Ndoma-Egba: Ayade’s defection a big gain for Cross River APC
A chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba, has described the recent defection of Cross River State Governor, Ben Ayade, to the party as a big boost. The former Senate Leader, who spoke in an interview with ONYEDIKA AGBEDO, insisted that Ayade’s entrance into APC has not only altered political calculations in the state but would also have a huge impact on the outcome of the 2023 general election.
You had issued a statement congratulating Governor Ben Ayade for dumping the PDP for your party, the APC. But beyond that, how do you view his entrance into the APC fold?
It is a big gain. PDP by trying to down play his departure is glorying in self-denial. His entry into APC is easily the most dramatic and significant event in our polity in this dispensation and it represents a seismic shift.
For once, the PDP will be going for elections without the paraphernalia of government, which with its power and resources is huge. On the other hand, the APC will be going into electoral contests for the first time with that big advantage. For the first time, the PDP in Cross River State will be testing its popularity and there will not be ‘carry go,’ which has been its tradition.
Moreover, I perceive that the people are PDP fatigued after 20 years of being at the same spot and the party is now perceived as somebody’s personal property. A lot of our mileage will also depend on the choices the Governor makes. If he promotes internal democracy within the APC, that will be fatal to the PDP; the future will certainly be interesting.
Do you really see the governor’s defection as a gain for your party since the National Assembly members and other bigwigs of the PDP in the state refused to defect with him?
In our local politics, the support of governors has always been decisive. We will now see how much clout National Assembly members have independently and how far they can go on their own without that institutional support; time will tell.
Ayade’s defection has come with the challenge of integrating the governor’s structure into the APC and ensuring that the interests of members of the party that had been toiling for it are also accommodated. How do you think that would pan out?
A greater percentage of those in the APC were at one time or the other in the PDP until they were either evicted like me then Senate Leader, Leader of the National Assembly caucus of the Party and member of its National Caucus, or asphyxiated out the party. We are not strangers to one another; we had worked together in the past and will work together now. Leaders at every level are preaching integration and are working at it. I believed that will be seamless.
PDP faithful in the state have declared that in spite of Ayade’s exit, Cross River remains a PDP state. What is your take?
The PDP used to be a statewide franchise until it became despotic and hegemonic and assumed the character of an individual. It has lost its democratic credentials. Governor Ayade who was resisted in the PDP by those he tried to copy, must encourage the APC to be different by leaving the space within the Party open and promoting internal democracy.
The PDP may be looking at the fact that the defection of your own humble self in 2015 did not really change the political equation in the state, as it remained the dominant party in the state thereafter. Don’t you see the same scenario playing out again?
Things appeared not to have changed because of the massive deployment of government power and not because they did not change. Remember the Congresses of 2014 that was cancelled after the PDP Governors went to beg the then President? They got a bloody nose and were only helped by the then president. They do not have that advantage now.
One of the reasons the governor gave for leaving the PDP was the need for the state to be in sync with the party at the centre. He lamented that the state had been emasculated economically following the ceding of its oil wells. Having played politics at the centre for quite sometime, what do you expect to change in the state with the governor’s defection to APC?
Being aligned to the centre by itself does not guarantee protection of the state. We were a PDP State when PDP was at the centre, yet we suffered our most monumental losses, like the loss of Bakassi, lost the opportunity to appeal against the judgement of the International Court of Justice on Bakassi for whatever it was worth, lost 76 oil wells, we could not get Tinapa to work, and I do not recall any new federal infrastructure in Cross River State, except constituency projects. By our own conduct, we have lost our status as the preferred destination. We have lost the Obudu Mountain Race, lost the use of the U.J Esuene Stadium for international soccer matches and many more. The appointments the State had were only those that every other state was entitled to. Our experience with PDP as a State has been one of serial losses.
The APC on the other hand has a different character as far as we are concerned. Under the APC, we have had a Chief Justice of Nigeria, Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, their controversial exits notwithstanding. We have had the Auditor General of the Federation and the Chief of the Naval Staff. In terms of infrastructure, there is a new bridge in Ikom, a new Federal Polytechnic in Ugep and Julius Berger has returned to the dilapidated Calabar-Itu-Ikot Ekpene Road. Clearly the APC will be more sensitive to us.
With Ayade in APC, the party now has one governor in the South-south region. What impact will it have on the 2023 general election in the region?
With a toehold in the South-South, we are hopeful to have a foothold sooner than later. Remember that there is a South-South state that is essentially an APC State and is temporarily a PDP State by our own default.
Many are of the opinion that there’s not much difference between APC and PDP in terms of ideology. Having been part of both parties, what’s your take on this?
Our political parties and politics have not been ideologically driven since Obafemi Awolowo and Aminu Kano. We both have been the same brand of vehicle with different colors. The only difference is that PDP was far ahead and took us very far in the wrong direction.
Do you support zoning for governorship position in Cross Rivers? If yes, why?
Zoning has had its time; the three Senatorial Districts have had their turns at the Governorship. We should adopt new criteria that emphasises more of competence and less of geography.
What’s your take on the security situation in the country?
The security situation is dire