Shortly after he was sworn in on Wednesday, May 29, 2019, for a second term in office, Cross River State governor, Ben Ayade, declared that, “I will no longer be the governor, my deputy will be acting governor while I will become the project manager of Cross River State…”
Ayade’s declaration, strange as it sounds, appears to be his own way of underlining his desire to complete a litany of projects, (conceived and still being conceived) dotting the length and breadth of the state. The expression of that desire was further deepened when he also stated at the occasion that, “I will make sure that my entire signature projects and others will be completed, so that Cross River becomes fully industrialised as every local government will have at least one industry.”
While we congratulate him on his swearing in, we are duty bound to draw the governor’s attention to a few things that appear to escape his attention.
It is not in doubt that semantics have serially been employed to wall paper the deliberate acts and policy direction of his government in the first four years. But driven too far, several people, within and outside the state, have perceived this (seeming) religious employment of semantics as serial comedy. Where would anyone situate the “kinetic crystallization” or “qabalistic densification” of two Cross River State budget estimates?
Painfully, the assessment and workability of these budget estimates have been at variance with the vain energy and power which christens them.
On the desire of his administration to build an industry in each of the local government areas in Cross River, we respectfully differ and believe too that contemporary economic reasoning does not birth this kind of entreprise.
Indeed, one of the clearest economic strategies adopted by successful Western and Asian nations to reduce unemployment, has been government encouragement of entrepreneurship and innovation. The pursuit by any government, like Cross River’s, to go into the direct establishment and government management of industries, will side step Ayade’s genuine desire to stimulate economic and job growth.
Again, most of what he desires to do with the setting up of these industries appear not to have been thoroughly set out, beyond the fickle generated buzz in the media. What clear organizational set up is in place, for instance, to drive sustained growth at the Toothpick Factory in Ekori, Yakurr LGA? If there is a management team in place for this factory, was selection not based on political persuasions while capacity considerations were left behind? Is there a market, deliberately linked to receiving the products of this factory? There are several other questions that should ideally give our governor answers that will help him succeed, if he wants to.
“The Job Generation Process” an incisive report, widely published in 1979, emphasised that the application of entrepreneurship and innovation has become a common theme in government policy. A key finding from this work was that job creation in the United States, was clearly not coming from large companies, but small independently owned businesses. It recommended that government policy should target indirect rather than direct strategies with a greater focus on the role of small firms. But in CRS, small independently owned businesses are shutting down with relative ease because our direct and indirect strategies provide the alluvial plains for the application of our own brand of self serving multiple taxation. Even where the governor has announced tax exemptions, it doesn’t appear that this policy of his administration has been properly enabled by law. There is also a deliberate, planned and sustained effort by friends and agents of government, to make this pronouncement impossible to fly, so that a few committed individuals can build, sustain and profitably operate small businesses.
Importantly, Governor Ben Ayade in his first four years, did little to enhance the operation of state owned educational institutions like CRUTECH and the College of Education, as entrepreneurial ecosystems, stimulating economic growth and job creation. It is not in doubt that today, science and technological advances have been formatted around breakthrough research carried out in institutions like the ones mentioned above. Deliberately, venture financiers hover around these kind of institutions, identifying and financing innovations that have in turn advanced science and technology. With time, these institutions then become centres of high-tech entrepreneurial activity, in the mould of California’s Silicon Valley. This is the path that gave the world technology entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs of Apple, Larry Page and Sergey Brin of Google, Bill Gates of Microsoft, Jeff Bezos of Amazon, among others.
Our governor cannot continue to look the other way while these institutions become poorly funded and ill motivated. He and his team must think up and implement carefully planned strategic approaches that will stimulate and re-engineer creative thinking that can be appropriately marketed; we are not asking for too much.
Finally, Governor Ben Ayade, stands commended for his rice vision and we pray that the attendant claps will turn into an ovation. Equally, let it be said too that he has a date with history; one that is two-sided. He must decide if his administrative policies can sustain his name and vision, long after he has gone or if they will leave the state crawling on all fours. If the latter becomes the case, our remembrance of him will be hateful.
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