Last Saturday inside the exquisite O’Jez Restaurant at the National Stadium Surulere, the Cross River Professionals gathered to form a group that will pursue the common interest of the people of the state. It was indeed the coming together of doctors, lawyers, journalists, engineers, actors, accountants and architects among others who are Cross River indigenes.
Though a very quiet occasion which last between 12noon to 4:15pm but issues affecting the lives of Cross Riverians were discussed dispassionately. To members of the body the long wait and silence was over and it is time they spoke for their people. It was time the second fiddle role played and conceded to other tribes and ethnic nations in the country stopped. They have to take their fate and future in their hands especially as the country prepares for the 2015 polls.
They recalled with sadness how their people in Bakassi have been abandoned by the Federal Government for close to 10 years as some of them have even had cause to take up the nationality of Cameroon. They frowned at the ugly political moves displayed by some of their brothers and sisters who are in positions of power both at state and federal levels which tends to exclude those outside the state from developmental matters. They opposed the discrimination between Cross Riverians at home (within the state) and those outside and advised government functionaries who create this dichotomy to stop the act which has brought the state more sorrow than joy.
COMMUNIQUE ISSUED AT THE END OF THE MEETING
A Child of Necessity – Nyong
Conference of Cross River State Professionals is a child of necessity. It was born out of the need to enliven community activism and raise the bar in inter-communal connectivity through different vocational platforms of individual members. It is not a political party but has the welfare of the people of Cross River State as one of its primary objectives.
A lot has been said and a lot more written on the monolithic political landscape called Cross River State. The entire populace swim, float and sink together. No questioning the status quo as any attempt to do so is likened to dissent. Some who have tried it, even when they still in the same political fold are seen as opposition figures. This fear of being branded as “an enemy of established tradition” has, to some extent, led to a docile populace whose level of political inactivity is second to none in the entire country.
For a long time now the people of Cross River State have been searching for an avenue to ventilate their feelings, an avenue to discuss their common destiny without the inhibitions of party politics. The Conference of Cross River State Professionals provides that missing link. Effiong Nyong, Convener and initiator of the group says, “one of our cardinal objectives is to act as a pressure group with the resolve to positively impact on the lives of our various communities through different platforms such as arts, culture, media, social service, business relations and lately, politics.”
The membership of Conference of Cross River State Professionals is open to indigenes of the state, wherever they may live. For now members are largely based outside of the state, particularly in Lagos, where it all started. But Nyong says distance from home will not constitute any barrier to the impact the body will create on the body polity of Cross River State.
“It must be noted that we also took this into consideration when we declared that, to be relevant in what happens back home, we have to deliberately develop and sustain interest in whatever happens at home; be it politics, culture, et al. It is no longer going to be business as usual,” Nyong said.
In recognition of this, the group, n its meeting of Saturday, February 8, 2014 in Lagos called on political parties in the state to ensure balancing the political equation among ethnic groups in the next governorship election. The group is advocating the next governor comes from the northern part of the state. This position negates the now legendary tripartite agreement between former a governor of the state, Donald Duke, incumbent Governor Liyel Imoke and the long serving Chairman of the Cross River State Water Board, Gershon Bassey to rotate the governorship seat between them. On this, Nyong said, “it is only right, fair and just that the next governor of Cross River State comes from Northern Cross River,” warning that “the peaceful but delicate nature of Cross River polity must not be ruptured by the myth of the so called secret alliances that have nothing to do with the people.”
He said the Forum of Cross River State Professionals is calling for a consesus on this among Cross River elites and advised that all political parties should ensure their flagbearers in the next governorship election come from the northern axis “This should be the guiding principle behind their nominations during their conventions,” Effiong retorted.
