By: Inyali Peter
Apart from the leadership crisis rocking the People's Democratic Party, PDP at the national, the gale of defection of Chieftains and founding fathers of the party to the All Progressive Congress, APC in Cross River State in recent times has left a serious question mark on the future of the party under Governor Ben Ayade. Members of the party and even appointees of the Ayade's administration are moving while some have reached out to APC indicating their interest to cross over.
This movement is somewhat strange because Cross River has been a stonghold of PDP since the dawn of uninterrupted democracy in Nigeria in 1999. The two former Governors, Mr. Donald Duke and Senator Liyel Imoke ensured that it was all PDP and PDP alone. They traversed the nock and crannies of the state to bring everybody under the umbrella.
Although, a few people got elected under the platform of All People's Party, APP in 1999, Duke ensured all of them moved to the PDP Before the next election in 2003. A few others who tried to think otherwise were made to pay heavily through Duke's Machiavellian leadership style. Some paid by losing their positions while others allegedly paid with their lives.
This trend continued under Imoke for eight years after Duke had cleared the ground for him during his two tenure which lasted between 1999-2007. Imoke managed to maintain this structure throughout his tenure. Even when a few disgruntled members of PDP defected during the build up to the 2015 general elections, they moved to Labour Party which is largely regarded as a wing or platform created by the PDP for people to contest elections and return back.
Even when APC was waxing stronger in the state, nobody saw the party as a viable alternative to the PDP. People would rather die in PDP or have their dreams and aspirations killed than move to APC. If they must move, it must be to a party which is still under the control of PDP not any party which seems like an opposition.
However, during this period, it was PDP that was in control of the government at the centre. So the decision was easy for politicians to glue to the party with the hope that whether they are part of the government in the state or not, they will still have opportunity of sharing from the national cake.
This was the same structure and orientation Ayade inherited. But this time with a more challenging task of keeping everybody under the umbrella without the influence and support of the national. Ayade had a task of giving party fatefuls reasons to stay and fight together to return PDP to power in the centre.
Unfortunately, just like the task of running the state has proven to be too challenging for him (Ayade), keeping everybody under the umbrella too has been greeted with same shame and failure. Under his administration, all the founding fathers of PDP have moved from the party to the APC.
From the South, Central and Northern senatorial districts of the state, the real movers and shakers of Cross River politics have all jumped sheep. In fact, they were the real machineries PDP was using to win elections. Whether they were winning these elections in a free and fair circumstances or whatever means, the most important thing is that they were winning elections.
From the South, the popular and handsome distinguished Senator Prince Bassey Otu has moved. Influential Senator Florence Ita Giwa (Mama Bakassi) has moved with thousands of her supporters. Ekeng Henshaw, former Calabar South local government Chairman amongst others influential personalities from the zone have all dumped the umbrella and embraced the broom.
In the central, former Senate leader, Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba (currently, the Niger Delta Development Commission's Chairman), Former Governor, Clement Ebri, Imoke Chief of Staff, Alex Ogbona, former Commissioner, Sandy Onor, former House Reps member, Chief Earnest Irek, and the party is expecting, the Senator representing the zone, Senator Owan Enoh officially few days from now.
In the northern senatorial district, the zone of the governor, almost every known politician except the governor have moved. Rt. Hon. Paul Adah, a two time House of Reps member, Venatius Ikem, a former National Publicity Secretary and Special Adviser to President Obasenjo, Jedy Agba, a billionaire former Group Managing Director of NNPC and PDP governorship aspirant, Dr. Peter Ogbang, a second republic federal commissioner (What is called minister today), Fidelis Ugbo, immediate past Executive Secretary of National Planning Commission and former Secretary to the State Government have all moved.
Others notable names are, Dr. Peter Oti, a former Chairman, Board of Internal Revenue and a PDP governorship aspirant, Chief Francis Bullem, also a PDP governorship aspirant in 2015 gubernatorial election amongst others.
While Ayade can genuinely say that they left because they are not used to playing opposition to the government at the centre, findings have revealed that many of them left, especially those from the north because they don't want to be part of his failed administration.
A lot was expected from Ayade being that he is the first governor from the zone since the creation of the state. Unfortunately, Ayade has brought more shame and disgrace to the people.
