In Boki, Ayade Joins East and West in warm embrace

Boje bridge constructed by Governor Ayade's administration

It was beyond Boki. It was nature's making. Before now the  two halves of Boki-East and West- were estranged from the other.There was a River between.

But then Ayade happened on Cross River's political firmament and a rock-solid marriage took place.Today, Boki East and West are united, never again to be separated by natural phenomena.

The above forms the fulcrum upon which the touching story of how Cross River state governor, Sir Ben Ayade ended the unsettling  suffering of Boki people by constructing an ultra modern bridge across the river to connect the two halves of the local government.

Essentially, for years the people on the East and West ends of Boki were separated by a river following the collapse of a colonial bridge that hitherto connected them.

Constructed in the 50s, the Boje bridge, now popular as Boki bridge was strategic for it connected almost all the major communities in Boki local government  to Boje, the council headquarters. But then wear and tear were to set in and before long, the bridge completely collapsed. It remained in that state for years before governor Ayade's intervention.

A hanging makeshift bridge which was built with iron and covered with woods, in early 90s could not mitigate the people's suffering. And then by 2012 it also suffered  the fate of its predecessor as erosion completely washed it away thereby cutting off many communities from the council headquarters.

Many local government staff from neighbouring communities suffered untold hardship accessing their offices in the council headquarters. Most times, some went miles through Obanliku local government to connect the council.

Besides, economic activities in the two Bokis also crumbled as it linked many communities to the popular Okunde market which is the commercial nerve centre of the local government became an uphill task.

Boje where the bridge is located produces cocoa, bananas, plantain and other farm produce in commercial quantities but how to convey them to the popular Okunde market was a challenge too.

However, just like the holy Bible says in Proverb 29:2: "When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice",  the sufferings of Boki people dramatically ended with the reconstruction/expansion of the bridge by the Ayade's administration.

During his campaign in Boki in 2015, Ayade, the then candidate of the People's Democratic Party, PDP and  now Governor pledged to build an ultramodern bridge  to connect the two Boki before the experition of his first tenure if elected.

Not a few had dismissed the pledge with a wave of the hand considering the financial position of the state having lost it status as an oil producing state three years before.

Sons and daughters of Boki both home and abroad were therefore, awe-struck when shortly after taking office Ayade kept to his promise by rolling earth moving equipment to start work on the bridge.

The people were further awed when three years into his first tenure, he had successfully  expanded and completed the bridge, thus reconnecting the Boki communities to the council headquarters thereby reinventing economic activities in the local government.

Excited by the development, Mcstephen Ntiks Kembre, a native of Boje community said that the entire Boki nation would forever remain grateful to the Governor Ayde for keeping to his promise of ameliorating their sufferings by constructing the bridge.

His words: "Because of the condition of the bridge which in essence was not in existence from 2012 till last year, the cost of living became very high because that's the bridge that links Boje to Okunde, the next center of Boki local government. Okunde is a core business centre, and Boje produce Cocoa, banana, plantain etc in commercial quantity. So, when that bridge was cut off, people could not convey their goods from Bogie to Okunde.

Boje has seven communities, and these seven communites really had their livelihood tied to the life span of that bridge, so within that period; there was so down turn of economic activities, so even Cocoa was not conveyed, people have to carry Cocoa down to the bridge, then you pay about a thousand naira to just cross a bridge of about 100meters"

Continuing, Kembre, occasionally casting a glance at the bridge as wry smile danced on his cherubic cheeks said he was happy commerce is now booming in the area.

"Since the bridge was completed, there have not been any issues, economic activities is booming, people can now carry their cocoa, bananas and other agro products thro and fro the market; that's no longer an issue. So the Governor has done a wonderful job there and we are proud of that. We thank him immensely for the intervention"  he said, hands akinbo.
Before the bridge was constructed

A motorist, David Otu was also full of praises for the Governor. He said that the contract for the bridge was actually awarded in 2012 but seemingly, because of the loss of the 76 oil wells to Akwa Ibom, the state government at the time could not fund the project again as it was abandoned.

He narrated that the previous administration tried to push the project but could only manage to build two pillars but one of the pillars fell off shortly after it was built and that was the end of the project till Ayade came on board.

According to him, "When Governor Ayade started the project, we thought it was for political reasons to use as a campaign bargain for his re-election but the speed at which the whole thing turned out was a shocker to us. This is the same project that was abandoned maybe because we lost oil well as such hadn't money to fund it. The funniest thing is that Ayade became Governor at a time the country went through one of her worst recessions ever but he was able to do this and many others. Honestly, for some of us, Ayade is a Messiah".

Also speaking, Pauline Obi, a business woman said that "before now, we could not come to Boje to buy 'Okponor', banana or platain. No vehicle could access Boje. During raining season, we were using boats and in the dry season, they can manage but you'll need to pay exorbitant rates to convince any driver to even come here. This discourages most of us; even me, I stopped doing business here. For me, this bridge is one of the best projects by the Ayade's administration because it impact on the lives of many people not just Boki is enormous".

And  to make movement even easier within the axis, the Governor has also commenced construction of the Kanya-Kataba-Boje-Onijafang road.

Sir Ayade is also active in Etung, a neighbouring local government to Boki. The ongoing construction of  the Abim River Bridge linking farming communities like Okuni, Okoroba and Ekang road to Ikom local government area, another large commercial nerve centre in  the state, is at advanced stage and set to be commissioned soon.
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