“Cross River 2023 – The Case for Cobham” by Raymond Eyo

As Cross River State gears up for the 2023 governorship election, commentary is beginning to increase about those who may run and whether or not qualify for the job. And interestingly, the commentary covers everything from the personal lives of the aspirants to their public lives and everything in between.

While respective contestants have their strengths and salient achievements, Mr. Efiok Cobham, has the added advantage of experience as a former Deputy Governor of Cross River State and so from a good governance and policy standpoint, he is abundantly qualified and stands a greater chance of governing Cross River State come May 29, 2023.

Long before the COVID-19 pandemic and its devastating effects on developing economies across the world, Cross River witnessed an economic “culture shock” on July 10, 2012, when the Supreme Court ruling led to the loss of our state’s 76 oil wells.

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In effect, the Imoke-Cobham administration was the first to confront the reality of a “post-oil” Cross River, and it was thanks to their prudent and far-sighted economic management and planning that the foundation for Cross River State’s non-oil economic sustainability was laid. Indeed, in an opinion piece in the Nigerian Chronicle of October 2, 2012, this writer urged Cross River State to, “construe the loss of the oil wells as a blessing to further entrench her special standing as a working experiment for Nigeria’s eventual post-oil period.”

Thankfully, then Deputy Governor Cobham had the same thought and took action to back it up. First and foremost, let’s focus our searchlight on his strides in agriculture. In April 2013, Cobham stated that a ₦157 million World Bank agricultural grant (which was part of a five-year grant of US$24.3 million) received by the state was the result of their administration’s effort to diversify the state’s economy away from oil. The grant enabled rice, cocoa and palm oil farmers to access new technologies.

Indeed, to demonstrate the Imoke-Cobham’s administration’s commitment to agriculture, the state government contributed ₦168 million yearly as counterpart funds and subjected the farmers to stringent screening and training in order to maximize value from the funds.

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Meanwhile, it is pertinent to note that this writer did a three-month internship at the Cross River Agricultural Development Programme (CRADP) in 2012 and saw firsthand the great quality of training the farmers received. With this is mind, who is better qualified to build on the gains of the present administration’s strides in rice production, and advance the African Development Bank’s (ADB’s) Special Agro-Industrial Processing Zones project, with a US$210M loan approved for Nigeria on December 13, 2021, which has Cross River as one of its eight pilot zones in Nigeria (for cocoa, rice and cassava), than the man who played a major role in kick-starting our state’s agricultural revolution – Cobham.

Secondly, in education, at an ICT workshop for secondary school teachers on April 29, 2013, Cobham disclosed that their administration had spent ₦2.7 billion on primary education since taking office in 2007, mainly as counterpart funding for various educational programs and rehabilitated over 500 primary school classroom blocks. For secondary education, they spent over ₦6 billion from 2007 to 2013.

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These funds were also used to establish new model secondary and primary schools, undertake manpower development through scholarships, distribute over 10,000 laptops and computers to primary and secondary school teachers, install state-of-theart systems in over 60 secondary schools, facilitate digital literacy models in some primary and secondary schools, print textbooks for primary and secondary school at subsidized rates, among others.

All these efforts boosted public primary and secondary school enrollment from 25% to 30%! Little wonder, the Imoke-Cobham administration achieved commendable results in the education sector as they were very committed to the advancement of education in the state. With these in mind, Cobham has the understanding, the knowledge and the midas touch to transform the education sector as Governor.

Furthermore, as Deputy Governor, Cobham demonstrated great concern for youth unemployment. He made great efforts to provide the youth with capacity-building entrepreneurship opportunities. For example, In December 2014, Cobham launched the YouLead Project, which was undertaken in partnership with the Canadian government to promote environmentally sustainable and market-driven employment opportunities for young people in the state. Canada contributed ₦2.4 billion to the project over five years to as the then Canadian High Commissioner to Nigeria, Perry Calderwood, stated, “reduce youth unemployment through better quality technical vocational training in natural resource sectors.”

The YouLead Project employed over 5,000 micro-small youth entrepreneurs. Again, it should also be recalled that, in 2012, the federal government set up Nigeria’s first-ever ICT Incubation Center in Calabar – the Tinapa Knowledge Center – partly because of the Imoke-Cobham administration’s great commitment to ICT skills acquisition for youths.

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With regards to security, to get an idea of how a Governor Cobham would handle any unfortunate security crisis, let’s take a look at how Acting Governor Cobham responded to a deadly communal border clash in Abi LGA (with neighbors in Ebonyi State) on January 19, 2013, that led to at least a dozen deaths and over 2,000 displaced. First, Cobham undertook an on-the-spot assessment of the community, sympathized with the people, assured them of emergency relief, urged them to cooperate with law enforcement, warned against counter-productive reprisal attacks and promised to bring all the perpetrators to justice.

