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Cross River 2019: Powerful forces gnawing at Ayade’s second term bid

By Anietie Akpan, Calabar
02 September 2018   |   3:25 am
Youths under the aegis of Cross River State Peoples Democratic Party Support Group led by its national coordinator, Chief Edet Essien Asoquo and Robert Ani have sent a petition to the national Chairman of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Uche Secondus and the National Working Committee...

Cross River State governor, Senator Ben Ayade

Youths under the aegis of Cross River State Peoples Democratic Party Support Group led by its national coordinator, Chief Edet Essien Asoquo and Robert Ani have sent a petition to the national Chairman of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Uche Secondus and the National Working Committee (NWC), asking them to deny Governor Ben Ayade the party’s ticket come 2019, citing breach of trust, corrupt enrichment, poor leadership and covert alliance with the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).

Checks on the background and strength of this group showed it might not have a strong political pedigree on its own to cause Ayade sleepless nights, except that the group may be enjoying the backing of powerful stakeholders in PDP and others in the APC, who do not want a second term for Ayade.

In the petition titled: “Breach of trust, unlawful enrichment and conversion of state resources to personal use…” the group like several others in the state accused Ayade of indiscriminate and reckless abuse of office, using fake MoUs and white-elephant projects like the Super Highway, Deep Sea Port and others to waste state resources.

It said; “as a political group desirous of overwhelming victory for our great party, we have decided to join you in this very important and onerous task to bring sanity to the party, expose and rid our party of inept leadership, corruption and avaricious governance which have caused and will continue to cause socio-economic malaise to our dear state if left unchecked.”

They alleged that all his so-called Special Purpose Vehicle (SPVS) otherwise called signature projects are white elephant projects, which are avenues for defrauding and siphoning public funds.

Some of the projects the group listed include Super Highway, Deep Sea Port, Cali Pharm, Independent Power Plant, Calabar Virgin City, Rice City, Banana City, Teachers Continuous Training City, Calas Vegas City in Southern Cross River State, Nostradam City in Northern Cross River State, Centicort City in Central Cross River State, Calabar Virgin City in Calabar, 1500 Housing Units for the Bakassi Returnees, Cross River Poultry Farm with 150,000 capacity hatchery, Synthetic Wood Processing Plant constructed by Chinese, Wood Processing Plant., Ayade Calabar South Waterfront Resort, Ayade flouting restaurant (Calabar South), Cally Air, Cross River Fishing Trolleys and Vessels (This project was approved and public bid process accomplished with fanfare and media hype), Ayade pork/beef process plant, Cross River State Footprint Institute of carpentry and masonry, Odukpani Bridge with a spaghetti flyover, Ogoja Ultra Modern Rice Mill that will pump out 150,000 tonnes of rice per annum, Cross River State chocolate factory and the Hydro thermal electricity project in Agbokim waterfalls in Ikom.

The group alleged that all projects have all failed as none has taken off fully over two years now. It said the governor is still deluding Cross Riverians with empty promises, signing MOU’s without practicalising it and still building castles in the air.

Checks by The Guardian showed that the Rice Seedling and the Garment factories, Independent Power plant, Banana city are ready, but only the garment factory and rice seedling factories have started production, though at low key. A few others like the Cali Pharm in Calabar, Rice Mill factory at Ogoja, the cocoa processing factory, are ongoing, while most others are actually are pipe dreams.

During a facility tour of the factory in Calabar recently, the state commissioner in charge of agriculture, Prof. Anthony Eneji, dismissed rumour that the rice factory was fake and that the equipment had been removed. He said the factory built at a cost of over N3b in terms of planning, design, construction and equipping, all the facilities together, “is expected to meet the hybrid seed demands of the entire South-South and South-East zones.”

Prof. Eneji said a return of about N13b per year was expected and the project totally self-sustaining if well managed.But the PDP youth group is not impressed. It added that Ayade has offended the very people that voted him into power by personalizing the affairs of governance and destroying the party ahead of the 2019 general elections. Thus declaring him unelectable for a second term.

However, the Special Adviser to the Governor on NDDC, Mr. Victor Ekpo dismissed the Abuja group as mere jokers, saying, “it is laughable when you have politicians that think they can get the ticket at the top without the masses on ground. Are you going to govern Wuse Zone 5? If you want to become the governor of Cross River state you come down home, you come to Calabar and talk to people that will vote for you. I can bet that 2019 election is not going to be for the elites but for the masses. The masses will decide who goes to represent them, the masses will decide who becomes their governor and the masses have already decided in Cross River State that we need Prof. Ben Ayade to carry on to 2023.”

Ekpo said: “I am telling you without fear of contradiction, we are waiting for them. Let them come and tell us what they want to do, why it should not be Ayade. Come to the ground and tell us. You don’t need to run to Abuja or Port Harcourt, come here. We are not second-class citizens of Nigeria. My governor is in charge of Cross River State. He is the leader of PDP.

On if Ayade fails to get the PDP ticket after the primaries, Ekpo said, “if he fails to get the party ticket, then there will be no PDP in Cross River State. It is as simple as that. Ayade is PDP. The only being that is sustaining the PDP in Cross River State is Senator Professor Ben Ayade and if he fails to get the ticket, there is no PDP in Cross River State. I am not asking anybody or getting authority from the Governor, but I know without Ayade there is no PDP in Cross River State.

Despite the petition by Abuja group, thousands of women in the state led by the commissioner for Women Affairs, Mrs. Stella Odey, under the umbrella of Cross River Women Emancipation Initiative (CROWEI), from the 18 local government areas of the state staged a street procession last week to chant support for Ayade come 2019.

While the real identity of the youth group does not cause much stir, it is widely speculated that the masquerades behind the group could have in their midst personalities such as immediate past governor of the state, Senator Liyel Imoke, his deputy Mr. Efiok Cobham, former Special Adviser, Department of Public Transport, Mr. Edem Effiom Ekong, former Director General Rural Development Agency (RUDA), Mr. Eko Atu, governorship aspirant and former publicity Secretary of PDP, Mr. Emmanuel Ibeshi, Senator Bassey Otu, Senator Florence Ita-Giwa, Chief Linus Okom, Senator Kanu Agabi, Pastor Ugba Murphy and a few others. They are said not to be too pleased with the leadership style of Ayade and may work to stop his second term ambition.

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