Celebrating a dogged leader @ 52 By Linus Obogo

Nearly five years ago, Professor Benedict Bengioushuye Ayade bestrode the political firmament, just as he was tossed upon us by the tidal waves of politics then.

At  that time, Cross Riverians were in urgent need of rescue. The state was crumbling under an asphyxiating debt overhang as well  as bearish pangs of full blown economic recession.

There was no better time Ayade would have sprung forth. He came in the nick of time.

For us, hope sprang eternal. Unyielding and unflappable, and in a messianic blaze of glory, Ayade came with a redemption song. He came poised to brush off the gloom, doom and despondency of the time. Swiftly,  he parried the jibes and jabs of sneerers and proclaimed a new assurance to Cross Riverians.

With the audacity of hope, and a  toughness unimaginable, Ayade would hoist himself face to face with what seemed then a daunting and an insurmountable reality which stared us as a people.

Like the story of his boyhood life, Ayade saw Cross River as a sinking ship that needed urgent tugging and rescuing.

He began to dream lofty dreams, dared mighty things with a view to etching glorious triumphs for the state and its people.

For a young man who literally clawed himself out of lack, his storied past would form the canvass on which his vision for the state would be shaped.

As a newly sworn in governor still trying to settle in,  it took no time for him to alter the dynamics, disproving that he was your every day Nigerian politician who merely stumbled into governance.

Long before his emergence as governor in 2015, Ayade had envisioned a new Cross River where the state would no longer be defined by its hitherto unsavoury peasantry status, but as an egalitarian society, one that would conduce to a socially stable, economically rewarding, business friendly paradise, so robust to galvanise both local and foreign entrepreneurs to seek wealth creating opportunities as well as a preferred destination for investment.

A leader who was very much in a hurry to deliver, a gust of energy and an air of urgency oozed, revealing a hyperactivity of restiveness and restlessness to wrought a change.

Almost five years down the line as governor, his vision, passion, pedigree and above all, his nimble and midas touch have radically altered the socioeconomic landscape of the state.

In spite of the financially anaemic condition that  defines the state, his audacity of hope, his tenacity of purpose and the clarity of his vision would not yield to the vagaries and tempest that attempted to take the wind out of his sail.

And no matter the monster or the behemoth of daunting realities which tried to stand in his way, the determination and resilience to punch his ticket to the economic rescue of Cross River was too emboldening to cause his heart to faint.

Thus, he set about punching above his weight and beyond the carrying capacity of the state,  and leaving in his trial, multibillion naira projects and industries that only a few states could boast of.

Spurred on by his ingenuity and financial wizardry, his administration began  the transformation of Cross  River into a massive industrial hub, birthing over 30 industries and still counting, with mega road projects going on across the state.

Among the industries already completed are the Rice seedlings and seeds multiplication factory in calabar, the Calabar Pharmaceutical Company (Calalpharm), the Calabar noodles factory, Calabar chicken processing factory with a capacity to process 6000 frozen chickens per hour, the feeds mill and organic fertilizer factories, all located in Calabar. The teachers Continuing Training College, established to retrain teachers in Nigeria and sub-Sahara Africa located in Biase.

Others include toothpicks factory in Yakurr local council area, Piles and Pylons factory in Akamkpa, the 30,000 tons cocoa processing factory in Ikom, sited in the Central Senatorial district as well as the automated Ogoja rice processing mill the first and biggest of its kind in Africa, the step tiles roofing sheets company in Yala, the British/Canadian International school on Obudu, among others.

As a humanist, while other states are running a lean government by haemorrhaging their work force, Ayade decided to expand his government in order to put food on the table of his subjects. He did not only commonize payment  of salaries from the first day of his swearing in, but his policy of ensuring that salaries are paid before the 20th of every month almost led to a mass protest among the state's civil servants.

As a politician who has long become famous with the sobriquet, 'Digital Governor' Ayade soon cut quite a unique appeal in the state. Among his varied subjects, the governor is an amalgam of many things to many people with an unparalleled message of hope.

For the very poor, he emblamatizes meekness and charity. For the aged, he is an epitome of compassion, for the youths, who have become fanatically charmed by his swashbuckling and zestful swagger, he  nestles them like mother hen to her chicks. For the students, they are not just wowed  by his intellect and bombast, in equal measure, they idolize him with an unremitting reverence.

Ayade as a politician has continued  to prove himself a statesman and offering leadership with an abiding faith that demonstrates that in freedom and enterprise comes a rebirth of a greater and prosperous Cross River.

As a responsive government, he inspires with his governance policy that shows clearly that good government is all about an admixture of the wisdom of the old and the circumstances of modern times.
In his practice of politics with ethics, Ayade has gone beyond the banality of partisanship to principles, beyond the mundane to the spiritual and the souls.

Guided by the political instinct of truth, conviction and patriotism, this professor of Environmental Microbiology continues to show the way that leadership is about moral purpose, and about conscience which is an open wound, healed only by truth.

As he notches up another year today, his thoughtful leadership, uncommon wisdom, great vision and sincerity, all of which have had a profound positive impact on every aspect of our state will serve as a compass to the attainment of our greatness as a state.

As a dutiful servant leader, this university teacher, who is out on a rescue mission deserves no less than our greatest respect for the lives he has touched and will continue to touch, the stability  has brought to our polity through politics of inclusion, the hope he has rekindled, the joy he has restored, the smiles he has etched on our lips, for the future he is putting in our hands, the invaluable asset he has been.

As he turns 52 today, he can hardly recall that it is his birthday. Not really because he forgot, but largely on the recognition that there's still work to be done and no time for inannities of a birthday, the frivolities of  leisure or the mundanity of celebration.

While he may choose not to honour this all important day of life today, like he did in the penultimate one, the least  Cross Riverians could offer this servant leader, the man who saw our tomorrow, a system purifier, proponent of intellectual money, industries crystallizer, an oracle, in the circumstance, is to, with a heart of solemnity, mention him in our private and collective supplications to the Almighty God to guide and protect him with His shield of protection so he can accomplish the sincere desires of his heart for Cross River.

Happy birthday Your Excellency!
Linus Obogo is Deputy Chief Press Secretary to Governor Ayade
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