The sad events of 23rd and 24th October 2020 have left any true citizen of cross river state in utter shock and despair.
What started as a commendable EndSARS protest that showed the finest spirit of Nigerian youth and what this country can be, was hijacked by agents of darkness and twisted into an unprecedented descent into anarchy.
On the 3rd of November 2020, we were reminded of the unexpected , longterm effects of this chaos, when we witnessed the Governor of Cross River State, pleading passionately with WAEC not to leave the state and relocate to Uyo, Akwa Ibom State. Their office, documents, cars and equipment were all vandalized and burnt to ashes and they have already made a decision to relocate, despite the governor’s offer of temporary accommodation and vehicles.
This means that thousands of Cross Riverians will now have to spend scarce resources and ply the dangerous Calabar-Uyo highway, just to handle routine matters concerning their education. The effect this will have on us as an already educationally disadvantaged state, is better left unsaid.
Many other vital institutions and infrastructures have been rendered prostrate and it is only now that the terrible and heartbreaking picture of the magnitude of devastation in Calabar, Akpabuyo and Bakassi is emerging.
Citizens have reacted in different ways to these events. While some have organised themselves to begin cleaning up, others have chosen the opportunity to settle scores with government and open old ethnic wounds among the populace. At this point in time , I believe all hands must be joined in support of the governor who remains captain of the ship of state, in the middle of very stormy waters. No other State in Nigeria has faced this level of attack and destruction and with such meagre resources at its disposal.
This is not a time for distraction, finger pointing and blaming anybody at the Federal, State or Local government levels as such can only dissipate energy that should have been channelled into rebuilding and restoring our shattered infrastructure and social fabric.
It is easy to sit in one’s chair, with the benefit of hind sight, and pontificate on what anybody should have done. But when events are unfolding at a fast pace and the fog of war descends, then we must accept the decisions made for what they are, learn from our mistakes and move on.
And that is why I am particularly pained by two emerging and very dangerous trends which seem to be gaining currency in social media and our collective psyche as Cross Riverians.
The first is a series of sensational headlines in the media, insinuating that the Obong of Calabar called for the overthrow of the democratically elected government of Cross River State and its replacement with an illegal interim Government.
In the course of an interactive fact finding session with the delegation led by a former governor Senator Liyel Imoke, the Obong as a father, expressed the frustrations of the people and admonished politicians in past and present administrations as being responsible for the action of the misguided youths. Perhaps, unsurprisingly, some of the headlines that followed were sensational and obviously a mischievous attempt to pitch the reverred Monarch against the Governor and cause even more chaos.
This insinuation contradicts the official reconciliatory statement issued by the Obong two days after the carnage and the subsequent statement should not be quoted out of context and become subject to manipulation and subterfuge by those whose interest is inimical to the overall interest of the State.
I call on our media practitioners to be more circumspect and constructive about the kind of headlines they put out in the social media echo chamber. This is not the time to add fuel to an already raging fire.
The second and more pernicious trend I see is the politics of vendetta and destruction that we are now witnessing for the first time in Cross River State.
From all indications, these attacks were not spontaneous. Rather, some persons received information a day before, that their properties were marked for destruction. For it to degenerate to the extent that perceived political opponents parent’s homes and businesses that employ our people, were deliberately targeted, looted and burnt speaks of extremely selfish desperation in the quest for political power, and it cannot be in the interest of the common man and youth who were manipulated and used.
What manner of hatred against the Governor or other politicians would make some Cross Riverians sponsor mercenaries to burn our heritage and infrastructure to ashes? What manner of jostling for political power would make sons of Cross River plot to make the state even more unsafe or ungovernable, just to score political points?
This is a monster that all men and women of good conscience, across party lines, must speak out against this or it shall consume us all.
I hereby join all others to call on our politicians to cease and desist from such self destructive and psychotic behaviour. Let every actor sheath his or her sword as you should not kick a man when he is down. Rather, let us all come together with constructive suggestions, to nurse our broken State back to life.
My heart is heavy, but even in despair, I see this as an opportunity for a new and improved Cross River State to rise from the ashes. Bitter lessons have been learned by all stakeholders. I commiserate with those innocent people who lost their lives, property and businesses during the mayhem and pray the Almighty comforts you and replaces your coffers a million fold.
I thank the security services who gallantly responded with restraint and professionalism under very provocative circumstances.I also thank all our leaders who put themselves in harm’s way by confronting the marauders and protecting some facilities as well as those who came out to speak to the youth and other stakeholders during and immediately after the crises.
And finally I wish the Governor, his Excellency Senator Ben Ayade the very best, as the buck stops on his table. We voted, but God Almighty put him in that position, at this very difficult and trying time, and it is for a purpose. Let us all join hands to support and encourage this administration, renew our spirits and make up our minds to rise from the ashes and face a new, safe and prosperous Cross River State.
May God Bless us all and may we never live to see such again.
Arc Bassey E Ndem
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