By John Ushie
The Traditional Council of Chiefs in Obanlikwu Local Government of Cross River State has endorsed the candidature of Senator Ben Ayade, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP governorship flag bearer in next month’s election.
The council also advised Ntufam Fidelis Ugbo, the Obanlikwu born Labour Party gubernatorial flag bearer to step down and not do anything that will reduce the number of votes for Ayade from the area.
The Chiefs made their position known after receiving members of the Obudu Traditional Council of Chiefs who paid a courtesy visit to the Palace of the Paramount Ruler of Obanlikwu LGA, His Royal Highness, HRH Uchua Amos Item recently.
The Obudu Chiefs had paid the visit to their Obanlikwu counterparts to remind them of the traditional ties that have existed between the two neighbors and to solicit their support for the PDP governorship flag bearer, Senator Ben Ayade.
One of the Obudu Chiefs who was part of the entourage spoke to CrossRiverWatch after the meeting. He said: “It was important for us to go and remind our Obanlikwu brothers of the age long sacrifices that we have made for ourselves politically and not to allow that history to be jeopardized. From a very long time ago, the Obudu people stood against their own son, Utande to support Wayas for the Senate and he went on to become Senate President.
“It behooves on our brothers in Obanlikwu to now look beyond party lines and realize that our area has always relied on our brotherliness and unanimity in taking important decisions like this. We have presented Ayade who has been well received by the entire state. Obanlikwu cannot be missing in this train and we have received the assurances of the council that they will support Ayade. We commend their magnanimity and hospitality.”
In a brief interaction with the Paramount Ruler of Obanlikwu LGA, His Royal Highness, HRH Uchua Amos Item, he did not mince words:
CRWatch: Good morning Your Royal Highness.
HRH: How are you?
CRWatch: I am very fine thank you sir. Your Highness, my name is…..I am a journalist from CrossRiverWatch
HRH: A journalist?
CRWatch: Yes, Your Highness.
CRWatch: I am calling to find out the details of your meeting with members of the Obudu Traditional Council of Chiefs who paid you a visit recently over the governorship ambition of Senator Ben Ayade and Ntufam Fidelis Ugbo, what was the outcome of the meeting and the reaction of the Obanlikwu Chiefs bearing in mind that Ugbo is from Obanlikwu sir?
HRH: Ok. Where are you…..Where are you calling from?
CRWatch: I am talking to you from Calabar, our office is in Calabar Sir.
HRH: Ok. It’s alright. The discussion was a cordial one and we have agreed to stand by what we had already agreed on which is that we are going to give our support to the PDP gubernatorial aspirant. We will not be shaken by any other consideration. Though we have not even heard formally from our own son declaring to us that he has an intention to do that, we are only hearing from different sources. That is exactly what is going on. But when he (Ugbo) comes, and if he tells us what he has in mind, then we will tell him our own mind that we are one and we cannot divide ourselves. The old Obudu/Obanlikwu has always been one and it must remain so. When it comes to politics, we do our things unanimously. So that was what happened and we members of the council gave them the assurance that come rain, come sun, we are out for the PDP gubernatorial candidate who has already been introduced to us. I think that was the outcome of our meeting.
CRWatch: Following from what you have said, Your Highness, that the old Obudu/Obanlikwu are one and should remain so, what will be your advice to these two noble sons of yours in view of the circumstances?
HRH: Well, we have seen Ayade, but if I had seen Ugbo or if he comes, I will advise him that this time around, his brother is already in front. There is no point tussling with him to may be draw him backward or any other way of shrinking or reducing his votes from this area because we are one. So let him have a common understanding with his brother and definitely I know that his brother will take care of him.”
Repeated attempts to get Ugbo’s reaction have not been successful as several calls to his phone are not taken.
But a member of the Publicity Committee of the Ugbo Campaign Group who is also an ally of the immediate past Executive Secretary of the National Planning Commission, Mr. Peter Offem Ubi who spoke to CrossRiverWatch said: “I won’t give credence to that story yet. Ugbo is a Chief himself that is why he is Ntufam. It is just not possible for the Obanlikwu chiefs to reject one of their own. In any case the position of chiefs or traditional ruler or paramount ruler is not a political position. Those are fatherly positions that are politically neutral.
“The governor was the first person who went to Obanlikwu to play the ethnic card and I think that was wrong. It is true that Ugbo has not gone round to meet with other paramount rulers like he went to the Obong of Calabar after his declaration. The LG to LG campaign will soon begin and we will get to the Palace of the Obanlikwu Paramount Ruler and well as other paramount rulers in the 18 LGAs and I tell you the story will be different. Ugbo is their son and they will stand by him.”
It will be recalled that despite the acrimony that attended the December 8, PDP primaries in the state, Ugbo along with other aspirants openly insisted that though they were aggrieved by the result of the primaries, they will not live the party but will continue to work within the party and ensure that the candidate Ayade emerges victorious in next month’s election.
At the time, Ugbo said: “I am a foundation member of the party. My local council is now empty. Only the governor knows why he treated me the way he did. I am not leaving the party.”
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