By Emmanuel Unah
To a faction of the members of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in Cross River State, Senator Ben Ayade, the governor of the state is nothing but a serpent who through subtle means gained entry into a house only to chase the house owners away. To another faction, he is a reformer imbued with the mission to wrest the stranglehold of the old brigade from the party in the state to install a younger generation with fresh ideas in the political spectrum to take the state forward.
Significantly, each side of the divide has a mammoth following such that it is hard to know which side is right and which is wrong suffice to say quite a huge chunk of personalities in the party have since left the umbrella to seek solace in the All Progressives Congress, APC in recent times.
Several weeks to the PDP congress, there was speculation all over the state that Ayade who by virtue of his position as governor is the leader of the party is bent on installing his acolytes to lead the party to smoothen the path for his re-election in 2019. Insinuations were also rife that his predecessor, Senator Liyel Imoke would have none of such since he, (Ayade) has been tilting towards Mr. Donald Duke whom Imoke is speculated to be having frosty relationship with owing to alleged personal and political animosities.
To actualize his said mission, Ayade who has also been flayed for his travels out of the country decided in the past few weeks to stay put in the state to hold meetings with stake holders as a way of perfecting strategies to consolidate his dominance. His game plan was to entrust some of his close political aides with specific instructions to be members of the ward, and local government executives of the party based on “consensus”. They were reportedly asked to coordinate with the governor’s Chief of Staff, Mr Orim and by that effectively bypassing the state leadership of the party.
In constituting the list of the state executive, the governor’s top aides formed a “Caucus” which zoned positions and selected those to occupy each post.
The outcome of this move was that old members of the party including the then state Chairman of the party, Ntufam John Okon, Senator Liyel Imoke, Mr Efiok Cobham, Imoke’s deputy, Ntufam Ekpo Okon, former chairman of the party, Senator Florence Ita Giwa and even serving members of the National Assembly like Senator John Owan Enoh, Senator representing the Central Senatorial district, Senator Rose Oko, representing Northern Senatorial district, Hon Essien Ayi, representing Bakassi/ Akpabuyo/Odukpani Federal Cosntituency, Hon Daniel Asuquo, representing Akamkpa/Biase Federal constituency, Hon Legor Idagbo, representing Bekwara/Obudu/Obanlikwu federal constituency were all left out as none of them was given the opportunity to make inputs into the “consensus” lists of executives even in their immediate wards.
Informed sources on the affairs of the party in the state say the sidelining of some of the political henchmen in the state is not based on their waning political influence or opposition to the governor, but essentially out of ego and personal differences. For instance, Senator Enoh, who succeeded former Senate Leader, Senator Victor Ndoma Egba in the central senatorial district of the state is still immensely popular and a grassroots politician in the state. With the exit of Ndoma Egba, he is one person who can still hold the party together in the senatorial district. However, the gist in town is that some of those around the governor want him out in favour of the governor’s close friend, Chris Agara, an oil magnate. The governor’s friends some also allege stems from claims that Enoh who is about the longest serving legislator from the state in the National Assembly is also said to be interested in vying with Ayade for the PDP governorship ticket in 2019.
Clifford Udeh, a PDP chieftain told Vanguard that just as it was alleged that Enoh was used by Imoke to combat Ndoma-Egba, that the governors camp may have also positioned a serving member of the House of Representatives from Enohs camp to cause trouble for the senator.
Though the conduct of the congress on the night of Tuesday, 10th May at the U J Esuene Stadium was peaceful, the absence of a large percentage of political players in the party in the state spoke volumes. It is not known if the governor has plans to reconcile with the aggrieved members as he told those who gathered at the Stadium that night to close ranks and rally round the new executive, but the body language of some of his supporters is still that of defiance. One of his aides, Omah Elengs told Vanguard that the governor is on the right course and whoever is not happy with what he is doing can as well leave the party and that would not stop the party’s victory in 2019.
“There is no rumbling anywhere in PDP cross River State as Ayade is firmly in control; for years these people have been holding forth in the party and have resisted change now that we have someone who is bold enough to bring reforms to the party he should be supported but anyone who is not comfortable, the door is wide open”. Omah chided.
For now mum is still the word from those who stayed away from the party’s congress in the state but the next few weeks and months would tell if the engineering work done by the governor is working or needs re-engineering.