January 06
07:16 2021

Engr. Bassey U. Bassey has over 40 years of experience as a Civil/Water Engineer with extensive exposure in all aspects of Civil/Water Engineering practice and management. Engr. Bassey single handedly prepared the Draft of Nigeria’s Water Sanitation Policy and has also partaken in the development of several sector policies and strategies.  He is widely travelled and a recipient of many awards with several publications to his credit. Engr. Bassey is a Consultant to the World Bank, European Union, African Development Bank, Federal Government of Nigeria, Cross River State Government and the Private Sector.  He heads Yves Bee Limited, an Engineering Consulting Firm that has handled several significant infrastructure projects including Water Supply, Roads, Power Supply, Waste Management and the Environment in Nigeria. The firm has also handled several reviews and analysis of sector policies and strategies including research.

South Eastern State, later re-named Cross River State (CRS) was created on 27th May, 1967 in the heat of Nigerian crises mainly in response to several decades of the yearnings of the minority groups in Eastern Nigeria for an egalitarian society where people are treated equally by giving them equal rights and opportunities to develop fully their God given abilities and potentials. Akwa Ibom State was later carved out of the original South Eastern State on 23rd September in 1987 under the administration of General Ibrahim Babangida. The creation of CRS fitted very well into the concept of Jubilee as first taught in the Bible in Leviticus 25 where the oppressed are set free and land is not sold forever.  On 27th May,2017 the State created by General Gowon with late Brigadier Udokaha Jacob Esuene as its first Governor will be 50 years old(Jubilee).

The growth of the new State was clearly paramount in the mind of the young military Governor as he set out with zeal to create infrastructures like Calabar-Itu road, Calabar Sports Stadium(now UJ Esuene Stadium) and institutions like the Polytechnic Calabar(now Cross River State University of Technology), Calabar Campus of the University of Nigeria , Nsukka ( now University of Calabar), Mercantile Bank(now defunct), Manila Insurance amongst others to facilitate the development of the new State and its people. Other Governors, military or civilian, after him have made attempts to address the growth of the State with varying degrees of success.

On this first occasion of the Jubilee (50 years) of creation of CRS it is fit and proper to stop and re-examine the goals of the State and the growth strategy adopted so far with a view to refining the goals and growth strategy for the future. In doing this, we must ask ourselves the question: “what growth strategies   should be adopted now as we look forward to the next Jubilee on 27th May, 2067?” Many of us may not be around then, but it is fit and proper to envision our children and grand children on the CRS of the future when they will be the main actors.

In general terms, the goal of CRS still remains that of an egalitarian society where each man or woman is at liberty to develop fully his/her God given ability and potential. The responsibility of those governing the State or sections of it is to deliberately create and sustain an enabling environment that reduces significantly the poverty level of its people, illiteracy in the populace through sound education that produces people that can compete at the world stage and not many local champions that seems to be the case now. The CRS   must present to Nigeria and the world at large men and women who are self confident and not docile or those who  live in fear and easily succumb to intimidation by the leadership even in the face of obvious falsehoods and manifest oppression.

The growth strategy of CRS has to do with the “how”, that is, the method or plan to bring about the desired egalitarian society of hard working and prosperous citizens deeply imbued with Godly values, people with sound education and self confidence and not given to docility. It is fair to observe that right from the creation of CRS, shelves in Government offices are filled with well thought out growth strategies for the different sectors of the society and its economy. Some of the proffered growth strategies may need to be reviewed with the efflux ion of time, but certainly there are no lack growth strategies in CRS. The main problem is the lack of will to implement or deliberate distortion of well thought out growth strategies by some of those whom society has charged with the responsibility of actualising the dreams of the citizenry for personal or group gains.

A few examples will suffice here. Development of water supply infrastructure including metered connections in Calabar and other cities in CRS is still adjudged the best in Nigeria by industry practitioners within and outside Nigeria. In addition to the excellent infrastructural development, well thought out growth strategies for the long term sustainability of the schemes was introduced at the commissioning of the projects. The observed failure or inability of the schemes to produce water 24/7 today as was the case at the start is a clear indication that initial best practice in growth strategy has since been abandoned or modified wrongly. There is in existence a fairly recent and excellent Report on the Development of Master Plan and growth strategies for Calabar and other Development areas in CRS. The excellent growth strategies associated with the development of the Master Plans have since been abandoned. These experiences can be found in virtually all sectors of CRS development.

