By Jonathan Ugbal
More details are emerging from the defection of Governor Ben Ayade from the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressives Congress (APC) last week thursday.
Details emerging now show that Mr. Ayade may have also been ambushed in the same manner his defection shocked some of his aides and political allies.
Mr. Ayade had met with Governor Hope Uzodinma and some other APC bigwigs Wednesday night and is said to have placed on the table the need to consult with his followers on the best way to move.
“He requested for a few months to be able to move with more people but that put some of the bigwigs off as he had played the same card before,” a source (name withheld upon request) close to the Governor told this reporter.
But, he did not see the next move coming as the National Caretaker Committee Chairman of the APC and Yobe State Governor, Mai Mala Buni is said to have placed a call to President Muhammadu Buhari who insisted that if Mr. Ayade was moving, it must be that morning.
This shocked Mr. Ayade who upon arrival at the Executive Council Chambers of the Governor’s office called federal lawmaker, Legor Idagbo and ally, Dr. Stephen Odey and told them that he had to announce his defection that morning.
This left the duo and those who were close shocked even though it was expected.
According to another source, the relationship between Governor Ayade and Buni grew soured as he felt railroaded. “Did you notice that after shaking hands with Governors Hope (Uzodinma) and (Kayode) Fayemi, he did not want to hug Governor Buni because of that,” the source who pleaded anonymity, added.
Who’s Right? Who’s Left?
But, all did not go smoothly as not everyone accepted to follow the Governor.
The first crack was in the composition of the new caretaker committee of the PDP in the State which was announced on Friday by the party’s National Working Committee.
Two commissioners appointed by Governor Ayade, Rita Ayim and Mike Usibe were listed as Publicity Secretary and member of the committee, a release signed by the National Publicity Secretary, Kola Olagbodiyan read.
“The National Working Committee (NWC) of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), on behalf of the National Executive Committee (NEC), has approved the dissolution of the State Caretaker Committee for the Cross River state chapter of the party. The decision is in pursuant to the powers conferred on the NWC by the PDP Constitution,” read the statement by Olagbodiyan.
“Consequently, the NWC has constituted a new State Caretaker Committee to pilot the affairs of the chapter of the party at the state level. The members of the new State Caretaker Committee for Cross River state are as follows:
Barr. Efiok Cobham (Chairman)
Barr. Attah Ochinke
Dr. Uke Enun
Prof. Walter Mboto
Hon. Rita Ayim (Publicity Secretary)
Hon. Mike Usibe
Hon. Christopher Ekpo
Mr. Victor Effiom Okon
Prince K.J. Agba
Hon. Eko Atu (Secretary)
“All other structures of the party at the local government and ward levels in the state remain intact.”
And, a former Chairman of Calabar Municipal and Commissioner, Mr. Donatus Etim also resigned from Mr. Ayade’s cabinet.
At the National Assembly, Cross River has three senate and eight House of Representatives seats. Only one Representative, Alex Egbonna (Yakurr/Abi) was in the APC. And, following his defection, the members representing Obubra/Etung as well as that of Obudu/Obanliku/Bekwarra federal constituencies, Mike Etaba and Legor Idagbo respectively have since announced their defections.
While announcing his defection at his Apiapum ward in Obubra Local Government Area, Mr. Etaba took to his Facebook page to announce that: “We Have Left The Umbrella.”
He averred that: “we need to be in the mainstream of national politics viz-a-vis the ruling party at the centre, to bring home more of the desired democratic dividends to our people. Because of the exigencies of the situation, there was little or no time to properly communicate this position to the good people of Obubra/Etung Federal Constituency.
“However, sooner than later, we shall convene a Town Hall Meeting to properly inform all constituents of our new situation. Until then, I implore all our supporters who showed so much loyalty and love to us while we were in our former party, the Peoples Democratic Party, to heed His Excellency’s directive to return to our various wards and register with the APC.”
The other five House of Representatives members and senators remained in the PDP.
Also, in the House of Assembly, the number of those who have refused to announce their defection are nine in number out of the 25 seats in the Assembly.
Furthermore, five who have defected are said to have secretly met with PDP members to plead that they be allowed to be APC members in the Assembly and PDP members in soul.
Among those who have defected or are planning to, are the Speaker, Eteng Jones (Yakurr 2), Akamkpa 1 and 2, Odukpani, Calabar South 1 and 2, Bakassi, Biase, Etung, Ikom 2, Obanliku, Obudu, Bekwarra, Yala 1 and Ogoja State constituencies.
The warm felicitations from Cross River APC members…
Mr. Ayade’s defection elicited warm welcome from different members of the APC.
Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba
The leader of the Seventh Senate and former Chairman, board of the Niger Delta Development Commission, Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba in his message, said the past 6 years has impacted negatively on the State since it was in the opposition.
