By Dirisu Yakubu
Governors particularly in third world countries come across as powerful forces whose words are laws. In Nigeria, they are seen as demi-gods; men who have everything at their beck and call. So powerful are they that when they are yet to exhaust their first tenure, most of them have a way of prevailing on their political platforms to assure them of a second shot at the plum seat.
Slogans such as “No vacancy,” “four plus four,” “tazarce” (continuity) have found their way into the nation’s political lexicon owing primarily to the larger-than-life disposition of our state chief executives.
These powers derive partly from the quasi-democracy model in the land which has seen elected leaders reign with reckless impunity since the return to democracy in 1999.
In the past few years; the public had become more potent in asking questions that matter. As a result, incumbent governors have lost elections even as a sitting President failed to secure maximum votes to remain in office for the first time in 2015.
This week’s defection of Cross River state governor, Professor Ben Ayade from the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, to the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, has continued to elicit diverse reactions from Nigerians.
Ayade, who premised his decision to pitch tent with APC on President Muhammadu Buhari’s “charismatic disposition,” is finding it difficult to win enough supporters to this eleventh hour theory.
Ayade’s loss of the party structure left him with no option but to seek a new platform ahead of the 2023 general elections given his rumoured ambition for a seat at the Senate; the retirement home of two-term governors.
The governor’s troubles have been well documented and a few warrant a recap here. In December 2020, youths under the aegis of Yala Political Development Forum stormed the PDP headquarters, Abuja protesting against what they called the imposition of local government chairmen and their vice chairmen by Governor Ayade. They vowed to quit the party if the people were not allowed to have a say on who becomes their leaders at the grassroots level.
Following the death of Senator Rose Okoh, the lawmaker representing Cross River North; Ayade brought his dependable ally, Dr. Stephen Odey as his preferred candidate in the by-election and sought the support of his predecessor, Liyel Imoke.
While Imoke and other PDP leaders in the state did not have anything against Odey, they insisted that only a transparent primary election would determine the party’s flag bearer. Ayade lost out as Hon. Agom Jarigbe, a member of the House of Representatives, representing Ogoja/Yala federal constituency emerged winner.
Apparently tired of counting his losses, the Professor of Biology a fortnight ago gave a hint on what to expect if the tables continued to be turned against him.
Addressing his Bauchi state counterpart, Senator Bala Mohammed, Ayade invariably gave the PDP something to ponder on
He said: “I cannot blind myself to the challenges of PDP and decide not to know what to do at the right time for their [Cross River people] sake. I know you are somebody that doesn’t take injustice. One single injustice they will see a new Cross River state.
“And I say it as a warning because it does appears that your party seems to celebrate people who threaten and stress them.
“All councillors [in the state are PDP, council chairmen are PDP, all House of Assembly members are PDP, all commissioners are PDP, and all the National Assembly members except one are PDP: all of them are under my leadership.”
Reacting to the defection of the governor yesterday, the Cross River state chapter of PDP came short of describing the development as good riddance.
In a statement endorsed by Imoke, Jarigbe and a host of others, they said:
“The exit of the Governor from our party, while being rather regrettable, does not come to us as a surprise as it was not unexpected.
“We join the national leadership of our party to wish him well in his new found adventure. We understand that the people of Cross River state who have stood firmly with the PDP since 1999 and other lovers of Cross River state are deeply disappointed by this move made by a governor who has won all his elections under the platform of the Party.
“Given the overwhelming support which he enjoyed under the PDP and the fact that PDP has 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 grass root 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 24hours in our state avail us an opportunity to re-strategize and realign ourselves with the PDP in Cross River 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.”
Will the governor make it to the Senate as it is being speculated? Time will tell.