Cobham also visited the clan head of Itigidi, Edward Asikong, and urged him to mobilize his subjects to support the security operatives. In other words, he displayed superb conflict resolution management, which is a function of great leadership!

Meanwhile, in the area of water supply (which is a very vital component), Deputy Governor Cobham (representing Governor Imoke) chaired at least two of the water contract-signing events in 2014 alone.

First, the January 2014 contract with a British firm, Lilleker Brothers Nigeria Limited, to execute a ₦3.7 billion World Bank-assisted National Urban Water Sector Reform Project, for Ikom to cater to the people of the Central senatorial district.

At the signing ceremony, Cobham said, “The signing of this agreement and other interventions that we are going to do will take us to about 60 percent coverage… Upon the completion of this contract, about 80 percent of the state will have access to potable water supply.” And, in December 2014, while signing another World Bank-funded water production and distribution contract, with a Chinese firm, costing ₦3.2 billion, for Obubra, Cobham urged the firm to build on its 20-year experience and deliver high quality service.

Indeed, the completion of all the water projects signed by the Imoke-Cobham administration made Cross River one of the very few states across Nigeria and Africa to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) target for water supply in 2015.

Talking about sustainable development, it should be noted that Cobham has demonstrated great awareness about the need to protect Cross River State’s forests – an important part of our biodiversity and environment. In April 2021, at a public gathering, Cobham decried the level of logging in Boki LGA, and informed the local population that logging was what caused the Buanchor Landslide in July 2012 that swept away two dozen houses. He lamented the volume of timber he saw on the roads and called for restraint against logging.

As Governor, he will surely do more to ensure biodiversity conservation. And, yes, biodiversity conservation is an important element in the emerging sustainable or green economy.

Recall that, on August 28, 2012, the Imoke-Cobham administration signed the United Nations’ cooperative scheme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (UN-REDD), enabling Cross River State to access the US$4 million reward for the conservation of Cross River’s forests. It is worthy of note that Cross River State holds 50 percent of Nigeria’s remaining 90 percent rainforest, and is home to one of the 25 major biodiversity spots in the world. Indeed, as a result of the UN-REDD agreement, Cross River is entitled to carbon credit funds for its contributions to global carbon emissions reduction.

For good measure, despite the specific policy examples above about why I believe Barrister Efiok Cobham is best qualified to be at the helm as the Governor of Cross River State come 2023, the general timing, political context and even the role of his hometown do not only line up in his favor, but also count as great positives for our beloved state. How do I mean? First, for reasons of fairness and political inclusion, given that the previous and current Governors (Liyel Imoke, from 2007 to 2015, and Benedict Ayade, from 2015 to 2023) come from the Central and Northern senatorial zones, respectively, it is only right for the next Governor to come from the Southern senatorial zone.

Secondly, Cobham is from Creek Town in Odukpani LGA and while his governorship will be expected to directly or indirectly (but legitimately) improve the fortunes of his hometown, since charity begins at home, this is one rare case where such a reality would be very good for Cross River State as a whole.

To put this in perspective, Creek Town is quite close to Calabar, the state capital. In taking into cognizance how the development of a satellite city, like Gwagwalada, in close proximity to Abuja, is helping to decongest the FCT and provide many who work in Abuja more affordable housing, the development of Creek Town via critical economic investment, infrastructure and the provision of social amenities will go a long way in expanding development from Calabar, helping to tap into the historical, tourism and economic potential that abounds in Creek Town and environs to the benefit of the locals and visitors alike. It’s also worthy of note, that as a strong believer in rapid devlopment, he will also focus on the development of all major towns across the three senatorial districts of the state.

A tourism afficionado and curator of culture and heritage, he believes in connecting with people and has an open door policy. Simple, and fun loving, he is a member of the Freedom Band, one of the 5 Christmas Carnival bands, dancing every yuletide with locals and tourists in the streets on carnival days, and helping to promote the very enviable Efik culture by hosting the very loved Ekpe Masquerades in his home.

We are sure that with Efiok Cobham, our beloved Christmas Festival and Carnival will be back, bigger and even more beautiful, helping to connect Cross Riverians and non-Cross Riverians alike with the culture and heritage of the land and creating for them the opportunities they need to thrive and succeed.

Time and space will fail us to go further to intimate us with all his achievements and antecedents as Deputy Governor and Acting Governor in the areas of our Clean and Green program, the health sector, women empowerment amongst many others. In all,
from the foregoing, it is my earnest hope that the People’s Democratic Party will give Barr Efiok Cobham the party’s ticket and the good people of the State will massively support and vote for Barrister Efiok Cobham as our next governor, in 2023 so that Cross River State can recover her place in the comity of states.

The Writer of this piece, Raymond Eyo is a PhD student of International Trade at the Shāndōng University of Finance and Economics in Jǐnán, China.

He can be reached on WhatsApp, via
+8618365822969, and by email, at raymond.eyo@live.com

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