I have free advice for the Professor Ben Ayade led Cross River State government. I am paid well to strategize but I will give free consultation today on the directionless hubris highlighted by an ill-thought-out rebranding exercise to mark Cross River at 50.
So, how would one celebrate Cross River at 50 if the State is really 50? Put the current brand, ‘Destination Cross River’ cap back on and first realize that the place must look and feel like a destination to show off.
Secondly understand that this can be funded by sponsors.
Thirdly it is not a one day or one week red flag hoisting-(the new branding is red)-logo-launching-money-wasting event. Changing our State’s colours from blue to red and our slogan from the all-encompassing “Destination Cross River, the people’s paradise” to the weak “Spirit of Enterprise” is the least of our problems as the push back from citizens has shown. It is such a trigger that people are ready to march in protest over everything else!
Fourthly such a milestone involves everyone in every local government area, every sector and strata of society. It will boost the local economy for a whole year and beyond.
The immediate next steps which the Cross River Government (CRSG) take include:
1. Make next year’s Christmas Festival a Cross River at 50 theme and leverage on the time people come home as well as the sponsorship.
2. During the Festival make sure its star event, the Carnival has the “at 50” theme.
3. Make all Festival events honour the same theme. Bring back the boat regatta, engage school kids, artisans, everyone.
4. Spend one year planning and getting sponsors for 2018. We already have linkage with sponsors because many aspects of our Christmas Festival have had or have corporate sponsors. It is easier to push this in Cross River than any other state except maybe Lagos. Get your act together, coordinate all your clashing SAs and SSAs, and work. Why does a tourist destination aim to spend money on an anniversary it can make money from? The Destination Cross River brand is beyond a logo. See how trying to kill it by replacing it with your new red bull logo killed creative thinking?
5. Theme everything next year. Children’s day on 27 May, New Yam festivals… THEME THEM!
5. Do online Cross River at 50 activity, simple competitions, online exhibitions, use online groups. Engage people. No be to shout digital government while being analogue.
6. Stop harassing the National Museum and do what CRSG normally does. COLLABORATE to create a year long open exhibition on CRS at 50. The same Old Residency Museum being harassed helped CRS set up its slave museum. Today the State has decided they are a security risk and arrested visitors in March. Work with all our tour circuit, Hope Waddell included. Can you imagine having Hope Waddell Old Boys from a 127 year old school come to CRS for a special day? The rooms, transport, food, souvenirs sold? But instead the Governor is locked in battle building a private structure on their land without consent.
6. Clean Cross River State. Make it safe, pay staff salaries and entitlements, pay LG workers, and motivate people to work.
7. Abolish all the new taxes destroying the very businesses that make up the CRS economy. If there is no money to fund the states inexplicable 13 NEW ministries created in 2015 or pay nearly 3000 political appointees then please do not kill LOCAL businesses with all sorts of new taxes to source funds.
8. Everything is interconnected. We cannot celebrate anything as a crime ridden, dirty location without water where businesses are stifled by one new official tax a day and workers are owed and not given even the most basic of running costs to work.
9. Boost our eco-tourism assets! Instead of chopping down forests bring in visitors: Nat Geo, Discovery Channel. CERCOPAN is shutting down and in this hostile environment the Drill Ranch Pandrillus might soon go after 30 plus years! Fix our canopy walkway which was the longest in Africa.
FIX/UPGRADE EXISTING ACCESS ROADS instead of mowing down everything to build one super road that won’t interconnect our communities or major roads. Build rural roads. Bombard communities with renewable energy hubs! These can be achieved in mere months rather than a 10 year super highway dream (with zero funders) churning 3 rejected EIAs of such embarrassing quality even a year one student would be ashamed.
Cross River State actually has a Tourism Bureau, it has institutionalized its tourism operations including a Carnival Commission. Everything including HIV/AIDS prevention has all tourism players mainstreamed in operations. But they have been effectively crippled with appointments of all manner of duplicate SAs and SSAs running at cross purposes without being able to create ONE yearly tourism calendar after 2 years.
We have altered and even dropped past events. Lost sponsors. Lost direction. Our tourism assets and officials are unable to maintain the most BASIC presence on social media.
As the naira weakened and local tourism is exploding, other stateshave followed our early light that we have abandoned. Ogun has a drumming festival, Lagos has another Jazz one that headlined Donald Duke, Yankari Game reserve and the Bauchi Governor promote online nonstop. There is a new race in Delta and the Lagos marathon. Our Obudu international mountain race covered by SuperSport with corporate sponsors that ran for 10 years died in 2015. Its old facebook page is still up as a testimony. We were ahead of our time have but regressed to a stone age. Boat regatta, gone. Children’s Carnival, gone. Coordinated plans for showcasing pop culture, craftsmanship, cuisine… gone…
If we have a bone of seriousness people who invested their life savings, loans and reputations in destination CrossRiver way of hospitality, logistics, service and other businesses should have been part of a stakeholder plan or calendar in the first one year of this admin.
At this point it is too late. All they can demand for is a sane operating environment while they make what they can out of this. As it stands tour operators that sell tours to the Obudu Ranch have had to make refunds and apologize for substandard experience. Hoteliers spend so much on extra security. I’ll leave out the horror stories. It is that bad.
Even our diaspora have a role to play. SO MUCH TO DO.
Is this really rocket science? Seriously? I made it clear to a Cross River Govt Event Aide I was a guest with at radio show in Calabar last year that they needed to #WAKEUP! Cross Riverians are shutting down and leaving the place in droves.
MY FREE ADVICE. Dear SAs and SSAs and SSSAs and DGs feel free to copy and paste. I won’t charge you a kobo. I love my state too much and I am so heartbroken!
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.