By Agba Jalingo
In a recent interview with NTA International which I watched, Governor Ayade said his government is not to fill potholes. He said his tenure was focused on turning Cross River state into a mega economy through industrialization.
In the governor’s words: ‘If the Cross River people need a governor that wants to do potholes and those small things, they should wait till that governor comes.’
The interesting thing is that this was a response to public outcry over the preponderance of craters on roads across the State including the State capital.
Apart from the fact that the response is typical of governor Ayade, it is also worrisome because the incessant refusal of our governor to pay attention to the small things, those potholes in his government, is what has messed his tenure.
His failure to make tangible progress with his signature projects is tied to his refusal to pay attention to the potholes that needed to be filled. Even little things like Environmental Impact Assessment EIA, became contentious. Rather more attention was given to the intention to grab land via 10km on both sides as set back for the road, which was resisted to a stand still.
Very little potholes that require only the attention of other competent professionals in the government were all muddled up by a man who is doing everything to prove he is the only one that knows how to run the State.
These potholes are in the management of our finances in the State. They are staring at us in the budgeting process in the State. The potholes permeate the effort to industrialize the State. They are obvious in the endless list of appointments. The potholes are plain white in the run up to the LG elections. These potholes have emerged on the new road in Obudu which is still under construction. In fact, they are everywhere and it is time for Your Excellency to start fixing potholes.
In 1186 days, Your Excellency will go and I won’t fail to continue to remind us. Those grandiose “wannado” projects may only end up standing as bizarre as the memories of Tinapa, Songhai, and their kindred after these remaining days are waited out, because there is no sustainable management plan.
I spent days in Calabar after my release from incarceration and moving around the capital is becoming increasingly difficult. Apart from the swirling potholes gaping at the vehicles, the palpable state of fear occasioned by gang violence and kidnapping in a place that is purportedly the most peaceful capital in the country, remains a sharp contrast.
I thought the Yuletide and the Carnival Calabar, both of which I celebrated behind the walls of Afokang prison, would as usual, avail the governor a great opportunity to hurriedly fill the potholes around Calabar and also change roofs along the carnival route but even that my expectation turned out an illusion.
Little potholes like background security checks on the names going around as appointees of government have been ignored and known gangsters are being called SPECIAL ASSISTANTS AND ADVISERS to Your Excellency.
Even that little pothole called self restraint is often neglected by this governor to occasions that once he opens his mouth, he forgets that he is a governor and just keeps talking until…
Now, some of these issues are not the actual potholes that the people complained about. They want their government to fill those potholes on Calabar roads. I thought that democracy is about what the people want. Not what you want to force on them. Give to the people what they want. What you want can wait until the people get what they want Sir.
And as you begin to fix the potholes on the roads, kindly pay attention to other potholes in your government for the good of our State. Take every department piece by piece and begin to pay attention to the potholes. Stop trying to impress us. Nobody will remember your sleepless nights after 1186 days from today. Give voters what they want.
And as we move forward Your Excellency, it is these potholes that I will continue to draw your attention to without equivocation. You have more than enough hands that can deal with the smooth patches. Your appointees are the highest in the history of the country. So you have a full basket.
I have chosen to continually draw your attention to the potholes so you can fill them. I refuse to wait for a governor that will come and fill the potholes like you suggested in that NTA interview. You are our governor now. Fix the potholes now. You did not meet those potholes. They met you in power. Fix them sir. When you are done with them, we can then hopefully get good roads to drive to those industries that you are building, we can then have new paths to accountability and openness in your government etc.
I am not oblivious that my continuous calling of your attention to these potholes will also continue to irk you, Your Excellency. I sympathise with you but I’m not about to change my mind. The six months course you sent me to has been taken with gratitude and if need be, I can return for a post graduate.
But the goal of calling your attention to the myriad of holes remains on course until you are able to take care of these potholes.
Citizen Agba Jalingo, recently freed Journalist on the orders of the court, writes from Lagos.