STATEMENT ISSUED AT THE WORLD PRESS CONFERENCE HELD BY THE PDP CARETAKER COMMITTEE, CROSS RIVER STATE, IN REACTION TO EVENTS FOLLOWING THE DEFECTION OF GOVERNOR BEN AYADE TO THE APC
1. On Thursday, the 20th of May, 2021, Senator Ben Ayade, Governor of Cross River State elected on the platform of our party the PDP, defected to the APC. His defection was unprovoked. The reason given by the governor for his action being his admiration for the way President Buhari is running the affairs of the country with absolute integrity. It is Buhari’s sterling management of the Nigerian economy and the affairs of the country in general, especially the handling of herdsmen farmers crisis, that so impressed Governor Ben Ayade that he feels drawn to support the President by decamping to the APC.
2. Members of the PDP in Cross River State, even nationally, are not in the least surprised by Governor Ayade’s decision to decamp; he openly admitted that he has been sitting on the fence and dancing. We are relieved that the Governor has finally, we hope, come down from the fence on the side of the APC. This will allow our party some space to regenerate the internal peace and cohesion that existed in the Cross River PDP family before Governor Ayade happened upon us. We respect Governor Ayade’s choice and wish him and the APC peace and equanimity.
3. On 22nd May, 2021, two days after defecting from our party, Governor Ayade, now a full-fledged APC member, invaded the state secretariat of PDP at 42A Murtala Mohamed Highway, Calabar, with thugs under the cover of armed men of the Nigerian Police force, Cross River Command. Governor Ayade forcefully took over the secretariat and on his instructions the building has now been repainted in the colours of the APC. We understand that the building now serves as one of the several state secretariats of the APC in Calabar. The building currently stands, under guard by the police, painted in APC colours, flying the APC flags, as monumental signpost of impunity, political rascality and absolute disregard for law and order.
4. We had earlier raised alarm that vital documents, sensitive party membership registers and other facilities are being carted away or destroyed. That situation has not abated.
5. This building has served as the state secretariat of PDP for over 22 years; it was the secretariat of the PDP even before Governor Ayade joined PDP. The current rent for the property has been paid and the tenancy of PDP subsists. The rent receipts issued to our party, in the name of PDP, are available in proof. The Lessor who rented the property to the PDP, has issued a statement to the effect that PDP is the lawful tenant, and there is not arrangement to have APC as tenant on the property. Clearly the invasion and occupation of the building is immature politics, unnecessary provocation and outrightly illegal.
6. In an official statement from his Chief Press Secretary, Governor Ayade defended his invasion of the PDP secretariat on the ground that he paid the rent for the current year. We do not know who governor Ayade gave money to; he can ask for his refund because PDP paid the rents and we have the rent receipts to show. Governor Ayade can bring his own proof of payment. Neither Governor Ayade nor the APC are privy to the tenancy agreement between the PDP and the Lessor.
7. Even if PDP were in breach of any term of the tenancy (which we are not), there are laid down processes and procedure for ejection of tenants and recovery of premises which need to be followed. A third party has no right to forcefully move in and occupy a building with a sitting tenant still in lawful possession. It may be necessary for Governor Ayade to seek some education in this elementary area of law so he may mitigate his embarrassment.
8. Upon decamping to APC Governor Ayade declared pompously that in Cross River once the Governor moves everyone follows. To Governor Ayade’s consternation and embarrassment, nobody followed. Governor Ayade has now adopted unconstitutional methods to compel his cabinet and appointees, and other public office holders to follow him to the APC against their choice of remaining in PDP. Members of the House of Assembly have been offered 2 million naira and an SUV each if they agree to decamp. Commissioners in Ayade’s cabinet are being offered 3 million naira and a car each to defect to the APC. Local government chairmen and councillors are under threat of removal from office unless they defect. All appointees of the governor have been instructed to produce their APC membership cards before they can receive salaries.
