Mourning Intellectual Money BY DAVE IMBUA


Though the manner of mourning the dead varies from one society to another, the loss of a loved one evokes deep emotions and grief in all societies of the world, from the most primitive to the contemporary ones. Experience has shown that bereaved people, especially those in Africa find it impossible to adhere to the Biblical admonition that those who have hope in Christ for a resurrection from death should not mourn their losses like unbelievers who do not have hope. It is therefore common to see Africans – the educated and the illiterate – wailing ferociously whenever death strikes.

Apart from weeping for the death of human beings, some people equally cry at the loss of their pets, money, economic trees, business ventures, ideas among many other things whose disappearance diminishes their fortunes. The most recent of this kind of death is that of Intellectual Money in Cross River State, Nigeria. On assumption of office as Governor in 2015, Senator Professor Ben Ayade did not only give birth to Intellectual Money but advertised her as the capital that would turn Cross River State into Nigeria’s El Dorado. He told those who cared to listen to infatuations that the state was not where it ought to be in terms of development because leaders before him did not give intellectual money its pride of place in the development equation of the state. In what was a strange move to many people, Ayade began to dispense with what should be legitimate sources of revenue in any organized society. For instance, he exempted a litany of business operators (including those who own hotels of less than 50 rooms) in Cross River State from the payment of taxes. He revealed the reason for the various exceptions: “We have exempted them because it is better for me as a governor that I rather tax my brain than to tax my people.” Some enlightened policy makers and experienced technocrats rose to the occasion and advised him to exercise caution with such an ill-conceived policy since governance and development are serious businesses that need to be well planned based on existing realities. But, cheered on by some naïve and inept elements, the all-knowing governor ignored the voice of reason, insisting that there was no project beyond the capability of intellectual money.

As a corollary, Governor Ayade initiated a number of humongous projects many of which had nothing to do with the pressing needs of the masses. Some of these white elephant projects include Superhighway, Deep sea port, Spaghetti flyover, Calachika, Toothpick industry, Garment Factory, Piles and Pylon industry, International Hospital, Calas Vegas Resort, cargo airport etc etc. This was not all; he spent millions of naira travelling all over the world signing MoUs that were expected to collaborate with intellectual money to transform the infrastructural landscape of the state. With almost childlike (or a hostile critic would say, senile) noise about intellectual money, Ayade broke records by releasing budget figures that were far ahead of other states in the country, including states that are much richer than Cross River State. Indeed, the state’s N1.3trn budget for 2018 was the highest ever by a Nigerian state. Christened “Budget of Kinetic Crystallisation,” Ayade had declared that “the hallmark of the budget was the decoupling of the state from over dependence on federal allocation”, hence the budget “is designed and tailored to fit our dreams of an enterprising economy without depending on oil as a source of revenue.”

The volume of noise generated by the birth of intellectual money and the declaration by Governor Ayade that he will decouple Cross River State from the federal government and its miserly monthly allocation convinced some gullible elements that intellectual money will bring about massive improvement in the giant strides recorded by Donald Duke and Liyel Imoke who had served as governors before Ben Ayade. Some people were excited that the soon-to-be-witnessed massive improvement in the social, political and economic fortunes of the state will consolidate its enviable status as the tourism destination of Nigeria.

Unfortunately, no sooner than Governor Ayade settled down to real business that reality began to take the centre stage. Within a short period of time Cross River State was losing everything that had defined her as the preferred tourism destination. Increasingly, Cross Riverians began to see evidences of mismanagement and maladministration, collapsing health, education, political and economic infrastructure, absence of security and serenity that had characterized the state, stark evidences of poverty occasioned by the increasing pauperization of civil servants and retirees as well as the institutionalization of what Governor Ayade calls “Food on the Table Appointments”, pollution of values as seen in massive corruption, indiscipline and dishonesty of uncontrollable “food on the table” appointees who, to borrow the words of the governor, “ are given political appointments for a completely different thing and you see them going back” to drag the poor masses to make money. Because of all this, Calabar, the capital city of Cross River State that was handed over to Ayade in 2015 as the cleanest and greenest city in Nigeria lost its glitz and clamour too quickly.

