The Progressive Governors Forum (PGF), yesterday, said Governor Ben Ayade is free to aspire for the Presidency or any elective position in the 2023 general elections on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
This is the Taraba State Governor, Darius Ishaku, who has described Ayade’s defection to the APC as an embarrassment to the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Former Cross River State Governor, Liyel Imoke, however, noted that Ayade’s defection from the party was not a surprise.
Chairman of the PGF and Kebbi State Governor, Abubakar Atiku Bagudu, gave the assurance that Ayade would not regret his decision to dump the PDP in a statement yesterday.
The forum noted that Ayade’s decision to join the APC was a testament that the party was a platform to unite all Nigerians.
The forum stressed that the coming of Ayade into the APC further reinforces the process of membership and leadership recruitment at all levels.
He said: “Given all his achievements in Cross River State, Ayade is only coming home where he belongs. APC is indeed the party that will provide him and his people, and indeed all Nigerians, the viable platform for political aspirations and negotiations.
“Together with Ayade and all our leaders in the APC, our party’s capacity to serve the collective interests of all Nigerians through effective representation will be strengthened and reinforced.
“Our party, APC, is open, transparent and will continue to guarantee fair contestation in politics, in line with the overarching commitment of President Muhammadu Buhari and all our founding leaders. Our National Caretaker Extraordinary/Convention Planning Committee has worked hard to restore the political credentials of the APC as a strong institution for Nigeria’s democratic development.
“We will continue to support the National Caretaker Extraordinary/Convention Planning Committee in all its current initiatives to rebuild our great party. With the coming of Ayade, the capacity of our party to mobilise all patriots and other like-minded progressive Nigerians to join the APC is stronger.
“APC belongs to all Nigerians. Everyone, from every part of the country, is free to aspire for any position in the party in line with provisions of our party’s constitution and the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended. The guiding philosophy as enshrined in the provisions of our manifesto is the economic, social and political development of Nigeria.
“The progressive reinforcement of our party continues. We look forward to receiving more patriots and progressive-minded Nigerians into the APC.”
Speaking with State House Correspondents after he met with the Chief of Staff to the President, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, yesterday, Ishaku said he could not tell why Ayade suddenly dumped the party.
“I wouldn’t know precisely the governor’s thinking, because all of us are different. But we are greatly shocked and embarrassed that he suddenly dumped the party for APC.
“All of us see PDP as an alternative to APC. And all the PDP governors are doing very, very well in their respective states. And for him to leave for APC, I don’t know the details. But be that as it may, I believe that any democratic country must have an opposition, a viable opposition and opposition in itself is good for democracy. If you don’t have an opposition, then the government in powers can go astray,” he said.
Ishaku dismissed insinuations that the party’s reconciliation committee had failed in its assignment, adding that Ayade’s decision to leave the PDP was purely his personal affair.
“Let me tell you; they (committee) have done a good job. A very good one! But it depends on the decision of an individual and what he actually hopes to gain. You may get the best of intentions somebody may not agree with you. And so that is the point that I think is more of the governor’s decision as it affects him, and nobody can hold brief for that.”
He also dismissed suggestions that the move was a precursor for a looming mass defection by other members of the party to the APC.
“I don’t see that happening and like I said, even his own was a shock to some of us. I don’t see that happening. And for Nigeria, we should hope for the opposition, a vibrant opposition that will help to put and maintain the system. Democracy without opposition is not a democracy.”
Imoke, who led the state chapter of the PDP to address a press conference in Abuja, yesterday, stated that Cross River people who had stood firmly behind the PDP since 1999 would remain with the party.
Imoke said: “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 State remains a PDP state.
“An overwhelming majority of Cross River State people are PDP members. Our key stakeholders, members of the National and State Assemblies and strategic grass-root mobilisers are still members of our great party.
“We as a party, therefore, remain virile and strong. Our shell remains uncracked. The leadership of Cross River State under the aegis of PDP since 1999 has led the state to a pedigree of progression and seen to the attainment of all the lofty achievements the state has been known for.”
The former governor added that the defection has afforded the state chapter an opportunity to re-strategise and realign themselves to the fundamental models of PDP.