Cross River State @ 50: from the Pen of a Ready Writer —By Princewill Odidi

Mr Princewill Odidi 
Princewill Odidi|28 May 2017
1. As a people, to say we have come a long way is not an understatement. Cross River State as seen today is a very long way. However, it is not how long the road is, but how well we travelled. 
2. From U.J Esuene, Paul Omu, Babatunde Elegbede to Clement Isong, Donald Etiebet, Edet Akpan Archibong and Dan Archobong, to  Ibim Princewill, Ernest Attah, Clement Ebri, Ibrahim Kefas,  and Gregory Agboneni,  to Umar Farouk Ahmed, Christopher Osondu,  Donald Duke, Liyel Imoke and today Benard Ayade, there is no gainsaying we have come a long way. 
3.  But to talk about CRS @ 50, their contributions whether positive or negative is what makes our history unique and commendable.  From the mountains of Obanliku to the Creeks in Bakkassi, we are a people resilient, strong spirited, brave warriors, and productive farmers. That our land is fertile both for export and food crop is indisputable, however, the paradox is that we are one of the few states heavily dependent on the federal government even to pay our staff salaries. 
4. Over the years, It has been a challenge to build an independent economy devoid of federal assistance amidst our surplus human and material resources.  A grown man who is still dependent at 50 cannot be categorized a success, as a state and as a people let us look within and give ourselves an honest appraisal. How well have we fared? 
5. Come with me, let’s take a brief journey looking at our development strides past 50 years, maybe it will help us define our path going forward another 50 years. 
6. In terms of infrastructural development, U.J Esuene impact on the state is unparalleled. In terms of positioning the state and giving us a national limelight, Donald Duke effort is unmatched. In terms of Institutional Capacity development and setting up several administrative bureaus for effective governance, Imokes efforts were commendable and in terms of a workers friendly regime, Ayade deserves commendable credit.
7. Between 1960 to 1966, Michael Okpara was Premier of Eastern Region Nigeria encompassing present day Cross River State. Without Crude oil revenue, he embarked on productive ventures that drastically boosted internally generated revenue ranging from Cocoa farms in Ikom, Rubber and palm plantations in present Central regions. Opkara’s success can be comfortably linked to an economic road man, designed and implemented by a functional bureaucracy. However, present day Cross River State, can we honestly say our present economic development is based on a structural economic plan or are we running a guess work trial and error development policies? 
8.  Okpara’s regime designed an Industrial development plan for the region which produced industrial and agricultural zones, and from proceeds derived from these farms, they promoted massive development strides in the region compared to the massive looting of state funds we have witnessed among the states chief executives in the Petro dollars years of our history. Sometimes, we ponder, how did we get it so wrong? 
9. The first quarter of our 50 years, we saw an enviable Nigeria, a bureaucracy that was developmental focused, a civil service that generated income for the states operations, a civil service that coordinated cooperative farming, rather than a redundant civil service that sit and wait for salaries and clap hands for joy when they see salary alerts. 50 years too many and so little changes. 
10.  Don’t get me wrong, the non-developmental nature of the civil service in the second and final phase of the first 50 year trench, is not a result of them being lazy or intentionally unproductive, their inefficiency is a result of the bastardization of the sector by clueless politicians who usurped the roles of the bureaucracy and rendered the sector incompetent and unproductive. Today, the bureaucracy is perceived a burden to most Chief Executives because of her redundant nature. With this understanding you can now see where our failures’ emanates. We cannot fix our state and country without fixing a colonial structured bureaucracy which has outlived her usefulness. 
11. If you are reading this piece on our golden jubilee  in the spirit of celebrating, you are greatly mistaken, we should rather be mourning over the death of our intellectual, human and material capacities in the hands of mindless politicians who have pillaged the state for personal gain and private aggrandizements at the expense of a population of people who have been suppressed so long, intimidated and made to believe the crumbs from the feet’s of their masters in terms of filling potholes and drilling boreholes, buying kekenapep and sewing machines is a favor to them. Cross River State, @ 50 years in terms of development considering our abundant natural resources has failed.
12. Fifty years ago, some of our bright minds, M.T Mbu, Okoi Arikpo, I.I Murphy to mention a few, had a dream, went to school, got engaged in public service, raised children and retired as community leaders. Fifty years later, our young men in their 30s and 40s, some have never been employed in their lifetime. Instead of awarding them scholarships and small business startup capital, some of our politicians buy guns for them and send them into thugry and societal mayhem. 50 years so many, yet so little achieved. 
13.  Over the years, we have hidden under the cover that government cannot run businesses, and under that cover we have allowed virtually all state owned companies and parastatals to fail. From Obudu Meat Processing Industry, Obubra Garri Industry, Polyrub Industry,  Durafoam Industry, Wood/Veneer Plywood Industry (CALVENOLY), South East /Romanian Wood Industry (SEROMWOOD),  Palm Estates, Cocoa Estates, and Rubber Estates. All these previously state owned factories have either failed or those still in operations have become liabilities to the government. In terms of industrialization past 50 years,  we failed, so what is the record achievements we are really celebrating?
