The defection of Cross River State governor, Senator (Prof.) Ben Ayade to the All Progressives Congress (APC) a few months ago, has taken a huge toll on his former party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which now plays the opposition in the state, having been on the saddle for almost two decades.
This is as three former state chairmen of the party, who are believed to be responsible for the PDP winning streak from 1999 to 2015, are now members of the APC.
The three politicians had worked with two ex-governors in the state.
While Ambassador Soni Abang served during Governor Donald Duke’s tenure, Ntufam Ekpo Okon and Ntufam John Achot Okon both served at different times under Governor Liyel Imoke administration.
Speaking at a critical stakeholders meeting presided over by Governor Ayade at the Peregrino on Wednesday, Soni Abang described the governor as a good man and commended him for the initiative of bringing everybody together for the common good of the party and state.
He advised the governor to be wary of people who would want to use his exalted office to serve their personal interests, which in the long run, could throw the entire party into needless crisis.
“We have come here to talk about our displeasure. What we like and what we don’t like.
“Ladies and gentlemen, if we don’t come together we can never achieve anything together. If it is not your turn, today it doesn’t mean it cannot be your turn tomorrow.
“Senator Ben Ayade is a good man. Don’t tie your negative interest to the governor,” he said.
The former party chairman, who disagreed with the view that one must have structures in place before vying for political office, gave instances of some prominent politicians who made it to the zenith of their career without initially having any political structure on the ground.
He said the emphasis on structures could destroy sound political foundations, and that the earlier people perish the idea of having structures before venturing into politics, the better it would be for the political development of the state.
“As a politician, be close to your constituents. Sell yourself to your people. Let your people see the good in you. That’s what would bring us the votes. When you do structure on the day of the election, you will not even be in the field. We know it. The structure will not be in the field.
“This issue of structure has to be taken care of, your excellency. Let nobody misguide you. The only way we will continue to win is for us to sit the way we are sitting at this table in our local governments, in our wards. People should not be having kangaroo meetings where they make a decision and impose it on the majority.
“As a party chairman, out of 365 days, I spent 210 days awake, meeting with the ward, local government leaders trying to resolve issues to make sure that we are all on the same page. That’s why they say I’m a good party chairman.
“If we are to chose a ward chairman, give everybody a sense of belonging. If we are to choose a chapter chairman, give everybody a sense of belonging.
“Come to think of it, in this politics all of us are joiners. We are not recruited by anybody. It’s our choice. If our choices, our interests, our opinions are not respected, we become disenchanted and in the end what do we call it? Injustice,” he said.
In their separate remarks, Ntufam Ekpo Okon and Ntufam John Achot Okon said the party should build and consolidate on positive attributes that would promote peace and unity.
The ex-chairmen urged the party faithful to cooperate and support the governor in order to lead the APC to the promised land, adding that they would bring their collective experiences to bear on the task.
One of the key decisions arrived at Wednesday’s meeting by leaders of the party was the adoption of consensus mode for the Saturday, September 4, 2021, local government congress of the party.
In attendance were the deputy governor, Prof. Ivara Ejemot Esu; Special Adviser to the Governor on Political Matters, Ntufam (Dr) Peter Ojie; APC State Caretaker Committee Chairman, Senator Matthew Mbu Jr.; Chief of Staff to the Governor, Martins Orim, and the Secretary to the State Government, Mrs Tina Banku Agbor.
Others were the Speaker of Cross River State House of Assembly, Eteng Jonas Williams; House Leader, Peter Odey; former Senate Leader, Sen. Ndoma Egba; former Minister of Niger Delta, Pastor Usani Usani; member representing Bekwara/Obudu/Obanliku Federal Constituency, Hon. Legor Idagbor; business mogul, Barr Chris Agara; Technical Assistant to the Vice President on New Media, Hon. Philip Obin, amongst others.