“Your Excellency will recall that Cross River State has always been in the mainstream of Nigeria politics. There is no gainsaying the fact that the past 6 years of being in the opposition has impacted the State negatively, even though you have consciously navigated the ship of governance in sync with the APC-led Federal Government. As a State, we can ill afford to remain in the opposition. I commend you for recognizing this fact and doing the needful for the good of our dear State.
As you join us in the Progressives fold, my expectation is that your coming will enrich our internal democracy and I enjoin you to be consultative, inclusive, democratic, transparent and accountable because these are the hallmarks of the All Progressives Congress family. I also expect that your presence in the APC will further strengthen the party and improve our electoral fortunes in Cross River State. I have no doubts that the APC family in the State has received you with open arms and will work with you to reposition our dear State on the path of unprecedented socioeconomic and sociopolitical development.
“Our core objective remains forging a stronger, united and formidable APC that will deliver the dividends of good governance to all Cross Riverians irrespective of political affiliation, ethnicity and religion. I trust that you are well in tandem with this,” he said.
Senator John Owan-Enoh
Senator John Owan-Enoh, a factional guber candidate of the APC in the 2019 general elections took to his verified Facebook page to welcome Mr. Ayade into the APC. Mr. Owan-Enoh who said APC members “waited with baited breath and measured anticipation,” on the “electrifying rumors of” his impending defection, said he was enthused that it was now a reality.
“The historic nature of your entry into our party is not lost on every well meaning Cross Riverian. It evinces hope and has lit the light of unbridled optimism in the minds of party members and the teeming supporters of our great party in the state and across the nation.
“Your entry into our party at this auspicious time in nation building, a period of profound challenges confronting the nation is remarkable.
“While our dear state and nation revel in the significance of this seismic move, let me use this opportunity to extend to you, my hand of fellowship and my unalloyed support in the ongoing task of building a state we will all be proud of.
“I have no doubt that your entry into our party will not only galvanize support for the party across the state, it will also act as a greater impetus for you to continue to deliver dividends of democracy for our people,” Owan-Enoh said.
A former Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on prosecution, Okoi Obono-Obla, extolled Governor Ayade’s “sagacity and courage.”
“I welcome heartily, Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River State of Nigeria into the progressives fold – All Progressives Congress, APC. Governor Ayade is Human, and he has his good and negative sides, just as I and You.
“He has done his Best for Cross River State, and he is still doing his Best. Cross River State has a huge debt profile which Governor Ayade inherited, but Governor Ayade has managed the State’s economy excellently, paying salary and doing projects. I salute him. He is a man of sagacity and courage!
“APC is just seven years old.
PDP is 21 years old. APC controlled – Federal Government is six years.
PDP led the Federal Government of Nigeria for 12 years.
APC inherited a broken country and is doing its best to bring sanity.
APC has brought a semblance in so many areas. Rome was not built in a Day.
I believe APC is better than PDP. The APC-controlled Federal Government has done more for this country in 6 years with little resources than what PDP did in 12 years with so much money.
“Welcome, Governor Ayade. As an APC leader from Cross River State, I pledge to work assiduously with Governor Ayade to enhance the Party’s fortunes.” Obono-Obla said.
Joe Agi, SAN
The candidate of the APC in the December 5, 2020 senatorial by-election in northern Cross River, Joe Agi, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria in his statement said it will create a new momentum for the party.
“I wish to congratulate Your Excellency, Senator (Prof) Ben Ayade, Governor of Cross River State on your historic defection from the People’s Democratic Party to the All Progressives Congress today. Your Excellency’s decision, which has long been speculated and indeed anticipated, given the prevailing political dynamics in the State, is a welcome development for all progressive politicians.
“Unquestionably, the energy, clout, pedigree and certain elements of incumbency that your presence is bound to bring to the fold a robust anchor for the Party in State.
“This will not only create a fresh momentum in the party, but will also position it to better leverage on the APC National structure for a more effective delivery of critical services and development milestones for our people in the State.
“As progressives, my political supporters, associates and I warmly welcome Your Excellency into the family and also pledge our unflinching support to you as our leader. In this regard I am optimistic that all hands will be on deck in order to bring about the much needed change,” Agi said.
John Upan Odey
For John Upan Odey, a former guber aspirant, “tomorrow has indeed come.”
“Our party is the party in power. I wish to make welcome our Governor to the @OfficialAPCNg and congratulate him and others who will come to the big tent coalition APC. Our Governor has displayed the mind of the Progressive in many things he has conceived and executed and I believe he will now build upon those initial developments,” he tweeted.
“Politics is about consensus building and as His Excellency takes the lead in our party, we urge him to consult and work with all interests in the APC, Cross River State Chapter to achieve a landmark success in the rest of his term and in the forthcoming 2023 General Elections,” he added.
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