Like Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State before him, Prof. Ben Ayade, Governor of Cross River State, did not take many by surprise when he eventually broke camp with the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and pitched tent with the All Progressives Congress (APC), Nigeria’s ruling party at the centre on Thursday, May 20, 2021.
A pointer to the fact that Governor Ayade had long signaled his romance with the APC was evident in the statement of welcome by a party chieftain and one-time leader of the 7th Senate of the Federal Republic, Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba, when he noted that Ayade had “consciously navigated the ship of governance in sync with the APC-led Federal Government”.
Of course, for a long time, close watchers of the Cross River State Governor had noted how he had openly expressed admiration for the president and leader of the APC while overtly distancing himself from every criticism by the PDP, his party then, against the Federal Government and the ruling party. In fact, it was even obvious to casual observers that all was not well between Ayade and the PDP when he became consistently absent in the meetings of his fellow governors on the platform of the party and other high profile party engagements.
However, there has been some interesting political developments in Cross River State following the defection of the state Chief Executive, and leader of the PDP until that select group of APC governors and other top ranking party leaders stormed the Government House in Calabar to receive him into their fold. Buoyed by the gathering of members of his cabinet, members of the Cross Rivers State House of Assembly led by the Speaker, some National Assembly members from the state, Chairmen of local government councils and their councilors, and other stakeholders in the state including Dame Princess Florence Ita-Giwa and High Chief Asuquo Ekpeyong, Prof. Ayade boldly declared that by virtue of the event of his detection, Cross River State had become an APC state.
As if to prove the point that there could not be another party, particularly the PDP, without the government that he leads, the governor ordered the annexation of the PDP state secretariat and convert all its property into the use of the APC just two days after. Responding to the turn of event at the party secretariat, Christian Ita, Chief Press Secretary to the governor said the PDP could not claim to be the ones to continue to occupy the property as the rent was paid by the governor. He said the rent for the said property was only renewed recently by the same PDP that has now totally collapsed into the APC.
“The same officials of PDP who occupied the property when it was secretariat of the PDP still occupy it, having switched allegiance and moved to the APC with the governor”|, he said.
In a swift reaction, the PDP Federal Lawmakers and Stakeholders Forum in Cross River State dissociated themselves from the governor’s move. Addressing a press conference on Friday, May 21, 2021 in Abuja, the forum pledged to remain in the PDP and declared Cross River State as a stronghold of the party.
“As far as I know, till date, the National Assembly caucus remains intact. I don’t see any of us leaving. We are legacy members of the party who have been in this party for the past 15 to 20 years. So, we are not going anywhere”, Senator Geshan Bassey who spoke on behalf of the lawmakers said, accusing Ayade of not consulting them but insisting that even if he had “we will not follow him”.
On the same occasion, Senator Liyel Imoke, former governor of the state, on behalf of the PDP Stakeholders Forum in Cross River described Ayade’s defection as regrettable, even though not unexpected.
According to Imoke, an overwhelming number of Cross Riverians remains resolute with the PDP, emphasizing that “our key stakeholders, members of the national and state assemblies, and strategic grassroots mobilisers are still members of our great party. We, as a party, therefore, remain virile and strong. Our shell remains uncracked”.
Imoke said “We understand that the people of Cross River, who have stood firmly with the PDP since 1999 and other lovers of the state are deeply disappointed by this move made by a governor, who has won all his elections under the platform of the party. Given the overwhelming support which he enjoyed under the PDP and the fact that PDP has undeniable strong grassroots in the state, we affirm that Cross River remains a PDP state”.
As developments have shown, Governor Ayade may not have had the support of all his close functionaries in his voyage as he has had to offload not less than four of his commissioners and a number of aides believed to still be loyal to the PDP.
In a press statement signed by his CPS/Special Adviser Media and Publicity, Christian Ita, the governor, relieved the appointment of Mr Mike Usibe, Commissioner for New Cities Development; Rita Ayim, Commissioner in charge of Women Affairs, Mr Asu Okang, Commissioner for Information and Ntufam Donatus Etim, Commissioner for Climate Change and Forestry.
On the part of the PDP, the regrouping of forces, especially the return of the likes of former governor Donald Duke, has not been without hitches.
Recently, the state caretaker committee chairman and secretary of the party were constrained to issue a warning to party stalwarts to restrain themselves from unguarded statements capable of causing division among their ranks. “The party will like to caution all stakeholders that this is a time for rebuilding, restoration and reconciliation. It is not a time for trading blames.
“The larger purpose of the development of Cross River State should remain our unwavering focus and should insulate party stakeholders from all other distractions”, the statement said in reaction to unauthenticated social media post by Ex-Governor Donald Duke accusing his successor in office, Senator Liyel Imoke of running a dictatorial administration.
The party, however, commended the courage of former governor Duke for returning to the party at such a time as this, hoping that his return would further strengthen the party to face the new threat posed by the APC and Governor Ben Ayade.