We shall now proceed to offer some solutions to the observed lack of will or hap hazard implementation of well thought out growth strategies (World best practice) which are already available to us and are proven to work very well in other societies that we all admire.

Some of the solutions proffered to addressing the poor implementation of well thought out growth strategies are listed below:

  • Government must be made accountable to the people by the insistence of the citizenry that the government carries out its campaign promises in line with well defined growth strategies already in existence.
  • Deliberate effort must be made to encourage the formation of active and bold Civil Society Organisation (CSOs) and Non Governmental Organisation (NGOs) that will serve as a watch dog for the society. This is very important now as Trade and Labour Unions seem to abandon their traditional roles of fighting for the weak and oppressed in the society.
  • The Press or media in CRS must wake up to play its original role of being the 4th Estate of the realm and the watchdog for people without a voice. This they must do without fear , intimidation or compromise.
  • It is generally said that people of CRS are perceived as docile in that they see their rights being trampled upon without standing up to defend those rights. The people must stand up for their rights without undue fear of death. A great philosopher once said “It is the fear of death in our hearts that gives our enemy their strength. Since man has lived, who has not died? ”
  • Some people have suggested that the perceived docility of the people of CRS is attributable to the poverty level of the people and the poor level of education. If that is true, then deliberate effort must be made by those in authority and the people themselves to change the status quo as it concerns sound education poverty levels of the citizenry.
  • Unfortunately, many young Cross Riverians including Tertiary Institution graduates of today have been made to believe that the shortest path to wealth and affluence is through joining political parties and questionable fraternities. As a result, there is little appetite for many in the younger generation to acquire sound education, good character and development of time tested professional skills in different disciplines that will ensure their orderly growth and ability to fend for themselves and their families in a sustainable manner. This personal growth strategy will ensure their independence and usefulness to the society.  As a result of the wrong mind set, the State presently lacks skilled man in many areas that can meet national or international standards.
  • Again, quite unfortunately many of the young Cross Riverians erroneously look down on the acquisition of technical skills like carpentry, plumbing, masonry, vehicle repairs, electrical repairs and installations and similar skills which form the bedrock of development in any society. This explains why many of those currently practicing these trades in CRS are from neighbouring States and other parts of Nigeria. The time to reverse the trend is now as deliberate effort should be made by all stakeholders to re-educate the youths and change their mind set on this personal growth strategy as the future of any society depends on the technical skills of its citizenry. The next Jubilee, 27th May 2067, may not achieve the desired goal if this trend is not reversed.
  • Another major problem that hinders identified growth strategies that are intended to make Cross River State an egalitarian society is the undue emphasizes on ethnic differences between the various peoples group of the State. Under the well intentioned State character or geographical spread principle, leadership emerges not necessarily based on proven competence with verifiable track records but on where the leader comes from. Once the leader emerges, those from his ethnic group or fraternity claim “their birth right” to “chop” while others must “ wait for their turn to chop” when a leader emerges from their group in due course. This mind set does not allow fair and constructive criticism that will result in the development of an egalitarian society for the State.

In conclusion, the goals of CRS have since been defined since 27th May, 1967 when General Gowon created the State with an overarching goal for the development of an egalitarian society.  The concept and strategies for growth in the State have been well articulated in the last 50 years in well prepared documents which adorn shelves in government offices.  The major problem has been/is the lack of will of the leadership to implement consistently well thought out growth strategies. The leadership at all levels must henceforth be held accountable until they implement consistently the growth strategies that will lead to achieving the set goals of the State. New administrations have a tendency of abandoning well thought out growth strategies of previous administrations with no justifiable reason, except perhaps for personal or group interest. CSOs, NGOs, the Press, established Trade Unions and the citizenry must now act in a consistent and bold manner without fear or favour to achieve an egalitarian society based on well articulated growth strategies.  The people of the State must come out of docility to demand and insist on their rights and never give up until it is done.  While the concept of geographical spread is reasonable in a plural society like ours, emphasis should not be “wait for the turn of your tribe or fraternity to squander the common wealth of the State amongst its members”. If we do not address these issues boldly we may not leave an enduring legacy for our children and grand children as they celebrate the next Cross River State Jubilee on 27th May, 2067.

Thank you and God bless.


Engr. Bassey Usang Bassey

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January 2021