Already, different groups from other zones are beginning to demand apology from the North as well as vowed to project candidate for 2019 because of the abysmal and shameful performance of Ayade.
Until date, Ayade remain the only governor who has commissioned more projects than any governor in Nigeria in the media. While he has completed and commissioned hundred of projects on television, social and print media, he is yet to successfully complete a single state owned project.
The only thing he his feasibly completed is the glorified tailoring referred to as garment factory. But investigation has shown that it is his personal business ad not government owned as he claims.
Cross Riverians where told that about N2.7 billion was used in building the glorified tailoring shop code named "Garment Factory" but documents obtained from Corporate Affairs Commission indicate that the state government own only 30% shares in the company. The major shareholders who owned 35% shares each are Ayade's longstanding business associates.
It is a common knowledge that in a Public Private Partnership business as claimed by the governor, all parties must fulfill their obligations financially by contributing to the establishment of the company. But in this case, taxpayers money was used to establish the place for private individuals.
The implication of being a minority shareholder is that major decisions about the company would be taken in exclusively of the State government. Even the profits from the company would not be shared evenly among Ayade's friends and the state. How then can somebody regard such fraudulent project as an achievement?
There would have been no cause for alarm if Ayade had complemented the defection with excellent performance. People would have naturally supported the second term bid he is desperately looking for. But as it is now, Ayade is neither here nor there; performance, zero; structure, zero.
This explains why many APC leaders have insisted that his plan defection to the party would be resisted because he would be a political liability. While people are celebrating the eminent defection of Senator Owan Enoh, others are working underground to ensure that APC don't become a dumbing ground for political liabilities like Ayade ahead of 2019.
Prior to Ayade's reign, the strongest political structure of PDP in the entire South South was in Cross River. But the governor has exposed his high level of incompetence to the entire world in the way he destroyed the party people suffered to build in just two years.
Most times the best and most effective way of identifying a true leader is by understudying how he manages his home which is almost like his immediate constituency. Any man who is too weak to manage a home, his first point of duty and the very essence of his existence is in any case worst than infidel.
Politically, a home can be likened to a political party because it is the first point of call for any politician. Just as the home is the gateway to exploring opportunities outside, the political party too, especially in Nigeria is the link between dreams, aspirations and reality.
Ayade has failed in all perimeters as the leader of PDP in the state and as governor. Nothing seems to be working in the state. If not for his incompetence, failure, arrogance and aimless pride, what would have pushed Ita Giwa his appointee to dump him? Every true politician with conscience today no longer want to be associated with Ayade. Even PDP rejected him last year in court.
May be Ayade is relying on the National Assembly members from the state of whom many have insinuated that would follow Owan Enoh to APC or state house of assembly members that he has little or no regard for to deliver him in 2019. May be, his legion of appointees who smile before him but castigate him behind for underpaying them.
Whichever group he's hoping to lean on, the reality is that only one or two of the current national assembly members may be able to win election in their local government. For House of Assembly, apart from the deputy Speaker, Joseph Bassey and may be one or two more, others don't look like they can win election or sustain PDP in the state. For his appointees, well they will try to impress him but will all get fade up at some point.
Perhaps, there's still enough time for the governor to turn things around. Ayade should reduce or if possible, stop his insatiable avidity for frivolous things and face reality. He should give us roads and stop dreaming. He should collaborate with the federal government to dredge the Calabar port and stop the tale of a deep seaport.
He should rehabilitate the existing technical schools and stop claiming people's land forcefully in the name of an imaginary Canadian school. A state that cannot pay primary school teachers, pensioners, local government staff or fund her only university and other tertiary institutions should not be talking about building new schools.
Whether Ayade is leading PDP to its doomsday or not, he is duty bound to give his party and the people of Cross River responsible, credible, quality, effective and efficient leadership. To achieve this, the governor must fall back to his party. Consult with critical stakeholders to find solution to the gale of defection currently facing the party.
Even if he is planning to move too as widely speculated, he should not destroy the PDP first because the rule of opposition (If he moves PDP would become an opposition to any party he joins) in a democratic setting like ours cannot be undermined.