“We congratulate His Excellency Donald Duke for finding the courage to re-join the party on whose platform he twice contested and won elections as governor of Cross River State.
“It is our firm belief that his coming back to the party is not only indicative of the party’s strength in the state, but more importantly, will help in rebuilding a strong and virile party”, the statement said.
Prof Ben Ayade may have left the PDP but it is difficult to say if the PDP has left Cross River State. With the regrouping of battle-tested war horses in the state under the umbrella, the governor and his new party may have to work extra hard to dislodge the deep roots of the PDP in the state.
Asked how the governor’s move will affect the fortunes of the PDP in coming elections in the state, Senator Imoke said. “I think in the past, you would see that states that have that type of strength, irrespective of a defection, tend at all times to remain strong. There’s a reason for that. What you perceive as power will determine how you lead. If you perceive power to be a political party, then you will be moving from one political party to another, but if you understand that power ultimately is the people, and that it belongs to the people, you’ll appreciate that it’s not about the party.
“PDP in Cross River State has always been about the people and I think we still remain about the people; so the party has endeared itself to the people and as such a movement by the governor does not, of its own, translate to the people moving into another political party because they have already identified strongly with the party-the PDP. It is sort of like what you have in the United States and other countries where there are strongholds – a state like California, it is defined as a Democratic stronghold. Cross River State is a PDP stronghold”.
Even Ayade himself is without a doubt that Cross River State is a PDP stronghold but for how long this stronghold will hold is what is now being put to test as the governor has already made inroads into the traditional institution from whom he has extracted the same commitment and support they had always given to successive governors and their political agenda.
However, politics is about politicians and Victor Ndoma-Egba tells Ayade: “As you join us in the progressives fold, my expectation is that your coming will enrich our internal democracy and I enjoin you to be consultative, inclusive, democratic, transparent and accountable because these are the hallmarks of the All Progressives Congress family. I also expect that your presence in the APC will further strengthen the party and improve our electoral fortunes in Cross River State”.
Ndoma-Egba’s expectations are not just his expectation and those of the members of the APC in Cross River alone, they were the same expectations of the party faithful in Rivers State in 2015 and the ones in Edo State through the reign of Adams Aliu Oshiomohole. Whether the APC members in the Peoples Paradise will have a different experience remains to be seen.
What is certain is that the South-South region has not been a welcoming environment for the APC and it does not appear as it is ready to change that disposition just yet because of Prof. Ayade. He may just soon find out that what could flourish in the Southeast may require humongous effort to sprout on South-South soil.
By: Opaka Dokubo
Analysts Downplay Tinubu, Atiku Educational Certificates Controversy
Those who spoke with The Tide over the issue, noted that such controversy was not new to the political system of Nigeria.
The All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential candidate Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, had claimed in the forms he submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) that his primary and secondary school certificates were stolen by unknown persons, who invaded his home during the military junta of the ‘90s when he fled the country over his support for the revalidation of the June 12, 1993 presidential election.
For that, many Nigerians who had raised concerns over the development called for the disqualification and prosecution of the former Lagos State governor, whom they alleged lied under oath over academic qualifications.
A non-governmental organisation, Centre for Reform and Public Advocacy recently issued an ultimatum to President Muhammadu Buhari and the Inspector General of Police to arrest and prosecute Tinubu for allegedly supplying false information to INEC.
Legal Adviser of the group, Mr Kalu Agu, at a press briefing in Abuja, said that the alleged offence committed by the former Lagos State governor breached both the Constitution and the Electoral Act.
In the same vein, Tinubu’s running mate, Kabiru Masari told INEC that his original certificates are missing.
Reports had it that Masari in particulars submitted to INEC deposed to an affidavit on the loss of his primary and secondary schools certificates.
He, however, said that he attended Masari Primary school, Katsina State between 1972 and 1978 and obtained a Grade 2 Certificate from Katsina Teachers College in 1982 and a Higher Certificate in 1995.
Masari in the sworn affidavit for ‘Loss of Some Original Documents’, obtained from Divisional Police Headquarter, Wuse Zone 3, Abuja attached to the particulars he submitted to INEC, said, in January 2021, that, while on transit within Wuse, Area FCT, Abuja, he lost his Certificate of Grade 2 Certificate from Katsina Teachers College and First Leaving Primary School Certificate issued by Masari Primary School, Katsina State, (1972-78).
He also said that all efforts made to trace the items proved abortive.
On his part, the presidential candidate of the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, had a few questions raised about his academic credentials.
Atiku, who served as the country’s Vice President from 1999 to 2007, was said to have not provided information on his primary education.
The 1965 West Africa School Certificate (WASC) result presented by him, allegedly identified the student as Siddiq Abubakar.
While reacting to the issue, a member of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Olanrewaju Oshun said the issue of certificates as far as he was concerned, is a non-issue and unfounded.
