Fellow Cross Riverians, friends and well-wishers, it is a great privilege to be here with you today, 8 years after I was given the mantle of leadership of our dear state.
When I assumed office, I set out to re-engineer governance in our state to bring tangible economic development to the rural areas, improve healthcare, create jobs and transform the socio-economic landscape.
I clearly articulated a vision for the future of Cross River State and its people as I knew that the challenges of our people were long in the making and would require long-term solutions. This vision was founded on fundamental principles. One of the existential beliefs held by my administration was that Government exists primarily to serve the need of those who need government the most. Throughout the tenure of our administration, we adhered to this principle. The guiding principle of this administration was to serve. We believed in improving our education system, upgrading our healthcare facilities, providing infrastructure such as roads, water, and electricity.
Realizing the role the Civil Service plays in the delivery of service, we launched a Public Service Reform Plan. The Reform Plan set out a range of practical actions, aimed at creating a Service that is fit even for the future. We believed that these things are “key” to economic and social transformation. In addition, my administration sought to strategically position Cross River State to become a self-sufficient, dynamic and competitive non-oil dependent State for the 21st century. In other words, our objective was to achieve economic growth which was independent of any single natural resource but would rather develop from a range of economic activities with real and meaningful commercial prospects for our people.
It was therefore essential that our efforts should create a business and leisure environment which would be attractive to investors and tourists alike, particularly since our beloved state is surrounded by neighbours with significantly higher allocation of revenues from the Centre. In this respect, we certainly explored all possibilities and opportunities and met with great success. Armed with this conviction, my administration promptly defined our ideals and assiduously worked in re-engineering the systems and processes of government which attracted domestic and international investors who saw us as reliable partners. This has already yielded immense benefits, evidenced by the entry into the state of global commercial interests from the likes of General Electric and Wilmar Corporation. In line with our commitment to reforming the public service, we implemented extensive policy initiatives including open, transparent and accountable governance. This meant adherence to due process and the rule of law which ultimately translated to more effective and productive governance as encapsulated in our seven (7) point Agenda. We undertook crucial and important programs directed at transforming our urban and rural communities, bringing quality and affordable education and health care as well as other social amenities to our populace. The significant achievements recorded during this tenure have become a platform that will empower our government and its people to be active agents of change and transformation as we continuously march towards economic and social development.
In 2012, the renewal of our mandate was a resounding endorsement of our collaborative efforts as being active agents of change and development. The good people of Cross River stood steadfast with our cause. Our mandate was renewed by a popularity of purpose. It caused us to work even harder in our second term. Cross Riverians right across the state were becoming beneficiaries of the development agenda of the administration in the State that would ensure not only better living standards but enhanced economic prospects. It became clear that the Cross River State which we dreamt of is slowly becoming a reality.
It may be tempting to put a rosy gloss on our achievements. They were however, not without massive challenges. For example, we were confronted with a significant reduction in the state’s statutory allocation due to the loss of Bakassi and our 76 oil wells. We also experienced an influx of people into the state and under-estimated levels of resources needed to support them.
Nonetheless, we remained steadfast in the implementation of our socio-economic plan. We upheld our commitment to the good people of Cross River State as represented in the social contract we entered into when I took oath of office as Governor. In all these times, our administration ensured that the trust bestowed on us was not misplaced. Many things make me proud to be a Cross Riverian, – Yes it’s our lush vegetation, it’s our history, it’s our culture, our hospitable and peace loving people – but there is something else! I am extremely proud that together we have built a successful multi-cultural society that can be celebrated. Indeed the potentials of our tourism sector are enormous. We expanded the scope and scale of the Calabar Festival, and exploited its economic benefits. There are now over half a million more regular visitors to the Calabar festival. In fact, since 2007, we have witnessed a year-on-year increase in the number of visitors to the festival. This has translated to significant increase in internally generated revenue in that sector and the creation of thousands of direct and indirect employment opportunities thus contributing to the growth of our economy. With the emergence of the Summit Hills development, encompassing the Calabar International Convention Centre in which today we are hosting this inauguration, a new Golf Course and Residential Areas as well as a world class Specialist Hospital, we are already pushing our tourism industry to unassailable heights. We now stand head and shoulder above any other tourism offering in this part of West Africa.
My administration rejuvenated the agricultural sector in our state with the injection of well over $500m of international investments and financial support to farmers. Since 2007, we have created over 20,000 jobs while introducing new technologies and improving on the agricultural value chain.
We had a long term plan for Education. If we are to embrace the future, we must first embrace the child. As we sought to execute the well-articulated, holistic credo for our development, as encapsulated in the Economic Blue Print, we invested immensely in our people. We built over 78 new primary and secondary schools, which included chemistry and biology laboratories as well as computer centres and well stock libraries. We also renovated and equipped hundreds of existing educational facilities across the State. Enrolment rose significantly in both primary and secondary school as result of these improvements. Likewise, our overall performance in external examinations has improved to a point where we are now rated amongst the top states in the Federation. In our mandate, we promised to educate our youths who would be entreprenual, forward minded and innovative. We kept our promise by instituting information communication technology in our education sector. With the strategic investment made by my administration in our Colleges of Education and the introduction of world-class vocational and technical education at the Institute of Technology and Management in Ugep, we are positioning our youths to attain the skills and productive capacity that would see Cross River State emerge as an industrial hub and the premier service-driven economy in Nigeria.
