Ayade, who was elected governor on the platform of the PDP six years ago, surprised political pundits when he defected to the ruling APC, raising the political stakes in the as the countdown to the 2023 general elections commences nationwide.
Analysts have always seen Cross River as “a traditional PDP state’’ with political watchers in the state viewing Ayade’s departure as intriguing at a time when another former governor of the state, Mr Donald Duke, returned to the PDP to join forces with his former allies.x
“I will welcome him. I will definitely welcome him. Ben and I don’t have personal differences, maybe political differences and that’s why I said that his decision to quit PDP may be personal to him,’’ Imoke, a chieftain of the PDP announced in a statement to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja on Sunday.
“Yes, it’s a game of power which should be played fairly and everybody has a right to take whatever decision that they choose and we should not hold it against them in eternity.
“So, certainly for anyone that wants to work to see the growth and development of Cross River State, we are willing to work with them at any time.
According to Imoke, “if Ayade gets to the APC and it doesn’t look as good as he thought, then we’ll be glad to welcome him back as one of us, it’s a game of numbers so the more the merrier,’’ Imoke responded to a question whether Ayade would be able to hold a broom, the symbol of the APC.
“It is very interesting that I haven’t seen Gov. Ayade hold a broom, but I have always imagined in my head that Ben would look at the broom once or twice before he holds it.
“In all honesty, even that is alien to him. So to the people of Cross River State, I say stand firm, we are PDP. We are committed, we are resolute, we are a grassroots party and we are sufficiently strong.
“I want to commend the strength and the will of the people who said listen, we are not going. PDP is our party. We will remain here,’’ Imoke said.x
The former minister of power and steel development also expressed optimism that the PDP would continue to dominate the politics of Cross River in spite of the defection of the current governor.
“The introduction of a new party will translate into a bit of confusion for the people and it will take a long time for them to even understand either the reasoning behind the defection or the concept of the new party.
“The second point is that the young people who are going to be part of this process have grown up with an understanding of the party and I believe that this is a time for us to move power to a new generation of young people, just like we benefitted by the actions that we took and it provided us with the opportunity to serve.’’
Imoke said that Ayade would never have become governor if not for the support given to him by chieftains of the PDP who forged a consensus and took him to the electorate to solicit support.
“We believed that Ayade was the right man for the job at that time and I think he came out and appealed to Cross Riverians across the 18 local government areas. It wasn’t a pronouncement. It wasn’t a dictatorial imposition.x
“He emerged through a rigorous state-wide internal party caucus selection process throughout the 18 local government areas. We believed that the people had made their choice.
The former governor said that he did not expect any other party including the APC to win the governorship election in the state, describing the PDP as the dominant party in the state.
Imoke said that the action of Donald Duke in re-joining the PDP had spoken volumes about the PDP in the state, adding that the PDP remained the party to beat anytime, including the upcoming general elections.
On the future of tourism, the pillar of the state’s economy, Imoke said that the sector was not likely to thrive in an atmosphere of insecurity currently plaguing Cross River and other states in the federation.
He said that he staged the Calabar Carnival back-to-back for eight years during his tenure, lamenting that the carnival had lost its steam, a development that had made the state to lose tourists and investors.