BY Nsa Gill
The political calculations of how Cross River State Governor, Professor Ben Ayade would secure a second term with ease in currently on the front burner of consideration for key political allies of the governor.
Those in the know of the series of meetings that have been ongoing reveal that the governor is personally involve and he is on the driving seat of the options that are laid before him.
Our source disclosed that the first step is to make real the long touted speculations that Governor Ayade is moving to the All Progressive Congress APC away from the People Democratic Party (PDP) that elected him into office.
“Governor Ayade is under pressure to move anytime soon because he needs to do it early enough but there are concerns. One of the concern is how the movement to APC will guarantee his second term ticket when he faces the APC party primary election as well as the eventual general election. This is where the option to get Senator Prince Bassey Otu as a possible running mate came up”
“It is believed that Prince Otu’s popularity and political clout can propel Ayade into victory with a pledge to support Otu to emerge the successor after Ayade’s second term when it is expected the southern part of the state where Otu hails from should get the governorship slot in 2023.” Our source disclosed.
Besides crossing over to APC and getting the commitment of Senator Prince Otu who is already in APC, another issue of concern is what happens to Governor Ayade’s relationship with former Governor Liyel Imoke who is often credited as one who made it possible for Ayade to emerge as the PDP flag bearer in 2015 even though at a prize which Ayade was able to pay.
Our source disclosed that this is not the best of times in the relationship between Governor Ayade and his predecessor, Liyel Imoke. In fact the relationship is now soured because of conflicts of trust.
Evidence of the state of the relationship between the duos came to the fore recently when Governor Ayade suddenly cancelled his earlier planned trip to Imoke’s country home at Etighidi village, Abi local government on January first this year when the political family of Imoke always celebrate their new year with him.
“It’s been like the tradition in the last six years or more that Imoke’s political family in the state, meets and celebrate the new year with him but this year the governor called it off at the last minute. He seems more determined now to take over Imoke’s political structure and challenge the perceived plot orchestrated by Senator John Owan-Enoh against him (Ayade). Imoke is believed to be the man behind Senator Owan-Enoh who is believed to have a 2019 governorship ambition and ploting the hold on to the dying PDP structure in the state.”
“Besides, the PDP at the national level even with the crisis ridden state, back-stabbed Governor Ayade in his trying days of trial at the Supreme Court but after his victory at the Supreme Court, the contention has been the PDP structure in the state which is mostly loyalists of former governor Imoke. And Imoke is backing Owan-Enoh who thinks he can out stage Ayade within the PDP. So from a broader spectrum, the Ayade’s camp has seen that PDP is a dying party with many bigwigs of PDP leaving for APC within and outside the state, so he has to move on time and consolidate before late.”
The other aspect of concern is how to handle the legislature when Ayade eventually moves to APC. The legislators in the state Assembly are believed to be Imoke’s loyalists.
The Speaker of the state Assembly, Hon. John Gaul-Lebo is hundred percent loyal to Imoke, he is believed to be pretender on Ayade as such his last decision may be Imoke’s interest so the Ayade’s camp would not mind doing away with at the niche of time. The deputy Speaker of the assembly, Hon. Joseph Bassey is also known to be Imoke’s loyalist but he has been able to factor himself politically to earn confidence across political divide. For instance, Imoke believes he can count on him the same way Senator Prince Otu believes he can count of him. Over time he has taken political decisions that have not hurt the interest of his political leaders and elders like Imoke, Prince Otu, Hon. Essien Ayi and Senator Gashom Bassey. For such reasons the Ayade’s camp believe he is not a problem to their interest.
Political pundits believe what is saliently working for Ayade is his option to run a bogus administration with large numbers of political appointees. With steady monthly payments of salaries most of the political appointees now enjoy a sense of belonging and honour in their locality where some were seen as a nobody.
So the large number of political appointees is fast becoming a political strategy working for Ayade. Last Christmas festival, the governor reportedly bought bags of rice and gave political appointees with cash to be able to host their immediate communities. That empowerment will be a routine practice even as the time will come for 2017 and 2018 Christmas festivities.
Even though the carnival Calabar has been built over the years without political colouration, Governor Ayade has embraced is wholeheartedly and his political camp tried out something during the 2016 Carnival when the governor’s Band joined the non-competing bands for the second year and had man who rode on a well decorated horse that had the inscription “Ayade 2019”. Some other groups during the green carnival which is one of Governor Ayade’s additions to the Carnival Calabar carried a banner with the inscription of “Ayade 2019, No Vacancy”.
All these points to the fact that the 2019 political calculations have been flagged off in the state and if the Ayade’s camp are able to get it right as there are seemingly working, the second term in office would be seamless with little or toothless opposition within the state.
The governor’s earlier worries was his towns man and uncle, Prince Goddy Jedy Agba who also has good political followers and the financial war chest to re-launch his unfulfilled governorship ambition but recent development coming from home has ignited confidence that the northern part where the governor hails from would likely come together in his support for 2019 and all he need is to secure the support of Prince Bassey Otu who is capable of galvanizing the south in his favour when he joins the APC. Recently the father of Prince Goddy Agba, openly blessed the governor and solicited for his support even in 2019. Agba the father is the Paramount ruler of Obudu local government area and reputed as being the longest serving monarch in the country with over fifty years on the throne.
Indications are that the governor’s calculations are gradually paying off but angle of securing the commitment of Prince Otu is yet to be sealed.
When contacted, the media adviser to the governor and Chief Press Secretary Christian Ita refuted claims that his boss was paying attention to 2019 politics. According to him, governor Ayade is working to deliver on his promises to the people of the state and will continue to work for further developments in the state.
“The governor is not concern about 2019 politics but delivering the goods to the people and in fact what you are going to be seeing is increased tempo of developments such as road constructions, industrialization and economic activities that would create jobs for our youths,” Ita said.
However much the governor’s aide may deny it, the fact remains that the state of affairs in the PDP cannot guarantee Governor Ayade a second term that is if the PDP would still survive till 2019.
As soon as the governor joins the APC he will work to earn their trust and confidence in order to secure a second term ticket from the APC.