; the PDP had no problem handing a crushing defeat to them, a glaring product of Ayade’s state wide acceptance.

When a leader puts the people first by working for them and giving them a new lease of life, when a leader displays a deep sense of justice and fair play, followers naturally queue behind him. This can be gleaned from the nomination and victory of Mrs Abbey Ukpukpen, widow of late Hon. Steven Ukpukpen, former occupant of the seat, in the Obudu state constituency bye- election into the Cross River state House of Assembly.

Many politicians had opposed her candidacy on the ground that she is not from Obudu, her husband’s local government but Ayade’s sense of justice prevailed over parochial sentiments. He insisted on Mrs. Ukpukpen based on justice and compassion rather than political calculations.

The PDP/ Mrs.Ukpukpen’s victory of course means heartache for the opposition. But for Ayade, it bears quantum testimony to the fact that performance is a sure elixir that easily stirs the people towards positive direction.

All fair minded Cross Riverians attest to Ayade’s people-oriented achievements. His projects speak for him and like a gold fish, Professor Ayade’s unprecedented strides in all sectors of the Cross River economy are difficult to hide hence his sterling performance in Cross River continues to attract effusive praises, support and accolades to him.

Just last week, traders in Watts, the biggest market in Calabar, the Cross River state capital, endorsed him for second term and requested to be included in his re-election campaign team.

The over 7,000 traders, under the aegis of Capital Traders Umbrella Association, CATU, said their endorsement was based on Ayade’s commendable achievements in various sectors of the economy including the revolution in agriculture, education, industrial sector, job creation, infrastructure as well as creation of a business-friendly environment in the state which has positively impacted on their various businesses.

Under Ayade, Cross River State has emerged as the most improved state in Health in the South South geo-political zone and in recognition of his intervention in the sector; the Governor has been adjudged one of the six best performing governors in Health in Nigeria by the World Bank and the Federal Government.

This recognition comes on the heels of  the Best Performing Governor on Agriculture Award which BusinessDay Newspaper recently conferred on Professor Ayade.

Essentially, under the Ayade-led administration, Cross River has attained several milestones in the health sector, including the significant reduction in maternal mortality. The state also has the highest child survival rate in Nigeria just as it is the first state to have its local government areas declared open defecation free in West Africa.

Professor Ayade has built and completed the Calabar Pharmaceutical Company and is building three ultra-modern referral hospitals, one in each senatorial district.

Under him, Cross River is on the verge of achieving HIV goal 90 90 90 with Calabar municipality being the first local government in Nigeria to achieve this.

The launch of the universal Health Insurance Scheme known as Ayadecare, to ensure universal health coverage in the state irrespective of economic status, is yet another milestone in the health sector undertaken by the Ayade administration. Ayadecare provides free healthcare for pregnant women, children, refugees and IDPs in addition to the building and/ or equipping of over 50 Primary and Secondary Health Facilities in the state.

Many visitors to Cross River and the teeming population of the state, who continue to marvel at how Ayade is able to accomplish so much within three years with meager financial inflow, have dubbed him a poster boy of performance and a case study of how a leader can strike a delicate but workable balance between social welfare, industrialization, infrastructural and economic development and in the face limited resource.

No wonder a presidential aspirant of the PDP, Kabiru Taminu Saraki recently advised leaders to emulate Ayade.This too explains why the people of Cross River are ecstatic about their governor.

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