Some worried political gladiators in Cross River State are currently plotting to abort Governor Benedict Bengiousheye Ayade’s undying ambition to return to the Senate in 2023.
In a seeming dazing move, Ayade, a professor of microbiology, fiendishly secured Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP) automatic ticket for the 2023 Cross River North Senatorial District through foisting his faithful ally, the newly sworn-in Senator John Odey on the party.
But, the move has ignited widespread disagreement in the senatorial district with forces empathetic to the Ogoja power bloc shouting blue murder.
Already, the new senator has publicly declared that he is holding the seat briefly for Governor Ayade who is bracing to return to the Red Chamber of the bicameral Legislature in 2023 when he vacates the Government House, Calabar.
Fierce efforts are on backstage to stop Ayade, and throw out Odey from the hallowed chamber of the Senate.
Ayade was a senator in 2011 on the platform of PDP. Four years later, he emerged as PDP gubernatorial candidate and subsequently, winner of the April 2015 governorship poll in the state.
Before moving to the senate to hold the seat for his principal, Odey was the Chairman of the state’s Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB), and former Senior Legislative Aide to Governor Ayade as a Senator in the 7th Senate.
Odey was sworn-in as a senator on Wednesday, December 16, by the Clerk of the Senate about 11:00am after the Senate President, Ahmed Lawan, had refused to swear him in along with four others on Tuesday, December 15, due to interim court order from Abuja Federal High Court.
In a meeting after his swearing-in with some critical stakeholders made up mostly of Governor Ayade’s appointees, Odey, according to an insider, said he is in the Senate to hold brief for their principal who has been his benefactor.
Other insiders say Odey told them that they must all join hands to protect Governor Ayade who has put food on their various tables, rather than align with opposing political forces within and outside PDP to fight the leader of the party in the state.
“The fight is not about Odey, it is about Ayade and protecting him as the leader in the state. We should not allow him to be messed up else we should be worse for it”, Odey reportedly said, pointing out that by 2023, Ayade will complete his eight years as governor and he (Odey) will relinquish the Senate seat for him.
‘’Ayade deserves to go back to the Senate to continue his good works for the zone’’, he said, maintaining that without the governor, he wouldn’t have been what he is today and therefore, will do everything and anything to protect his Oga’s political ambition.
On an NTA television programme, political Update, live on Friday, December 18, 2020, Odey publicly declared that he went to Senate because Governor Ayade told him to go there and complete the tenure of the late Senator Rose Oko, who is also from Yala Local Government Area.
“When the late Senator Oko died, the governor said now, for equity, somebody from Yala Local Government should complete this tenure and that was how the governor said, look, you have this. Go and contest and that was how I came.”
While Ayade’s supporters are hailing Odey for being sincere and forthright in holding the mandate in trust for the governor, others are lashing out at the new senator for being an accomplice to distorting the existing zoning arrangements in the senatorial district.
Kenneth Oko, a political functionary from Yala, says it is rare to see such an honest politician as Odey, who remembers where he is coming from and standing up to against the trend of betrayal which has become the hallmark of today’s politicking.
While urging Odey to remain steadfast and keep to his words when 2023 comes at least to prove that they’re still some honest men in politics, he said most elected political office holders have betrayed one person or the other and so would want Idey to do so.
But, Mgbe Emmanuel Mgbe, does not appear to be traveling with them. For him, Dr Stephen Stephen Odey and Governor Ayade have successfully planted seeds of discord within the northern senatorial district by denying the Ogoja bloc a golden opportunity to produce a senator.
Mgbe, a PDP stalwart from Ogoja, is claiming that since Nigeria’s independence, Ogoja has never produced a senator even when all other power blocs including Yala, Bekwarra, Obudu, and Obanliku have all had senators.
He said the ongoing scheming and political undercurrents to push Hon Jarigbe Agom Jarigbe, an Ogoja political elite out of the struggle was the highest injustice ever visited on Ogoja people. He is accordingly urging Odey to withdraw his pronouncement of holding the senate seat for Governor Ayade ‘’as it is an insult on the sensibilities of an Ogoja man who have contributed positively to the development of the zone’’.
On his part, Ogar A Ogar, a leading political activist says such a statement from an academic as Odey, shows he has no morals and does not really understand the implications of what he is doing to his people.
Ogar who hails from Obudu, Ayade’s home power bloc says:”During the 2019 political campaigns, all stakeholders in PDP agreed that the late Senator Sen Rose Oko should go back and after that it should be the turn of Ogoja.
“For Odey to have come out on NTA to make such a statement that Ayade called him to come and replace Rose showed he is an enemy of Ogoja people because Yala where he comes from has occupied the senate seat for about 13 years of Nigeria’s 21 years of uninterrupted democracy while Ogoja has not smelt the seat.”
In the mean time, the Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja has declared that Jarigbe Agom Jarigbe was the duly nominated candidate of PDP and the rightful winner of the election against Odey who was declared by INEC and sworn in by the Senate.
The Court also ordered the INEC to immediately issue a Certificate of Return to Jarigbe and withdraw the one earlier issued to Odey.
In its unanimous judgment on December17, the court upheld the judgment of the trial court that the primaries which produced Jarigbe was conducted with the correct and authentic list of delegates and that Jarigbe having scored the highest number of valid votes in the primary election is the validly nominated candidate of the PDP.
Dissatisfied, Odey says he is heading to the Supreme Court for determination on the final matter of who is the authentic party candidate and winner of the December 5 by-election for the senatorial district.