Sunday Oguntola reports on the intriguing battles in Cross River State within the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) against Governor Ben Ayade’s second term bid
FORCES within the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) are perfecting strategies to stop the second term bid of Cross River State Governor, Ben Ayade, it can be exclusively reported.
The forces, according to investigation, are bent on truncating the governor’s bid to fly the party’s ticket because of several issues they have against the former university don.
Top among the reasons, it was gathered, is the perceived non-performance of Ayade by PDP chieftains and stalwarts, a development they said might make the party lose the election should it field the governor again.
A stalwart, who spoke with our correspondent, last week said: “The governor likes to talk big grammar and mesmerise people with grandiose projects. How many of those projects have been completed? How much impact has he had in terms of specific developments in the state?
“It is obvious most of his plans are more on paper than on the grounds because people are obviously crying they have not felt his impact at all.
“To field a man like that can be counter-productive for the party. So, it is better we put him where he belongs to salvage the PDP and retain the state.”
It was learnt the perception of non-performance has gained grounds across the state with residents saying the governor has not delivered like his two recent predecessors, Liyel Imoke and Donald Duke.
This perception gathered momentum recently when the highly respected founder of Bishop of God’s Heritage Centre Worldwide, Calabar, Dr. Josef Bassey, dismissed the governor as a colossal failure.
A visibly livid Josef told reporters that Ayade is undeserving of a second term in office. According to him: “Cross River State needs to be rescued as a matter of urgency from sinking. We have been inundated with pressure of public complaints. It is at different levels … people are crying, people are agonising, all manner of things.
“First year, he made excuses and assumes that he is trying to settle in and he has done a few things and all of that; the second year the same thing. As fathers, you don’t rush to talk, you don’t rush to say things, you watch, you pray, you hope and believe that, if that is a mistake, that somebody will make it right.
“Let’s even assume that somebody played and played away two years; that this person is likely to seek reelection, he should do his best in the next two years to get things right.
“But, unfortunately, that has not been so because, as I speak with you, I have to stop to think, what are the key areas where you can say this is where progress, meaningful progress has been achieved and actualised?
“In all sincerity, I rally cannot find any. And I have been around here for a long time by the grace of God from the days of the military administration, whether you are going to talk about Ibim Princewill, the Kefas, whoever, the Agboneni to the days of Clement Ebri , the Donald Dukes, all of that . You can put all of them together.”
Bassey, who serves as President of the Cross River State Christian Leaders Forum (CRSCLF), a powerful ecumenical Christian pressure group in the state, added: “In my opinion, and our opinion, we have never had it this bad. It has never been this bad for a state and it couldn’t be worse than this, so I think. So, something needs to be done. What area is there to commend; maybe of course the area of appointments.
“That there have been a lot of people being appointed into positions, and these appointments also, well, for those of us who understand public service, and understand procedures, how things are done, are also worried because, how are these things done?
“Never in the history of this state has the state civil service been so bastardised. I understand what civil service is about. When you now have a situation where a person is appointed a Director-General and you go to his office and the person doesn’t have a chair, he doesn’t know where his office is.
“We should constantly work at developing stronger institutions than stronger individuals. But, when we see our institutions being destroyed, the legacy, the heritage of the civil service for instance, being destroyed before our very eyes, something is wrong.
“When you tell me there is a government running where there are no memos, and that memos are by WhatsApp, then something is wrong.”
Bassey may have spoken after feeling the pulse of common men as a gospel minister. But the governor’s aides carpeted him as sponsored.
The Special Press Secretary to Ayade, Mr. Christian Ita, said: “There is no conflict or face-off between the governor and Christian leaders. We have good relationship with CAN and PFN, so where is the conflict coming from?
“That forum does not even exist. It is the creation of one man. He is just on his own with some drummers in the bush beating the drums for him…Josef Bassey is the voice of Esau, the hand of Jacob.”
There are insinuations Bassey may have been prompted or encouraged by PDP chieftains in the state to take on the governor. Aside from commanding large followership, the preacher is perceived as the conscience of the masses in the state.
The ploy, it was gathered, is to sell the impression the Christian community has ditched the governor as a prelude to denying him the governorship ticket of the PDP.
Aside from taking him on in the public space, albeit through proxies, our correspondent learnt the stalwarts have also convinced hitherto jittery aspirants to join the race. Backed by those they consider party heavyweights, the aspirants have become more and more vociferous with their campaigns, even demeaning the governor as unfit.
A former aide to the governor and special envoy of Cross River to the African Development Bank (ADB), Emmanuel Ibeshi, is leading the pack, giving the governor a good run for his money. His supporters recently protested at the PDP National Secretariat demanding that Ayade shouldn’t be fielded. Another of such protests held again in Abuja, sending shivers down the governor’s camp.
Ibeshi, a former National Publicity Secretary of the party, is from the Northern Senatorial District like Ayade. His entrance into the race seriously jeopardises the unwritten, gentleman arrangement for power to rotate among the three districts in 1999.
Based on it, Duke from the South and Imoke (Central) rode to the governorship seat with Ayade serving the turn of the North. But political stakeholders in the state are of the argument that the arrangement no longer subsists since all the districts have taken their turns.
Besides, they said even if the North must serve out its second term, the district should look for another candidate who can deliver democratic dividend against “paper work projects.”
Other governorship aspirants from the North include ex-House of Representatives member, Paul Adah; former Commissioner Venatius Ikem and John Upan Odey, a banker. Incidentally, all of them are from Obudu Local Government Area like the governor.
There is also a geoscientist, Tony Ushie, from the district. Thankfully for the governor, they are in the All Progressives Congress (APC) aside from Ibeshi. Rumours are rife the aspirants from the governor’s council were engineered to portray him as lacking home support and unpopular among even his kinsmen.
Another grouse by the PDP leaders against the governor is the alleged efforts to raise a new generation of political supporters, totally disloyal to the old order. This anomaly, as they call it, is most reflected in his choice of political appointees without regards for inputs from established politicians in the state.
In fact, it is believed this political mafia is behind attempts to deny him the party’s ticket. These people, most of who function as godfathers, are not only heavily grounded financially but also politically. They are said to have vowed that Ayade will never fly the PDP’s ticket so long as they are still alive.
They are said to be gaining support of the PDP executives in the state, who have mostly been silent or non-committal to the second term ticket of the governor. The party executives, according to investigations, believe Ayade runs a one-man show and does not fund operations that would have empowered them.
By allegedly not funding party activities as well as shutting off matters relating to appointments, the party executives are seen to have withdrawn into their shelf, waiting for the governor to approach them with request for the ticket.
One of them, who pleaded anonymity, told our correspondent: “We shall see how he would get the ticket without recourse to us. If he thinks he can run the government alone for four years, let’s see how he will get the ticket without us. We shall let him know then who is really in charge of the party.”
The governor, according to sources close to him, is well aware of oppositions against his second term ticket and is weighing his options. One of them confided the governor might consider leaving the PDP for a mega party in the event everything fails.
But an aide said the governor will get the party ticket without as much as a sweat. “These things are not new. They happen every time there is election. The governor is not shaken at all. He knows what to do to whip everybody into shape. I assure that when it is time, everything will fall into line for him“.