Calabar Rover: Governor Ben Ayade exits the PDP for his dream club | The #YNaijaCover

The Nigerian political climate experienced some mild drama on Thursday, as Cross River Governor Ben Ayade, made public his defection from the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressives Congress (APC).

Speaking in company of the Interim APC National Chairman and six governors of the party in Calabar, Professor Ayade said his defection is with the intention to join hands with President Muhammadu Buhari, to build “a country we can be proud of.” A decision he stressed is also predicated on the “president’s commitment to this country, his nationalistic disposition and all the efforts he has made to bring Nigeria to where we are today.”

Although the development came with no iota of surprise to most Nigerians who are politically conscious, majority of citizens have expressed shock at the ‘funny’ excuses advanced by the governor. Thus provoking debate on issues of integrity among the country’s political office holders, party ideology and the worrisome trend of defections, as well as 2023 election calculations.

Nigerian politicians are known to give all kinds of reasons for defections but those of the Cross River Governor should worry any thinking citizen. The desire to have an academic in power still ranks top as one of the solutions to the mediocrity in governance across the country, but how can one explain the level of thoughts put forward by Professor Ayade during his public declaration for the APC Thursday, as well as the interview he granted Channels Television thereafter?

Firstly, he insinuates that no governor can join “hands with Mr. President, and sit on the same dining table to fashion out a way to govern the country, without jumping to the President’s party.

He would even add respect for the ‘quality of leadership’ President Muhammadu Buhari has brought to the country and that he owes the President a sense of duty (to defect) given the close relationship between them as persuasions for his action, irrespective of his position as the head of a sub-national entity.

Secondly, he adds to this long list of jaundiced reasons for jumping ship; in the said interview by saying his choice to join the APC is to help reduce the tension in Nigeria. Such heroism!

Lastly, he would elevate himself to the point that he cares less about what “direct good” the average Cross Riverian stands to gain from the move; because “he is too nationalistic to reason that way.” This again, is despite being an elected “state governor.”

While Section 68 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) provides ground (and consequences) on which legislators can cross-carpet to another party, the document is silent on the consequence of defection by the President or Vice President as well as a Governor or Deputy Governor. The provisions of Sections 189,190,191 of the CFRN do not explicitly proscribe party defections as one of the scenarios under which  the office  of  a Governor or his Deputy will be declared vacant. It therefore goes without saying that the likelihood for Senator Ayade (just like his counterparts who have taken similar action) to be impeached is very slim; given also the nature of our politics.

Governor Ayade has since his election to the office of Governor in 2015, been a passive member of the PDP who hardly participated in the party’s activities. He was in November 2020, subtly described by Rivers Governor, Nyesom Wike, as an opposition governor (only during the day) who would soon join the APC. This may as well pass as necessary evil for the PDP.

Similarly, reports are rife that the Cross River Governor prior to his defection; hadn’t only lost the structure of the party (PDP) to loyalists of his predecessor, Liyel Imoke, he may also be nursing a 2023 Senatorial ambition which is largely unattainable in a party where he only belonged to in body, with the exclusion of spirit and soul.

And so, as with major political developments as this, it comes with monumental consequences. The PDP may have received commendation in the recent past for rising from its ruins following the shocking 2015 national defeat, this move leaves the PDP with 14 states and swells up the ranks of the governing party to 21 states across the federation.

What will be the fate of the erstwhile largest party in Africa as it approaches the all-important 2023 election? Are more governors also going to leave like Governors Yahaya Bello, Dave Umahi and now Ben Ayade claim?

We’d have to wait with a lorry load of popcorn.

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