Tuesday, 7 January 2020

That January 1 Pilgrimage to Itigidi: A Reflection —by Comr Asu Okang

7 January 2020 

On Wednesday, First of January, 2020 the Crème de la Crème in the political Chess board of Cross River State, led by His Excellency, Sir (Prof.) Benedict Ayade, converged on the palatial Hillside residence of the immediate past Governor of Cross River State, Senator Liyel Imoke CON, to pay him the annual traditional homage to begin the new year – 2020.

Governor Ayade, who in his usual characteristic manner of an exemplary leader, did not just go to Itigidi alone,but went along with a retinue of his aides including 36 of the newly inaugurated 39 Commissioners, Senior Special Advisers, Special Advisers and Special Assistants: Directors General, Permanent Secretaries, Senior Civil Servants, key Political Stakeholders of the People's Democratic Party (PDP), amongst others on this auspicious visit to a political gladiator, maverick politician and widely acclaimed leader of the political class, particularly those of the PDP in the State.

Other political bigwigs that were in Itigidi on that 1st day of January, 2020, which also marks the beginning of another decade in the world calendar, included Senators, Members of the Federal House of Representatives including Rt. Hon. Jarigbe Agom Jarigbe of Ogoja/Yala Federal Constituency, Rt. Hon. Legor Idagbor of Obudu/Bekwarra/Obanliku Federal Constituency; The speaker Rt Hon Eteng Jones Williams, members of the Cross River State House of Assembly, former Speaker of the Cross River State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. John Gual Lebo; all former political office holders under Governor Imoke's administration as well as supporters and admirers; were on hand to grace this annual political ritual which has come to stay as a yearly event since the restoration of democratic rule in 1999 when Senator Imoke became a Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

To the ordinary man in the society, this annual pilgrimage to Itigidi is a mere gathering of politicians for the celebration of the new year. However, there is more to it from the point of view of political gladiators in the State, who see the annual ritual as a veritable platform, not only to show respect but to dignify the former Governor of the State, Senator Imoke, who most of them look up to as their political godfather and grandmaster of political Mathematics in Cross River State.

In fact, some other politicians also see the annual visit to Itigidi on every January 1 as a political Jamboree where political ideas are hatched on the dance floor, political re-alignment are made to suite the political calculation on ground and its realities as well as loyalty justifications are prudently assessed and ascertained.

In all of these, one significant take away from this annual political pilgrimage to Itigidi is the consistency and importance to which the State Governor, Sir (Prof.) Benedict Ayade attaches to the exercise since coming on board in May 2015. For this year, aside from travelling with his immediate political family enmasse, he directed all his ubiquitous political appointees to mandatorily attend the event with him as a mark of respect for his revered predecessor and attached a penalty for those that absent themselves from the occasion. This he did in spite of his crowded official engagements which he came back to Calabar to attend to on that same day. For some who thought that His Excellency's previous attendance was basically to garner support for a second term, after which it was going end, My Governor again proved them wrong.

This exemplary conduct by Governor Ayade is not just commendable but worthy of emulation by other State Chief Executives and leaders across all levels of our polity. If not for anything, it will help a long way in reducing the friction and unhealthy rivalry between incumbent Chief Executives and their predecessor in office as we are experiencing in many States today.

Moreso, it is a clear testimony of the warmth, sincere and harmonious relationship that is existing between Governor Ayade and his predecessor in office – Senator Liyel Imoke.

This heartwarming political climate in Cross River State is a far departure to what is obtainable in many States of the federation today where sitting Governors are in Constance war of attrition with their predecessors as a result of one reason or the other. The resultant ripples effect of this unhealthy political quarrel, which usually permeates the entire political landscape basically on support lines, in such State is better imagined than experienced.

This is why it is expedient to give kudos to Sir (Prof.) Ayade for ensuring, guaranteeing and sustaining such a warm and healthy political climate in Cross River State since coming on board on May 29, 2015. It is on this note that we make bold to say that Governor Ayade is on the right track in the new spirit of enterprise and this political climate should be sustained in the years ahead.

Asu Okang
Commissioner for Information and Orientation.
Cross River State.
7 January 2020 

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