9. The defection of Governor Ayade to APC is to cost Cross Riverians 2 Billion naira. This is what Ayade needs to buy defectors from even his cabinet to follow him to the APC. Even this filthy lucre put forward by Governor Ayade is not enough to compel obedience as several commissioners from his cabinet, and majority of members of the House of Assembly and other political office holders have elected to reject the Greek gift and stay with the people of Cross River State in PDP.
10. Governor Ayade can readily expend 2 billion naira to fund his defection to APC because he has ready cash from the almost 19 Billion naira recently paid to Cross River state as refund for federal road maintenance undertaken by the PDP administrations of Governors Donald Duke and Liyel Imoke. Governor Ayade has refused to declare this money to the people of Cross River state and is frittering it away on purposes other than the common good of Cross Riverians.
11. We call on Governor Ayade to declare this 19 billion which is the single largest revenue flow to Cross River State since the creation of the state, and to apply same in infrastructure like rural roads, urban road network and water which benefits the common man. We are all embarrassed that governor Ayade inherited the best public water supply systems developed by the PDP administrations of Governors Donald Duke and Liyel Imoke across the state, and has allowed them today to all fall into disrepair. Our people have gone back to streams and wells for water.
12. Magistrates in Cross River state have been demonstrating at the gate of Governor Ayade’s office demanding 2 years unpaid salaries. Two days ago teachers were on the streets of Calabar demonstrating in demand for 5 years of unpaid salaries. Pensioners in their old age were forced to block the Murtala Mohamed Highway in protest for non payment of pensions. This is at a time that Governor Ayade received almost 19 billion windfall from the federal government.
13. Governor Ayade’s exuberance to impress the APC leadership has led him down this path of impunity, illegality and flagrant abuse of the mandate of the people of Cross River state. But as Governor Ayade plunders the state ostensibly to please the APC, we notice the deafening silence from the state and national leadership of the APC. Silence means acquiescence; an endorsement of the shenanigans being perpetrated on behalf of the APC by Governor Ayade. The people of Cross River State now know how the APC intends to run the affairs of the state and are getting ready for the worst.
14. We again appeal to the APC leadership to call Governor Ayade to order and remind him that Nigeria is a country governed by laws in spite of nation’s experience in the last 6 years. While we continue to appeal to our teeming party members to remain calm in the face of extreme provocation, this should not be interpreted as a sign of weakness or cowardice. We are acutely aware of all the legal remedies available to us in the circumstances, and we intend to engage the appropriate processes to propagate the rights and interest of our party.
15. The Cross River State police command provided cover for thugs sent by Governor Ayade to invade the PDP secretariat and forcefully occupy same. Currently the police have stationed an armoured personnel carrier (APC) at the gate of the PDP secretariat. In an official statement, the police command explained their actions; that the police were merely giving cover to the owners of the building to carry our renovation works on the building.
16. Certainly, the Cross River state police command know that the building has been the secretariat of PDP for 22 years. The police have also received letters of protest from the PDP; the police now know that they were hired to give cover while the crimes of unlawful entry, criminal trespass, malicious damage to property, theft and conduct likely to cause a breach of peace, were being committed at the PDP secretariat. It tells badly on police intelligence gathering if as at today police claim to still be ignorant of the fact that they have been misused to aid criminality. The continuous presence of the police till date at the PDP secretariat signifies active mischief, rather than honest mistake, on the part of the police.
17. We therefore call on the police authorities to call their officers and men to order, and focus attention on the apolitical responsibilities of the police.
18. We thank the people of Cross River state, and Nigerians in general, for overwhelmingly standing by the PDP, and for pledging continuous support to the party. We are particularly elated at the show of solidarity with the party and assure fellow Cross Riverians that the development agenda which the PDP pursued under Governors Donald Duke and Liyel Imoke will be restored after the Ben Ayade era.
LONG LIVE THE PEOPLE’S DEMOCRATIC PARTY
LONG LIVE CROSS RIVER STATE
Mr Effiok Cobham
Chairman, PDP Caretaker Committee
Cross River State