PDP congresses in Cross River pit Ayade against ex-governor Imoke, National Assembly members
All seems not to be going well in the fold of People Democratic Party (PDP) in Cross River State. Governor Ben Ayade, on one hand, is pitched against his predecessor, Senator Liyel Imoke, most National Assembly members from the state, and founding members of the party, on the other, as congresses into Wards, Chapter and State are threatening the soul of the party. As tension mounts, the state congresses scheduled for March 24 has been postponed indefinitely.
Ayade, according to top sources, is bent on dismantling the old and founding members of the party, led by Imoke that put Ayade in office since 2015 and in his second term in 2019. Imoke and others in the old block were alleged to have plotted to deny Ayade the party’s ticket for his second term, but for pleadings and interventions from some quarters. But that move was suspended but he (Ayade) was denied the opportunity of deciding who got the party’s tickets for other positions like Senate and House of Representatives. His sin was that he never supported the structure that produced the current National Chairman, Mr. Uche Secondus.
Apparently not happy with that situation, Ayade had in a ceremony during the launch of the now crippling State Microfinance Bank in 2018, described PDP as a party that is “unfair and has got no conscience”.
Ayade, who was bitter at the disqualification of his friend, Mr. Chris Agara, from the Cross River Central PDP Senatorial primary said, “in spite of it all, that he has spent more money than any other candidate in this state, a party that is so unfair and has got no conscience, a man came ready for the election and you take out his name from the ballot. You take out his name because you know he is too powerful. When people use God-given opportunities to do injustice, injustice would wait for them”.
Top PDP members in the state said Ayade wants to take revenge on the party’s founding members and their supporters by dismantling all of Imoke’s structures in the state and ensuring that all the executive members from the wards to the state levels are his people so as to make way for him (Ayade) to easily install a successor in 2023.
As part of the strategy, all PDP’s chairmen and councillorship candidates for the local government elections are said to be Ayade’s men thus forcing other aggrieved members to challenge in court the way and manner the candidates emerged. Stakeholders and some of the National Assembly members represented by Movement for the Restoration of Cross River PDP (MFTROCR) said, “The governor is alleged to have compiled all the names of 18 local government chairmen and 197 councilors, without any input from the National Assembly and founding members.”
Ayade is said to be interested in installing Alphonsus Eba–Ogar from Yala council as the state chairman while Imoke and National Assembly members are said to be favourably disposed to the former National Publicity Secretary of the party, Mr. Venatus Ikem, who is from Obudu with Ayade to emerge as the new state chairman of PDP.
The wards and chapter congresses of the party were held on March 7 and March 21, 2020, across the 196 wards and 18 councils respectively but this was rejected by the founding fathers and most of the National Assembly members. While speaking on behalf of the aggrieved National Assembly members, the leader of MFTROCR, Comrade Raymond Takom, said the founding fathers and the National Assembly members were kicking against the alleged handpicking of wards, chapter and state executives by the party through an alleged instruction from the governor.
Takom said, “It was quite unfortunate that majority of the National Assembly members, founding members, former elected and political office holders that built the party from scratch have been thrown out of the party through a selection of party’s officials instead of the normal congress. Some of us don’t even know who are the wards or chapter officers in a party that preaches democracy. All we can say is that the party’s chairman, on instruction from above, wrote down the names of their favourites as party’s officers across board. What is going on right now is highhandedness and the leadership of the party in the state is trying to turn the party into a one-man show by being autocratic in approach. This is not what we know of democracy and that is the truth.
“The wards’ congresses, the local government congresses, they handpicked their cronies and they did not allow most of us to participate and the same thing they want to do as it concerns the state congress that they have already written out names of their preferred candidates and we think that it should not be so. We reject what is going on totally”.
On whether Ayade is behind the entire crisis, he said, “He is the leader of the party and he takes responsibility of whatever happens; he takes the responsibility of what happens as the leader of the party and 90 per cent of members of the National Assembly are not happy and other stakeholders who are founding fathers of this state are not happy”.
Also reacting, the state’s Publicity Secretary of PDP, Mr. Egbung Odama, said: “I don’t think there is no crisis without resolution… We urge all to sheath their swords and work as a family which we are noted for… It is not true that members of the National Assembly boycotted it. Some of them who could not make it have sent in apologies just as some called to congratulate the party for the successful conduct of the congresses. So, no ill-feelings as being bandied about.”
Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to the Governor, Mr. Christian Ita, dismissed allegations against the governor, saying, “those characters are unknown and they are not members of PDP. It is not true that the governor is imposing candidates for the local government or any elections. As a matter of fact, there is an ongoing interregnum with members of PDP for the poll. There is no such thing as imposition… Of course, he is consulting with them. Is it possible for the governor not to consult with them?”
As the crisis continues, Ikem, who is one of the chairmanship aspirants for the state’s chairman position of PDP, narrowly escaped being lynched at Transcorp Hotel, Calabar. While briefing some newsmen at the Ernest Etim Bassey Press Centre, Calabar, immediately after the incident, Ikem said as he entered the hotel room, he was shocked to meet his opponent for the same position, Mr. Alphonsus Eba-Ogar, Special Adviser to the Governor on Presidency and National Assembly Matters, Amina Arong, Chief of Staff to the Governor, Martins Orim, with the committee members when they were not part of the committee.
While petitioning the state’s Commissioner of Police, Mr. Nkereuwem Akpan, Ikem said, “The screening of candidates was concluded at night and we did not expect the result immediately. So, I decided to check up with the committee at Transcorp Hotel, Calabar, where I was informed they were lodging to know the status of the exercise of yesterday’s screening.
“I also noticed that several copies of unsigned certificates were on the coffee table in the room. I asked generally if we were going to be issued our clearance because we were getting worried, as there were rumours that persons not sponsored by the governor would be disqualified. One of the members of the committee, the only lady, started saying that I should leave the room for them to do their work. I protested that I would not leave when my opponent, Mr. Alphonsus Eba, was in the room with them and other persons like the Chief of Staff to the Governor and Amina Arong were still in the room”.
He said suddenly a bearded young man came into the room and “started slapping me while Mr. Eba held me and they dragged me out to the hotel lobby where several young men were gathered and some of them rushed to join Mr. Eba, and they slapped me repeatedly, beat, and dragged me until they threw me out of the hotel”.
Reacting on behalf of Eba and others, Arong said, “Yesterday, 24 March, I was in Transcorp Hotel while the electoral committee members were in room 508, but with a door linking the suite. I was waiting for them to complete their reports so we could proceed to the airport. I was in room 507 with the Chief of Staff to the Governor who was receiving a call. Suddenly, we heard someone shouting at the committee members in room 508; I didn’t know who it was until suddenly Barr. Venatius Ikem bust out of room 508 into room 507, where I sat and came straight to me and was shouting at me ‘Amina, you are here, are you a committee member?’”
“He then slapped me; my phone fell. He grabbed me by the neck and was strangling me as I was gasping for air and getting unconscious. So, other members of the committee rushed in to rescue me and he began to fight them”.
Also reacting yesterday to the allegation that he beat up Ikem, Eba-Ogar, who is said to be the governor’s candidate and director-general in charge of the Due Process office said, “Why will I beat him up? If he is contesting for state chairmanship of PDP, which I am also running for, does that make me his enemy to beat him up?
“Let him tell you people what happened. Where was he? What did he go there to do? Who did he try to strangle – Amina (Arong)? If Amina’s boy who was there prevented him from killing his own boss, he shouldn’t rope us in because he feels I am running election with him.”