By Iwara U. Iwara
Josef Bassey is the bishop and founder of God’s Heritage Centre, the urbane Pentecostal church based in Calabar, Cross River State. His colourful Christian religious messages, flavoured pastoring of the flock and of course, his power dressing, make his church a place of choice for several restless God seeking young and not too young people in search of answers to the unanswerable intricacies of the life. Inarguably, Bassey’s voice is revered among his flock as well as among an invisible but obviously present legion of people spread across Cross River State and beyond.
On Friday, June 22, 2018, he did what was extraordinary by Cross River standards; declared state governor, Ben Ayade, unfit to run for a second term as governor. That declaration was not done in the closet, it was done before a select audience of journalists who have in turn gone ahead to clearly report that event. But what did Bassey say?
First, he came clear that, “We are stakeholders in the Cross River State project, and rightly so too … In a short while from now, a few months from now or thereabout, all over this nation, there is going to be elections, and possibly power shift and so on and so forth. And wherever you go, town hall meetings are going on; people are discussing the way forward, and looking at what is going on in their land, in their states. But, very curiously, what we see in Cross River State is shocking. None of that is going on. People are not talking. Those who are crying are crying, those who are complaining are complaining, those who are jubilating are jubilating. They are all doing it in some clusters under the table, and all of that. But, for me and for us, as a people, it is very worrisome. Why is that possibly so?
“What is it that in a state that was hitherto known for petitions, pull him down, and all of that, but suddenly they can’t even talk?/It directly points to one or two things. Number one; there is presence of poverty like never before. When a man is totally poor, all he thinks is about his survival, and at a point where you are thinking of survival, you can’t fight, you can’t do anything. It is like you grab anything you can hold onto. That is number one.”
“Number two; it is the fear of intimidation, the fear of being killed, and the fear of different things happening or being bullied. There is such fear. But, if everybody is being cowed, the Church of Jesus Christ cannot be cowed because God holds his church accountable at every point in time for what is going on. And we think that whatever we have to talk about, whatever the issues may be, some of which, I think maybe, it could be that the government and the people in power do not even know, or are not aware of. Then we should be able to speak truth to power, make recommendations where necessary, and also discuss areas where there are issues because Cross River State, for us, needs to be rescued as a matter of urgency from sinking.”
“We have been inundated with pressure of public complains. It is at different levels … people are crying, people are agonizing, all manner of things.” It is difficult to fault this first line charge as it succinctly paints the true Cross River State situation.”
Believably, the pastor fortified his first line charge with this; “…if you want to, go to churches. The average pastor from Obanliku to Bakassi, when you go to church for instance, what you find is that people come and queue for counseling, but actually nobody is coming for counseling. By the time they come in, it is my child, school fee, rent, this, that. These are no exceptional or isolated issues because when a state fails, the whole storage system of the church becomes the only shock absorber left. So, all of that bears on the church and that is what is going on. So, we need to speak truth to power. And we owe God that as a sacred duty, as a sacred responsibility, and also we owe our generation, we owe the state, and we owe even the government that; the government that we have prayed for, the government that we have stood by, the government that we are committed to because our commitment to the government and to the good of the people is irrevocable.”
“Are you saying that Ayade’s administration has failed in all aspect?”, the question came and he responded, “I am at a loss as to where to start because, precisely about three years ago, we saw a new governor being inaugurated that made promises. He discussed eloquently and passionately about the need to transform the state, about his signature projects, and how he was going to give his eye, I can’t remember what part of the body, whether his leg or his finger that he will give to see those things happen. But, I know that there is a part of his body and organ that he committed himself…. So, at different times, it has been right eyes, right leg. It is okay. But, you know that was very passionate. You could go back home and feel this government needs every encouragement, this government we should pray for, this government we should stand for, and see how these things would work going by the things said. But, first year he made excuses, and assume that he is trying to settle in and he has done a few things and all of that; the second year the same thing. As fathers, you don’t rush to talk, you don’t rush to say things, you watch, you pray, you hope, and believe that, if that is a mistake, that somebody will make it right. Let’s even assume that somebody played and played away two years, that this person is likely to seek reelection, he should do his best in the next two years to get things right.”
“But, unfortunately, that has not been so because, as I speak with you, I have stopped and have thought, what are the key areas where you can say this is where progress, meaningful progress has been achieved and actualised? Sincerely, and in all sincerity, I really cannot find any. And I have been around here for a long time by the grace of God, from the days of the military administration whether you are going to talk about Ibim Princewill, Kefas, whoever, the Agboneni to the days of Clement Ebri , the Donald Dukes, all of that . You can put all of them together. But, in my opinion, and our opinion, we have never had it this bad. It has never been this bad for a state, and it couldn’t be worse than this, so I think. So, something needs to be done.”
