By Richard Edem
I was fortunate to attend the inaugural meeting of the Fresh Air advocacy group in Calabar recently.
The Fresh Air group is an advocacy organization working ceaselessly for the emergence of Sir Arthur Jarvis Archibong as governor of Cross River State come 2023.
I have had opportunity to listen to a few governorship aspirants talk about how they intend to deal with the myriads of issues our state is currently bedeviled with. Let me put it very mildly, I have not been too impressed.
But as I sat in that chilly room listening to the governor hopeful, Sir Arthur Jarvis Archibong spoke on diverse issues and the glaring possibilities of our state to make it big in different sectors of the economy including agriculture, manufacturing, tourism etc, it dawned on me that we have found the ‘missing’ link in public governance.
It is not my job to outline here in detail the concepts and strategic ideas the renowned businessman and academia plans to use but I will share a few reasons why I am convinced that Sir Archibong will not only be a great governor but that he is actually the right person to occupy the Diamond Hill government house in Calabar as we get set for the 2023 elections.
Firstly, in deciding who becomes the governor of the state come 2023 we consider key factors.
Cross River State is at a very critical point in every aspect. Unemployment rate in the country has risen to an alarming 45% and Cross River State ranks high among states with the highest unemployment rate.
We are still yet to be out from the firm grip of insecurity in particular kidnapping, cultism among others.
Although blessed with abundant natural resources, the state has still not been able to properly harness 10% of her natural resources.
So, as political conversation continues to dominate the space especially about who becomes the next governor, we must consciously decide as one people our fate beyond political fraternity or ethnic affiliation.
It must be about who possesses the capacity with proven track record to bring the state out of the current situation and ensure the participation of every citizen in the commonwealth of the state.
The People’s Democratic Party must understand that Cross Riverians are eagerly observing and seriously hoping that the party’s ticket is not given to the wrong person.
The 2023 general elections for Cross Riverians will not just be like any other election, but a very critical point which will decide the fate and collective destiny of the over 4 million people.
Therefore, in deciding who leads as governor, more than a ‘strong politician with deep pocket’ is needed. We need more than a ‘popular candidate’. We need a leader with a business mindset who thinks and means well for the people. We need one who has workable plans to generate massive employment opportunities for young Cross Riverians and residents. We need Sir Arthur Jarvis Archibong.
While listening to him speak I heard perhaps something that has been conspicuously missing in the day to day socio-economic conversation among government and key policy makers in the state for the past 21 years since the return to civilian rule.
For the first time, someone is placing priority on human capital development. This is very commendable because over the years we have had our state in the hands of mercenaries (in the words of Sir Arthur Jarvis).
And Sir Arthur Jarvis Archibong perfectly fits in and certainly represents all of the qualities described above.
In analyzing the current challenges of the state, Sir Archibong took time to talk about the possibility of changing the economic fortunes of our dear state through deep and innovative thinking, exploring his wide network of Investors in Tourism, ICT, Agriculture, Manufacturing among others.
For once I felt it was one of the usual ‘political talk’ but as he progressed I could feel sincerity especially as he continued to give details of how he intends to achieve his vision.
For me, past governors have done incredibly well. Donald Duke, Liyel Imoke and Ben Ayade all came on board and opened the state to both rural and Urban development, where the state can comfortably boast of access to rural areas. And perhaps the state capital at some point has been rated as one of the most beautiful Urban cities in the country. Let me not also fail to acknowledge the effort of the current administration in attempting to industrialize the state.
But unfortunately, the biggest development that can ever be achieved is that of human capital. Money in the hands of a citizen is worth more. We need a government that will be able to create opportunities for Cross Riverians to have access to fund innovative ideas, we need a governor who will aggressively create safe space for small businesses to grow without the usual bottlenecks that is natural within the business ecosystem. We need a governor who will encourage the manufacturing sector of the state and inspire thousands of young Cross Riverians to “dare to be great”.
I have always believed that we need to be the investors we want to see in our state. The greatest thing any government can do is to encourage her citizens to invest and grow her economy locally as the Asian tigers have done over the past 50 decades. And the results are obvious.
Interestingly, this is what Sir Arthur Jarvis Archibong is promising. Not just because he is aspiring to become governor of the state but because he has done it before and he is doing it.
I believe that Sir Arthur Jarvis Archibong embodies all of these attributes and there should be no reason why we should get it wrong this time around. I am afraid that if we do not get it right this time, we may miss a lifetime opportunity.
What our state needs now is a serious leadership that is business minded. A governor who knows what to do with all the investments made by the Ben Ayade government. A governor who will turn the massive industrial Infrastructures spread across the state into viable economic boom for the state. Where young Cross Riverians will be engaged thereby improving the socio-economic status of our people and the state.
We need someone who has proven track record of running successful business ventures over the years, perhaps one whose investment is even domiciled in the state and currently working.
This call should be beyond political parties. It should be about our collective destiny as Cross Riverians.
The task of ensuring Sir Arthur Jarvis Archibong emerges as governor of Cross River State come 2023 should begin now.