Cross River: Not yet Uhuru for Ayade
• As More Aspirants Eye His Job
The coast might seem clear for Governor Ben Ayade to fly the flag of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2019 governorship election, after series of threats, intrigues and horse-trading. But there are still fears, that the issue of automatic tickets for serving members of the party as proposed by the national leadership has not gone down well with many aspirants. Some are saying that automatic ticket should be based on performance. But Ayade went ahead at a meeting in Transcorp hotel, Calabar two weeks ago to announce to incumbents in various positions to return moneys of aspirants, as the decision was to save them from wasting their money in campaigns and losing in the end.
It was reported that stakeholders in the state, such as former governors and political office holders were not comfortable with Ayade’s style and may want him replaced come 2019.Besides, a youth group under the aegis of Cross River State Peoples Democratic Party Support Group led by Chief Edet Essien Asoquo and Robert Ani, with the backing of some stakeholders asked the national Chairman of the party, Uche Secondus and the National Working Committee (NWC) to deny Governor Ben Ayade the party’s ticket, citing alleged breach of trust, corrupt enrichment, poor leadership and covert alliance with the ruling All Progressives Congress, (APC) and many others.
A recent open letter to the leadership of the party and the Board of Trustees (BOT), as well as an advertorial in a national daily on September 18, are seen as attempts by the Ayade camp to take the battle to his traducers. The open letter alleged that immediate past governor Lyel Imoke is plotting to remove Ayade from office.
The open letter, singed by Abang O. Abang, for Central, Ukam Timothy Ekpenyong for South and Igrinya Clement Peters for North said: “We are constrained to write to the national leadership of our party about the great danger confronting the party in Cross River state …We are taking this step in the strong conviction that the party at centre will not be aware of the war of attrition raging even now in our dear state.”
The letter alleged that “the news that all senators must return is tearing the party in shred…That the former governor may have endorsed his political son Senator Owan-Enoh to run for governorship in APC in the believe that he will cross over to PDP after being elected. The plan is that the incumbent governor who is now being systematically weakened by the actions of Imoke in concert with officials of the party at the national level will be too week to make an impact when election arrives, and Imoke and his men will abandon him and give victory to Enoh.”
Citing reasons why some stakeholders may not be happy with Ayade’s leadership style, Mr. Atu said the elders are not comfortable with the new breed of politicians in government, a situation that causes them to feel sidelined. Atu is of the opinion that there is collective risk if the party goes down; hence there is still time to reconcile. He said: “Members should be allowed to select whoever they want. If for any reason there is an imposition it will be difficult to win. It is incumbent on the governor to reach out to members as the party leader.”
Saying that stakeholders are not happy, he said “I know one of the areas people are not comfortable with the governor; it is the abandonment of ongoing projects. There is no continuity. For instance none of the rural roads except maybe one was attended to. These rural roads were about 90 percent ready and are very critical to the wellbeing of the people. The governor may have given lots of appointments to people by putting food on the table but people will rather prefer they are being thought how to fish.”
Some of the governorship aspirants like Chief Edem Duke, Professor Eyo Etim Nyong, Mr. Emmanuel Robson, Mr. Eyo Ekpo and others have also scored Ayade low, citing low performance and bad governance. Even the SDP presidential aspirant, Mr. Donald Duke said in a recent interview that those who assumed office from 2007 to date killed the state, claiming they did not consolidate on the foundation he laid. As a way out he said; “we need to find leadership that can restore and rebuild our state. Cross River state deserves better leadership than what we are seeing.”
Petroleum geologist and consultant Prof. Nyong remarked that; “If the truth must be clearly stated and the future secured for the generations to come, you will agree that governance has been broken down, thus exposing Cross Riverians to unwarranted frustration and quantum hardship.”
On the issue of automatic ticket as an albatross, PDP members led by a one time state chairman and Cross River South Senatorial aspirant, Ntufam Ekpo Okon; the State Security Adviser, Mr. Jude Ngaji, who just resigned his appointment to contest for the Cross River North Senatorial seat, rejected automatic ticket as proposed by the party through the governor. They threatened to defect en-mass to parties if their matter was not looked into properly.
National Vice Chairman of PDP South-south, Mr. Emmanuel Ogigi last met with aggrieved aspirants behind closed-doors to resolve issues of automatic ticket, but the meeting was inconclusive with the aspirants digging deeper into the trenches, threatening to dump the party in next one week if the matter was not resolved in their favour.
Groups loyal to Ayade have vowed to resist any attempt by anyone or groups to stop his second term bid, as members representing Yala/Ogoja and Akamkpa/Biase federal constituencies in the House of Representatives, Mr. Jarigbe Agom Jarigbe and Daniel Asuquo said they are solidly behind Ayade. They said it is ‘unfair’ to send Ayade packing after only four years in office, whereas other senatorial zones enjoyed eight years. Asuquo observed that giving serving members ‘right of first refusal’ should not be seen as a crime, after all others have enjoyed it and that was not enough for anyone to go against the party. He said it would be improper for Ayade not to complete his second term, as power should ordinarily return to the South in 2023.
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