Governor Ayade learnt in a hard way that the use of empty slogans to excite fans was one thing and the provision of the dividends of democracy to the people, a different kettle of fish. The affairs of state continued to deteriorate steadily under his watch. From the summit of ecstatic goodwill, the general opinion on the leadership of Ayade slumped into the vale of despair and frustration. However, it took some time for the governor himself to admit that things were falling apart under his administration. He finally expressed disillusionment with the plethora of failures that characterize his administration after he had spent five years in office. On that occasion, Ayade himself found it difficult to account for the fact that he had put in five years without achieving anything of significance. Interestingly, in a video that went viral, Ayade suddenly turned focus from intellectual money to God! In what looked like deep passion for the less privileged, he asked God, men and women of God to help him, even if it requires him to follow the example of Zacchaeus by returning his accumulated wealth “for every single Cross Riverian to become rich.” As predicted by those who know him better, this noble wish did not materialise.

As intuitive persons would attest the governor tried to get off his high horse after the demise of intellectual money. For example, he declared in his Budget of Blush and Bliss that: “We have decided to shift focus from big projects and refocus on the people. So, this is the people’s budget, a budget that for the first time we are shifting from infrastructure, from major projects, from all the big dreams and projects that can actually create opportunity to focus on the very essence of existence, hunger and poverty.” Few months after this turn around, he also reversed his earlier decision to “decouple” Cross River State from the federal government by socketing the state back to the centre. Suddenly Ayade realized that Cross River State “which has been emasculated economically following the ceding of its oil wells, needed to be in sync with the party at the centre.” Many other people who joined the governor in the search for cables and sockets to the centre were optimistic that the Federal Government will graciously commit itself to the completion of projects that were suffering abandonment as a result of the demise of intellectual money. In an interview he granted the News Agency of Nigeria and published by Premium Times on June 1, 2021, the Speaker of Cross River House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Eteng Jonah-Williams echoed this position when he said: “The Superhighway and the Deep Seaport will now be given utmost attention by the federal government and other things will also fall in place as well.” Because the recoupling (which he chose to call socketing) to the centre did not produce the desired results, the wailing continues unabated in Cross River State. With his very low intellectual capital, the ex-military man at the centre behaves as if he doesn’t know the motivation behind Cross River State’s socketing.

One of the most shameful transitions by a chief executive in the recent history of Cross River State is the one that saw the shifting of emphasis from intellectual money to paper money. Today, the governor has not only descended from the height where he had claimed that monthly allocation was inconsequential but he now complains that Cross River State receives the least amount of money from the federation account. In a recent reaction to the much talked about transformations going on in neighbouring Ebonyi State, which envied Cross River State a few years ago, Governor Ayade claimed incorrectly that: “Cross River has the least allocation in the country and Ebonyi gets much higher allocation.” The falsity of this claim does not require our attention. What is certain is that this kind of lamentable statement would not have come from Ayade if he didn’t lose intellectual money at her prime. The vacuum created by the exit of intellectual money is widening the pace of development between Cross River and states that were not even her equals yesterday.

Just one question for contemplation before we end this tribute to intellectual money, the brain child of Governor Ayade. Why will a state that claimed to receive the least amount from federation account have the highest budget figures in the country? Who is the all-knowing professor trying to please by giving unrealistic and ridiculous budget figures? Could it be that he does not know what a budget is? Or is it that he just gets excited with high sounding budget names and figures irrespective of the state’s financial strength? Many questions are begging for answers.

We will not forget you, Intellectual Money. How can we forget you when you have immortalized yourself in a litany of failed and abandoned projects that will remain a source of pain and regret to us for a long time to come? How can we forget you when you made us dispense with paper money only to discover that the claim that you were going to make ours the best state in the country was a huge joke? How can we forget you when we truly know that we achieved nothing tangible in 6 years and counting? How can we forget you when the inability to pay labourers their wages has brought about unending protests and strikes? Though we can never forget you, we beg you not to reincarnate in Cross River State. Also, do not allow anyone to use you again to exploit the masses wherever you would reincarnate outside Cross River State. Just rest in peace, Intellectual money, the scam of all time!

Dave Imbua writes from the hills of Bendi.


Development Consultant, Writer, Editor-In-Chief/Publisher, Public/ Motivational Speaker, Public Affairs Analyst/Commentator, Social Mobilizer of high repute.

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