By Folu Adegoke
Senator Ben Ayade, is one of the aspirants for the governorship ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP in Cross River State. In this interview he asserts the superiority of his capacity above other aspirants and claims that the freely and fairly conducted ward congresses in the state is being manipulated by some people in Abuja.
You are one of the aspirants that appeared before the local government and senatorial caucuses to present your blueprint. How was that experience?
It is the most exciting political experience of my life. It was a process where emphasis was shifted away from money to capacity and value-addition to the polity. What happened was that each of the local governments had designed its caucus in line with the constitution of the party. I appeared before all the local government caucuses and what I observed was that every caucus had a template based on certain criteria on which aspirants were assessed. Some of the criteria included innovation, technology, ideas, acceptability, competence, public perception, understanding of government policies, level of participation in party activities and so on. Each member of the caucus was given a sheet of paper to assess every aspirant. And so, there was full participation in a very civilized way. I give all the kudos to the governor, Senator Liyel Imoke for bringing that innovation which I know some states are trying to adopt. Going through it gave me the opportunity to understand the thinking of the electorate and of course, they too had the opportunity to fellowship with me and know what my dreams are; what my ideas are in a very convivial atmosphere, therefore, presenting my manifesto in a way and manner that allowed for questions and answers session. The Governor stayed out of the process and allowed the people to make their choices. So, narrowing down the number of aspirants from about 18 to 5 was done by the people.
But what you just recounted is inconsistent with claims from some quarters from where the governor has been accused of handpicking aspirants?
That is completely false. I don’t know any key member of the party that was not in those caucuses. If you are looking at the South, big names like Senator Florence Ita-Giwa, Bassey Ndem and Chief Asuquo Ekpenyong and co, they were all there. Every politician that matters in the PDP participated both at the Local Government and Senatorial Caucuses. If you go to the Central Senatorial District, people like Col. Pam Ogar (rtd) were all there. The same thing for the North. So, at no time did the governor handpick anybody. He never called anybody to ask that a certain aspirant be scored a certain point. He left that decision to the people. And for me, I think that it is perfect democracy in the sense that each and every member of the caucus had the full luxury of assessing the aspirants based on his or her perception of each of them. There was no handpicking at all because even aspirants other than the governorship aspirants also appeared before the caucuses.
So why do you think they are picking on the governor who is not even contesting any election?
It is politically motivated. There are those who lacked the confidence to face the caucuses and so did not make any appearance. They are the ones now looking for escapist explanations to justify their inability to appear before the caucuses. The claim that the Governor handpicked people is just cheap blackmail.
What do you make of the controversy that has attended the ward congresses?
It is sad story, a sad story because you have an authentic result where you have returning officers from the respective wards filing in results, you have the results entered in proper forms provided by the national headquarters of the party and you have authentic, typed result available to the party. Then the result gets altered and substituted with a handwritten result on arriving at the national headquarters of the party. The result they submitted is completely inconsistent with what was done on the ground. In life and nature, truth will always triumph over falsehood. So in the fullness of time, that truth will manifest. How could you have a report, which was supposed to be a proper report, documented properly being handwritten in plain sheets of paper? What was the essence of the forms sent from the national headquarters of the party? And the backup to the handwritten result, where is it? You have a handwritten result without accompanying documents that support it. It is very obvious that a few people who lost out at the ward congress decided to falsify the result and think that they can buy their way through. Unfortunately for them, money is not everything and people have their conscience. Some of them have even confessed to it.
You are one of those aspiring to become the next governor of Cross River State. What recommends you for such a high office?
My pedigree, my experience, my activities, my passion for the people and my exposure makes me eminently qualified for the office. More so, I am a Cross Riverian in truth. And of course, my philanthropic gestures and disposition to human services means I am elegantly qualified to seek the office.
Culled from Vanguard
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