By Hon. Martin Orim
Four years in the life of a state means a lot. Eight years means much more. By 2023, Professor Ben Ayade would have steered the ship of Cross River for eight eventful years. Those eight years would be Cross River’s finest years. Eight years of Governor Ayade’s supridentence of our dear state would stand out in its life as the noblest, in the annals of its history.
When his tour of duty ends in 2023,among elegant others, job creation will be one of the soul-lifting legacies professor Ayade will be bequeathing on Cross River. In just four years, he has established over 13 brand new industries in a state that infamously endured the lurid sobriquet of “civil servant state”, an unsettling euphemism for a consuming rather than a producing state.
Focused and visionary leaders world over espouse policies and take hard decisions, that, initially may be painful, but on the long run positively shape socio econonic and political destinies of the the people.That is what Ayade is doing in Cross River.The Super Highway, the Bakassi Deep Seaport and other audacious signature projects of his administration as well as the new industries that saturate all crannies of the state define such hard decision and polices, and of course, are catalysts for the taming of the monstrous youth unemployment.
Here in Cross River, we are blessed with a Governor who is thinking outside the box, who has ideas as to what to do to pull his state from economic doldrums.This explains why four years ago, Professor Ayade, upon assumption of office was clear as to where he was headed. He knew the tenor of his government hence he talked passionately about Cross of tomorrow which entails re-inventing the state for the future of its teeming youth population. As a leader with fecundity of ideas and imbued with amazing energy, he hit the ground running immediately after taking the oath of office and in no time aggressive industrialisation and execution of infrastructural projects that make the difference became synonymous with Cross River.
By the time all the life- changing industrial and infrastructural projects of the administration fully come on stream, formal and ancillary jobs will be readily available for our burgeoning graduate population. For example, the multi- billion Naira ultra modern Cross River Live stock and Poultry Farm limited is certain to broaden the agro-economy of the state by opening great economic opportunities to downstream players in the poultry sector-soybeans, maize suppliers for feeds, egg distributors, day old chicks distributors among others.
The ultra modern Rice seeds and seedling factory in Calabar and the world class rice mill in Ogoja, the Ultra modern cocoa processing plant in Ikom among several other Ayade-inspired industries will also be providing millions of direct and indirect jobs for Cross Riverians. Already, the Calabar Garment factory, also built by this administration, and employing over 3,000 workers, especially women and widows, have been rolling out its products.The products are of international standard and are competing well in the market.
No doubt, the scourge of unemployment is a national problem. However, with the Ayade template in terms of tackling it with industrialization and economic oriented infrastructures , the scourge would have been greatly reduced by 2023 when the Governor will be completing his two terms. In other words, it’s a template in dire of copying.
It is however, my opinion that Cross River youths, especially graduates among them, should also aspire to be wealth creators and entrepreneurs. Yes, as an undergraduate, overcoming the vagaries of life; brushing aside vicistuitdes and obfuscations to acquire a university degree is a no mean feat but daring to be different by not waiting for a white collar job to fall on your laps makes the huge difference. I therefore, urge that young graduates should channel their thoughts and energies towards entrepreneurship, irrespective of field of study because immediately one entrusts the responsibility for wealth creation to somebody else, he/ she have lost the power to make money. If you don’t stand up and be counted in this regard, you will only lie down and be counted out, waiting for tailor-made jobs that are far spread.
The inspiring words of Mike Murdock and John Mason should serve as guiding light in the resolve to stand up and be counted.
According Murdock “You have no right to anything you have not pursued for the proof of desire is in the pursuit”. And Mason counsels: “The door of opportunity won’t open unless you push”
With burgeoning unemployment rate in the country, it is my unshakeable conviction that the salvation of Nigerian graduates and indeed antidote to unemployment lie in skill acquisition and entrepreneurship. And this should be incorporated in course outlines and school curriculum and made mandatory for all undergraduates irrespective of their discipline.
Governments at all levels can also support with funding schemes, tax policies through micro enterprises and the supply of needed infrastructures, business information and advices. Luckily, in Cross River, Microfinance credit scheme exists for entrepreneurs. In addition, government has also abolished cut throat taxes that harm small business.
In addition to making skill acquisition and entrepreneurship compulsory courses in our ivory towers, entrepreneurship training should be part of programmes of National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) to make the fresh graduate self-employed after a year mandatory programme to serve their father land. The National Universities Commission (NUC) should mandate all Tertiary Institutions in Nigeria to create Entrepreneurship development centres
Unless this is done and implemented religiously, Nigeria will be sitting on a time bomb with restive unemployed but educated youths roaming the streets.
According to available records, unemployment rate in Nigeria increased to 23.10 percent in the third quarter of 2018 from 22.70 percent in the second quarter of 2018. It averaged 12.31 percent from 2006 until 2018, reaching an all time high of 23.10 percent in the third quarter of 2018.
This grim statistics should be of concern to governments at all levels. However, as I earlier stated, in line with its policy of Cross River of tomorrow , the state government under the visionary and focused leadership of Professor Ayade has set out to re-write the economic history of the state and change the narratives by turning the state into an industrial and economic hub aimed at creating jobs for the teaming Youth population .
The 274 kilometre Super Highway linking Cross River with the Northern parts of the country and the Bakassi Deep Seaport which also brings the Atlantic ocean closer to Northern Nigeria have been described by experts and industry watchers as two magnificent projects that can create thousands of self sustaining, self managed, profit oriented ancillary businesses and direct employment.This deserves cheers.
Hon. Orim is the Chief of Staff to Cross River state Governor.