By Adekunle Adekoya
THERE are too many things to worry about in our country today, just as there are trailer loads of things to worry about in the larger world. One current global worry is COVID-19, which has wreaked havoc on the global economy and back home here, it might be an understatement to say the economy is in a tailspin.
The situation is gloomy and there seems no respite in sight, except for die-hard optimists, especially in government, who believe that the eldorado they’ve been working on since 2015 is already happening.
As a cash crunch of a nature not seen here before sets in, indications are that we’re in for a harder grind than hitherto. The state governments who are supposed to deliver dividends of good governance to the people are sinking deeper and deeper into financial quicksands which themselves trigger more crises.
On my mind is the situation in Cross River State where Professor Ben Ayade is governor, and another professor, Ivara Esu, his deputy. Organised labour in the state has asked members to down tools over non-resolution of stated grievances.
Earlier this month, organised labour in Cross River State issued a notice to the entire workforce including local and state government workers to stay at home from Tuesday till further notice and await further directives.
Labour warned civil servants at both LG and state level to stay at home as the strike was to drive home demands that include non-payment of gratuity of LG retirees from 2012, state civil servants from 2014, and non-implementation of promotion among others.
Despite interventions via an order of court, the workers have remained adamant, vowing to go all the way till their demands are met.
I really wonder how Cross River State got to this pass, just as I continue to marvel at how our country also got marooned on an island populated by demons of insecurity, joblessness, runaway inflation, and parlous infrastructure to mention a few?
Is it not the same Cross River where Donald Duke was governor from 1999-2007, with Lyel Imoke taking the baton from him? Is it not Cross River of the famed Tinapa project and the Calabar Carnival which helped put Nigeria on the global tourism map?
Shortly after assuming office in 2015, Ayade drew attention of the whole country when he announced the beginning of a 275 km super highway project and invited President Buhari to the flag-off.
The road is nowhere in sight, in addition to a Bakassi deep seaport estimated to cost USD 2billion which was also promised. He also inspired his people by announcing budgets with comic, bombastic headlines.
His 2016 budget was called budget of Deep Vision, and in 2017, he delivered a budget of Infinite Transposition, which was in 2018 followed by a budget of Kinetic Crystallisation. From there, he went totally bombastic as he called his 2019 appropriation bill a budget of Qabalistic Densification.
The 2020 Budget took the gold medal as it was christened Budget of Olimpotic Meristemasis. That budget probably became unworkable because the word, OLIMPOTIC, is not in the dictionary.
This year it is the Budget of Blush and Bliss. But it is looking like there will be no bliss this year with the workers strike. It also appears we may have to pass on the Calabar Carnival, a month-long event that makes civil servants in Cross River State celebrate the longest Yuletide ever.
Dreams die first. Ambitious budgeting bereft of commensurate fiscal rigour seems to have been Ayade’s Achilles’ heel. What is worrisome is that professorships are earned by rigour and superior argumentation, not bombastic showmanship.
It is looking like what happened to Nigeria in 2015 is what also happened to Cross River State. The ever-gullible, voting public (assuming without conceding that votes count) were, as usual, bamboozled into allowing soap-box magicians run public affairs. The more they looked, the less they saw.
There are less than 590 days left for this political term to time out. As electioneering gets into full gear, we must shine our eyes, as we say, so that we don’t continue to get more of same.