The Progressive Governors Forum (PGF) says the All Progressives Congress will provide Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River State and all Nigerians a viable platform for political aspirations and negotiations.
Alhaji Abubakar Bagudu, Governor of Kebbi State and Chairman PGF, an umbrella body of governors elected on the platform of the APC said this in a statement on Friday in Abuja while welcoming Ayade, who just defected from his party, Peoples Democratic Party, to the APC.
“The APC is indeed the party that will provide him, his people and indeed all Nigerians the viable platform for political aspirations and negotiations”, Bagudu said.
He lauded the APC Caretaker and Extra-ordinary Convention Planning Committee for the milestone achievement in getting another experienced leader as Ayade to join the party.
“The progressive reinforcement of our party continues, we look forward to receiving more patriots and progressive minded Nigerians into the APC.”
Ayade it would be recalled had said Thursday he took the decision to defect to the APC to enable him align with the centre and to join forces with President Muhammadu Buhari to build a better Nigeria.
Bagudu said Ayade’s defection to the APC was indicative of President Buhari’s principles, commitment and conviction to the development of Nigeria, adding that the APC was open, transparent and would continue to guarantee fair contestation in politics in line with the commitment of President Buhari and the party’s founding leaders.
He said given his achievements in Cross River State, Ayade had only come home where he belonged by his defection to the APC.
“Together with Ayade and all our leaders in the APC, our party’s capacity to serve collective interests of Nigerians through effective representation will be strengthened and reinforced.”
Reacting to the development,the former governor of Cross River State and leader of a stakeholders’ group in the state chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party, Senator Liyel Imoke said Friday that Cross River State remains a PDP state.
He acknowledged that though the defection was regrettable, but there is no cause for alarm as his action cannot wrest the state from the grip of the PDP.
Addressing a press conference Friday in Abuja, Imoke said the exit of the governor from the party did not come as a surprise, warning that the state would not be a personal estate of anybody.
“We join the National Leadership of our party to wish him well in his new found adventure. We understand that the people of Cross River State who have stood firmly with the PDP since 1999 and other lovers of Cross River State are deeply disappointed by this move made by a governor who has won all his elections under the platform of the Party,” Senator Imoke said.
“Given the overwhelming support which he enjoyed under the PDP and the fact that PDP has strong grassroots support in the state, we affirm that Cross River State remains a PDP state.
“An overwhelming majority of Cross River State people are PDP members. Our key stakeholders, members of the National and State Assemblies and Strategic grass root mobilisers are still members of our great party. We as a party therefore remain virile and strong. Our shell remains uncracked.”
He said that the leadership of Cross River State under the aegis of PDP since 1999 has led the state to a pedigree of progression and seen to the attainment of all the lofty achievements the state has been known for.
“the events of the last 24hours in our state avail us an opportunity to restrategise and realign ourselves with the fundamental models of PDP in Cross River which was characterised by a trajectory of growth and development geared towards the path of greatness.” he stated.
And corroborating Imoke’s position, the representative of Cross River South Senatorial District in the Senate, Senator Gershom Bassey, disclosed that the majority of National Assembly members from the state are not following Governor Ben Ayade to the All Progressives Congress.
Addressing newsmen in Abuja on Friday, Senator Bassey said the National Assembly members from the state will stay in the PDP.
“The bulk of the National Assembly members are not sailing with Ayade. We remain strong and staunch members of the the PDP.
“I am a founding member of the PDP and I have seen no reason in the last 22 years that I have been in the party to move anywhere.”
“I find the defection of Governor Ben Ayade most regrettable because he won all his elections as a senator, two terms as governor.
“It is rather sad that after all the confidence that had been reposed in him by the PDP in Cross River State, he will dump the platform abruptly, but we wish him well
“His defection will not have any negative implications on the PDP in the state because the party remains strong and the dominant party in the state.
“Most of the National and State House of Assembly members are remaining firm in the PDP.
“The key stakeholders are still in the party and even some of his appointees have offered to resign rather than go with him.
“I foresee crisis and conflicts happening in the APC, but our party remains strong.”
Governor Darius Ishaku of Taraba State has described the defection of his Cross River counterpart, Ben Ayade to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as “shocking and embarrassing”.
Governor Ishaku spoke on the matter while responding to questions from State House correspondents after meeting with the Chief of Staff to the President, Professor Ibrahim Gambari, on Friday.
“Well, I wouldn’t know precisely the governor’s thinking, because all of us are different, but we are greatly shocked and embarrassed that he suddenly dumped the party for APC, because all of us see PDP as alternative to APC. And all the PDP governors are doing very, very well, in their respective states. And for him to leave to APC, I don’t know the details of that.
“I have not seen him. But be that as it may, I believe that any democratic country must have an opposition, a viable opposition, and opposition in itself is good for democracy. If you don’t have an opposition, then the government in powers can go astray and so, I believe in the vibrant democracy with an opposition, if we have an opposition, it is good.
“But as to the reason why our colleague in PDP will depart, I don’t have the details, and I can’t hold brief for him. He can still talk for himself. But I want to assure you that all the governors in PDP are doing very well, very well in their respective states. Possibly because we’re in a position and the pressure is on us and we are doing the best we can. I will invite you to my state in Taraba, to come and see the beautiful works I’m doing there in all ramifications. From education, agriculture, name it, we are doing a great job, infrastructure etc.”
The governor said the National Reconciliation and Strategy Committee headed by the former Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki, did a good job to make him stay but he had other reasons to leave.
“Let me tell you, they have done a good job. A very good one. But it depends on the decision of an individual and what he actually hopes to gain. You may get the best of intentions somebody may not agree with you. And so that is the point, I think is more of the governor’s decision as it affects him, and that nobody can hold brief on that.”
Asked whether he foresaw more PDP governors joining the APC, the governor said: “I don’t see that happening and like I said even his own was a shock. I don’t see that happening. And for Nigeria, we should hope for an opposition, a vibrant opposition that will help to put and maintain the system going. Democracy without an opposition is not a democracy.”
Meanwhile, Senator Ita-Giwa Thursday told newsmen in Calabar shortly after the governor defected to APC that the governor is the political leader in the state and she will always go where he leads.
“We have a leader in the state and wherever he moves to my loyalty is with him”.
Ita-Giwa who was a founding member of All Nigeria People’ Party, ANPP has gyarated to and from PDP and APC four times since 1999.
The Speaker of the Cross River House of Assembly, Eteng Jonah Williams, said he will cruz with Ayade in his new political voyage.
Others who were present at the Executive Chambers of the Governor’s Office and who are willing to join him are Senator Stephen Odey of Northern Senatorial district, Mr. Legor Idagbo representing Obudu/Obanlikwu/Bekwara Federal constituency, and Mike Etaba of Obubra/Etung federal constituency in the House of Representatives
Reminiscing the build up to his eventual defection, Governor Ayade has been having a running battle with members of the national assembly whom he accused of taking control of the party machinery in the state.
In January and February 2020, the ward and local government Congresses of the PDP were said to have been highjacked, leaving him with just Obudu and Obanliku, while deputy governor, Ivara Esu had Biase.