The National Working Committee (NWC) of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has mobilised Governors Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State and Godwin Obaseki of Edo State and the party’s reconciliation committee headed by a former President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki, to persuade the Governor of Cross River State, Prof. Ben Ayade, to rethink plans to defect from the main opposition party to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
THISDAY learnt that the move followed the threat by 18 elected local government chairmen and 196 councillors in the state to defect from the PDP if the party fails to repeat its state congress.
The chairmen and councillors yesterday met with members of the NWC in Abuja during which they served the defection threat.
The delegation, led by the Chairman of Akpabuyo Local Government Area, Hon. Emmanuel Bassey, in a petition handed over to the party’s Deputy National Secretary, Dr. Emmanuel Agbo, called for immediate conduct of transparent congresses at all levels in the state.
THISDAY gathered that in the last congress conducted by the PDP in the state, Ayade lost control of the structures to members of the party in the National Assembly.
The governor’s loss of political structures at all levels to a faction that sponsored Hon. Agoms Jarigbe in the senatorial primary that pitted him against Senator Steve Odeh, sponsored by the faction loyal to the governor.
Odeh, it was gathered, was sponsored by the governor to replace the late Senator Rose Okoh who died last year.
It was alleged that Odeh reached a deal with the governor to spend only one term as a senator to enable Ayade to return to the Senate, where he was until 2015.
However, the calculation failed as Jarigbe, a serving member of the House of Representatives refused to remain in the House.
At the primary, PDP returned Odeh as the senatorial candidate, but Jarigbe rejected the outcome and went to court and his appeals were upheld.
The development led to the threat of defection by the governor and his faction, which boycotted the zonal congress of the party held recently in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, where Chief Dan Orbih was elected as the South-south National Vice Chairman.
The governor also boycotted the PDP governors’ meeting at the weekend in Makurdi, Benue State.
It was as a result of the threat by the governor to defect to the APC that the elected local government chairmen and councillors met with Agbo yesterday to present their petition for a new congress to confer respect on the governor as the leader of the party or they would defect.
Chairman of the Calabar Municipal Council, Hon. Effiong Eke, told journalists after the meeting with the party that they demanded a fresh state congress to guarantee the return of party structures to the governor.
He said: “The governor is the leader of the party in the state. He should be given control of the party structures and this can only be done with a fresh congress.
“We are demanding a fresh congress. If not, where the Governor, Prof. Ben Ayade, goes, we will go with him. He is the leader of the party in the state.”
Also, the leader of the delegation, Hon. Emmanuel Bassey, who is also the Chairman of Cross Rivers State Local Government Chairmen Forum, said: “We are chairmen of the 18 local government councils in Cross River State. We came to meet the national chairman and we have met him, and he was ably represented by the Deputy National Secretary in the person of Dr. Emmanuel Agbo.
“We came for the purpose of our state; the state of affair of the party in our state; we met him and we presented to him what we came with and he has honourably taken care of it and has assured us that he is going to make sure that what we presented to the party and what we came with, will be given immediate and urgent attention.”
When he was asked to reveal the content of the petition presented, he said: “You guys must have known that the state congress has not been held, and we did ask that it be done urgently. And he has assured us that that will be considered urgently.
“For God’s sake, Prof. Ben Ayade is the party leader in Cross River State; he is the one that leads, just like every other governor in any PDP state. So, let us give him his due respect. Let it be given to him.
Whatever equation he must have taken, I think is to a great extent it is for the goodness and betterment of the party.
“Let me state here categorically that we are the pillars of the party in Cross River State and these pillars were erected by Prof. Ben Ayade; so, if he goes, we go with him.”
But a source told THISDAY that the NWC was working to stave off Ayade’s planned defection by mobilising Tambuwal, Obaseki and the Saraki-led committee to ensure a peaceful resolution of the crisis.
“The PDP’s top hierarchy has moved to resolve the matter. Some governors that are close to Prof. Ben Ayade have been contacted. The Saraki-led reconciliation committee has been contacted and before the weekend, we are sure of good news,” the source stated.
The party had earlier sent Bauchi State Governor, Senator Bala Mohammed, to mediate in the crisis in the Cross River State chapter of the party, following speculations that Ayade was planning to join the APC.
Receiving Mohammed in his office in Calabar, Ayade had said the PDP under his watch scored the highest returns in elections, adding that he was not moved by the disagreement with party stakeholders.
He said: “I know you are somebody that doesn’t take injustice. One single injustice they will see a new Cross River State…and I say it as a warning because it does appears that your party seems to celebrate people who threaten and stress them.
“All councillors in the state are PDP; council chairmen are PDP; all House of Assembly members are PDP, all commissioners are PDP, and all the National Assembly members, except one, are PDP: all of them are under my leadership.
“I am happy you have created an opportunity for a melodrama. So today I am seated and dancing on the fence. Indeed that’s true.
“And so I speak with righteous anger for the continuous annoyance and nuisance orchestrated on our innocent by external factors. But I just hope this ends today.
“And so please as I leave you with some holy whispers, which will be very strong, firm and clear, it’s a harbinger of trouble.
“While I believe in ecclesiastics of peace, I believe in the catechism of good faith but I also believe in respect for the supremacy of an office.
“I think the time has come when all of us will gather and say enough is enough.”