Tuesday, 6 July 2021

APC C'River Congress, Gov Ben Ayade & the Quest to Monopolise Party Structures

Thursday 20th May 2021, witnessed the historic defection of the incumbent governor of Cross River, Sen. Prof. Ben Ayade, from the opposition People's Democratic Party (PDP) to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).

Political pundits have described this singular development as a landslide in the political history of Cross River as Ben Ayade becomes the first sitting governor of the state to defect from a ruling party to an opposition party within the state. Again, this development has effected sweeping changes in the political contours of the state considering the enormous influence that goes with the institution of the high office of Governor of Cross River state.

While rationalising the defection of Governor Ayade, the Speaker of the 9th Cross River State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Eteng Jones Williams of Yakurr 2 State Constituency observed that 'Cross River is known for always playing politics with the centre. Since 1999, former governors Donald Duke and Liyel Imoke all played politics from the centre. Ayade is the only governor from the state who has played opposition for six years now and he feels it is time to align with the centre for the benefit of the state'. An editorial of ThisDay by Vanessa Obioha on 30th May, observed thus: 'Now, Ayade wants to mainstream Cross River state into national politics. He perhaps believes the state has no reason to be in opposition. In his thinking, mainstreaming Cross River into national politics would encourage Buhari to 'show him and the state some love'. In showing some love, he would want the President to provide sovereign guarantees and finances for the International Cargo Airport in Obudu, Bakassi Deep Seaport, Super Highway and a host of other ongoing projects littering across the state as well as appoint qualified Cross Riverians into federal positions.' The governor himself justified his move in the succeeding words: 'my decision has to do with my respect for the quality of leadership that President Muhammadu Buhari has brought to the country'. But, in some quarters, it's argued that Ayade didn't defect because of connecting the state to national politics considering the benefits that accrues rather, according to them, he defected for self-serving purposes.

It should be recalled that during the last ward and chapter congresses of PDP in the state, the national body of the PDP had to recognise a list of executive members who did not even contest for the positions at the ward and chapter level. Such marginalisation of key persons in the state by the PDP also informed the decision to defect, along with the governor, to the APC since, as leader of the PDP in the state, he's not in control of the party structures. 

Now, with the upcoming ward, chapter and state congresses of the APC in the Cross River, onlookers especially in the Party are already apprehensive of the fact that Gov Ayade is rumouredly disposed to making the same mistake that pursued him from the PDP to the APC –the governor is lobbying for choice offices at both state, chapter and ward levels of the APC be gifted to him: in particular, he's asking party stakeholders to allow him the offices of State Chairman, while incumbent LGA Chair(wo)men be allowed chapter Chair and Secretaries etc. With this, the governor and his new entrants of elected and appointed public officers will exclusively own the APC state structure against those who'd held the forte before the governor's eventual arrival.

This political disposition of the governor will definitely not go down well with stakeholders of the APC in C'River particularly those who're there before. This same act of imposition killed APC both in the state and at the National especially towards the runoff of 2015 elections. 

APC as a family have always had a peaceful congress even if consensus officers were to be arrived at, it was always a collective and inclusive decision not left to the hands of Local Government Chairmen as the governor plans to do. A meeting of Critical stake holders of the party has been called and many believes the governor is likely to announce this plan to them, and already there is a plot to strongly oppose the governor's rumoured plans of imposing key party officials through the LGA. 

His move is already suspected and it's breeding suspicion amongst the rank and file of the party. It's important and urgent that, if the APC in C'River will get elected come 2023, he'd trade with tact, not reproducing the PDP culture in APC. He must get it right with internal politics in the APC in C'River.