Immediate past Commissioner for Information and Orientation in Cross River State, Asu Okang, tells ADA WODU about his frosty relationship with Governor Ben Ayade, who recently defected from the Peoples Democratic Party to the All Progressives Congress
Why were you relieved of your appointment?
I refused to join the governor in the APC on grounds of principle. You know, before a man takes such a decision, there are other underlying factors that would have prompted that decision. First of all, beyond the fact that Cross River State is a PDP state and has always been, and we are completely so, I didn’t feel a sense of commitment again in the administration. For me, clearly my relationship with Governor Ayade is something that has been very rosy. We enjoyed a father and son relationship and I am thankful for that. Part of what necessitated it (disengagement from service) was the fact that there has been a lot of issues lately in the system, ranging from blackmail and all of that, and I didn’t really feel secure or feel like a part of the family anymore. And so, moving to the APC, we are only going to move to another party but the people have not changed. So, clearly I made up my mind to stay back in PDP.
Were you threatened or cajoled in any way to join APC?
Oh, no. The governor was very clear about his stand: ‘If you know you want to retain your appointment, move to the APC. If you are not, be prepared to lose your appointment’. It is not an issue of threat or another thing. The governor was very clear about it. He had moved to a new party, and naturally, you do not expect the governor to be in a different party and the commissioners will be in a different party from the governor’s own.
Is it true that your loyalty to a member of the National Assembly pitched you against the governor?
My loyalty to Governor Ben Ayade never shifted or dwindled up till the last minute that I left the government. I have a history with Governor Ayade. I was the first commissioner to be appointed by Governor Ayade in 2015. That, for me, was a rare privilege. We came in with a lot of expectations. We had a beautiful working relationship in 2015 to 2019. We went to the elections and emerged victorious and I expected that with much of the contributions I made in the field, it would have been a more rosy relationship from 2019. In all fairness, there is nothing like loyalty to a National Assembly member. National Assembly members are members elected under the PDP alongside the governor. When you said loyalty to a National Assembly member, it has to do with Senator Sandy Onor, I guess. He is my senator representing Cross River Central. There is a relationship I have with my senator who is from my local government, my village. There is a relationship I share with the governor. The governor is a father to me. He discovered me and appointed me commissioner. There will never be such a time where I pray I will have anything to say against Governor Ayade, regardless of the fact that, like any other person, he is not infallible. The issues started when the congresses were done and people went to the governor to blackmail me, telling him that the best thing for him to do was to deny National Assembly members, including those perceived to be close to them, the liberty to contribute to the ward executives. So, you won’t imagine that all National Assembly members, serving senators, could not produce ward chairmen, could not produce secretaries, could not produce any member of his ward executives. So, if you were at any point in the list of those being blackmailed by our brother who had the governor’s ears at the time, once he says, ‘He is close to one National Assembly member,’ you are blacklisted. And so you can’t imagine that I stood in the state executive committee as a serving commissioner for information in a government that I think that I am a veritable part of and could not produce my ward chairman, could not bring any contribution to the executive list of my ward and somebody else in another ward writes the list of my ward and submits, the governor sees nothing wrong with that. You hold a councillorship (congress) in my ward and another person tries to put a councillor in my ward and the governor sees nothing wrong with that? The impunity was highly grievous. I didn’t feel like I was part of the family anymore. And so, while we were trying to brood over the issue in the PDP, the next thing we heard was, “We move”. We move to where? If you are moving to a new platform, it is important you first of all attempt to resolve the other issues. Right? That is at least to reassure people that where we are going there will be no issue or a repeat of what has happened. So I did not feel comfortable with moving. So, I decided to stay back in the PDP.
Did you see your disengagement coming?
A long time ago, and I also had a choice. If I had gone to register with the APC or carried a broom, even with the frosty relationship, I would still be in government. I had been disenchanted with a few things that were happening, not particularly with the governor but the system and the way things were done. And I had already lost flair for the job. You noticed I wasn’t even talking anymore for the government. I now channelled my energy towards personal endeavours. When it came, when I saw the announcement which was long overdue, it wasn’t a surprise to me. It only brought some huge relief. While I was still trying to make up my mind, then this letter came. The memo was released. And so, very clearly, it allowed me to consolidate on the right path to take, which is staying back in the PDP.
How would you describe working with Governor Ayade?
Working with Governor Ayade for six years has been a very fulfilling journey. Governor Ayade is a naturally good man. He is a man of depth. He is a man of character. He is a man who has a very big vision for Cross River State. His only challenge is that he comes from a state that is not buoyant but has a dream bigger than the monthly allocation it receives. And he will always tell you that the dream must be bigger. For me, it allowed me the liberty to get things done without too much money. It allowed me the liberty to have a forgiving heart, to forgive much more easily. As a leader, Governor Ayade has the capacity going for him very well. We had a beautiful four-year working relationship. The only challenge was when I went to the Ministry of Information. That was when the issues started. For me, I do think Governor Ayade is a good person. He is a very passionate leader. But you see, the biggest problem is, no matter how good a king is, a king is just but one person. So, when you surround yourself with wolves and demons as your kitchen cabinet, as people who have your ears, just somehow, they will contaminate your goodwill, they will begin to contaminate your good conscience.
No regrets at all. No regrets working with Ayade for six years. No regrets taking the stand that I have taken to remain in the PDP. Well, I will go back to my private life, which is publishing. I have resumed work in my private publishing office. I think side by side that we will be offering very credible opposition to the APC.
What is the fate of the PDP, with the governor now in the APC?
Most people have not left. I can assure you the pendulum is already swinging. I can assure you that in the next couple of days, you will see a major swap in the political divide both at the level of the state executive and other levels. I can assure you that Cross River is used to the PDP, which is the umbrella party. We will do everything possible to play civilised opposition to the extent that we will attempt to highlight the ideals of our party and stick with the one we know. APC is alien to our people. They are already seeing the resistance from the field and the response from the people.
Culled from www.punchng.com
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