By Jonathan Ugbal
More members of the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) in northern Cross River last week defected to the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) as the Governor, Senator Ben Ayade commenced his reelection campaign in the five local government areas of the senatorial district.
The campaigns which kicked off Tuesday in Wanokom, Ukelle of Yala local government area before hitting Okpoma (also in Yala); Igoli in Ogoja, Sankwala in Obanliku, Abuochiche in Bekwarra and Obudu saw party faithful, support groups, youths, traders as well as various ethnic groups leave their personal engagement to witness the PDP guber campaigns with the party’s candidate apologising at some points, reeling his achievements and making more promises in a bid to win the voter’s hearts.
In Ukelle, Ayade said the next few months will usher in the nylon tar for the road project which he said will have an Ayade signature.
“When we finish the road, when you are driving into Ukelle, you will be asking yourself if you are driving into the city of London,” Ayade remarked.
On the crisis that engulfed between the Ukelle people and the Izzi people of Ebonyi, the governor proffered a solution as he pointed out that, “before election, construction work for a mobile barracks at the border of the two communities will begin.”
Urging the people to remain consistent and commit their selves to the ideals which they stand for, Ayade said, “I am only three years plus and we have achieved regular payments of salaries and pensions while expanding government,” adding that, “my projects on ground including the superhighway and Deep seaport will tremendously turn around the economy of the state as well as create thousands of jobs and other opportunities for young men to display their full potentials.”
Touched by this show of love, Ayade at the Okpoma campaign venue said, “I know I have done a lot by appointing 6000 appointees, engaged 2500 teachers and 1000 nurses among others, but surely I will know no sleep until everyone of you here gets a job.”
He apologized for the inconveniences created by dust at the ongoing 148km northern superhighway, enjoined the people to bear with him as such a gigantic project could not have been completed within two years.
He maintained that the Okpoma water project has been completed amidst other projects aimed at alleviating the pains of the people, adding that, “this is the turn of the north as both south and central have had their different eight years as governors, so do not allow anybody to come and stop this road we are constructing.”
At the Ogoja township stadium, supporters defiled the murky darkness to get a feel of the campaign which also attracted other party faithful from the entire senatorial districts of the state.
Ayade who spoke after some dance steps said, “I thank you for your patience and silence as only the Ogoja people can come together in darkness. Today, I am proud that I am an Ogoja as no way in this country will you have a rally in this darkness and witness a couple of peace.”
At a meeting with the traditional rulers held at Ogoja council hall, Ayade disclosed that he intends to organise a leadership and security training for the traditional institution, adding that, he will also ensure that chiefs not certificated get their certificates and duly pay rolled.
On Wednesday, an unprecedented crowd overflowed the Sankwala Cenotaph with residents lining up all roads to cheer Ayade and his campaign team
An elated Ayade told the crowd that Obanliku was strategic to the State as it houses the famous Obudu mountain resort and promised speedy completion of the 147 kilometers Mfom – Okuku – Imaje – Abuochiche – Obudu – Obudu ranch road project.
The asphalting of the Obanliku – Obudu section, Mr. Ayade said, was a demonstration of the importance he attaches to the ranch even as he pledged rapid urbanisation of the council by transforming it into a modern town complete with modern infrastructures.
“l want to assure you all that as a proud son of the North, l won’t fail you. Be rest assured that l am very committed to the welfare of our people and all the developmental projects we have started in the north will be completed in our quest to develop our zone in line with others,” Ayade said.
On Thursday, Ayade stormed Bekwarra and Obudu local government areas. In Bekwarra, he announced plans to appoint a Special Adviser on motorcycle affairs following the decision of the Commercial Cyclist Union to endorse his ambition. The National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) also announced their support which they predicated on the northern superhighway.
Ayade told the crowd of supporters that his government has already acquired machines to set up a groundnut shelling factories in four locations of the local government.
He also announced plans by his administration to set up a vegetable oil factory in Bekwarra. Ayade also told the cheering crowd that Bekwarra will be the biggest beneficiary of the ongoing 270 kilometers super highway when it is completed linking Cross River state with the northern part of the county.
In Obudu, Ayade told the traditional rulers council that he will do more in his second term. The council later blessed him and threw their weight behind him.
On politics, several members of the APC decamped to the PDP at different points of the campaign which many described as a boost for Mr. Ayade’s campaign.
In Bekwarra, the Assistant Secretary of the State chapter of the party, Mr. Sunday Omang led hundreds of his supporters to the PDP.
Omang, who was a member of the President Muhammadu Buhari Campaign organization in the state said no sensible Cross Riverian will remain in the APC after seeing Governor Ayade’s massive industrialization drive and infrastructural development of the state just within three and half years in office.
“My decision to join the PDP was never influenced in anyway by anybody. Rather, I took the decision alongside my supporters to join PDP because of the good works Governor Ayade is doing to transform Cross River,” Omang said, adding that: “We are very impressed with development under Ayade, hence our decision to join the PDP train in support of our northern brother to move the state forward. And l want to assure you that we would work for your victory and we appeal, we should be fully integrated and accepted in the party.”
In Wanokom, Ukelle, the senatorial candidate of the Labour Party in the 2015 general elections in Cross River North, Dr, Julius Okputu was also formally welcomed into the PDP.
At the welcome reception, Okputu said, “I am here because we all aim to the sky and we can only get to the sky if Ayade returns. I am here to support the return of Ayade because this election has nothing to do with party but the credibility of the candidate.”
Okputu who earlier served as a Commissioner for Environment during the administration of former Governor Liyel Imoke, had later decamped to the APC. He told Ayade that: “Your election is going to be more than a bipartisan one and you are the only one today living who can do justice and guarantee the future.”
Supporting the Ayade’s industrialization drive across the state, the returnee maintained that, “there is no industrialization policy better than the one on the ground, so we need to support Ayade return in order to guarantee peace and order while providing jobs for our teeming unemployed youths.”
Responding at the event, Governor Ben Ayade applauded the return of Okputu whom he described as a brother, friend and soulmate, intimating that, “the returnee will serve as a consultant to help in putting an end to the challenges of the Ukelle people.”