Civil servants and government contractors in Cross River State are becoming used to the work pattern of Governor Benedict Ayade.
They hardly have him in his office in Calabar. Governor Benedict Ayade now works, gives directives and holds executive meetings with partners and lenders in hotel rooms abroad.
In Cross River, the governor rules the people using e-mail, electronics means, social media, otherwise called e-governance, the government’s staff told journalists recently.
At the end of the month, since he came to power, they get to hear that their salaries and payments for contracts executed have been signed on an aircraft, or from whichever part of the world the time for payment meets him; not necessarily in his office in Government House Calabar.
The workers do not mind wherever it is he signs their pay cheques from, so long as he lives up to his promise of paying them on or before 25th of every month.
Professor Ayade is used to travelling abroad often, having made a fortune from his international businesses and contracts. He has brought that mentality to governance. He is at the verge of becoming the highest travelling governor yet in this dispensation.
A week after he was sworn in on 29 May 2015, about six months ago, he spent the next two weeks in Spain and Germany. He told journalists that the trip brought about the visit by 15 investors and partners to the state.
The governor has spent less than 60 days in his office out of the 133 working days in these six months, according to a source close to his office.
According to these government sources, every month he spends at least three weeks in one European or Asian country or the other.
Interacting with journalists recently, national vice chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) South South, Prince Hilliard Etta, accused the governor of “junketing” around the world and cautioned that governance was at risk in the state if he did not settle down to work.
He recalled that since the governor took over power from Senator Liyel Imoke in May, “he has on his own created a state of confusion and right now, Cross River is in a state of flux. There is motion, but no movement; so much talk, but no action; so much display of exuberance, but no real governance.”
According to him, “In all honesty, I would have wished that Senator Ben Ayade succeeds as governor of Cross River State because his success, regardless of party affiliation, will be to the glory of Cross Riverians. His failure will be our pains as well and this will exacerbate our problems as a state. And so, my prayer has always been that he succeeds,” he said.
“But this junketing from China to Spain, Germany to Ireland, and Japan to Malaysia will not do us any good. He should come and rule us because he wanted to be the governor. It is unfortunate that in Cross River, we have a culture of silence and anybody could come and hoodwink us and nobody will say anything,” Eta also noted.
He warned that such prolonged absence could jeopardize governance in the state.
“Seriously speaking, in the last five months, there has been a devaluation of what are best practices of governance in Cross River State. Unfortunately, I am not expecting the current House of Assembly to do what is constitutionally expected of them to do.
“Even though for me, the five months is too short to judge any government, I will continue to pray that Ayade settles down to real governance and start working for the people,” Etta said.
He alleged that Ayade was not conversant with Nigeria’s constitution, otherwise he would not be abandoning his office for needless jamborees abroad.
“I dare to say that the man has never bothered to read the constitution of Nigeria otherwise, he would have known that there is a particular number of days that he should stay away from the state during which period, somebody must act on his behalf.”
However, Ayade’s aides have said that the governor did not travel abroad frequently for the fun of it.
To them, his constant travels have brought in long list of investors, fund providers and international partners to help actualise his array of big projects.
One aide from the governor’s hometown in Obudu Local Government Area of the state, who prefers not to be named said, “we can all see how in these few months in power Governor Ayade has attracted international partners who are bringing in fantastic sums of money to help build the projects he has initiated, which will definitely transform this state.”
Reacting to his recent trip to Asia, a member of the state house of assembly, Hon. Stephen Ukpukpen, representing Obudu state constituency, said it has brought array of investors to the state.
This, he said, would create alternative source of revenue for the state at a time the country is facing economic recession.
He commended Ayade’s administration for prompt payment of workers’ salaries, insisting that the governor’s frequent travels abroad are a positive development.
A human rights lawyer, Chief Okoi Obono-Obla, said Governor Ayade is one of the highest travelling governors in the country. “Since his assumption of office he has travelled to China, Japan, Spain, Ireland, United States of America etc with a large party of his relatives, cronies and what have you. These have been at a great cost to the state’s economy that is on the brink as a result of mismanagement by former Governor Liyel Imoke and dwindling revenue from the federation accounts.
“It is outrageous and inexcusable for the governor to be spending so much money globe-trotting,” he said.