Oshun, the member representing Lagos Mainland Constituency 2, said, “This is a man that worked with Mobil and he was recruited from his school. If he didn’t have that qualification, how was he recruited from the school? Are we saying Mobil didn’t check his qualification?
”He was a Senator and he was governor of Lagos State for eight years. All these shouts about him not having certificates are mere political gimmicks.
“If you say he doesn’t have primary and secondary school certificates, how was he able to attend a prestigious university abroad.
“You can’t be admitted into any university in Nigeria without a secondary school certificate not to talk of attending a university abroad. This is not new. They said the same thing in 2015 about Buhari.”
A United States based public affairs analyst, Prof. John Oshodi said, “At no point did Tinubu say he had no primary or secondary school education.
Even if he is not able to show the concrete certificates, whether due to being lost or accidentally damaged, how does that show he has no basic educational background?
“One thing is certain: He is a Nigerian-educated person who earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business and Administration with a major in accounting from Chicago State University in 1979.
“In past election seasons, through media hysteria, President Buhari, also an American trained military scientist with post-secondary education, was said not to have a WAEC certificate and, so, he is not eligible to vie for any elective position.
“Let’s say that Buhari’s basic educational certificates were with the military, like he said, or they could not be located, what cannot be denied by the American government is that Buhari holds a diploma from the United States Army War College.
“On the part of Atiku Abubakar, the media has it that he holds a secondary school education, although not of the highest level.
“He has post-secondary education in hygiene science and a diploma in law, and in recent times, he has worked hard and now has a master’s degree in International Relations from the United Kingdom.
“What is most stunning about the current uproar is that a basic education such as a primary or secondary school certificate is required to be president, as in the case of Tinubu.
”In 2019, it became a settled matter when the Supreme Court held that Buhari, per the constitution, is not required to possess a secondary school certificate to be qualified to run for the presidency and does not have to submit it to INEC to run for the presidency.
“Yet in a society where lawlessness and lack of respect for operating laws are rampant, you in the media and the people should be asking the presidential candidates about how they will handle monumental problems like crime and security, poverty, unemployment, poor electricity, infrastructure and road hassles, illegal substitution of candidates’ names, and human rights abuses,” Oshodi added.
INEC Laments Poor Turnout For CVR In Katsina
Speaking in an interview with journalists on Friday, Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) in the state, Jibril Zarewa, said there has been low turnout for the continuous voter registration (CVR) exercise across more than 60 percent of the new polling units.
He, however, said one of the reasons for the poor turnout could be the suspension of telecommunication services in some LGAs of the state due to insecurity.
“In May 2022, when we did analysis, we realised that out of the 1,750 newly established polling units, about 1,200 units did not have more than 50 people who registered in each of them,” The Tide source quoted him as saying.
“This registration involved transfers. Some of the polling units have zero registration; some have only one; some five, while some have not more than 50 people who registered.
“Although this can be attributed to the suspension of telecommunication networks in 17 of the 34 LGAs for about five months due to the security problem.
“Since the resumption of the exercise in March, out of the 1,750 polling units created, about 1,200 don’t have up to 50 people that registered in each of them.
“We are appealing to the people of those areas where the new polling units were created, to go and register, as INEC is always ready for them.”
Zarewa said initially, there were 4,902 polling units in Katsina, but with the creation of new ones, there are now 6,652 polling units in the state.
“The reasons for the creation of additional polling units are to serve the areas and decongest the congested polling units,” he added.
My WAEC Certificate Is Missing, Okowa Tells INEC
Okowa, in an affidavit, said he enrolled and sat for the West African School Certificate (WASC) examinations in the year 1974 but the original certificate issued can no more be found.
The affidavit of loss of original certificate was obtained from the High Court of Justice, Delta State, in the Asaba Judicial Division on October 3, 2006.
Okowa, however, attached a Higher School Certificate obtained in 1976. According to the certificate, obtained at Edo College, Benin City, in 1976, the governor sat for four subjects, namely, General Papers (Grade B,) Physics (Grade B), Chemistry (A) and Biology (B).
The affidavit read in part, “I, Ifeanyichukwu Arthur Okowa, adult, male, Christian, medical doctor and Nigerian citizen of House No. 4, Commissioners’ Quarters, Asaba, Delta State, do hereby make oath and state as follows:
“I personally enrolled and sat for the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) West African School Certificate (WASC) examinations in the year 1974 at Edo College, Benin City, in now Edo State.
“That I passed the said examinations and was subsequently issued the said certificate therefore. That the original of the said certificate issued to me is now missing, lost and cannot be found.
“That I make this oath for the records and do so knowing and believing the same to be true and in accordance with the Oaths Law of the Bendel State as applicable to Delta state” according to a document sighted by The Tide source.
Okowa will be the fourth politician running for the 2023 presidential election that could not present his WAEC certificate to the electoral umpire for verification and eligibility.
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