Two Supreme Court judgments recently delivered in favour of members of the National Assembly caucus of Cross River State and their factions may have changed the political equation in the state.
The first judgment confirmed the March 7 and 20, 2020 list of ward and chapter executives congresses released by the National Working Committee (NWC) of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and signed by its National Organising Secretary (NOC), Col. Austin Akobundu (rtd), dated April 26, 2020, as authentic. The judgment also tends to give control of party structure at the ward and state executives level to National Assembly members and the stakeholders.
But observers say Governor Ben Ayade appears not pleased with this development, being the leader of the PDP in Cross River. It is said that the governor believes that anyone in control of party structure may use it to determine who emerges as PDP governorship candidate, flag bearers for National Assembly seats and other offices come 2023.
The second judgment gave victory to Mr. Jarigbe Agom Jarigbe over Odey. And keen followers of developments in the state said the judgment has further compounded Governor Ayade’s chances of easily getting back into the senate come 2023, because according to them, ‘Odey is only contesting the senatorial by-election as a proxy.’ The summation is that with Jarigbe sworn-in, and if he survives the by-election Petition by Joe Agi (SAN) of APC, he will rather stay put at the senate or negotiate with another person other than Ayade.
“Jarigbe will want to stay at the Senate because, for years, only the Yala and Obudu people have enjoyed the Senate. Bekwara produced Senator Kanu Agabi that lasted for about three months before he was made Minister but Ogoja, where Jarigbe comes from, has not produced a Senator before,” a competent source told The Guardian.
They further affirmed that, by implication, the Supreme Court judgments have given the political structure in the state to the National Assembly group and their stakeholders, thereby making Ayade a symbolic leader of PDP in the state.
As things stand, the overarching opinion is that the situation may make it difficult for Governor Ayade to determine who succeeds him or who gets what office. The judgments have also fueled speculations that, should the Senator Bukola Saraki-led PDP National Reconciliation Committee fail to achieve desirable results, Ayade may decamp to the APC.
During the visit of Bauchi State governor, Alhaji Bala Mohammed to the Cross River State last week, Ayade expressed displeasure with the PDP and dropped hints of his possible exit from the party if things were not corrected.
Ayade said, “I have always played politics with ethics. But over time, I have realised that ethical politics is often taken for weakness. It is time to put our foot down on the basis of what will benefit our collective wellbeing. I am very smart and I know you do not take injustice. If the party metes out injustice to us, it will see a new Cross River State. I say it as a warning because it does appear the party tends to celebrate those who threaten and stress them.
“Under my leadership, all Councillor seats, all state Assembly seats, all National Assembly seats, except one were won. So, it is not now someone will discuss what strategy and structure that is needed to win elections. But I am happy you have created an opportunity for resolution.”
Reacting to Ayade’s statement, Jarigbe, who represents Ogoja\Bekwara Federal Constituency asked: “How has my dear governor played politics with ethics? Is it by handing over the administration of the party to his younger brother, Frank?”
Jarigbe alleged that the last ward and chapter congresses of the state were done in a private room, where they “picked and chose who became ward chairmen, with total disregard for National Assembly (NASS) members or other stakeholders. In my own case, when I complained, I was asked to nominate an ex-Officio. The Governor and Frank treated all of us with levity. That was not the style he inherited. Anyway, in this case it was a premeditated move to throw us out of politics. Is that what we deserve for being at the forefront of Ayade’s emergence as governor?
“This claim of ethical politics should be told to the birds. Talking about injustice, let’s look at it from the perspective of contemporary issues bordering on his leadership of the party and governance of Cross River State. As a leader, he has been unjust, as he appropriates every opportunity to suit his whims and caprices. We are in a democracy and this affords us the opportunity to challenge non-participatory and dictatorial decisions. Why has the governor tried to divide us along ethnic lines? Where is his acclaimed justice?”
Jarigbe disclosed that the way forward is to gather as a family and discuss, with no intimidation of any sort. “There are natural laws that govern our co-existence as humans, not money, contacts or power. The aforementioned are transient but the laws of nature are sacrosanct. He who goes to equity must go with clean hands.”
MEANWHILE, a socio-economic group in the state, the Cross River Southern Senatorial District Assembly (CRSSDA), led by its Chief of Party, Mr. John Offiong, warned that “top politicians in Rivers State and some other parts of the country should steer clear of Cross River politics as there are strong indications that such persons want to hijack the state come 2023.”
A prominent politician in the state and chieftain PDP, Mr. Victor Ekpo, however, pledged his loyalty to Ayade, saying that his people of Akpap-Okoyong ward headquarters of Akamkpa in Odukpani council would go with him if he decides to leave the party because of the injustice being perpetrated by the party.
Ekpo noted that some members of the National Assembly have been causing rift in Akamkpa ward with their so-called authentic list. “The only list recognised by the Akamkpa ward is the list from the state governor and the Ayi Etim Effiom-led exco remains the ward exco. The National Chairman and NWC of PDP should take note. The governor’s list is the only solution for PDP to remain in Akamkpa Ward.”
Reacting to the allegation that Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers state plans to interfere in politics of the state, the Convener, Cross River State Good Governance Coalition, Mr. Agba Jalingo has debunked the allegation.
Jalingo, who is the State Chairman of African Congress Action Party (ACAP) said, whatever external influence that exists, it is the people of Cross River that will determine their governor come 2023. “We have had governors in Cross River before Ayade and every succession was a tough battle for the incumbents with external interference. In the end, it was always Cross Riverians that went to the polls to decide their leader. This time will also not be different. I think the Wike-phobia is exaggerated.”