A critical articulation neither makes similarities into identities nor rigorously maintains distinctions. It is more akin to the weaving together of heterogeneous threads into a new product than to the scholarly and disinterested comparison of homogeneous masses whose distinction is respected. Often referred to as miniature Nigeria because of its great diversity in ethnic composition as well as its natural endowments and rich cultural heritage, a critical evaluation of Cross River State might be called an alloy rather than a comparative study. The alloying of two or more distinct entities into a new compound requires an account of the materials used, but merely to enable the location of common properties that facilitate the making of the alloy. It is not always possible to deconstruct such an organic condition.
Located in the coastal Niger Delta region of Nigeria, Cross River State occupies 20,156 square kilometres on the Bight of Biafra and shares boundaries with Benue State to the North, Enugu and Abia States to the West,Cameroon to the East, and to the South by Akwa Ibom State and the Atlantic Ocean. Created on May 27, 1967 from the former Eastern Region of Nigeria by the General Yakubu Gowon military regime as South Eastern State, its name was changed to Cross River State in the 1976 state creation exercise by the then General Murtala Muhammed military regime. The present day Akwa Ibom State was created from it in the 1987 State creation exercise by the General Ibrahim Babangida military regime. Cross River State has been governed by a litany of former Governors and Administrators, including, as it were,Udoakaha J. Esuene, Paul Omu, Tunde Elegbede, Clement Isong, Donald Etiebet, Daniel Patrick Archibong, Ibim Princewill, Ernest Attah, Clement Ebri, Ibrahim Kefas, Gregory Agboneni, Umar Faoruk Ahmed, Christopher Osondu, Donald Duke, Liyel Imoke who governed between May 29, 2007 and May 29, 2015 and the current governor, Prof. Senator Benedict Ayade.
Cross River State has an overwhelming demographic composition made up of the Efiks, the Ejagham, the Bekwarras, the Ekoi’s, the Yakurr/Agoi, the Agbo, the Bahumonos, the Mbembe, etcetera. Consequently, the State epitomizes Nigeria’s linguistic and cultural plurality. But despite the diversity of dialects, all the ethnic groups in the State have a common linguistic root: they are among the semi-Bantu tribe who are the original inhabitants of Africa. Administratively, Cross River State is segmented into eighteen (18) divisions commonly called local government areas. These include: Abi, Akamkpa, Akpabuyo, Bakassi, Bekwarra, Biase, Boki, Calabar Municipal, Calabar South, Etung, Ikom, Obanliku, Obubra, Obudu, Odukpani, Ogoja, Yakurr and Yala. With its vast landmass ( from Calabar to Ogoja is the distance between Lagos and Edo States, covering four States) and ethnic diversities, the State is a child of events and circumstances. Politically, few States in Nigeria have been so deliberately marginalised like Cross River, which still hosts Ogoja, arguably the oldest former Province in Nigeria which is yet to be made a State. Economically, the State was rendered prostrate when its 76 oil wells were unilaterally ceded to Akwa Ibom State in 2008 by the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC).
Yet, in spite of its obvious shortcomings, the State has risen above the common herd and has succeeded in being numbered as one of the “first eleven” among Nigeria’s 36 States and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja in terms of good governance and infrastructural development. In fact, in 2013, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) for Africa declared Cross River State as the best governed State in Nigeria. In the current political dispensation the State has witnessed tremendous changes in physical and human capital development. Not only is it the cleanest State in Nigeria, it is the most beautiful. From the soaring plateaus of the mountain tops of Obudu to the Rain Forests of Afi; from the mysterious Waterfalls of Agbokim and Kwa to the sprawling ox-bow Calabar River which provides sights and images of the TINAPA Business Resort-the first in Africa, Calabar Marina, Calabar Residency Museum and the Calabar Slave Park along its course, there is always a thrilling adventure awaiting the Eco-tourist visiting Cross River State as Nigeria’s number one tourism destination. Other tourist attractions are the Ikom Monoliths ( a series of volcanic stone monoliths constructed some time between 2500 BC and 1 AD), the Mary Slessor Tomb, Calabar Drill Monkey Sanctuary, Cross River National Park, the Cross River State Christmas Festival, the Cross River State Carnival Float, the Ugep Leboku New Yam Festival and the Calabar Boat Regata, among others.
Unfortunately, current political developments in the State especially in the build up to the 2015 general elections, had lthreatened to rubbish all the accomplishments recorded so far by its immediate past and present leaders. There is also the emergence of money bags in the political equation of the State who had threatened to wrest the awesome political machinery of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) from the immediate past governor. This triggered the current political unrest in the once peaceful State. For a State that lost its juicy territory ( Bakassi Peninsula) to Cameroon, Nigeria’s most cantankerous neighbour through international adjudicatory conspiracy; for a State that lost its littoral status having been denied of its 76 oil wells; for a State which has been repeatedly marginalised in the nation’s econo-political and power calculus, now abdicating its acclaimed civilized political culture for political hooliganism and brigandage would be the unkindest cut of it all. What then is the state of the once enviable egalitarian State? And, how then do we deconstruct a new political paradigm for our State? To view with judgment and comprehension the course of present and future events in the life and politics of our dear State, we must possess knowledge and understanding of her past, and to provide such understanding within concise compass, we must consult history. We must appreciate the historical sense transcending the ephemeral currents of the present and revealing the political challenges of a great people springing from the deepest traditions of their glorious State- the People’s Paradise.
It therefore amounts to a cruel gambit for some papers to attack the current ebullient hardworking Governor, Prof. Ben Ayade because he appointed the youths into his cabinet. Was it not the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo who admonished political leaders that if there are no jobs to do, they should employ the youths and ask them to throw stones into the bush and gather them back? He deserves our support.
Dan Amor is a critic and journalist and writes from Abuja