One of the most interesting aspects of politics in Nigeria is seeing how Nigerian politicians prove the belief that repeating the same thing and expecting a different result is the definition of madness. In this case, I am talking about the constant failure of godfatherism, a President or a Governor installs a successor, then we watch them fall out after a little while. It happened between OBJ and Yar ‘Adua, GEJ and now Buhari. It has happened in nearly every state in Nigeria. Even in neighbouring Akwa Ibom, Godswill Akpabio has had to decamp to the APC to fight his now estranged godson, Udom Emmanuel.
Cross River has its own version of this fight, with Liyel Imoke very quietly but with extreme venom with Ben Ayade whom he installed as Governor of Cross River State. Indeed, Ayade had already picked up his form in 2014 to return to the senate before being plucked from relative obscurity to move into Diamond Hill.
As it usually happens in these cases, Ayade was selected by Imoke, at the behest of his bosom friend, Senator Gershom Bassey, and his wife Obioma Imoke (now said to be nursing her own senatorial ambitions) not because he had anything to offer the people of Cross River, but because Imoke felt he could be controlled. This is what Cross Riverians believe. When you ask Imoke himself, he says that Ben Ayade had the money to present to the PDP branches in the State and thus win the primary. Which, of course, loudly begs the question: who brought Ayade into the race in the first place?
Our outgoing governors never learn of course. and rather than let himself be controlled, Ayade simply handed over the keys of Cross River to his younger brother, Frank ‘Co-Governor’ Ayade. In all these scheming, none of the main actors had Cross River State and its people in mind.
The result of this selection on the people of Cross River has been disastrous. All the progress made by previous administrations has been reversed by an administration with no idea about how to run a functional government.
As primaries draw closer, there has been increasing unrest against Ayade with a number of protests against him from within the PDP. Two separate anti-Ayade protests have taken place in Abuja since mid-July, with the groups involved saying that the PDP may lose Cross River if Ayade is given the ticket.
Now rumours abound that in fact, these protests are because Imoke wants to position Chief Ekpo Okon, former Chairmand of PDP in Cross River and former member of the NDDC board to contest against Ayade in the primary, a position he was known not to have any interest in because he prefers the senate ticket for Cross River South. SO, Liyel Imoke clearly wants lightning to strike in the same place twice. The intriguing this is that this same Chief Ekpo Okon was betrayed twice in as many days by Liyel Imoke; first, when he was removed as Chairman of Cross River PDP in 2014 even after reassurances by Liyel Imoke with a second betrayal coming when Ekpo Okon was thereafter denied the position in the PDP National Working Committee that was promised to him as compensation. That NWC position went to Elder Bolaji Anani from Liyel Imoke’s Abi LGA. Inytrigungly, Elder Anani subsequently decamped to the APC and now tells all and sundry that he too was betrayed by Liyel Imoke. What goes around comes around, you might say.
However, what are Liyel Imoke’s possible motivations in pushing Ekpo Okon forward to contest the PDP primary for the governorship nomination. Is he trying to kill two birds with one stone? How? Well, consider this. In contesting for a Senate seat, Ekpo okon will be up against Gershom Bassey, Imoke’s Man Friday and one of his favourites.
We must not forget how Gershom Bassey, with Imoke’s help as Governor, defeated then incumbent Sweet Prince Bassey Otu in the PDP primaries and then the general election after the Prince defected to the Labour Party before now berthing his ship in the APC. Sweet Prince has made it well known that he now intends to pay Gershom Bassey back in spades, now that he (Prince) is in the ruling Party. So, by pushing Ekpo Okon to contest against Ayade, Imoke will reduce the field of contestants and remove a major obstacle to Gershom Bassey’s return to the Senate while also fielding a seemingly viable candidate against of his own against Governor Ben Ayade and thus kill two birds with one stone. The problem with this is that Sweet Prince Otu is almost certain to defeat BOTH Ekpo Okon and Gershom Bassey if they were in different political parties.
There may yet be another plan in play. Imoke’s Plan B could be to let Ayade have a second term after scaring him, with the protest marches and Ekpo Okon as bait, into coming to certain agreements with him (Liyel Imoke) that would leave Ayade to contest and win the election and thereafter prepare the ground for Gershom Bassey to take over as governor when power is supposed to rotate under PDP’s zoning convention to Cross River South. Anyone who knows Liyel Imoke and Gershom Bassey and what they have done in Cross River State, knows that thiskind of diabolical plot within a plot is not out of the realm of their possibility.
Time will reveal all things, but what the elite of Cross River must realise that all this ‘fighting’ in PDP that distracts the people of the State from seriously contemplatiing their future is merely the result of a godfather falling out with his godson. They should not fall for PDP drama. If Ayade had kept his end of the bargain, there would be no protests outside PDP headquarters in Abuja and he would be on a smooth path to the PDP nomination.
It is the grass of Cross River that has borne the brunt of the Imoke-Ayade association. What matters now more than ever before, is to take Cross River State back from these two gladiators and find our way back to fulfilling the vision of Cross River that we hold dear, before it is taken from us completely.
The best way to accomplish this is to work with the SDP and Eyo Ekpo to take Cross River back. In various roles in public service and private enterprise, Eyo Ekpo has demonstrated the necessary capacity to put our great state back on the path of steady development. It is time to put our best foot forward.
Bassey Samuel writes.