Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River State is fast emerging as a subversive democrat. He is cutting an image of a political leader who is intolerant to popular views and aspirations. With the latest legal development concerning the structures of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state, the politically bruised Ayade is said to be intensifying lobby of National Working Committee members of his party to dissolve the Ward and Local Government wings Exco of the PDP following a Supreme Court ruling.
Ayade’s faction lost its first and second battle to authenticate the list of its parallel ward and local government chapter executives at both High Court and Appeal, prompting them to head for Supreme Court to upturn the lower court ruling. And, ruling on January 6, the apex court declared the National Assembly list as the authentic one.
Apparently dazed, Ayade’s commissioners quickly organised a meeting that did not go well to stage a mass protest against the ruling of the Supreme Court. Sadly for them, the meeting ended in a brawl.
Local sources say the meeting which held at the residence of the Commissioner for Solid Minerals, George O’ben-Etchi, was going on smoothly until an argument ensued between Sustainable Development Goals Commissioner, Oliver Orok, and two others.
Former Attorney General, Joe Oshie-Abang, and Information Commissioner, Asu Okang, were allegedly also in the verbal argument and exchange of blows. Two female commissioners, Rita Ayim, and Stella Odey-Inyang, had their own brawl on the side.
They allegedly gathered to plan a protest for this Monday with the venue slated for the 11-11 Roundabout in Calabar, the state capital.
On January 6, the Supreme Court in a judgment delivered by Justice Tijjani Abubakar, on Suit No. SC/CV/838/2020, between PDP, Col. Austin Akobundu versus Jarigbe Agom Jarigbe, and Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), upheld the ruling of the Port Harcourt Division of the Court of Appeal dated last November 2, which affirmed the decision of the same division of a Federal High Court on September 4, 2020.
Justices Mary Odili, Ejembi Eko, Mohammed Garba, and Samuel Oseji, also sat on the panel.
The first respondent and federal legislator, Jarigbe Agom, last August 24, approached a vacation court of the Federal High Court in Port Harcourt seeking at least four reliefs: Utilisation of authentic list of ward and chapter executives of the PDP who emerged in congresses held between March 7 – 21, 2020; an order preventing the modification of the list; an order restraining any party in the suit from modifying the list; and an order mandating the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct primaries for the senatorial by-election in the constituency designated.
The reliefs sought were granted, and affirmed by all appellate courts.
The development dealt a blow on Governor Ben Ayade’s attempt to fully control the structure of the PDP in Cross River.
Following the ruling, Ayade allegedly kept pressing some top PDP leaders in Abuja, to sack all wards and local government chapter executives to pave way for him to install his cronies at those levels of leadership. Not resting on its oars to take over the party structures, he has allegedly reached out to his anchor men at NWC and some governors to intervene and create a soft landing for him by dissolving all the executives and conducting another congress.
His lobby team is equally suggesting that for him to remain in PDP, they should concede the state executive committee to him after the expiration of state caretaker committee. Ayade is fronting one of his aides on Due Process, Alphonsus Eba, from the same local government with Sen Stephen Odey, for the PDP State chairmanship position.
But, his hatchet men are said to have gone to work and have opened up discussions with some NWC members who have taken up his case with some party elders who are sympathetic to his matter. A source at party national secretariat says some of the elders championing Ayade’s course are arguing that they don’t want to lose another PDP governor after David Umahi of Ebonyi State, and therefore are exploring avenues to see how he can be accommodated.
The concerned elders are said to be muting the idea of surrendering the entire state executive committee, zonal and national representatives to Ayade to pacify him to stay out rather than defecting.
One of the elders is being quoted as saying, “truly, with the Supreme Court ruling, Ayade has lost out at the ward and local government party structures. And some people have made case to see how he can also be accommodate in other party structure as the leader of the party in the state
“We are looking into it and we do hope that other National Assembly members would be magnanimous in victory by conceding the key state executive committee members to him. Nobody would be happy to be a governor and lose the entire ward and chapter executives and still remain in the party.”
Pacifying Ayade blindly is capable of sparking a crisis in the state that could see the emergence of All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2023 as the ruling party. One take away from the whole political drama playing out in Cross River is that, Ayade is not a grassroots politician like his Rivers State counterpart, Nyesom Wike. Another emerging fact is, Governor Ayade is not popular in Cross River politics.
Shamelessly, some of his die- hard loyalists and aides have keyed into the ‘dissolution project’ and are canvassing for it as a last hope to re-capture the party structure. One of them, who gave his name as Kenneth Odey, from Obanliku, says “oga has told us to remain calm as the national body of the party has promised to look into it and possibly return the party to him. So, we are waiting.”
But, some NWC members are not disposed to engaging in any other form of illegality with regard to Cross River as the party is entangled in about three other litigations. PDP forces opposed to the dissolution plot are arguing that Governor Ayade defied all peaceful moves and refused any form of consensus arrangement ab initio and wonder why he is coming up with another plan that will further disintegrate the party. They are advising him to meet with his people and sort out the issues amicably without a third party, adding that their tenure would soon expire just as some of them are also busy with how they can be returned for a second term.
One of them says, “he is not even on good terms with a NWC member from his state. So how do we help him when the NWC, who was also his aide on the Presidency and National Assembly Matters has resigned his appointment a few days back. It is really not easy as people outside may think.”
A member of the PDP state caretaker committee says it will be sheer foolhardy for NWC to contemplate dissolving the ward and chapter excos after the historic Supreme Court verdict. According to him, any move by NWC to temper with the executives at those levels after they have been authenticated by various courts as having been duly elected and inaugurated for almost a year now would be tantamount to singing the nunc dimittis of PDP in Cross River, adding, “political parties are not run like that neither can the NWC just wake up and dissolve a constituted executive body because the Court ruled against the governor.”
Meanwhile, Chief Ausquo Asuquo, a PDP chieftain from Calabar South says it is unfortunate that after Governor Ayade had driven the process that produced the ward and chapter Excos, he is turning around to lobby for its dissolution because the courts ruled against any attempt to infuse unknown names into it. Asuquo is urging the governor to accept the outcome as a democrat because he is the one who challenged the same process, adding, ‘’PDP is bigger than any individual’’.