Whenever words such as “Conjugated Agglutination” and “Olimpotic Meristemasis” are mentioned, Nigerians know that Ben Ayade is on the beat. He is renowned for his Brobdingnagian grammatical lexicon and his ability to use words to bewilder all and sundry.
Known to revel in the spotlight due to the media razzmatazz, Ayade tends to occasionally dramatise situations or events or make quixotic comments. He seems to command the respect of members of the political class, even though his political influence outside his state is yet to be fully tested.
So, who is Ben Ayade, the scientist-turned-politician known for crafting attention-seeking budget titles and crying publicly?
Ben Ayade Biography
Benedict Bengiuoshuye “Ben” Ayade was born on 2 March 1968. He was born to the family of Peter and Beatrice Ayade in Kakum, a village in Ipong Ward in the Obudu Local Government Area of Cross River State.
Ayade attended St. Stephens Primary School, Obudu, for his elementary education. He had his secondary school education at Government Secondary School, Obudu. He then enrolled at Ambrose Ali University, Ekpoma, Edo State, in 1984 and graduated with a B.Sc Honours degree in Microbiology in 1988. A year later, he proceeded to the University of Ibadan and obtained an M.Sc. in Microbiology in 1990. He received a PhD in Environmental Microbiology, the apex educational qualification in his field, from the same university and was subsequently presented with the Best Doctoral Dissertation Award in Environmental Microbiology in 1994.
Ayade began his career as a lecturer at Delta State University, Abraka. He rose through the ranks in the lecturing cadre and was subsequently appointed a Professor of Microbiology by the university.
While lecturing, Ayade also delved into environmental consulting. His job as a consultant laid the foundation for his political adventure. He was, at various times, appointed Chairman of the Cross River State Ecological Fund, Chairman of the International Institute of Environmental Research, and a member of the state’s Poverty Alleviation Board and Strategic Policy Advisory Council.
It was during his stint as a lecturer and consultant that Ayade, who worked on groundwater remediation in Nigeria, invented a sewage treatment plant that runs on solar energy. The invented piece of technology is said to be used by off-shore oil-producing companies operating in Nigeria. He was honoured by the Government of Japan for his “outstanding research” into the effects of global warming in Africa.
Armed with the experience he garnered, having served in various capacities within his state’s institutions, Ayade ventured into politics and contested for the Cross River North Senatorial seat under the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2011 general election. Despite an earlier court injunction restraining him from presenting himself as the candidate of the party, Ayade was eventually cleared and won the election by a landslide.
As a Senator, Ayade was appointed Vice-Chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Ecology. He was also a member of other committees such as Petroleum (Downstream), Education, and Drugs/Narcotics/Crime.
While in the Senate, he sponsored or co-sponsored the following bills:
- Nigerian Naira Stabilization Bill
- Nigeria Expatriate Quota Control Bill
- Job Creation and Protection Bill
- Federal Scholarship Commission Bill,
- Green Cities Development Bill
- National Energy Bill
Cross River State Governor
In 2015, Ayade decided to take the bull by the horn as he threw his hat into the ring for the Cross River governorship race. He won the governorship primary of the PDP, which enabled him to be listed as a candidate of the party. His victory at the primary was a political upset for the establishment politicians in the party and a stunner for political analysts.
Ayade subsequently got a resounding victory in the 2015 governorship election, securing another landslide win at the poll. He was subsequently inaugurated as Governor on 29 May 2015. As his tenure elapsed, he recontested for the same office in the 2019 general election under the PDP platform. He won and was subsequently re-elected as Governor for a second-term tenure of four years.
The governor, once more, shocked the Nigerian political establishment on 20 May 2021 when he announced his defection from the PDP, the platform that brought him to power, to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). According to him, he joined the APC to ensure that Cross River State aligns with the “nationalistic disposition” of President Muhammadu Buhari towards building a prosperous Nigeria.
One of the highlights of Ayade’s tenure has been the names of the annual budgets he prepares on behalf of the state. Since he got elected, Nigerians look forward to the name crafted and assigned for the budget for each year. Below is a list of the budget names prepared by his administration.
- 2016: N350 billion = Budget of Deep Vision
- 2017: N707 billion = Budget of Infinite Transposition
- 2018: N1.3 trillion = Budget of Kinetic Crystallisation
- 2019: N1.043 trillion = Budget of Qabalistic Densification
- 2020: N1.1 trillion = Budget of Olimpotic Meristemasis
- 2021: N277.7 billion = Budget of Blush and Bliss
- 2022: N276 Billion = Budget of Conjugated Agglutination
Post-governorship political moves
With his second-term tenure, which is non-renewable, coming to an end in 2023, Ayade has begun to prepare for life without being a governor by attempting to solidify his political relevance.
After failing to clinch the presidential ticket of the APC for the 2023 general election, Ayade secured the ticket of his party for his old job – the Cross River North Senatorial district. His name is on the ballot for the senatorial election, scheduled to hold on 25 February 2023.
- 2016 Vanguard Governor of the Year
- 2019 Champion Newspaper Governor of the Year
- Invested as the Knight of St. John (KSJ) by the Roman Catholic Church
- 2020 Leadership newspaper Governor of the year
- 2021 Blueprint Newspaper Governor of the Year on Agro-industrialisation
- Awarded the title of Commander of the Order of Niger (CON) in October 2022
As mentioned earlier, Ayade tends to dramatise or exaggerate certain situations. He is described in the political circle as the “crying governor” due to his propensity to shed tears at public functions.
For instance, in August 2016, Ayade, who was accompanied by Fuss Friedrich, the Mayor of Dortmund, a city in Germany, publicly cried over what he described as the sordid state of the Internally Displaced Persons’ camp for the displaced Bakassi residents. The governor then announced that free houses would be built for the IDPs, but nothing has been done to date.
The governor repeated his cry for the same displaced Bakassi residents during a courtesy visit by Sadiya Farouk, the then National Commissioner of the National Commission for Migrants, Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons, in March 2017. He lamented about the state of the camp in the Bakassi Local Government Area of the state and the plight of the people.
In 2018, the governor wept again when he signed the state’s 2018 budget, dubbed Budget of Kinetic Crystallisation. It was later learnt that he cried because it was the first time that Cross River State had a budget of over N1 trillion passed into law (the budget’s total sum was N1.3 trillion). He also claimed that the budget was going to separate the state from relying on federal allocation and, therefore, lift the poor in the state out of poverty. However, the less that is said about the claim four years after, the better.
While inaugurating the Cross River State Anti-Tax Agency in May 2020, Ayade put up a spectacle once more in front of numerous cameras as he broke down in tears over the level of poverty in the state and the amount that low-income businesspersons and organisations in the state have to pay in the form of taxes.
“I never knew that five years into office as Governor, I will still find someone living in a thatched house in Cross River. I almost cried because I knew how prepared I was but it didn’t end the way I dreamt for the state. I wish God would intervene because I really wish I could help,” Ayade stated as he sobbed uncontrollably at the event. He then repeated his January 2017 order to the committee that low-income business persons and organisations in the state should not be taxed.
Ayade is married to Linda Ayade, and the couple has three children.