As the political storms of 2023 gradually gather in Cross River State, it is becoming clear that state governor, Ben Ayade, is refusing to end his tenure as governor and political leader of the PDP without throwing punches at perceived political opponents in a bid to clearly demonstrate that he is a master too, at his chosen game.
A little over 48 hours ago, Ayade’s latest directive as contained in a press statement signed by official spokesman, Christian Ita, dated March 31, 2021, “…requesting voluntary resignations from commissioners and heads of departments, agencies and parastatals, who manifestly lack the capacity and will to deliver on their mandates”, clearly points to one direction; he no longer wishes to hide the fact that he is not at ease with several of his appointees who have clearly worked and continue to work against his (very touted) personal political ambition.
Without any form of jaundiced equivocation, the governor is religiously bent on going back, after his tenure as state governor, to a Nigerian Senate he earlier abandoned for the realization of a governorship that is winding down. But while he has pushed Stephen Odey, largely accepted as his acolyte, to Abuja to hold forte in the Senate, one dogged dark skinned Jarigbe Agom Jarigbe, presently representing Ogoja/Yala Federal Constituency in Nigeria’s House of Representatives, is proving a thorn in Ayade’s flesh. Jarigbe has put his foot firmly through the door, draped in never say die legal garbs that are Ayade’s present subtle albatross.
But what happened?
In the beginning, Ayade and Jarigbe were political buddies who happily accommodated each other. At one point, Stephen Odey, was Jarigbe’s campaign manager until Ayade is believed to have made a tactical political error after Rose Oko, the late senator who represented Cross River North in the Senate, passed away and a vacuum was suddenly created. As was widely chronicled, Jarigbe is said to have had no interest in going to the Senate until the governor mentioned to him in that infamous meeting that he wants Jarigbe to give up his House of Reps position for someone else. Jarigbe was to be confined to being just a governor’s lackey, earning a living from benevolent contracts that the governor MAY throw his way. A shocked Jarigbe is said to have been irked by such an impending gruesome reality. The man in Jarigbe went to the trenches, severed his relationship with the governor and fought for his political survival, up to the Supreme Court, creating a political situation that remains unresolved as we write.
PDP sources contacted severally maintained to www.calitown.com that the unsavoury political situation created, directly descended from the governor’s absolute rule disposition. “You cannot as governor insist on rule by political authority alone, you have to also lead by influence and in the process duely earn public trust”, a source in the PDP who strongly elected to remain anonymous, said. Another source pointed to the simple and serial contentious fact that His Excellency and his brother, Frank Ayade, (largely referred to as CR’s co-governor), exclusively sat over and handpicked all the local government chairmen, vice chairmen and councillors in the state, without input from political stakeholders. “When did Frank become a politician? He just littered our local government councils with an effective stream of whimpering persons confined to do only the will of Frank and his brother, to the detriment of teeming Cross Riverians”, as he put it.
In insisting that voluntary resignations be made, one of our sources again insists that “his strategy as always is a see-through one. He emphasises his sense of self importance to the point of arrogance. The challenge with investment in self importance is that you exist with a balloon image; a kind of political candle lit during a breezy night.” This submission is immersed in semantics that can be interpreted or misinterpreted, back and forth. But clearly, there is a chorused believe that he appears to have set a trap for people in his administration to push personal self destruct buttons. “Those who resign, will have confirmed his all this while suspicion that these people were not loyal to him. But then too, why has he decided to have his spokesman do this release when several of his appointees have been punitively taken off the payroll without a publicised memo? That the governor at this level will demand voluntary resignations when he could have simply reshuffled his get-it-done crew, brings forth hanging questions. But then too, there is word everywhere that the goodwill Ayade rode on to Peregrino House, has waned, largely in parts by the distance he has created between himself and sane advice, on one hand, as well as between himself and potent stakeholders, on the other hand.
The latter situation clearly has angered these stakeholders who have worked to undermine the governor’s perceived senate ambition, so far.
Ayade’s spat with fellow governor, Nyesome Wike of Rivers State, has also not helped matters. As he tries to get a firm grip on the PDP in the state, hoping to push PDP at the national level to harmonise the already Supreme Court affirmed delegate list, something proving difficult to do, Wike has shown no support for Ayade, throwing his weight instead behind the rising forces who have in so short a time risen to become a very formidable opposing force to Ayade. This has apparently opened a window of opportunity for Ayade’s veiled romance with the APC, even mouthing it that a new Cross River State is possible. For the initiated, Ayade simply implied that a new Cross River State, with a governor who has defected to the APC, is not impossible.
Those dangling the APC carrot before Ayade are a legion of former PDP big wigs, who defected to the APC, when former state governor, Liyel Imoke, stood between them and the realization of their political ambitions; let us not mention their names.
What they intend to do is take Ayade in and use his powers as governor to balkanize the remainder of Imoke’s political machinery which has been murmuring laboriously. The plan too is to also offer him the party’s Cross River North senatorial ticket, a route that appears more workable than what is obtainable with the PDP. We hear Ayade is excited at this optional prospects and will subtly appoint a few APC members into his cabinet, a cabinet that will unforgiveably witness a clear out in the countable days ahead.
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