Q. Having been a journalist before becoming deputy chief press secretary to the governor, how has it been?
DARLINGTON: First of all, let me thank and appreciate the governor of Cross River State, His Excellency, Bassey Edet Otu for finding me worthy to be picked as his Deputy Chief Press Secretary. It is not because I am more competent than every other person but sheer grace and finding me worthy to occupy this office. Having worked with him throughout the campaigns and even before now, and having been his media director throughout the campaign, I think it is a reward for hard work. Well, has anything changed? If any, it is the experience in public governance. I have come to discover that there is a difference between practicing as a journalist and being a media aide because you are managing the public image of the governor. So, you have to see how you can build a good working relationship with your colleagues across board. So, I think it is a new sphere of experience for me. There is nothing really that has changed just that it is an opportunity to relate more with my colleagues because I see them as partners in the progress of Cross River State.
Q. While the case lasted, did it affect his job as governor?
DARLINGTON: When he came into office, he was able to fix the Calabar International Convention Centre that was badly damaged by the #EndSARS protest within two months. The facility was burnt down but within two months, he was able to fix that important facility, fixed the Cultural Centre, worked on the Millennium Park, awarded contract for the renovation of the library and has been able to fix potholes in Calabar. He is also expanding the parliamentary extension and he has brought several millions of nursery palms for the revitalization of the agricultural sector in the state. So, Cross Riverians are happy that in spite of the trials, the governor never derailed from good governance. Look at the last Calabar festival and carnival, there was renewed vigour in revitalizing of the event as the 32 days of festivities was brought back and everybody attested to the fact that the festival not only went smoothly, but successfully and one of the best that we had. The financial return was also a testimony to the patronage.
Q. The governor has been talking about reviving agriculture in the state; what form is this going to take?
In the last 40 years, the agricultural sector has been abandoned and the governor has promised to invest massively in that sector. Right now, we are doing soil fertility mapping, where soil samples from across the state are being taken and are being subjected to laboratory tests just to ascertain what kind of crops could be best grown in a particular area, so that nobody will subject investors to rigorous expenditure. So, after the tests, we will know which area of the state is suitable for a particular crop. That’s on one hand. On the other hand, the governor is investing in oil palm produce. Right now, the state that is leading in that area is Edo State. But I can assure you that Cross River State is taking over soon. This government is barely seven months old and the governor is passionately working to put massive structure in that regard. You will remember that in the past, we had the palm produce board where a lot of palms were taken from the state to the West Coast and we are bringing back that era. You will also re-call that the palm produce that was taken from here to Malaysia has positively impacted on that country. So, the governor has is making some stride in the agricultural sector.
Q. You have been talking about other agricultural produce without mentioning rubber that the state was known for at some point…
DARLINGTON: It’s actually one thing at a time. We are not ignorant of the fact that we had one of the best rubber in the past. I know that the governor is also looking at that but it involves a lot because you have to source for the right investors, do your strategic mapping before asking them to come in. All of these are on his table and at the right time, he will work on them.
Q. The last administration created a fabrication academy apparently to train youths in various skills and reduce unemployment but the governor hasn’t mentioned this academy since he assumed office. Does he have any plan to rejig that academy?
DARLINGTON: I think when you are talking about employing youths; it is not only in that area. I earlier talked about agriculture. That’s going to be an opportunity for young people to be engaged. For instance, the governor is planning to give grants to people who are willing to plant rice. We have very fertile soil in the northern part of the state that is good for rice planting. So, the governor is looking in that direction. But coming to the fabrication academy, it was the reason the governor came up with the Ministry of Science and Technology. Coming up with the Ministry of Science and Technology shows clearly that the governor is interested in encouraging our young people to acquire various skills.
Edem Darlington is the Deputy Chief Press Secretary, DCPS to the governor of Cross River state, Bassey Otu. He recently granted an interview.