Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River State yesterday defected from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) ahead of the 2023 general election.
The governor, who announced his defection to the APC at the Government House in Calabar, said he pitched tent with the APC because there was a need for him and other governors to work closely with President Muhammadu Buhari to implement the Change Agenda.
He announced his defection after a two-hour meeting with seven APC governors led by Chairman of the party’s Caretaker Committee and Yobe State Governor, Mai Mala Buni.
The top echelon of the APC has resolved to whittle down the structure of the PDP ahead of the 2023 general polls.
In the last few months, Governor David Umahi of Ebonyi State dumped the PDP for the APC. Earlier, a former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara; former National Chairman of the PDP, Chief Barnabas Gemade among many others defected.
Governor Ayade said his defection to the ruling party would bring the state closer to the centre and attract more federal presence in the state.
“We need to join hands with President Buhari in his determination to enhance the fortunes of the county. I need all governors to similarly join me and understand my decision to join the APC.
“We need to work ahead with the president for the future and unity of Nigeria.
We all need to sit on the same dining table with Mr Presidential to save Nigeria.
“It is my responsibility to bring back Cross River to the centre in order to enhance her fortunes. I therefore formally declare myself as member and leader of APC in Cross River State,” the governor said.
The Director General, Press and Media to Yobe State Governor and Chairman APC Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee, Mamman Mohammed in a statement Thursday confirmed that Ayade was received into the party by Chairman of the Caretaker Committee, Governor Mai Mala Buni.
But reacting to the development, the PDP said Ayade’s defection won’t spell doom for the party in the state as it has already directed its members to unite and be strong.
The PDP Deputy National Publicity Secretary, Diran Odeyemi told Daily Trust in a telephone chat Thursday that “Ayade’s decision to leave PDP is another sad commentary for our democracy. The PDP as a political party did everything humanly possible to persuade him and encourage him to stay in the party through which he has become a second-term governor.
“If he decides to dump the party that made him, we will leave him in the judgement of the people of Nigeria. His going there is not in the interest of the people of Cross River, it is for his personal interest and it is quite unfortunate that he has picked the wrong party. But PDP will not die because Ayade left.”
The APC in a statement yesterday by the Secretary of its Caretaker Committee, Sen. John James Akpanudoedehe however welcomed Ayade into the party and asked all PDP governors to defect to the APC.
“The APC is advising the other governors who are stranded in the sinking wreckage of the PDP to exercise the best option of abandoning that vessel.
“The APC is also urging members of the PDP in the National Assembly and State Houses of Assembly who are still hanging on to the sinking party to leave it for good and join the APC.
“The lack of democracy was exhibited by the PDP, which hurled invectives on Governor Ayade for dumping the party which has totally lost focus and purpose,” the APC said.
Deputy President of the Senate, Ovie Omo-Agege in a statement by his media aide, Yomi Odunuga said Governor Ayade’s defection is to enable him focus on the task of accelerating further people-focused development in his state.
By Saawua Terzungwe, Hamisu Kabir Matazu, Abdullateef Salau (Abuja) & Eyo Charles (Calabar)