Ayade: The Absentee’s Manifesto
Professor Benedict Ayade is a man of many parts. What he says and how he says them has a way of re-echoing long after he ended his speech. Shortly after securing second term in office, Ayade said he would devolve the full powers of the office to his deputy.
He has a way of abbreviating everything to suit his fancy, including even his name. It is hard to know whether the ‘Ben’ is short for Benedict or Bengioushuye, as both names were bequeathed to him by his parents.
Ben Ayade was 47 years old, when he became governor of Cross River State. And perhaps because he was born in March, Ben likes moving. Not long ago, he moved from Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the platform he used to get elected into office for two consecutive times, and joined the All Progressives Congress (APC).
It was said of Ben that while in PDP, he was very much in love with APC. During his first term as governor, the people of Cross River often complained that their governor was seldom seen, as he finds comfort outside Calabar, a place most people are invited to Come And Love And Be At Rest.
Three years into his first term, Governor Ayade confounded all those who knew him as a microbiologist. Those who studied the verbal dance with which he delivered his state Appropriation Bills, were of the view that if not that he studied microbiology; Ben would have succeeded as thespian.
He may not be a court jester, but give it to him- Ben can entertain. It was, therefore, possible that the craving to entertain, rather than to be taken serious, explains the jocular manner with which he started captioning his state budget estimates.
When in 2018 Governor Ayade regaled Cross Riverians, nay Nigerians, with a ‘Budget of Kinetic Crystallisation’, he set tongues wagging, not only because of the tongue-twisting adjectives he employed, but also on account of the unrealistic nature of his fiscal computations. It was then that some people cast their mind back on the “Budget of Infinite Transposition,” which he delivered in 2017.
At the end of the day, it was discovered that Ben was actually thinking himself a magician, when he condensed the budget estimates. Reports had it that the governor had set aside the comprehensive budget already prepared for presentation, dipped his hand into his jacket pocket and brought out a piece of paper that turned out to be the N1.3trn “Budget of Kinetic Crystallisation.” Standing before the House of Assembly, and like a man in a hurry, he presented ‘Kinetic Crystallisation’ in less than 40 minutes.
He did not stop there. In 2019, Ben returned, this time to rattle the lawmakers and Cross River citizens with a ‘Budget of Quabalistic Densification.’ Unlike 2018 though, the governor decided to offer some explanations about the Quabalistic Densification of the 2019 budget estimates. According to him, “the budget was spiritual and would need fervent prayers to enable its successful implementation.”
Those who thought the governor’s pandering to bombast was a flash in the pan had another think coming in 2020. It was in that post-general election year that Governor Bengioushuye Ayade delivered the almighty ‘Budget of Olimpotic Meristemasis.’
We are not here to dissect Ben Ayade’s budgets or his ways with words. But, the Cross River State governor recently made huge news headlines, when he kept away from the Southern Governors’ Meeting for the second time.
No sooner had the meeting, which held in Marina, Lagos ended than tongues started wagging as to why the same Ben that posted a Budget of Bliss and Blush would vote with his feet from such a crucial meeting.
While some described his absence as a testimony of his non-aligned politics, others felt that the governor was haunted by his fear of obscurity, saying Ben does not want to be at any gathering where the agenda would not be his to set.
Was he a blackleg to the strong causes being pursued by his Southern counterparts? It would not be kind or apposite to describe Governor Ayade as the blackleg in the Southern governors’ quest to bring about balance and equity in the nation’s political structure.
Rather, it would be fair to acknowledge the fact that he possesses enormous grace and agility to vote with his feet, when issues that call for full expression and clarity crop up. Remember that his budgets, despite the tongue twisting words he deploys to present them, do not stand to scrutiny or breakdown.
However, a greater insight into the Ben Ayade persona was provided by one of his Commissioners, Asu Okang, who was sacked from the state cabinet for refusing to join the governor on the voyage to APC. Okang said: “I didn’t feel a sense of commitment again in the administration… There have been a lot of issues lately in the system, ranging from blackmail and all of that…
“Governor Ayade is a naturally good man. He is a man of depth. He is a man of character. He is a man who has a very big vision for Cross River State. He is a very passionate leader.
“But you see, the biggest problem is that no matter how good a king is, he is just but one person. So, when you surround yourself with wolves and demons as your kitchen cabinet, as people who have your ears, just somehow, they will contaminate your goodwill, they will begin to contaminate your good conscience.”
Could it then be said that Ayade avoided the Southern Governors’ Forum out of fear of blackmail or peevishness? If he kept away from the Asaba meeting, that is understandable, because at a meeting to ban open-grazing, Ayade must have done some introspection and found the nomadic side of his politics. As a free-ranger, he must not be seen as one obfuscating free-grazing!
But, at the Lagos meeting, where the issue of power shift to the South in 2023, protest against unfair sections of the PIB and electronic transfer of votes were canvassed, Ayade left everybody wondering what his blush was all about. Could his absence be connected to the dispossession of Cross River State of 38 oil wells or a certain personal anticipation of favourable mention in the ongoing calculations for the 2023 Presidency?
Conversely, knowing that Calabar once served as the Capital of the Southern Protectorate, was Ayade peeved by the Southern Governors’ resolve to designate Lagos as the Forum’s permanent secretariat?
Just like the late Chief M. K. O Abiola stated, nobody should embark on the project of shaving another man’s head in his absence. So, until Ayade stops voting with his feet and teams up with his brother governors, there is no art to understanding the contents of an absentee manifesto.