As the nation passes through a new phase, and Southern Governments move to reposition the South, there is growing apprehension across the region, particularly in the Niger Delta, over the dance step of the Governor of Cross River State.
Professor Ben Ayade is missing in action. It is not clear what the reason is.
He has not been seen publicly of late in the midst of his colleagues from the South.
No one seems to know where Professor Ben Ayade is standing on matters of great regional or national interest.
He is yet to attend the meeting of Southern Governors and there is no indication from his body language that he ever would.
It is not his absence or his silence, most analysts say, that is becoming worrisome.
3D image of Cross River State
It is the fear, most especially among Cross Riverians, that Ayade’s line of action may indeed hurt the economic and political interests of Cross River State in the short and long term.
Stripped of its oil wealth by an agreement which ceded Bakassi Peninsula to the Cameroonians under the Obasanjo administration; denied of scarce funds earned through tourism by Covid 19; Cross River State is working a tight rope.
This may thus explain Ayade’s pre occupation with local issues.
Political and regional analysts insist Cross River State needs the understanding of its ‘BRACED Commission neighbours’ in the South South
It further needs to work closely with the Federal Government as well as some northern and southern states with which it shares common boundaries to survive.
Southern Governors and their governments are grappling with power sharing, open air grazing and economic issues such as VAT collection.
Somehow, Cross River State under the watch of Governor Ayade who recently crossed over from the PDP to the APC has remained aloof.
None of the resolutions arrived at by Southern governments have been implemented by the Ayade administration.
They include far reaching decisions taken in the interest of regional growth and regional security.
But there are indications that Cross Riverians, worried by the current state of affairs are taking Ayade to task.
Cross Riverians are disturbed that Ayade may be laying the foundation for what they see as the increasing isolation of their State.
Last Thursday, stakeholders who included state lawmakers as well as members of the PDP met in Calabar.
As part of their resolutions, they expressed serious displeasure over the refusal of Professor Ben Ayade, Governor of Cross River State, to join forces with Governors of Southern Nigeria who are addressing fiscal related issues that are likely to redefine Nigeria’s federalism.
A communiqué issued after their extra-ordinary meeting said the absence of the Cross River governor from the meetings of the Southern Governors Forum would lead to the alienation of the State from regional integration processes and interests, especially in matters relating to the collection of Value Added Tax.
Part of the communiqué read, “Cross River cannot be seen as standing in isolation in the current debate, championed mostly by southern governors, about who should collect VAT, the Southern Agenda to produce the next president come 2023 and the anti-open grazing law, culminating into the rising fear of insecurity of Cross Riverians.”
It noted that Cross River State was regrettably among the three remaining southern states whose Houses of Assembly are yet to consider or pass anti-open grazing bill into law.
14 other southern states have already passed the anti-open grazing bill into law while the Edo State Government approached its federal counterpart for support in developing ranches.
The group urged the House of Assembly to urgency join other southern states to enact the law in the interest of regional security. They also asked the governor to desist from selling government assets listed for privatisation.
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