By Paul Ojeka
The epithet which describes Cross River State as “The People’s Paradise” is a smart choice of words for the state. Of course, a paradise is a place where life is pleasant and beautiful because of the “all-time” presence of peace and unbroken bond of unity that binds the people; abundance of justice and equity; it is a place where people may disagree but not without agreeing later.
The state is known for cleanness, greenness, peace and tranquility as well as hospitality, not hostility. Another reason that the state is revered and referred to as tourism destination is located in its massive endowment of natural resources such as Kwa falls, a waterfall along the Kwa River, Agbokim Water Falls, Rain Forests of Afi, Obudu Cattle Ranch, Ikom Monoliths – made up of a series of volcanic stone monoliths of the stone age, the Calabar Drill Monkey Sanctuary, Mountain Walkway Canopy; with some amazing man made tourist attractions viz: amusement facilities at the popular Obudu Cattle Ranch Resort such as the “Monkey Canopy Walkway”, the Tinapa Business Resort, Calabar Slave Park, Calabar Marina, Calabar Residency Museum, the annual Calabar Carnival that takes place during Christmas etc.
It is not by accident that the people of Cross River state live like a family – a nuclear family bloated up with eighteen children – this is referring to the components of the state (namely, Abi, Akamkpa, Akpabuyo, Bekwara, Biase, Boki, Calabar Municipal, Calabar South, Etung, Ikom, Obanliku, Obubra, Obudu, Odukpani, Ogoja, Yakurr and Yala Local Government Areas).
Cross River State, will forever enjoy the respect it gets from the world because of another wonder of the state: the state is often referred to as the Tower of Babel: the Tower of Babel as recorded in the Holy Bible is the place where human languages split from one to hundreds of thousands. This term aptly apply to Cross River State because the state is blessed with several sub-dialectical groups, namely; Etung, Olulumo, Ofutop, Nkim, Abanyom, Nseke, Boki in Ikom and Etung, Yala, Yache, Igede, Ukelle, Ekajuk, Mbube, Bette, Bekwara, Utugwang etc.
The language diversity of Cross River State depicts the cultural diversity of Nigeria. And Cross River is a similitude of what can be described as “unity in diversity”, as evident in her multiple languages. This is an indication that she is made up of a people with common history and destiny.
Most bizarre, but real, is a community nestled between two mountains in Ubang, Obudu L.G.A., called ‘Ofambe’. In this wonderland, according to a research, female and male inhabitants speak separate languages, yet; they understand themselves. In this community, any child born knows that he or she has to speak the language of his or her sex because any attempt to learn the language of the other will end in futility. For example, while the male call water Amie, the female call it Banu. The verb ‘go,’ is Mbie by male, while to the women, it is Uruo. Women call yam Iri, while men call it Ketung.
This gender-linguistic divide is only, as we are bold to say, peculiar to Cross River, to the envy and admiration of the world. If multiplicity of languages cannot destroy Cross River, but rather strengthen her unity, then, political divide, which is ephemeral and only runs along the lines of individuals/group’s interests cannot divide this united people either.
Politically, Cross River state has two major political parties, the PDP (People’s Democratic Party) – the ruling political party, and the APC (All Progressives Congress) the opposition political party in Cross River State. IInterestingly, in spite of the dichotomy in political ideologies between the two political parties, the common factor between the two political parties is their programmes which align with the vision and mission of the state; most importantly, to promote justice and equity in the state, foster unity and peace, and to ensure security of lives and property as well as creating equal employment opportunities for all the members of the Cross River state family.
Though Cross River State is not built on a faulty political foundation, it is obvious that the struggle for supremacy which characterises tendencies of man exists in Cross Riveris what gave impetus to this brief tips on the need for “Cross Riverians” to come together to work willingly to harness its rich natural endowments and to support a visionary leader to build on the legacies of the past leaders in order to make Cross Riverians enjoy a high standard of living.
The two political parties, the PDP and the APC may go (just like the SDP and NRC are now in extinction) but the state will remain forever; membership of the APC or PDC can be renounced, but the state remains our permanent home.
For instance, a couple of months ago, the two political parties experienced amazing cross-carpeting where famous members of both parties had to inter-switch their party membership (from the PDP to the APC or vice versa). However, while such action was carried out without duress – but as a way of enjoying their fundamental right to freedom of association – none of the favourable party seekers violated the constitution. And none of the credible records of events in the state states that movement from one party to the other attracts any punishment such as loss of indigenship.
Arguably, the party is a mere product of the state just like the child is a product of the family. Children who are the social components of the family are meant to protect the family from external aggression; make useful contributions towards the achievement of the family; uphold the African heritage of respect for their parents and elders and wisely present their problems to their parents who have the mandate to lead the family to achieve set goals. In like manner, members of both political parties – the PDP and the APC must come together to build the state.
In vein will the dream of industrialisation of the state be achieved if destructive OPPOSITION is deployed instead of CO-OPERATION as a means of adding up the voices of rival parties as their quota of contribution towards the inescapable task of preserving and harnessing the rich economic potentials of the state as well as ensuring unity, peace and progress of Cross River State.