14. From Military attempts at industrialization which all failed, to civilian attempts. We built Tinapa, the Ranch, The ICC, Monorail, and today the Garment factory .As a state with abundant human potentials, did we really think out any of these projects before embarking on them? None of these are bringing any meaningful revenue to the state other than being a liability to government or at most projects for political patronage. However, each of these projects have the potentials of being successful, have the potentials of increasing our internal generated revenue, massive employment creation and zero dependence of petro dollars from the federal government, nonetheless our politicians would rather prefer to promote mediocrity to professionalism, nepotism and partisanship to intellectualism and efficiency. Upon any slight iota of failure or project delays, projects are abandoned new concepts are never sought after, and always as usual, we run cap in hand for petro dollar bail outs in Abuja. This has been the pattern past three decades of self-development. We cannot continue to do the same thing over and over again and expect a different result. 
15. It is no gainsaying that Cross River state has so much, but lacks so much. We are a state of great potentials, both material and human resources. Very few Nigerian states can compete with Cross River State in terms of material resources. From Cement manufacturing, to Cattle Ranching, to Spring water that can be bottled at the foot of the Ranch, food crops like cassava, yams and rice, to cash crops like cocoa, palm, rubber, and wood processing for paper mill industries and logging, to existence of solid minerals, to marine sea line that can boost a successful marine fishing industry. What more can a state ask for? Yet we cannot survive without Abuja.
16. Our limited sea line if harnessed has capacities to farm fishes, shrimps, crayfish, oysters, etc., which can be harvested, processed and exported, yet the irony of all these is that we are a state that would not have enough to pay salaries, fund our schools or clean our environment without intervention from the federal allocations. Who hath bewitched us? 
18. Our greatest problem as a state in the past 50 years has been the inability of the political leadership to harness our human and material resources for sustainable growth and development. Some of our very best and brightest are never utilized and in some cases have often constituted opposition groups due to their strong personal opinions on mis-governance.
19.  It is no gainsaying that our politicians over the years operate governments without plans, projects are conceptualized built and commissioned without a cost benefit analysis to determine sustainability, and more worrisome,  projects are politicized instead of geared towards real economic development. In the event economic plans are drawn, or strategy groups are constituted they are never followed and are often used for photo ups to make the regime look good. It saddens to know that we miss great opportunities just to satisfy self-aggrandizement. 
20.  Going forward, let us return to the abandoned Michael Okpara economic blueprint for Eastern Nigeria which included present day Cross River State. A  study of UJ Esuene development plan shows that he built his economic thinking on Okparas plan. 
21. Let us return to the Cocoa farms, Rubber plantations and Palm plantations. Let the government invest in new farms geared towards export promotion and wait for gestation periods. Let us return to State government Cooperative societies to run these farms. Privatization without a corresponding increase in societal productive forces in investments and social production is mere futility. 
22.  Let us mass produce these cash crops for export markets. Within a decade of proper planning and coordinated farming, CRS will attract so much foreign exchange and liquidity to boost her IGR, that looking up to the federation accounts wouldn’t be necessary again. To succeed we have to plan to win not planning to fail. 
23.  Instead of spending time studying the economies of Singapore, Malaysia or Taiwan, let us under study Ghana and Botswana. With Cocoa contributing to 8.2% of Ghana’s GDP, accrued revenue from the sector is used to build roads, airports, upgrade schools and hospitals for common good. Ghana controls the AGOA market of farm and food products exported to the United States from Africa. Where wither Nigeria, the giant of Africa? 
24.  Working in partnerships with the Federal Government, Let us consider the establishment of a state of the art export processing laboratory within the Export Free zone in Calabar  to regulate farm products Standardization and Compliance requirements which has been the bane to our inability to launch into the Agricultural food export industry, a multi-billion commercial business.  There is no magic to development, what we need is coordinated intelligent planning. As a people, we can get it right if we decide to get it right. 
25.  In terms of engaging our young people and bringing them at par with the rest of the world, let us create technology zones within our proposed industrial zones to link our young dynamic populations with new emerging markets. As technology gradually displaces land as a factor of production in new markets, no job creation policy that would exclude technological applications would prove meaningful in alleviating the jobs problem. . Let us strive to create technology focused job creation solutions; this is what can work in today’s Africa, not necessarily the 17th Century industrialization which has since been overtaken by events in business process outsourcing.
26.  Our problems in Africa is not our blackness, it is the corruption of our minds and our inability to adapt to new methods.  If CRS must survive the next 50 years, we must see our tomorrow with today’s lenses, the future is bright and we can make it happen. We are a people of great potentials, if we decide to keep politics and sectionalism aside, by engaging our best and brightest, we will attain real development in no distant time.
Princewill Odidi is a United States based development Consultant: