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Governance, controversy over Ayade’s return to school

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Ayade (right) during the swearing-in of Ashang… recently

While Governor Ben Ayade’s decision to go back to school has continued to elicit mixed feelings and reactions, his appointment of one commissioner in the person of Mr. Tanko Ashang, as Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, has raised concerns about governance in Cross River State. Although the governor has appointed many special advisers since he was inaugurated for his second term in office, it was only two weeks ago that he forwarded a list containing three cabinet nominees, including Ashang to the State House of Assembly.

Most people in the state believe that Ashang’s appointment six months after Ayade assumed office for a second term is the governor’s gesture of recognition for Ashang’s decision to step down for him for the 2015 governorship race on the platform of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

Cross Riverians have continued to wonder how the governor would combine his newfound academic pursuit with the rigours of governance, even as some commentators have said that Ayade’s back-to-school initiative would present a huge distraction to fellow students and the entire state.

The Head of Department of Commercial and Industrial Law at the Faculty of Law, University of Calabar, Mr. Jake Otu Enya, who affirmed that Senator Ben Ayade is one of his students offering Consumer Protection Law, disclosed that the department has 12 to15 students in the class, including the deputy chief registrar of the High Court.

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Enya, a former Director-General, State Electrification Agency in former Governor Liyel Imoke’s administration, explained that Ayade was eager to pursue legal education at the post-graduate level.

His words: “He (Ayade) was offered admission because he met the requirement for the admission. He is one of my students. I lectured him on Senate Communication Law and Consumer Protection Law in the university. The governor had a minimum of four courses and he is doing well. I do not see anything wrong about his decision to return to the classroom.

“Actually for me, I see it as special privilege to definitely impact knowledge to the number one citizen of the state and more so, on his part, the humility in him and his determination to learn are what it takes to go to anywhere, including Harvard, Oxford universities should be encouraged. Governor Ayade should be encouraged and applauded for seeking his education in Nigeria. He came, sat down and took his lectures, participating fully. He is a lawyer and this should have absolute commitment in whatever he does.”

But on the implication of the governor’s decision to combine his academic pursuit with governance, the law lecturer said Ayade was adding value to education, stressing that there is no age limit as far as education is concerned, adding, “His decision could encourage some young people who may be lazy about schooling.”

Also a legal practitioner in the state, Mr. Etim Iyang, contended that legally nothing prevents the governor from returning to school, noting, however, that the issue of whether he would have time to pursue his studies may come in.

“But that is not the line of my reasoning,” he said. “I have not seen anything that prevents him. So, it’s his right and he can exercise it the way he wants. If there is any law that says that as a sitting governor, he cannot undertake his post-graduate studies, I would have said otherwise.”

On issue of regularity of class attendance and possible impact on other students, the legal practitioner said: “That is left for the school and the department, because I know very well that before you can graduate, a minimum attendance for each class must be met. And don’t forget; this same governor went to Law School when he was still a Senator. So, he has the capacity to combine.

“And because I know very well that it was when he was in the Senate that he went to Law School and he passed. I think as a student, he has to obey the rules of the school and if the rules and regulations give minimum attendance for a class, if he does not meet it, I don’t think they can graduate him.”

A former lecturer at the College of Education, Akamkpa, and Deputy Vice Chairman, (Cross River Central), All Progressives Congress (APC), Mr. Cletus Obun, wondered whether the topic is worthy of discussion, recalling how former Abia State governor, Orji Uzor Kalu, joined Abia State University as a student because he couldn’t study in Ahmadu Bello University and nobody raised alarm.

Obun added: “This man in question got his PhD at the University of Ibadan and it is never in doubt. So, if he is going back to school there is no crime there. If anything, it is a good example. The only thing is that he will not have time to concentrate on the job of governance.

“But I will still say that it is a good example for others to go back to school for more study. To me, it is a lesson for him at another level for the purpose of governance.”

The lecturer further maintained that there was nothing wrong with anybody going to school, saying: “I don’t see anything wrong with that. I don’t see why you will complain that a senator is going back to school, even when it is not a part-time job. Most senators, Senator Dino Melaye, for example, is a third year law student in Base University there in Abuja.

“Some governors in the act of governance may be distracted, most particularly when the state is excited, especially like my local government is on fire. Some of these people who are his appointees are involved in the killing, which is going on in Boki. I expect that he should stem the tide; this is not political time, so he can’t claim that it is politically motivated.

“Insecurity is the issue now. I think that security architecture can be set up using the federal agencies at his disposal; that should occupy his time now. But like I said, if, on account of that, he still has time to study, no problem. Are you saying that at night he doesn’t study? Even the act of reading a memo is study.

“He is not a civil servant; he is an academic like me. So, he has to learn how to administer. After governance or after being a governor, won’t he work again? Won’t he go back to the university where he belongs? After all, he is a professor; for whatever it is worth, in my own view, it is a good example for those who think that getting into politics is enough. But you should create time to study and improve yourself so that you can be useful and add value to society in whatever you are doing.”

However Cross River State chapter of APC has described the return to school of Governor Ayade as a sign of idleness, saying the governor has not achieved. Speaking to journalists on the development, APC state chairman, Mr. John Ochala, said any serious-minded governor would not leave governance for academic pursuit, recalling that no governor in the history of the country has ever done that.

Ochala regretted that the state had been handed over to an unserious person, who has continued to drag it backwards, maintaining that his party had always known that the governor was never a serious person in the first place.

He said: “We are talking about dilapidated roads all over the state. Look at our schools, our health infrastructure, our revenue generation capacity, and all other infrastructure. These are not enough to bother a governor. All that bothers him is to use public funds to go to school. Why didn’t he go to school when he was a Senator?

“He is doing this to divert peoples’ attention from his failed administration. If I may ask: of what socio-political or economic value to Cross Riverians is his going to school? The schools he attended before now, how has he impacted the knowledge on Cross Riverians other than economic underdevelopment?”

The state chapter of APC said it was not surprised at the action of Ayade as it has always known that he was not serious with governance, recalling that in the history of governance in the country, Ayade’s administration remains the poorest.

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He stated: “Look at the various white elephant projects he said he was carrying out without any tangible impact on the state. Let the governor tell us how much he has generated so far from all his so-called projects. Because he is actually idle doing nothing, he wants to go to school so that he will tell the students in that university that he is the governor of the state. Ayade likes showmanship.

“You will notice that he travels outside the state too often. A man who has challenges in his state, including communal clashes here and there, will not travel like that and that is to show you that he has been idle. Now he wants to be busy, not with governance, but driving siren to school to be cheered by students.”

The party chairman regretted that the governor had refused to conduct elections into local government councils, thereby rendering governance at the local level impotent. According to him, the state has been taken backwards since the governor came into office.

However, Special Adviser Media and Publicity to Ayade, Mr. Christian Ita, said there is no law prohibiting anybody from going to school even when the person is occupying a public office.

“The criticism is sheer idleness, because there is no law stopping anybody from going to school, including those occupying public office,” he offered.

“Mugabe had most of his degrees while in public office. Modern governance runs at institutional levels and the governor, not being a superman, has put into place institutions that will drive development.”

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