This administration has also taken meaningful steps to advance healthcare delivery to ensure that our people live longer, healthier lives. Our new healthcare policies are supported by significant investments such as the establishment of 2 additional general hospitals, 66 new primary healthcare centres and 1,110 functional health posts in all 196 political wards. All Cross Riverians, irrespective of locality, now have access to affordable qualitative healthcare services. In addition, hundreds of thousands of mothers have accessed maternal services due to our free Medicare to pregnant women and children under the age 5 years through the ‘Project Hope’ Initiative of this administration. Similarly over 30,000 eye surgeries have been performed in the state. To add to this success, there has been a complete eradication of guinea worm and a 20% drop in the prevalence rate of HIV. We have achieved significantly lower maternal and infant mortality rates and life expectancy has improved.
(23) To consolidate these achievements the administration embarked on the establishment of a 105 bed Specialist Hospital for referrals and tertiary care. The project when completed will provide improve access to qualitative healthcare not only to the people of the state but also to the neigbouring state. This will definitely reduce the number of medical evacuations to overseas as well as provide access to training for medical personnel in the State.
(24) In fact, there is government presence in all the nooks and crannies of the state, with citing of at least one government project in every community. Connecting all these amenities is a vast network of roads. We have tarred hundreds of roads from Calabar South to Obudu and constructed the first inter-change bridge in the state. We have over 1000 kilometres of asphalted roads linking most communities of the state, including boundary communities like Danare and Ukelle thereby providing improved access to over 1.5m Cross Riverians. We installed about 200km of street lights in Calabar improving the aesthetics and safety of the city.
Today, over 70% of states population have access to potable water. This administration has also electrified close to 200 communities thereby providing access to a significant population of Cross Riverians. We have also ensured that Cross Riverians get real and tangible value for their land assets through the establishment of the Cross River Geographic Information System. This system improves the efficiency of the land procurement process and certifies the authenticity of landed properties across the state, giving them real market value.
One of the goals of this administration was to create entrepreneurial opportunities. We achieved this goal! We provided an environment for entrepreneurs to thrive and grow their businesses while contributing meaningfully to the local economy. We have created an environment for our youths to express themselves and develop their potentials with the Medium and Small Scale Entrepreneurial Development Agency (MEDA) and the EDC Programmes.
My administration’s comprehensive sports development programme has seen Cross River State winning the National Schools Sports Championships for the past 4 years – consecutively. Besides this, my administration renovated the Calabar Sports Stadium, which has attracted several international and national events. In an attempt to bring qualitative competitive sports to other parts of the state, we have built a new stadium in Ikom, and the one in Ogoja is under construction.
Gender mainstreaming, a core initiative introduced in the past 8 years, is so ingrained into our processes of governance that it is now part of our political and administrative DNA. As a result of this, women are now occupying unprecedented elected and appointive offices in government – both at the local and state government levels. In this regard, the state is a trail blazer as we have nearly met the 35% affirmative action in the country. Today, our youths are increasingly gainfully employed, the scourge of cultism has abated and our schools are proper establishments of learning. Moreover we secured over 10,000 computers for teachers and put in place robust training programmes for teachers to make them better equipped to meet the challenges of their vocation. Furthermore, we have positively intervened in the lives of the most vulnerable in our society and through our various social safety net programmes, giving them the social security they never had and never thought they would get. Thus bridging the gap and ensuring inclusivity.
My speech would be incomplete without specifically mentioning the Civil Service, which is the engine of government. We accorded training and re-training of Civil Servants priority attention. We tried to close the skills gap by working closely with local and international partners to build capacities across the Service. We improved our recruitment process and released accumulated back logs of promotions. Of course, as a way of encouraging productivity in the Service, we instituted an annual merit driven Award and embarked on an owner-occupier House Scheme for the civil servants occupying government houses. We also developed housing estates for Civil Servants as well as executed a Vehicle Ownership Scheme to enable workers acquire cars for ease of transportation. To bridge the digital divide and improve efficiency, we establish the Computer Acquisition Scheme and laptops were provided to all grade levels 07 and above employees. We increase wages and improve condition of service for our civil servants and inspite of the recent challenges that we face meeting the wage bill, I am pleased to have honoured my commitments I made to them at the May Day Celebration to remove the backlog by paying two (2) months salaries before my exit from office today.
All these achievements could be considered laudable and may have attracted many plaudits, but what mattered to my administration was the real impact it was having on the people of Cross River State and the complimentary social transformation which was taking place concurrently. Fellow Cross Riverians, this is the essence of Government. In my administration, the dream of a new Cross River became a palpable reality and we have all worked together to achieve this. In no respect is this truer than in the development of our democracy where our people are politically active at every ward in every local government area of the state. Apathy and disenfranchisement in representative democracy are a thing of the past.
