Last weekend reports emerged about the mass defection of thousands of members of the All Progressives Congress, APC, and the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in Cross River State in one of the state’s largest communities, Ababene, in Obubra Local Government Area to the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. The APC and SDP defectors were said to have braved the rain and inclement weather to attend the Townhall meeting with PDP officials in the ward where they switched allegiance to the PDP.

The large attendance at the Ababene Townhall meeting should be a source of worry and embarrassment for Governor Ben Ayade who, as the new leader of the APC in Cross Rivers state has not been able to swell the rank of APC in the state. Perhaps, Governor Ayade’s reasons for dumping the APC did not cut ice with his people as it was perceived to be “parochial, personal and childish.”

The defection of the Cross River State Governor Ayade to the ruling APC did not come as a surprise to many. The leadership and stakeholders in the PDP in the state and national level were aware of moves by the governor to dump the party for the APC, long before he crossed to the other side. Unfortunately, all attempts made by stakeholders, including PDP governors to persuade Ayade to stay back proved abortive.

While opinions among onlookers are divided on why the governor left the party that gave him so much leverage in his political career, insiders in both the PDP and the APC are not oblivious of the reasons(s) for his action.

For those who know, Ayade defected to the APC for the same reason a former Akwa Ibom State Governor, Godswill Akpabio did.

However, it is widely believed that while Akpabio’s was a self-preservation move, that of Ayade was informed by the need to “rescue” someone from a discomforting situation.

The threats came from the same source and the two politicians ran away from the same “predating” force. Analysts also posit that reasons for the defection of the Ebonyi State Governor, Dave Umahi from the PDP to the APC last November may not be too different.

Like Akpabio and Amaechi, who were trashed by the PDP in the last election and who are still struggling for political relevance in their home states of Akwa Ibom and Rivers respectively, Ayade will certainly face an uphill task in navigating the political landscape in Cross River in future elections. Apparently, he faces a bleak political future for the simple reason that even as a sitting governor, he failed to have a grip on the structure of the PDP in the Cross River chapter.

The general feeling in political circles in Cross River is that Ayade’s fate won’t be different from that of Akpabio and Amaechi who have lost the trust of voters in their states. While Amaechi could not organize the APC into a formidable force in Rivers, leading to the disqualification of the APC in all state elections in 2019, Akpabio lost the election in his senatorial district on the platform of the APC in 2019. Like Umahi who failed to convince key PDP stakeholders in Ebonyi to defect to the APC, Ayade has also been struggling with key stakeholders in Cross River, who have vowed to remain in the PDP.

A day after the governor’s defection, the Cross River State federal lawmakers elected on the platform of the Peoples PDP declared that they will not follow him to the APC. The lawmakers, at a media conference in Abuja, had described themselves as legacy members of the PDP, reiterating their commitment to the main opposition party. In a text of address read on behalf of the lawmakers by Senator Gershon Bassey, the legislators said Ayade’s defection will not affect the fortunes of the PDP in feature elections, especially the 2023 general election.

Senator Bassey had said: “As far as I know, till date, the National Assembly caucus remains intact. I don’t see any of us leaving. We are legacy members of the party who have been in this party for the past 15 to 20 years. So the short answer is no, we are not going anywhere.”

Also, a former governor of Cross River State, Senator Liyel Imoke, said the exit of the governor from PDP was regrettable but that it did not come as a surprise as it was not unexpected. Imoke added that the people of Cross River have stood with the PDP since 1999 and that they are not ready to join the governor in the APC.

According to him, the people of Cross River State have expressed disappointment with the governor’s defection, having won three elections, including the governorship on the platform of the PDP.

Imoke said: “Given the overwhelming support which he enjoyed under the PDP and the fact that PDP has an undeniable strong grassroots in the state, we affirm that Cross River state remains a PDP state. An overwhelming majority of Cross River State people are PDP members. Our key stakeholders, members of the National and State Assemblies and strategic grassroots mobilizers, are still members of our great party. We as a party therefore remain virile and strong.

“Our shell remains uncracked. The leadership of Cross River state under the aegis of PDP since 1999 has led the state to a pedigree of progression and seen to the attainment of all the lofty achievements the state has been known for. Hence, the events of the last 24 hours in our state avail us an opportunity to restrategise and realign ourselves with the ideals of the PDP the state which was characterized by a trajectory of growth and development geared towards the path of greatness.

