By Christian Ita
Governor Ben Ayade and greatness are Siamese twins. Only a surgeon with exceptional skills and expertise in delicate procedures can separate them. However, there is no need for surgery here. His story enriches our understanding of greatness.
Since national honours are truly reserved for exceptional citizens who have set themselves apart by the works of their own hands, it should not surprise anyone that Ben Ayade has been conferred with the Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON). His honour is well deserved. Some would even say that it was a tad too long to come. And they would not be speaking out of turn. In Ayade’s case, morning showed the day!
Ben Ayade bagged his PhD in his twenties and in his early thirties he was confirmed a professor. By any standards, these achievements are exceptional. Inherent in this blaze of glory is a simmering drive for excellence. With Ayade, there are no middle grounds. The graph is bound to go up.
Not surprising, Ayade brought his touch of excellence from the academia to political leadership. He sounded a note of warning when he emerged as the senator with the highest number of sponsored bills. Since the entire legislative business is literally dead without sponsored bills, it is right to say that Ayade had had a phenomenal time in the senate. But even more phenomenal are his legacies as the governor of Cross River State in the past seven and a half years.
Indeed, Ayade has left an indelible mark in the establishment of industries across the state. The Cross River Garment Factory which has over 3000 people in its payroll, the Cocoa Processing Plant in Ikom and the Ultra-modern Rice Mill in Ogoja are a confirmation of this observation. The vegetable oil processing plant in Bekwara, the cassava processing plant in Obubra, the Cross River Noodles Factory, the Calabar Pharmaceutical Factory, the pile and pylon factory in Awi, the Toothpick Factory, the 24,000 birds per day chicken processing plant widely known as Calachika and Africa’s first ever automated rice seeds and seedling factory are all irrefutable proof of Ayade’s stellar performance.
In terms of institution building, there is also the state-of-the-art Teachers Continuous Training College located in Biase, the British-Canadian University of Law and Medicine in Obudu and the West African Fabrication and Construction Academy, Calabar. All these are monuments to the Ayade years. Time and tide cannot erode them.
Ayade’s attention to infrastructure has been robust, visionary and balanced. In road and sea port construction, Ayade has demonstrated unrivalled ambition. He announced his ambition when he commenced the construction of the 147km Obudu-Mfon_Okuku-Yala-Bekwara Super-highway which links up five local government areas in the state. Today, construction of the road has been completed .
The dualization of Calabar-Odukpani Junction Road with an interchange at Odukpani Junction and the 29km Boki East-West Road further confirm Ayade’s derring-do in infrastructure development. But his most audacious legacies remain the Bakassi Deep Seaport, the Super-highway and the passenger and cargo airport in Obudu which on completion will multiply access to the famous Obudu Ranch Resort.
In fact, the floating of Cally Air, a state-owned airline with two Boeing 737 series 300 is a strong statement of intent in aviation by Governor Ayade.
Truth be told, Ben Ayade is entirely in his own world in the aspect of giving a human face to government. Eighteen years after the dislocation of Bakassi indigenes from their ancestral land, their dream of a proper resettlement has been finally fulfilled by Ayade. He did it in style. He built and peacefully allocated an ultra-modern housing estate to the aggrieved Bakassi indigenes who had borne the brunt of the cession of oil-rich Bakassi Peninsula to Cameroon for nearly two decades.
In much the same way, electricity supply may be a national crisis, but Ayade took the matter personally in Cross River State. That was why he built a 23 megawatts power plant along the Parliamentary Extension in Calabar and another gas-powered 26 megawatts power plant in Adiabo.
Indeed, Governor Benedict Bengioushuye Ayade has overcome every challenge he has chosen for himself. He conquered science when he won the Best Doctoral Dissertation Award in Environmental Microbiology and went further to invent a solar-powered sewage treatment plant. He proved himself a learned man when he bagged LLB from Delta State University. He showed his capacity to manage man and matter when he earned an MBA from Ambrose Alli University. He demonstrated his mastery of knowledge and scholarship when he became a professor. He stamped his authority in legislative democracy when he emerged the senator with the highest number of sponsored bills and finally, his two terms as governor of Cross River have birthed a boat-load of enduring legacies for posterity to ponder upon.
As would be expected, Ayade’s outstanding performance has earned him a treasure trove of awards, honours and recognitions through the years. They include the Vanguard Newspaper Governor of the Year and Tell Magazine Governor of the Year (2016), Champion Newspaper Governor of the Year (2019), Leadership Newspaper Governor of the Year and Blueprint Newspaper Governor of the Year on Agro-industrialization (2021).
It is on the back of all these glittering achievements, compelling personal history and demonstrable efforts to expanding the boundaries of the Nigerian possibilities, the Nigerian dream and the Nigerian Life that Governor Benedict Ayade has been found worthy of the coveted national medal of the Commander of the Order of the Niger.
Congratulations, Your Excellency.