Today, Cross River State stands as the benchmark for democratic and electoral integrity in the country. This is a clear validation of the performance of our administration and the democratic process in general. We as a people worked hard and made immense sacrifices to nurture our democracy into a vibrant and harmonic political hegemony. Here, the commendation is actually for you, the good people of our great state! I take great pride in the realisation of my dream of a united Cross River State through the privilege of the leadership role I played in the last 16 years. I have done my best to ensure equal opportunity for all, starting with the emergence of a State Governor from the Southern Senatorial District in 1999, followed by my humble self as Governor from the Central Senatorial District in 2007. And today, we will witness the swearing in of a Governor from the Northern Senatorial District, a feat which many people thought was impossible.
My fellow Cross Riverians, “to everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven” – Ecclesiastes 3:1. As an administration, our time has been well spent. We have set a high bar. We are proud of our efforts. However, as the expiration of this tenure marks the dawn of the new one, we can march forward rest assured that our collaborative efforts will reap rewards for the generations to come. History is a ribbon, always unfurling. When history chronicles this crucial juncture, we believe it will establish our efforts as profound and vindicate our sacrifices as necessary. The partnership between the people and this government will be remembered in posterity as one that forged the new Cross River State. Let us all look forward to this next dispensation filled with hope and optimism that the State will reach its true potential irrespective of the challenges we currently face as a result of dwindling resource inflows from the Federal Government.
I am confident that an administration led by two of the state’s brightest, Senator Professor Ben Ayade and Professor Ivara Ejemot Esu shall consolidate the socio-economic transformation which my administration started. They are the right pair of hands to steer the ship of the state out of troubled times. However, to succeed, they must have your support and cooperation. I crave your indulgence to give them the support you gave to me as well as patience and understanding as they undoubtedly will take Cross River State to new height. Let us all continue to build a strong and virile State. Our advancement as a state in spite of our meagre resources is due to the strength of our unity. We must refrain from the unscrupulous mutterings of ethnic discord. The ‘pull-him-down syndrome’ must stop. It is unhealthy to allow differences, no matter what they are, to jeopardise our unity and consequently our strength. We are ONE people and we must remain ONE Cross River State!.
There aren’t sufficient superlatives to express my deep and heartfelt appreciation for this opportunity and privilege to serve our people. Not only for my time as Governor but also for my effort at representing the State’s best interest firstly as a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and secondly as a Member of the Federal Executive Council. This experience and exposure has been incredibly resourceful as I sought to midwife and harness the democratic and political maturity, unity and stability that we now experience in our beloved state.
Ladies and Gentlemen, 8 years after being sworn in as Governor of our beloved state, God has remained faithful. It has indeed been 8 years of His grace and glory in spite of numerous twists and turns on the road. Therefore, it is paramount for me to give thanks and honour to Almighty God for His grace and favour bestowed on my wife, my family and I, as well as all those who worked for the growth and development of Cross River State during my tenure. At this juncture, I wish to express my most sincere gratitude to you, the good people of our great state, for giving me the opportunity and privilege to serve you. To this task, I have remained resolute, determined and committed as I gave my all to ensure that every Cross Riverian was served justly, fairly and equitably by my administration.
It is also important that I publicly acknowledge and appreciate the efforts of the members of my team and officers in my administration for their immense sacrifice and indefatigable desire to contribute to the success of our state. Let me specifically acknowledge my brother, Efiok Cobham. I could not have had a better Deputy. I also wish to thank the Cross River State Legislature and the State Judiciary for their unwavering support throughout the duration of our tenure. As partners in our development, the Cross River State House of Assembly and its leadership exhibited immense character and political maturity.
I thank my family and friends for their support, I also acknowledge the support of the leadership and members of the Peoples’ Democratic Party. As we anticipate with great enthusiasm, the start of the next dispensation led by the dynamic, youthful and energetic Senator Prof Ben Ayade, I implore us all to work together to create a Cross River State for our children. May they look back and say, we preserved the future for them.
I leave office fulfilled in the satisfaction that I have been unrelenting in my determination to succeed in my service to the people of my dear state. I did not approach my work with faltering steps nor a flinching spirit. All the projects inherited by my administration were completed during my tenure and we were still able to carry out our socio-economic agenda. I stand here today, firm in my conviction that from the mountain range of Obudu right down to the creeks of Calabar South, every Cross Riverian has felt the impact of my administration. We pray that those footprints remain indelible in the sands of time. This work continues. The story goes on. The journey to consolidate today and build the future has begun in earnest. With the hope of the strong foundations laid during my tenure, our best years are ahead of us. The future is bright. The Cross River State of our dreams is within our reach. Let us continue to work together and build a Cross River State we would be proud of.
Thank you and God bless you all.
Long live Cross River State!
Long live the Federal Republic of Nigeria!
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