“We therefore enjoin all Cross Riverians and the teeming members of PDP in Cross River state not to falter in the faith they have in the party. While the current events may seem to present a glitch to the progress of the state, we hereby affirm our unwavering commitment towards serving the interest of the good people of Cross River state as we strongly believe that Cross River state shall be great again”.

Governor Ayade may have created enemies for himself within the APC from the minute he announced his defection to the ruling party. Some analysts have observed that perhaps the only purpose the recent defection of Governor Ayade from the PDP to the APC will serve is to increase the number of APC governors opposed to the reported presidential ambition of a former Lagos State Governor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.

However, unlike Akpabio and Umahi, who appeared to have joined the mainstream APC at the time they did, Governor Ayade chose to join a camp that has been manipulating the APC structure for undue leverage in the past one year.

Analysts are of the view that it is obvious where Ayade has pitched his tent considering the identities of the APC governors that received him into the ruling party on the day he defected. On hand to receive Ayade was the governor of Yobe state, who is also the APC Caretaker Committee chairman, Mala Mai Buni. Other APC governors at the reception ground were the Ekiti State Governor, Kayode Fayemi and Governor Simon Lalong of Plateau State. Also in the team were Governors Atiku Bagudu (Kebbi state); Abubakar Badaru (Jigawa state); and Hope Uzodinma (Imo).

With the league of APC governors that received Ayade into the ruling party, it is apparent that the Cross River State Governor has pitched his tent with the group opposed to the presidential ambition of the former Lagos State Governor, Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu. Many have observed that the team of APC governors that assembled to receive Ayade into the party are the leaders of camp that saw to the alienation of APC leaders perceived to be sympathetic to Tinubu’s aspiration. Part of their game plan was to ensure the removal of the former National Chairman of the APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole in June 2020 and the dismantling of the party’s National Working Committee (NWC).

With the appointment in June 2020 of the Yobe State Governor, Mala Mai Buni as chairman of the APC Caretaker Committee, the group succeeded in seizing the party structure at the national level. The Buni-led Caretaker Committee was given an initial tenure of six months, which was to expire in December 2020, but the Committee and its backers succeeded in getting another six months extension, which is expected to expire this June.

Having failed in its primary mandate of conducting the party’s national convention, the Caretaker Committee is presently scheming to get a fresh extension, a plot that is being resisted by the marginalized Tinubu camp and other stakeholders as well. Insider sources in the APC say there is apprehension among party stakeholders over perceived move by the Caretaker Committee to keep running the affairs of the APC at the national level while Buni and his co-travelers keep searching for pliable individuals for the party’s NWC positions. Those in the Yobe Governor Buni camp include governors of Kebbi, Kaduna, Jigawa, Ekiti, Kogi, Kwara, Niger, Nasarawa, Plateau, Imo, Ebonyi and Gombe states. Governor Ayade of Cross River is a new entrant into this group. On the other hand, it was reliably gathered that those opposed to the tenure perpetuation scheme of Buni and members of his camp include the governors of Kano, Lagos, Ogun, Osun, Ondo, Borno and Katsina.

Governor Ayade entered the APC with the wrong foot by immediately aligning himself with one of the opposing camps in the party instead of being neutral. By that mistake he has already created enemies for himself within the party as the other camp will do everything possible to undermine him. It will not come as a surprise if his new enemies within the APC will sponsor cracks within the Cross Rivers State chapter of the party. Prof Ayade is not known to be a “strong man” in the politics of the state and that is evident in his failure to take control of PDP structures in the state even as a sitting governor. His failure to take PDP lawmakers along with him to APC and the recent mass defection of APC members to PDP in his state speaks volume about the political value of the governor. The only weapon the governor appears to have was just the threat to defect and he seems to have expended his last ammunition after defecting to APC.

Time will tell how the embattled governor will handle any crisis that may erupt in Cross Rivers State chapter of APC if the governor’s new enemies within APC move against him and give him the same treatment he complained he got in PDP before he defected.

 

QUOTE:

His failure to take PDP lawmakers along with him to APC and the recent mass defection of APC members to PDP in his state speaks volume about the political value of the governor.


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