For months, speculations of his defection to the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, from the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, dominated discourse in the new and traditional media.
Like others before him, Professor Ben Ayade, twice elected Governor of Cross River State on the platform of the PDP, played the ostrich, in a fashion that was uniquely is.
Unlike Dave Umahi, who once described himself a member of both the PDP and APC while still in the later, Ayade kept his peace and moved when he considered the coast cleared enough.
Advancing reasons for seeking shelter in the APC, Ayade cited the “character disposition” of President Buhari and his commitment to the nation’s cause; a reason many in the fold of the PDP dismissed with wave of the hand.
Big political players in the PDP were aware of moves by the Governor to dump the party for the APC, long before he crossed to the other side. Unfortunately, all attempts made by stakeholders, including PDP Governors to persuade Ayade to stay put proved futile.
The Professor of Biology won election twice on the platform of the PDP but failed to sustain the structure that worked so well in his favor.
Findings reveal that though former Governor, Liyel Imoke was pro-Ayade since the Professor first ran for the governorship of the South-South State; Ayade never trusted him, as he always saw in him a man who could remove the rug under his feet anytime.
Ayade speaks the Queen’s English with effortless ease; a factor that could have worked in his favor. However, pundits also believe his gift of the garb also worked against him. The Governor, according to an official of the PDP who pleaded anonymity “is not a team player.”
Hear him: “The Professor does not know what it means to be grassroots-oriented. He does not know how to carry people along. He does not know that in politics, an illiterate with relationship skills is better than a Professor without none.
“He has gone to the APC and we wish him well. We are waiting for him to test his popularity and see how great he is in the reckoning of the good people of Cross River State, particularly those of his Senatorial District.”
The light-skinned PDP official challenged Ayade to seek a Senatorial District election in 2023 and see the fate that awaits him.
“I laugh when people say Ayade will come to the Senate after his tenure in office. Godswill Akpabio learnt belatedly that if it is not PDP, it can never be PDP.
“PDP made Akpabio but when they took our mandate away and sought to return to the Senate on the platform on APC, he was out rightly rejected by the people.
“From uncommon Senator, he became a common man over. That is the fate of anyone who chooses to romance the PDP for peanuts”, he added.
Joining Forces With The Anti-Tinubu Tamp
With the league of APC Governors that received Ayade into the ruling party, it is apparent that the Cross River State Governor has pitched his tent with the group opposed to the rumored Presidential ambition of the former Lagos State Governor, Bola Tinubu.
Many argued that the team of APC Governors that gathered to receive Ayade into the party are the leaders of the camp that saw to the alienation of APC leaders perceived to be sympathetic to Tinubu’s aspiration.
This was the band of APC leaders that ousted former National Chairman of the party, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, bringing his National Working Committee to a premature end.
With the appointment in June 2020 of the Yobe State Governor, Mala Mai Buni as Chairman of the APC Caretaker Committee, the group succeeded in seizing the party structure at the National level.
The Buni-led Caretaker Committee was given an initial tenure of six months, which was to expire in December 2020, but the Committee and its backers succeeded in getting another six months extension, now slated to expire this month.
Having failed in its primary mandate of conducting the party’s national convention, the Caretaker Committee is presently scheming to get a fresh extension, a plot that is being resisted by the marginalized Tinubu camp and other stakeholders with 2023 in sight.
Insider sources in the APC say there is apprehension among party stakeholders over the perceived move by the Caretaker Committee to keep running the affairs of the APC at the National level while Buni and his loyalists would seek loyal party members to occupy the party’s NWC offices.
Those in the Yobe Governor Buni camp include Governors of Kebbi, Kaduna, Jigawa, Ekiti, Kogi, Kwara, Niger, Nasarawa, Plateau, Imo, Ebonyi and Gombe States. Governor Ayade of Cross River is a new entrant into this group.
On the other hand, it was reliably gathered that those opposed to the tenure perpetuation scheme of Buni and members of his camp include the Governors of Kano, Lagos, Ogun, Osun, Ondo, Borno and Katsina.
Alleged Inducement Of PDP Leaders In Cross River
The Cross River State chapter of the PDP recently alleged that Governor Ayade has been using cash and vehicles as gift to induce political appointees to defect with him to the APC. This was disclosed by the Chairman of the Cross River PDP Caretaker Committee, Chief Effiok Cobham, when he spoke with journalists in Calabar, recently.
Cobham said: “Upon decamping to APC, Governor Ayade declared pompously that in Cross River, once the Governor moves everyone follows.
“But to Governor Ayade’s consternation and embarrassment, nobody followed. Governor Ayade has now adopted unconstitutional methods to compel his cabinet and appointees, and other public office holders to follow him to the APC against their choice of remaining in PDP.
“Members of the House of Assembly have been offered 30 million naira each and an SUV each if they agree to decamp.
“Commissioners in Ayade’s cabinet are being offered three million naira and a car each to defect to the APC. Local Government Chairmen and Councilors are under threat of removal from office unless they defect.”
Chief Cobham further alleged that all appointees of the Governor are being asked to produce their APC membership cards before they can receive their salaries.
According to him, the governor’s defection to APC may cost about N2 billion in taxpayers money.
“This is what Ayade needs to buy defectors from even his cabinet to follow him to the APC. Even this filthy lucre put forward by Governor Ayade is not enough”, Cobham stressed.
The PDP State chapter also accused the Governor of frittering the N19 billion recently received from the Federal Government as part of refunds for roads constructed during past PDP administrations of Messrs Donald Duke and Liyel Imoke.
According to the party, the Governor had failed to declare the N19 billion, which is said to be the single largest revenue inflow since the State was created.
The party has demanded that the funds should be spent on basic infrastructure like rural roads, urban road network and provision of water. The Governor, however, dismissed all the allegations as baseless.
In a statement through his Media Adviser, Christian Ita, the Governor said, “There is no doubt that it will take the PDP, in Cross River State ages to overcome the shock and trauma suffered following the exit of His Excellency Governor Ben Ayade from the party.
“While still reeling from Ayade’s masterstroke, the almost emptied PDP has been busy shopping for lies to confuse its sagging coterie of followers and at the same time flattering to deceive.
“It is against this backdrop that PDP’s claim that the governor paid N2 billion to people to defect is as ludicrous as the claim that nobody has moved with the Governor to APC.
“PDP, for all they care, can go on consoling itself that nobody has moved, but it’s clear that more than 90 percent of the members of the State House Assembly, including the Speaker, are already in the APC.
“While the vanishing clan of PDP tells unwholesome lies about N19 billion refund, it should also in good conscience tell Cross Riverians how the state incurred the indebtedness of over N300 billion; thus making it the most indebted State in Nigeria.
“Clearly, the PDP in Cross River is on a free fall and on an uncontrollable hemorrhage”.
Disiri Yakubu wrote this piece for Vanguard News Nigeria.
NOTE: Opinions expressed in this article are strictly attributable to the author, Disiri Yakubu and do not represent the opinion of CrossRiverWatch or any other organization the author works for/with.
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