“What area is there to commend; maybe of course the area of appointments. That there have been a lot of people being appointed into positions, and these appointments also, well, for those of us who understand public service, and understand procedure, how things are done are also worried because, how are these things done? Never in the history of this state has the state civil service been so bastardised. I understand what the civil service is about. When you now have a situation where a person is appointed a Director General and you go to his office and the person doesn’t have a chair, he doesn’t know where his office is, there is a problem.”
“We should constantly work at developing stronger institutions than stronger individuals. But, when we see our institutions being destroyed, the legacy, the heritage of the civil service for instance, being destroyed before our very eyes, something is wrong. When you tell me there is a government running where there are no memos, and that memos are by WhatsApp, then something is wrong.”
When there is a government running, and you say exco meetings should not hold, and when exco meetings hold, instead of exco being a brainstorming session for cross fertilisation of ideas, it becomes a forum where you are to sing the praise of, you know, maybe a particular player who becomes the know-it- all, and nobody can argue or say anything to the contrary, then we are in danger, we are in trouble, we are in trouble, nobody is safe. When you tell us that we are running a system today where cult activities are openly celebrated, and cultists are openly celebrated, and cultism has been elevated to a status where it is enjoying state applause, then there is a problem. So, I am asking you now, where to start from, because I am looking for where to say these are the areas that something has been done.”
Not done, Bassey continued, “let’s look at the education. A few years back, this state by WAEC was rated third. Just three years; do you know where we are? 26. What happened under this space of time? How did we get there? Not only that. We have students who were on state scholarships in foreign countries, in Russia, in America and all over, and they were sponsored by government, sent there by government. They were on scholarship. And then a government comes into power; some of them in their fourth year. A government comes into power and suddenly stops it. So, you find that the child becomes stranded. He has done four years in school, three years in school abroad, and he is repatriated, and all of that and it doesn’t appear that government understands the implication of these things. There is no prioritisation.”
“Okay, somebody wakes up and says we are doing Budget of Kinetic Crystallization. That, put in simple terms, means it will crystallize as we go. It will crystallize; it will become apparent as we go. Which means that, just don’t worry, as you see it, you take it. I don’t understand. So, gentlemen of the press, the state of our state right now couldn’t be worse. And there is need for an urgent intervention across board…”
Apparently, this is Bassey’s bomb; “Does Ayade deserve a second term in office?”
“Absolutely no, absolutely no; and unequivocally no!”
Is he therefore calling on Cross Riverians to produce a credible alternative to Ayade in 2019?
“Yes. We are calling on people to rise. We are calling on other political parties, we are calling on, not just the parties now, we are calling on even the citizens themselves. You must first begin to talk about what goes on in your party, in your state. You must. And even if you were under some form of spell, that spell is broken now.”
Piqued by all what Josef Bassey has said, Ayade’s Chief Press Secretary, Christian Ita, fired straight at the person and not the issues raised. “Pay attention to your failed church, family” the headline of the circulated item from Ita began.
“We are not going to descend to his level by joining issues with him. However, I will advice him to please spend his time and energy on trying to rebuild his family and church, which have crumbled owing to lack of discipline and personal indescrestions,” Ita said.
Suddenly, for speaking up against government, we are now made to understand that, “it is probable that the beleaguered pastor was trying to distract himself from the many troubles that have enveloped his family and church.” But isn’t it boring that the first and second paragraphs of Ita’s statement are a boring repetition?
Hmmm, “Cross Riverians are extremely happy with the governor. And why will they not be when in just three years, he has built 12 industries and still counting.”?????
Recall that Bassey’s one point was that, “a few years back, this state by WAEC was rated third. Just three years; do you know where we are now? 26.” Ita’s response; “from number 27 in National Examination Council (NECO), Cross River is now second.” Ala WAEC, Viva NECO, a comparism of unequals.
While the pastor drew our attention to a chronology of things wrong with the Ayade administration of the state, can Ita also chronologically point us to “…the many troubles that have enveloped his (Bassey’s) family and church”, so that we can be properly guided as we file in reports? Relying on this somewhat weak sophistry counts as nought.
We must never command that those we govern should never have a say, if we do that, we deny them the right to free speech and the activation and application of attendant choice mechanisms on a popular. If the people we govern think something is not right and say so, we who govern should be humble enough to listen and make amends, for our good and the good of all. I think Josef Bassey is right.
© 2018, Admin. All rights reserved.