Youths in Cross River State, under the platform of Cross River Future Leaders Forum (CRFLF) attacked Mr. Asuquo Ekpenyong Jr’s comment over the prediction that he may run for governorship once the current administration’s tenure expires in 2023.
Ekpenyong Jr who is the State’s Commissioner for Finance earlier this week, in a press conference, announced that he has no ambition to vie for governorship come 2023 — a statement, CRFLF said was not in tandem with the appetite of Cross River State youths who are craving for a young Cross Riverian to succeed Governor Ben Ayade.
The Publicity Secretary of CRFLF, Comr. Benjamin Arikpo yesterday told CrossRiverDaily that Ekpenyong Jr’s comment “does not mean well for all young Cross Riverians. Our prayer is for His Excellency to handover the state to someone younger than he [Ayade] is.
“We have been all about encouraging youths of all walks of life to ready themselves ahead of 2023 guber race. Therefore, finding a committed and progressive youth like Asuquo Ekpenyong Jr saying publicly that he has no such ambition is, to say the least, discouraging and unpalatable to our ears,” Arikpo said.
The group also appealed to the State Governor to consolidate his youths-inclusiveness in the politics of the state by making all efforts to hand over to a youth, even as they opined that youths of Mr. Asuquo Ekpenyong Jr’s capacity should not be left out of such calculations.
In a similar development, a senior stakeholder with the Civil Society Organization (CSO) in the state, Mr. Anthony Bissong Ph.D also condemned the Finance Commissioner’s statement which he described as “disappointing”.
“I must say that the Commissioner [Asuquo Ekpenyong Jr] disappointed me terribly when he admitted that he was not going to run for Governor. His insistence that he will return to his private life after his current position is not in the best interest of the State.
“Despite his perceived limitations which I consider minimal, I will like him to go for the big office so as to challenge the entrenched political class and add color, quality and panache to the race to Peregrino House in 2023,” Anthony wrote on his Facebook page.
Asuquo served in Gov. Ayade’s first term as Finance Commissioner afterwhich he was awarded the “Most Performed Young Appointee (South)” by CrossRiverDaily, sometime in August, 2019.
Mr. Asuquo’s award as the “Most Performed Young Appointee (South)” in Gov. Ayade’s first term came on the platter of the Finance Commissioner’s achievements in handling the State’s resources; which amongst others, are;
- Biometric Capturing of Civil Servants in the State — An exercise that reduced the state’s high wage bill by eliminating ghost workers with a view of making savings for the administration’s industrialization mantra. By the end of the compulsory six(6) months biometric exercise, the Cross River State wage/pension bill was reduced approximately by N174 million, leading to an annual savings of N2.08 billion.
- Designing and Implementation of Ministerial Single Account (MSA) — A fiscal reform programme that created a public accounting system where all government collectibles and receivables are channelled through a single consolidated account. At the conclusion of this exercise the state government were able to mop up approximately 4.2 billion naira in idle funds and shutdown approximately 500 inefficiently operated bank accounts of MDAs. The MSA also allows the state government to appropriate funds to projects in order of priority.
- Establishment of Efficiency Units — A unit established to reduce cost and make savings for the state government. The Unit reviews government expenditure with a view of identifying areas where government can save cost and make savings. The Unit focuses on reviewing travelling expenses and bulk purchases, and make appropriate recommendation to the state government for implementation.
I therefore hold in strong terms that the decision whether to run for Governorship in 2023, or not to run is beyond the Honourable Finance Commissioner — this is a course for the young generation and Asuquo Ekpenyong Jnr should be at the forefront of this course.
©Mazi Endurance Onun
A political commentator
Writing from Ugep, Yakurr LGA.