Otu, Cross River and ‘Season Of Sweetness’
By Michael Jegede
The emergence of His Excellency, Senator (Prince) Bassey Edet Otu, as the Executive Governor of Cross River State, was believed to have heralded a ‘Season of sweetness’ for Cross Riverians, knowing his records as a performing politician, who positively affected the lives of many via his philanthropic engagements which earned him the sobriquet ‘Sweet Prince’.
After seven months in the saddle as Cross River helmsman, there seems to be clear indications that the ‘Season of Sweetness’ has indeed come for the people of Cross River, with the way the governor is seen working round the clock to transform and reposition the state for greatness and prosperity. As was said by Ella Wheeler Wilcox, an American author and poet, that no fate can hinder the firm resolve of a determined soul, Governor Otu, in pursuit of the actualization of his People-First agenda, appeared resolute in his decision to take Cross River out of the doldrums and make it a better place for Cross Riverians.
During a recent thanksgiving service organised in honour of his Chief of Staff, Hon. Emmanuel Ironbar, at the Bible Christian Crusaders Mission (BCCM), the governor restated his commitment towards the transformation of the state’s economy for the good of the people.
Sweet Prince maintained that his administration would leave no stone unturned to favourably turn around the fortunes of the state, while reportedly averring that “the noble achievements of his seven-month old leadership were merely a tip of the iceberg.”
Giving further assurances of his government to return Cross River to its pride of place, Otu was quoted as saying “Let me again use this opportunity to reiterate my campaign promise to the people. You will not regret voting me to office. My vision is to have a prosperous and sustainable Cross River State economy.
“To achieve that requires a lot. We have started, we are on track and we promise that with your support, we will deliver on our promises for an economically viable Cross River State. So, I urge you all to Keep faith with us and together let us move to the next level.”
The governor noted that the state has been in bondage for years and that the time for redemption has come as his administration is laying a steady foundation for the prosperity of Cross River.
He was reported to have said that “Cross River State was in bondage for years and those who have eyes can see that the bondage has been broken. How else can we explain that we were number twelve and even the new baby states created yesterday have gone ahead of us?
“God did not create anyone to be static, what is very constant is change. Like I always say, a child of three or four that is still crawling is a problem to himself and the parents.
“So Cross River State has been stagnated for years and its time has come. The days where they say Cross River State is poor has passed, we are laying a solid foundation which will propel the state to prosperity.
“For Cross River State, I will never allow anyone to come and ask you, why did you vote this man, because I will fulfil my purpose.”
At the 19th meeting of the Cross River State Executive Council held on December 20, 2023, the governor who is the Chairman-in-Council, in a special address to the Council on his modest achievements, said his People-First administration has embarked on “Aggressive drive to reduce fiscal wastage and subsidize productivity in a manner that will foster long term prosperity as well as other bold reforms that is intentionally dealing with the fundamentals from bottom to top approach.”
Highlights of the governor’s milestones in the area of agriculture, according to a release by the State Commissioner for Information, Erasmus Ekpang, include: “Commencement of Soil survey/fertility mapping of Cross River State; Aggressive Elevation of the State Oil Palm Production Status with the development of 3.5 Million Oil Palm Seedlings Nurseries in 13 designated locations across the State; Commenced the Single Largest agricultural productivity reform with the launch of the Transparent and digitally managed N30billion commercial agric development fund called ‘Project Grow’.
“To promote all year-round agricultural production, the administration approved the Cross River State-Wide Irrigation Infrastructure Development Project (SWIID); Approved and commenced the Extension of the current Small Holder Cocoa Development Scheme to include development of Cocoa Estate in Akamkpa, Akpabuyo, Odukpani, Ikom Obubra and Bekwara L.G.A. under PHASE 1 while regeneration of existing ones are on-going; Commenced the Home Stead farming project to mitigate food insecurity and high cost of food.”
In order to attract investment in the Cassava Sub-sector, the State has developed a Cassava Value Chain Development Policy framework for public-private partnerships as contained in Ekpang’s release.
