I wonder how Governor Ayade feels today.
I remember how he felt like eight years ago, today, 28th, May, 2015: he felt like an Emperor! A conqueror.
I was invited to see him through Hon. Jerry Martins-Agba today at 10:00 AM. The appointment had earlier been fixed for the previous day but due to some mix-up, we couldn’t make it after waiting endlessly for his call that never came. In the end, we were rescheduled for today. I was a bit mixed up because I wasn’t looking forward to it. My few previous encounters had not ended too well because I refused to be browbeaten because he had been elected Governor. He always tried to browbeat me. Or so I thought and I was always prepared to stand up for myself.
Yes, back to the appointment. At about 10:00 AM while waiting with Hon. Jerry, a call came through from him personally to Jerry and the Governor-elect asked that we come over to the Presidential Lodge where he was still receiving visitors. Jerry informed me after the call and I immediately put a call across to Prince Goddy Jedy-Agba, who was in Calabar for the inauguration, to inform him of the development. I don’t like sneaking at the back of those I work with. He laughed and asked me what time was my appointment. I said it was about then and I was already on my way. He said he had been invited by Ayade too for that same time! We both laughed then, understanding that the Governor-elect was playing a game.
Goddy said we would be meeting there.
At the Presidential Lodge after some minutes of wait, Sen. Ayade emerged as his Imperial Majesty. On his side, I can remember only Chief Tony Undiandeye, while I came with Hon. Jerry who was the arbiter between us.
I recall that Jerry did the opening at the prompting of Ayade and basically harped on the need for us to end the fighting, settle down and work together to advance Cross River State and our Obudu people. Chief Tony spoke in the same vein and then Governor Ayade took the floor.
He started well by appreciating the efforts I had made in working for his election to my surprise and even the meeting I brokered with the Jedy Agba supporters who didn’t move to the Labour Party and especially the unfortunate meeting that broke down because of disagreements over the venue. He thought that the time to fight was over and that both of us were not getting any younger.
But he was very condescending, in a manner only Ben Ayade can muster. He didn’t fail to remind me that despite the fight, he had emerged as Governor and would be sworn in the following day. A fact that didn’t need reminding; the reason we were having the meeting in the first place!
In between, Prince Goddy Jedy walked in having been ushered into the meeting room, bearing drinks he said he brought to support the Governor for the inauguration. Naturally we all stood and exchanged pleasantries with him gracefully. He refused to sit considering we were in the middle of a meeting.
When he left, Ayade remarked that he didn’t know what he had done to me but that we could see the way I greeted Jedy with a lot of “respect“! which I don’t accord him!
So We were right. He didn’t succeed in his mischievous calculation. Honestly, I just sat down shaking my head interminably.
Here was an ambush carefully orchestrated to see if Jedy would be shocked by my presence in his residence in a supposedly intimate discussion that failed because of my transparency in informing Jedy ahead about the meeting. Here I was, having spent two days waiting for this meeting with the Governor-elect out of respect. Yet, one of his petty regrets was that I accorded his brother some respect in greeting him gracefully as we all did. That sparked something in me at that moment that adjusted my understanding of the reason for the meeting.
When Ayade continued his talk a moment after this comment, as far as I was concerned it had become a diatribe I didn’t care about.
In my response, I thanked him for being gracious enough to have invited me and thanked Hon. Jerry for the role he played in helping to bring us together. I said nevertheless, that knowing him, I had prepared myself psychologically to discount eight years of politics when he would be Governor because at every point I had been useful to him it had always seemed to end in sorrow for me. Nevertheless, whatever he does, after his eight years as Governor, I will still be eligible and capable of playing politics because I would still be below sixty years. That in any case people retire even after sixty years and still join politics and make a success of it.
He at this point interjected and tried to reframe his earlier speech and became more reconciliatory. And Chief Tony did the same.
But I had made my point all too clearly: that I wasn’t available for insults. Neither was I there groveling at his feet for favors.
Now, earlier after his election, one evening in our usual evening hangouts with my former friends Victor Agwu, Zack Agba, and a few others, I can’t remember if Hon. Goddy Akwaji (of blessed memory) was there. I reluctantly put a call across to him on the desperate pleading of Victor Agwu who was desperate to be Chief of Staff to the Governor, which I didn’t believe probable. Ayade wouldn’t even let me tell him why I called. Once I hinted at the idea of an appointment, he berated me on why I thought I must always have an appointment! Why I wasn’t thinking of doing business and making money. The truth was that I had said in unmistakable terms that I wouldn’t serve in an Ayade Government in the unlikely event that I was considered, which my shallow friends were to use against me.
After a long lecture, I informed him that as we were speaking I had a flight to China in two days and would be leaving for Abuja the following day on the sponsorship of Prince Goddy Jedy-Agba who I supported unsuccessfully, but who had taken practical steps to encourage me to do some business in China. Of course, he said he was happy to hear that.
I am not too sure how happy he was because when I was in China and he traveled to Abuja, he invited Prince Goddy Jedy-Agba to his house and pleaded with him to tell him what he had given to me to go to China!
Goddy said he laughed and thought it was a joke until Ben became quite serious and revealed that I confirmed to him that he (Jedy) sponsored me on a business trip to China!
The joke was that Jedy didn’t directly sponsor my trip to China.
When our Campaign looked like it was facing insurmountable challenges, during the last week of the Primaries, in one of those rare acts of kindness, one day when we flew from PortHarcourt to Calabar to drop me off at the Calabar Airport on his way to Abuja, Jedy gave me $30,000 in cash and said to me, how much he appreciated all my efforts. He said whatever happened and however it all ended he wanted me to keep the money and use it to help myself. When he eventually lost with all the establishment as it then was against us, I remembered this moment and wept profusely. Goddy had seen the end long before we did.
But then Ben has since served all of that establishment their due “Breakfast”!
And so when the dust was still on, I informed him that I still had the money he gave to me and planned to start a business importing some items from China to make some money and keep myself busy and sustain my family. He gave me his blessings and gave me some useful contacts in China.
Ayade’s understanding of the “sponsorship“ I meant was laughable to us because he only thinks in currency: Naira and Kobo and Dollars and whatever else. And so he needed to match Jedy’.s sponsorship!
I don’t know how you match feelings of love and tender care and consideration unless you have some humanness which is what he desperately lacks.
And so I returned from China a few days to the inauguration and here we were and the whole mix was on the table: Governor-elect Ayade, Prince Goddy Jedy Agba, Chief Tony, and myself, a collection of what could easily galvanize the entire Obudu political establishment, the northern senatorial district and make a huge success of the Ayade Governorship.
But the upcoming “leader” was only concerned with how much more I valued and respected our elder brother Prince Jedy Agba, who was by all standards a role model to all of us on that table including himself, but who were all gathered in that room in his honor and respect for his new position and the important role he will be expected to play in the affairs of our state in the foreseeable future.
That was the setting today, eight years ago, of the tragedy of pettiness that was to befall Obudu and indeed Cross River State for eight years!
The story of how passionate he was to continue to work to destroy the relationship between Jedy and me is a story for another day.
But I have survived Ben for eight years.
You came, you saw and you conquered all that was important to you except the Governance of your State and leadership of your People!
At least your bank Balances are not Bad.
Vena Ikem Esq, a one-time Special Adviser to President Olusegun Obasanjo on Bureau for Public Enterprises and is currently Chairman of the PDP in Cross River State and writes from Begiaba Community in Obudu.
NB: Opinions expressed in this article are strictly attributable to the author, Venatius Ikem Esq., and do not represent the opinion of CrossRiverWatch or any other organization the author works for/with.