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Why Ayade lost Cross River North senatorial election

By Anietie Akpan, Deputy Bureau Chief, South South
09 March 2023   |   4:05 am
All Progressives Congress stalwarts (APC) in Cross River State are still surprised that Governor Ben Ayade lost his bid to return to the Senate.

Ben Ayade

All Progressives Congress stalwarts (APC) in Cross River State are still surprised that Governor Ben Ayade lost his bid to return to the Senate. The two-term governor had a dismal performance in the February 25, 2023 Presidential and National Assembly elections, poling 56,595 votes against Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate, Jaribe Agom-Jaribe, who polled 76,145 votes.

While analysts point to a disconnect between him and his Cross River North people, who still feel he abandoned them when he became governor,others blame his dumping of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to All Progressives Congress (APC) for his defeat.

They also blame his failure to fulfill promises and selfishness as some of his sins. The people of Cross River North senatorial zone actually voted against him and his brother, Frank, who he christened, ‘co-governor’.

His critics said everything about Ayade’s eight years in office was just about his family and friends, operating like demi gods.

A businessman in Obudu, who simply gave his name as Ushie, said: “Items to empoer citizens are lying down there at Obudu Local Council and not distributed, because of disagreement between the governor and the ‘co-governor’ because they are trying to identify who is their relation or not.

“The cargo airport under construction is sited on people’s land forcefully taken, without adequate compensation. He promised to complete the airport, yet the project is a far cry from completion. Our people are hungry, it is not airport we need. As you can see the project was done for selfish interest, forcing local councils in the state to pay out so much.”

Ushie said Ayade did not treat Obudu people right as they were scorned and disdained. He added, “I am a contractor, but in eight years of Ayade, I did not get any contract and I don’t know anyone who got, except his people. I stopped renewing my business papers because I did not get any contract. Same with my colleagues.”

Losing the election was a reaction against Ayade and his brother for not meeting the expectations of the people. It was alleged that the Air Force needed a Certificate of Occupancy (CofO) for a land to site a base in Yala for the force, but Ayade’s government insisted it must be sited at Obudu and the state lost out.

“But give it to him, Ayade opened up Obudu,” a teacher, John Ogar, said, adding, “you can see the Obudu-German Hospital is world class facility, Obudu Canadian School he built will be turned to a university later, the cargo airport and few others he brought to us. This development is for the people and the future.”

He continued: “Ayade did not perform so badly for his people. For instance, the hospital will provide health care for the people. We have the state of the art rice mill in Ogoja, Groundnut Oil Mill in Bekwara (under construction), dual carriageway from Yala to Obudu, all in the North. Today, we may crucify him, but tomorrow, he will be vindicated.”

A lady in Kakum, who pleaded anonymity, said: “we cannot blame him for everything. He has tried his best. Our village, Kakum, was not like this. You can see he pulled down some old houses and built modern ones for those of us who accepted the offer because some people did not, but preferred to keep their old houses for ancestral reasons.

“At night, our village shines with light from his generator and solar. The road entering Kakum is tarred. We are grateful, though I know he cannot please everybody.”

In Bekwara Local Council, the accused him of bringing down electric poles for the phantom super highway project and “for eight years, no light, yet we have a governor from the North.” Mathew Odey, a student lamented.

He said, “in Bekwara, we do not have good water or single borehole from government and you want us to support such leadership, we say no.

But we will support Prince Bassey Otu, the governorship candidate of APC, because he is a good man from what we heard from his people in the South. They talk about his performance when he was in the National Assembly. Our quarrel was with our own and we have settled it through the ballot box.”

Odey said: “We in the North, are careful not to betray the trust the South gave to us in 2015 and 2019 leading to our brother occupying the office of governor for eight years. Remember, one good turn deserves another, because without their support the North would not have produced a governor.”

To buttress this point, ahead of the March 11 governorship election in the state, a section of Northern youths and stakeholders held a meeting where they resolved to vote for Otu in the spirit of zoning or rotation instead of the PDP candidate, Senator Sandy Onor, who is from the Central.

They took this position at weekend, when Otu met with electorate in the five local councils in the district.

Speaking at the meeting, representative of the youth group, Comrade Maurice Nkong, assured Otu of the youth’s resolve to vote for him saying, “the youths want to tell you that what happened in the last election was an internal disagreement among our people.

“As for your election, we assure you that everyone has decided to abandon his or her grievances and work for you. We have been meeting with youths across the entire north and that is what will happen.”

Rising in defence of Ayade, the state chairman of APC, Mr. Alphonsus Eba, said Ayade, has achieved so much for his people. He said the election, which Senator Jarigbe Agom Jarigbe was declared winner was fraudulent, done in connivance with top military brass to stop the governor.

He said: “They deployed tanks through the aide of some of their sons, particularly in Ugaga community and got us intimidated, we reject that in totality.”

The state APC chairman wondered why the governor was not informed of the deployment of military personnel to the election ground, saying, “those who deployed soldiers should be tried and court marshalled.

“One finger cannot thumbprint all ballot papers. Maybe forensic experts would have to wade into the matter.”

Eba also blamed the failure of Ayade and APC in the North on indiscipline within its ranks and frowned on the continuous infractions by party stalwarts and disregard for guidelines of the party.

He warned that the party is ready to raise the barometer of discipline to the level that whoever is not ready to cope would easily “ship himself out without rancor.”