When Acting President Yemi Osinbajo visited Cross River State recently and commended Governor Ayade’s efforts on infrastructural and economic development, analysts believed that the latter’s level of acceptability and popularity in the state would increase. But some people, including government workers, think otherwise, saying the commendation by a member of a rival party was a mere political statement as the APC would want to take over the state in 2019.
Mass defection to the APC as a poser
A political analyst, Effiom Paul, said the continued mass defection of key PDP leaders in the state to the rival APC was compounding the governor’s waning popularity, adding that it is a major slap on his face.
Many pundits are of the opinion that a combined force from the likes of Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba, Senator Bassey Otu, Senator Florence Ita-Giwa, Senator John Owan-Enoh and former Governor Clement Ebri, amongst several others, would work against Ayade’s dream to return to the Government House in 2019.
It is believed that many of these defectors would sponsor candidates against the governor, whether in the PDP or APC, as a way to pay him and his sponsors in their own coin.
Although it is believed that Governor Ayade would take advantage of the unspoken rift within the APC in the state to achieve his second term dream, the fact remains that the opposition party is gradually building up in numerical strength and clout.
Political watchers also believe that the appointment of indigenes of the state into key positions at the national level by President Muhammadu Buhari is a strategy towards taking over the state during the next general elections. Federal Government appointees such as the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Usani Uguru Usani; Special Adviser to the President on Prosecution, Chief Okoi Obono-Obla; Head of Service of the Federation, Mrs. Winifred Oyo-Ita; Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen; Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok Ete Ibas, among others, will definitely work for the APC in 2019.
Usani and Obono-Obla, for instance, have not hidden their reservations for the governor and how eager they are to see him replaced.
However, there are many people who see a messiah in Governor Ayade. For instance, the 34-year-old Commissioner for Youth and Sports in the state, Comrade Asu Okang, said his boss had all it takes to win a second term.
He said a new generation of politicians had emerged in Cross River State, adding that the governor has enough foot-soldiers to work for him during the next gubernatorial election. He debunked the notion that all the big names who left the party would influence the votes against the governor.
“The appointment of several young persons like me as special advisers, commissioners and personal assistants across the 18 local government areas of the state is deliberate. The governor had, while appointing us, said he wanted to expand his government to reach the remotest parts of the state.
“I can assure you that the governor knows what he is doing. He thinks and looks ahead. I can tell you that we are on ground; we are the real strategists. The governor has done so much for the people to deserve a second term,’’ he said.
Also speaking on the possible effect of the defection of prominent members of the PDP, Ayade’s senior media adviser, Christian Ita said, “They are all popular on pages of newspapers. How many votes do they have?’’
Ita said the governor had impacted positively on the lives of the people; hence the electorate will not run away from him.
“How many states in Nigeria, including the so-called wealthy ones, are faithfully paying workers’ salaries promptly? Some owe, but we are not; go and check. The governor even pays upfront; that is why the workers are happy with him and continually pray for him.
“He has also reduced taxes for the low income earners and built an industrial park where several people-oriented firms are springing up. He has completed the Cross River Garments Factory, where at least 3,000 women, mostly widows, have been engaged,’’ he added.
Where the problem lies
Whether the governor’s aides are sincere in their rating or not, the fact is that there are many issues the governor would contend with ahead of 2019. Also, there are issues within the ranks of the ruling PDP, including legislators in the state House of Assembly.
One of such issues that would likely work against the governor is the allegation that he takes unilateral decisions on many occasions, depending on his mood. For instance, most of the governor’s signature projects that would gulp a lot of money were allegedly never subjected to the state Assembly for deliberation and approval.
And it seems that many people are not bold enough to confront him. According to political analysts, certain critical decisions must pass through the House of Assembly or the PDP caucus, at least as a mark of respect for the rule of law and political expediency.
Another issue is the allegation that he is not following the footsteps of his predecessor, Senator Liyel Imoke. For instance, “he no longer pays homage to godfathers,” and therefore, not tied to their apron strings. This is interpreted to mean that he is yet to live up to expectations. To political watchers, it is a big crime that might count against his second term bid.
As a result of this, Imoke, a very quiet political strategist who allegedly disappointed key stakeholders at the last minute in 2015, is said to be in talks with some of them ahead of future elections.
There is equally an uneasy calm in the Cross River north senatorial district, where the PDP zoned the governorship ticket. This development gives Ayade an edge over other possible contenders.
It would be recalled that as he was rounding off his second tenure in 2015, Imoke ensured that the northern part of the state produced his successor on the grounds that the two other districts had produced governors at different times.
Chief Obi Benjamin, a political leader in Boki Local Government Area in the northern senatorial district, said that even as their son, and contrary to expectations, Ayade had concentrated much of his proposed key projects in the southern senatorial district, to the detriment of the north, where he hails from. He also frowned at the governor’s incessant foreign travels.
“It is not about the flamboyance he displays as governor, his too many promises are yet to be concretised. He keeps travelling abroad in the name of going to sign memoranda of understanding or pulling investors to the state. How many of these investors have actually established in the state ever since? He talks too much and does very little,” he said.
Obviously, Benjamin’s views are reflective of the feelings in many parts of the state.
Mrs Justina Eteng, a social worker in Ugep, Yakurr Local Government Area of the state said, “With lean federal allocations, he talks about very high projects, which will even take the Federal Government an upward of five years or more to actualise.
“Here, our governor wants to complete 275km superhighway running from Bakassi to Benue State, as well as the dredging and actual construction and completion of the Bakassi deep seaport in two years. Haba! Is this not deception?” She wondered.
Celestine Philip, a 32-year-old graduate who was one of those screened for engagement as a member of the state’s Green Police, which is now called Green Sheriff, billed to check deforestation and environmental abuse, said the governor had disappointed them.
Also speaking, the national vice chairman of the APC, Hilliard Eta said, “Under Ayade’s watch, Cross River has drifted in development, more than 16 years backward,” he said.
Eta maintained that the governor had buried tourism and agriculture, which had been the mainstay of the state, noting that Anambra, Kebbi and Ebonyi states, with almost the same economic and financial capability, are making massive progress in agriculture.
But the chairman of the PDP in the state, Chief Inok, maintained that Ayade was doing absolutely well to deserve a second term in 2019.