It is said that the heights that great men attain, are hardly achieved in one day, nor do they come on a platter of gold.
And to further borrow from the legendary English playwright and poet, the inimitable William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.”
For Senator Professor Benedict Bengiousheye Ayade, governor of Cross River State, he was neither born great nor had greatness thrust upon him. But with so much resilience, he toiled, strived and persevered to achieve greatness. And in order to prepare himself for the destiny that lay in wait for him, he needed to show some eagerness by removing every bump and stricture occasioned by the circumstances of his birth.
While many would have bent their heads and in silence, accepted the destiny that oppressed them, like a prince, young Ben, as he was to be later fondly called, mastered his fate and today his destiny is fulfilled.
Born in a sleepy village of Kakum in Obudu Local Government Area of Cross River State, on March 2nd, 1968 to Pa. Peter Akinsheye Ayade, a public servant with the Water Board and wife Beatrice, both of whom were devout Catholics, little Benedict began his early formal education at St. Stephen’s Primary School Obudu, from where he proceeded to the then famous Government Secondary School, Obudu. In Obudu, where he grew up among his rural folks, young Ben witnessed searing pain, grinding poverty, frustration and privation first hand. He learned how to run in the bush hunting games with his peers.
Extraordinarily brilliant, deeply focused and resolutely determined, Ben excelled in his secondary education and in no time secured admission into the nation’s prestigious and premier university, the University of Ibadan, to study Microbiology, where he bagged an MSc. With his yet insatiable appetite for learning, Ben enrolled for a PhD and capped it up with a PhD in Environmental Microbiology, winning the Best Doctoral Dissertation Award in Environmental Microbiology from 1990 to 1994.
With his appointment as a professor at the Delta State University, Abraka, there was no looking back for the consummate scholar, teacher, inventor, accomplished politician and philanthropist. Like a Prophet without honour at home, Professor Ayade’s research interest in global warming in Africa took the world by storm. He would later be invited and honoured by the Japanese government for what was famously adjudged as “an outstanding research” coming from Africa. The significance of this award was that it served as a watermark of his outstanding scholarship at the University of Ibadan, where the authorities had a decade earlier, adjudged Professor Ayade’s doctoral research as “ground breaking”.
Having left an inimitable mark in business and the academia, the stage was perfectly set for an odyssey into politics. His political voyage earned for him an appointment as Chairman of the State ecological fund, Chairman International Institute of Environmental Research and a member of the State Poverty Alleviation Board. Consolidating on this distinguished service, Professor Ben Ayade took the political stage by storm, when in April 2011, he decided to throw his hat into the ring to contest the senate seat on the platform of the PDP.
Regarded as a dark horse, he trounced other candidates to the seat to become a senator representing the Northern Senatorial District of Cross River State in the 7th National Assembly of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. He was acclaimed the best senator having sponsored the highest number of private members bills.
With so much yet to offer his people by way of service, Ayade dared to dare by leaving lawmaking to take on the daunting task of governing a state like Cross River. Running on the PDP platform, Ayade beat all other contestants and won as governor in the April 2015 governorship election.
With a successful business spanning construction, transportation and hospitality industry, among others, followers of his brand of politics which he tags “Politics with Ethics”, believe that Professor Ayade’s adventure into politics is actuated more by his unquenchable passion to give back to the people. As a philanthropist, Ayade is a man full of empathy and therefore, is usually propelled to lend a shoulder for others to lean on.
A leader with an I-can-do-spirit, his abiding philosophy is that once you put your soul above your problem, your body will follow through. It is this attitude and thinking that has so far helped in his successful and resourceful management of the state culminating in a medley of titles as “Salary Master”, “Promise Keeper”, “Labour Friendly Governor”, “Investors Friendly Governor”, “Environmentally Friendly Governor”, among others.
Ben is happily married with children to Dr (Mrs.) Linda Ayade. His hobbies include reading, playing or watching games and dancing.