OPINION | Ben Ayade’s Wishes and Horses

*Gov. Ben Ayade... tears

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By Hon. Josef Omorotionmwan


We heartily congratulate the Nigerian Governors’ Forum, NGF. Even where it has taken four long decades of intensive search, the NGF today has a perfect successor for the Late Sam Mbakwe  –  the weeping Governor of his era. The penultimate week, the Executive Governor of Cross River State, Senator Benedict Ayade, broke down at the middle of an illegal action – the inauguration of his Anti-Tax Agency; and wept profusely muttering rather glibly, “I will rather task my brain than tax my people”.

Details of why the man wept will emerge as we proceed but, for now, let us meet and greet this weeping Governor. There is something that can never be taken away from Senator Benedict Ayade – he is super intelligent. He parades some of the most intimidating credentials in this part of the world. At an early age when his contemporaries were still pinning their half GCE, half NECO and half-WAEC together, he had proceeded to Nigeria’s Premier University, the University of Ibadan, without break, to clinch the BSc (Honours) and the MSc in Microbiology as well as the PhD in Environmental Microbiology. At the PhD level, he also collected the Award for the best Doctoral Dissertation.

He then proceeded to Ambrose Alli University Ekpoma, where he obtained a degree of Master of Business Administration, MBA.

Soon after that, he proceeded to Delta State University, Abraka, where he bagged the LLB degree. He then took up a job as a lecturer in Delta State University, Abraka. Somewhere along the line, he had a stint in the public service of Cross River State. These were all foreshadowing his entry into politics.

Ayade was born on March 2, 1968. At the age of 43 years, in 2011, he made his debut into the Nigerian politics by successfully climbing a tree from the top. He won election into the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. He was one of the most vibrant Senators of the Seventh Senate.

Between now and May 2023, Ayade may still have to weep some more. All those who fail to discover their purpose on earth must weep. In an orderly society, the Ayades would discover that they are best suited for legislative positions where they would be blowing hot air on their fellow legislators or in the academia where they would be pontificating endlessly.

At one time or another, we all made the same mistakes – while on campus, we thought Carl Marx was the Governor of the world but as soon as we left the campus, it became clear that Carl Marx does not exist in the real world. Even at that, the communist manifesto, “From each according to his ability, and to each according to his needs” forms the basis of modern day progressive taxation.

Why else would Ayade go on national television to show himself a non-stater in administration? It is perhaps true that Ayade is a welfarist and a profound lover of his people but that must be done within legal boundaries, not in utter illegality.

Ayade has forgotten so soon that the common law dictum, “Nemo dat quod non habet” is not a term in the abstraction, it is real. Truly, a man cannot give what he does not have.

In a single weeping swop, Ayade committed several errors in judgment. Let him go back and find that virtually all the items on which he was abolishing taxes fall within the purview of the Local Government. The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), totally abhors the usurpation of the functions of one tier of government by another tier.

Who will point this man to order? We believe that it is not on every issue that people must proceed in all haste to the courts. Otherwise, one would expect the Local Authorities to go to court to quash Ayades illegal acts of usurpation. Barring that, this issue should be left to the NGF. In their peer review mechanism, they should find a place to correct this.

Again, we search, but in vain, for the Article in the manifesto of the PDP where the Party says that the abolition of taxes is a cardinal programme. Or has Ayade forgotten that his election was sponsored by the Party and that he should be implementing the Party’s manifesto? In a normal clime, the Party should whip him on line.

This is the time to bring Ayade back on line before he transgresses fully vertically and horizontally. Otherwise, he will one day get his House of Assembly not only to rubber-stamp a law determining which taxes the Federal Government can collect, he will also single handedly adjust the boundaries between Cross River State and its neighboring States.

Worse still, Ayade openly admits having set up an Anti-Tax Agency. This is unconstitutional, to say the least.

Ayade holds the undisputable record of being the first State Governor to hit above the Trillion Naira mark in annual appropriation. Year after year, he reels out the Trillion Naira Budget with a strange Greek christening in each case. This is one Governor who least appreciates the fact that there are two sides to every Budget – Revenue and Expenditure. These bogus budgets pay no regard to how the budget should be funded. That explains why the performance of the Capital Budget continues to limp at below the 10 percentage level. This has led some observers to the conclusion that Ayade “has reduced the serious business of budgeting to an annual comedy”. The man simply enjoys playing to the gallery. He wishes the best for his people, no doubt if his wishes were horses, Cross Riverians would ride to the high heavens. The people know more than that. They are quick to say that they voted for the good life, not wishes.

He still has time to work for his people instead of all the gra-gra. You can deceive some of the people some of the time but you cannot deceive all the people all the time. Ayade must go back to history.

Elsewhere, Franklin D. Roosevelt once lived. He was a humanist and a welfarist. He was the US President after the Second World War when the US faced the greatest depression of all time. He turned things around to the admiration of Americans and the world – not by abolishing taxes but by introducing welfare measures. Some of the super highways that exist in that country till date were built by him. He introduced the welfare and social security system – food stamp, employment for the people and all that. America bounced back to life.

Back home, we invite to the witness box former Governor of Cross River State, Donald Duke. Among other things, the Tinapa Tours and Holiday Resorts built at cost of Billions of Naira remains a masterpiece in its entirety. It was not built with buckets of tears or by playing to the gallery. Rather it come by dint of hard work and judicious application of available funds and the people are the better for it all incidentally, Ayade already knows what his people lack. He should build his welfare system around those needs. Indeed, from Ayade’s lamentation, it is clear that if the people were to have free qualitative education, good rural electrification and good water supply in line with the PDP manifesto – instead of those bogus and illegal abolitions, Ayade would become an instant hero.

Many decent people – UJ Esuene, Clement Isong, Donald Duke, Clement Ebri, Donald Etiebet, etc. – have been here. It is too nice a route to be obliterated.

There is no gainsaying the fact that this Governor is dealing with some of the most enlightened people on mother earth. When next he embarks on his weeping spree, the people will tell him to keep his tears and give them their development. Tears don’t develop a place but honest and sincere efforts do.

*E-mail: joligien@yahoo.com

May 29, 2020

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