Aside his agricultural revolution, the release indicated that other areas which Otu had made significant impact are: Upgrading of Joint Hospital Ikom to a General Hospital; Rehabilitation and Maintenance of Internal Roads in the Calabar metropolis; Beautification of Round-Abouts and Road junctions Across the State for the Christmas festival and Carnival Calabar 2023; Signed an MOU for the establishment of a 1GW Solar PV Manufacturing Plant to be located at the Free Trade Zone and the attraction of 100 Million Euros Investment for the restoration of 57,000 hectares of degraded mangroves in the State, among many other achievements.
It was revealed that “In furtherance of the commitment of the Governor Bassey Edet Otu led administration to make roads in the Capital City Calabar more motorable and further improve the living standards of residents as well as boost the serenity and security of the environment, Council approved: Construction of the combined 2km Nyong Edem/Eyo Okon and Effio-Ette-Ikot Eyo link roads in Calabar Municipality using concrete pavement; The rehabilitation and maintenance of some roads in Calabar Metropolis by the State Ministry of Works and Infrastructure under direct labour and The Rehabilitation and Maintenance of the 1.9 kilometres Heavily trafficked Esuk Utan Road, Leading to the NNPC Depot and other Tank Farms with the Intention of Dualizing, Increasing and Strengthening the carriageway and proper drainage construction.”
In the spirit of the Season of Sweetness, Otu was said to have directed the distribution of 60 Bags of Rice to each of the 196 political Wards across the State to support the people during the festive period. Earlier, he had donated 600 bags of rice to Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) at Obutong and Ikot Effion IDPs camps in Bakassi Local Government Area (LGA) of Cross River State as palliatives to alleviate their suffering. He had likewise extended the Season of Sweetness to Persons With Disabilities (PWDs), Orphanage and Aged Homes when he visited them promising to build a Disability Commission for the PWDs.
Recently, the governor commissioned the Muri Eke Nta Avenue Road said to be the first concrete road constructed in the state. At the commissioning of the concrete road, Otu, who was received by residents in the vicinity with an ecstatic ovation, vowed that “This is just the first one among many that are going to happen.”
Ekpe Essien, a resident of the area in his joyous mood stemming from the commissioning of the concrete road, was shown in a video by AIT saying: “This road has been very terrible. We are so happy that one of the flagship projects of this state is starting with this road. And we are very happy with the governor.” Another inhabitant of the locality, Helen Offiong, said: “I’ve been a resident here for 20 years and it has not been easy. The road has been very bad. But we want to thank God for our Sweet Prince, our sweet governor who has made it possible for this road to be done like this. We are very grateful. We never expected this.”
After a two-year hiatus occasioned by the COVID-19 plague that held the entire world hostage in 2020 and 2021, Carnival Calabar, an annual event presumed to be Africa’s largest street party attracting participants from different parts of the globe, has returned with a bang under the able and dynamic leadership of Governor Otu. The 2023 edition themed “The Season of Sweetness” came with a renewed focus leading to the infusion of various innovations to make the 19-year-old carnival a truly global brand and reposition Cross River State as the tourism capital of Africa.
Many observers and watchers of events in Cross River are of the strong view that Sweet Prince is indeed doing excellently well in his determination to take the state to the next level, just as they believe that Cross Riverians are beginning to feel the impact of the Season of Sweetness, signalled by his coming as Cross River governor on May 29, 2023.
For instance, a legal luminary and politician of note from Cross River State, Distinguished Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba, SAN, Leader of the 7th Senate, who has never doubted the capacity and honesty of Otu to deliver on his promise to restore the lost glory of the state, remarked: “Clearly better times are here for Cross Riverians. We are returning to familiar territory, cleaner cities, landmarks being restored, the Carnival Calabar back to scale, roads being worked on, gratuities and pensions being paid, etc. Governance is getting more orderly and systematic as against the chaos and arbitrariness of the recent past.”
Michael Jegede, a journalist, writes from the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja