2019: Ayade’s Support Base Swells

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  …As C’River PDP Stakeholders Embark in Adoption Spree

By Magnus Effiong

As countdown to 2019 begins in earnest, the support base of Governor Ben Ayade has swelled dramatically with prominent personalities in Cross River, socio-political groups, National and State Assembly PDP caucuses, organisations and Peoples Democratic Party stakeholders, adopting the Governor as PDP candidate for the 2019 governorship election.

This is even as the opposition All Progressives Congress, APC, said the endorsements were meaningless and useless jamboree since, according to them, the party was bend on sending Gov Ayade packing, no matter who endorses him.

Pillar Today’s investigations indicated that apart from the political class which has given their tacit support to the second term bid, the State Traditional Rulers Council may have already pitched their tent with the Governor as shown in their various interactions with Pillar. The Chairman of the body, HRM Etinyin Etim Okon Edet, the factional Muri Munene of the Efuts, Prof Itam Hogan, Paramount ruler of Odukpani, HRM, Ekpeyong Effiok were very visible during the rally.

The Obong of Calabar himself, His Eminence Edidem Ekpo Okon Abasi Otu V, has also said ‘yes’ to the Governor’s ambition. He advised Cross River people to ensure the Governor also remains in office for 8 years just like former governors Donald Duke and Liyel Imoke.

Speaking late last year during the Utomo Obong festival at his country home, Adiabo, the Monarch said: “let us support him in his vision and aspirations so that we could move forward as a people. I greatly appeal that we should eschew unnecessary politicking and be seen to be fair. I am aware of the fact that many people are scheming to replace him, but let us look at it this way, if there were three tubers of yam, two persons had eaten one each and when it was my turn, you insist I should take half, who will you give the other half to?”

Moreover, groups like the 7-ALIVE for Ayade which has a renowned banker and astute businessman, Chief Asuquo Ekpenyong, as Chairman; Cross River Women Emancipation Initiatives, (CROWEI), Yes Ayade Group, Ayade Ambassadors, Cross River Southern Youth Frontiers, Ayade Grassroots Front, Central Senatorial District Movement for Ayade 2019 and more than 80 other groups have pledged commitment to what they called ‘Bring Back Ayade Project.’

Unconfirmed report has it that because of an understanding between the Governor and National/State Assemblies members – a question of you rob my back, I rob yours too, all the lawmakers from the PDP fold had decided to work for the re-election of the Governor. This explains the mammoth crowd at all the rally venues as their supporters made up of youths, women, market women and even the aged, virtually took over, singing, dancing and pledging unshaken commitment to the Obudu-born Governor.

This scenario, political watchers believe, could indicate that any contender to the PDP ticket would have a mountain to climb if he must stop what a supporter called ‘Ayade hurricane.’

The wind of endorsements which swept from the creeks of Bakassi to the hills of Obanlikwu within the past one week is far from abating. National and State Assemblies members are at the driving seat – moving endorsement motions at rallies and pouring encomiums. Some of those who spoke on behalf of their colleagues were Hon Efa Esua, Hon. Matthew Olory and House of Representatives member, Ntufam Eta Mbora Edim.

They enumerated the achievements of the Governor to include the garment factory, pharmaceutical company, electricity project, the banana plantation in Odukpani, the rice city and farms, timely payment of salary, the super highway project, the deep seaport amongst many life changing projects which they said are scattered all across the State.

Check shows that many Cross Riverians feel Ayade should continue. Speaking, the former IPAC Chair, Goddy Akpama, said, “Ayade’s completion of tenure is not just for the sake of formality being that everybody must sit there for eight years. Beyond the issue of equity is the more serious one of a properly defined development agenda for the state. This must not be lost out of sight. It would be unfortunate to have several laudable endeavours embarked on by the governor truncated abruptly to satisfy a few political interests. This would be to the detriment of the people of the state.”

Immediate past PDP State Chairman, Ntufam John Okon, on his part described as ‘total’ the endorsement the Governor was receiving, saying “this endorsement is not only about Ayade, we are also saying the team should continue for the next tenure.”

On behalf of his group, the Chairman of 7-Alive group, Chief Asuquo Ekpenyong, said their resolve to endorse the Governor was in recognition of Ayade’s tangible and laudable achievements. 7-Alive, is believed to be the voice of leaders and people of southern senatorial district.

During each endorsement rally, members are always seen dressed beautifully in the PDP regalia and chanting solidarity songs in a carnival-like atmosphere, while different dance groups display unique dance steps and carry banners with inscriptions such as: “No Vacancy in Government House Calabar,” “We are for Ayade 2019,” “Talk and Do Governor, Continue,” “On Ayade We stand,” “Salary Master, Carry Go”, amongst others.

Last Thursday, during the Town Hall Meeting for another adoption formalities organised by the Calabar and Odukpani Federal Constituency, Chairman of the occasion, Elder Ntufam Oqua Itu, described the Governor as “a rare gift to our generation,” saying Cross River people have “proudly given the governor and his deputy a well deserved pass mark.”

But despite the category of individuals who have pledged to give their vote to Gov Ayade, the APC said the endorsements were insignificant political jamboree, saying the same people who were singing praises of the Governor would turn around to vote against him when the chips are down.

Speaking, the Publicity Secretary of the party, Mens Ikpeme, in a chat with our reporter said “what you are seeing is politics. It is an insignificant political jamboree. Those sycophants will let him down at the appropriate time. They endorse him in the morning but fight against him in the night.

“Besides, let them point to at least one significant thing that Ayade has achieved in almost three years, apart from junketing the globe signing MoUs without anything concrete on ground. Where are the so-called signature projects? His claim to have financiers who were ready to invest 500 million Euros for Calabar seaport was a lie of the decade.”

The APC spokesman found fault with some of the Governor’s proposed project including the superhighway. He said, “in a guise of constructing a superhighway which has turned out a mirage, Governor Ayade hardheartedly threw away more than 200,000 indigenous people from their homes of origin, damaging the largest bio-diversity forest in the world that serves as homes to Cross River gorilla, Nigerian chimpanzee, drill monkeys, 2000 plant species of which 400 are endangered, medicinal plants and orchids. This forest provides tourism value with resulting revenue of more than 8 million Dollars a year to Cross River State.”

He called on the people not to be deceived by what he referred to as ‘antics of the PDP,’ adding “the All Progressives Congress calls on well meaning Cross Riverians who are in PDP to hurry and leave the sinking ship (PDP) and join hands with the APC to build a prosperous Cross River State.”

But a respondent who preferred anonymity disagreed with APC’s postulations. He told our reporter: “while it is convenient for the state chapter of APC to point fingers, the APC should concern itself with its internal strife threatening its survival.”

Analysts are of the opinion that despite the APC’s position on the gale of the Governor’s endorsement and his alleged crimes, the opposition party have not shown that it has ability to pose any serious threat to Ayade, considering unnecessary infighting be-devilling the party between Abuja and Calabar fronts/factions.

Although the APC is blessed with prominent individuals who could give the Governor a run for his money, none has formally come out to declare intention to take over the plum job from Gov Ayade, even with only seven months remaining for all political parties to conclude primaries and submit names of candidates to INEC.

Political watchers say 2019 would determine whether or not the endorsements would translate to victory for the Governor and whether the APC would be able to employ the tactics which won for the mega party the presidency in 2015, to dismantle the established PDP structure in Cross River, but until then, the ongoing gesture and claims will continue to remain in the realm of conjecture.

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