Some of the issues bothering the group include the plight of the displaced people of Bakassi. The Conference of Cross River State Professionals holds the view that the people of Bakassi still have a right to say where they belong, even when they are already under Cameroun. “That the federal government has ceded the territory to Cameroun does not meen that the issue cannot be revisited,” Effiong said, and called on the federal and Cross River State governments to ensure all the amenities that make life worth living are put in place for the people. “Bakassi should be treated as a disaster area and a state of emergency be declared.” He said the group is articulating a position paper for the forthcoming national conference and the Bakassi issue is on the front burner. Other issues include the lose of 75 oil wells to neighbouring Akwa Ibom State, federal allocations and appointments into the civil service. “We lost Bakassi, lost our oil and our people. What do they want from us?” he asked.
He said the group is ready to work with any receptive individual or group that is found to be open to fresh innovative ideas aimed at adding value to the lives of the people of Cross River State. “Over the years, we have noted that even as frontliners in our different professional leanings, we have either been ignored or sidelined by our own state administrators. The time is now as we have resolved to get involved,” he said.
WHAT WE STAND FOR –CONVENER
Effiong Efa Nyong is a renown journalist. He is an ace broadcaster and the convener of Conference of Cross River Professionals. He sheds more light in this chat with our correspondent on what his group is out to achieve. Excerpts…
What is Cross River Professionals all about?
It is a body of professionals from all disciplines coming together to pursue the cause of attracting development in Cross Rivers State. We are out to improve governance by bringing to the doorsteps of government issues affecting the people which bureaucratic bottlenecks and politics have hindered government officials from attending to. We are a non-governmental organization seeking ways to properly harness the full potentials of Cross Rivers State and her people to place the state and its people in leadership position in the country.
Why is your body coming up at this point in the history of the country?
A lot is happening in the country and a lot has happened in the past. We feel it is time we stood up and speak out for our people. Can you imagine that almost a decade after the displacement of Bakassi people the so called settlements for the people can only be identified by signposts? No one house, no hospitals, no schools, no roads, no structure, no infrastructure and no drinkable water. The people and place have been abandoned and many of the aggrieved ones have decided to claim to be nationalities of Cameroon. This is sad. The fact that our people don’t believe in taking up arms to fight for their rights does not mean they should be taken for granted. Cross Riverians from history are peaceful people who believe in due process, fairness, justice and unity of Nigeria. It is not for nothing that the first capital city of Nigeria was Calabar before it was moved to Lagos. We want our people to be respected and accorded the rights given to other ethnic nationalities.
How do you want to go about your activities?
We will hold seminars, workshops and talk shows among others highlighting the potentials of our state and the rich cultural heritage of our people which has contributed to the uniqueness and unity of Nigeria. We hope to always come up with a communiqué to declare our position on issues of national interest. By this we hope to drive the message that what is good for the goose is good for the gander. And that is to suggest that a state like Cross River with about 11 ethnic nations, rich agricultural environment, nature endowed mineral resources which Nigeria feeds on and of course sea ports, it won’t be out of place to consider her sons and daughters for the most exalted position of power in the country, talking about the President.
But are your people united in this course you are pursuing?
The journey of a thousand miles begins with a bold and courageous step which we are taking now. We believe that those who have the true passion to cause change are outside the state hence this move. We hope to reach out to our brothers and sisters in Diaspora to join in this movement. It is a dream which will lead to success and that is why we have limited our membership strictly to professionals in any discipline. We already have a functional website and as you can see our membership is growing.
Often times this kind of group is hijacked by top government officials to do their political biddings, how do you hope to curb such incursion?
This is the real reason why we have made our membership exclusively for professionals. We are a group of people who are gainfully employed. Most of us are self employed and entrepreneurs. This suggests that the Cross River Professionals is a body of sound minds that cannot be influenced by anyone. We are for the development of Cross River and her people.
Government frowns at groups like yours for fear that it could grow to become a major ethnic pressure group like the Niger-Delta militants or Boko Haram, what is the difference between your body and these other dreaded groups?
We are not gun-taunting people. We are not violent neither do we preach or support violence. We are not into hiding. We are law abiding Nigerians. We are well educated and gainfully employed. We are professionals who have carved a niche for ourselves in our chosen careers and by extension we have individually contributed to the development of Nigeria in our own little ways. So we intend working closely with government if the need arises and that will by suggesting ways to help make the country greater.