In this interview with CHIEMEKA ADINDU, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, Ntufam Mba Ukweni expressed delight at the defection of Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River State, to the APC. He believes the party has just been sanitized. He said the APC members should not clap their hands as their expectations may soon be dashed.
How do you feel now that the governor has left your party?
I say a big congratulations to all well meaning members of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP in Cross River State. A major obstacle in the way of proper functioning of the party in the state has removed himself. Stakeholders can now meet and organize the party the way political parties are organized. We should go for thanksgiving for his exit. He would have thoroughly messed up the 2023 electoral process of the party. We can now chart a proper cause for the party. If APC members believe that having the governor of Cross River State, Ben Ayade, has added value to their party in the state, then, they have made a mistake. He will certainly not fund the party and will not allow it to function properly. He does not believe in things being done properly. He encourages only those things that favour him personally and nothing more or less. I pity APC because whatever is left of the party will be crushed finally. He is not joining APC for the interest of the state but for his own interest. We are all here and by the grace of God, we will see it. He was not speaking for Cross River State but for himself.
You seem to be happy with the defection of the governor from the PDP to APC. Why?
Yes, because what happened is like chasing him out of PDP. We cannot be a happy person going there or you think that he is so happy that he has left PDP? He did not leave for good; he was chased out of PDP. I warned the party, PDP, not to give him ticket for a second term and Cross Riverians not to give him a second term having failed in the first term.
Why was he chased out of the party?
One is the constitution of the local government executives of the party to the ward level. You have been covering the cases. The one that he had to cause Justice Maurice Eneji in acting capacity to make an order and then the one we had to move to Ikom to another judge, that’s Justice Emmanuel Abua from Justice Abua we objected that Justice Abua should not hear the matter because information reaching us reliably is that he’s under pressure by the governor so he had not succeeded he couldn’t succeed in the court, he did not succeed in the field to put the people he wanted. The state executive committee is also in his hands, those are his fears and then we’re still fighting him at the tribunal so that Stephen Odey will leave the senate. So he’s not in control of the party because the structure of the party is not in his hands. That’s one of his major worries.
How will this his decision affect the politics of Cross River State generally?
Well, there is no how it will not have some effects like some APC people are rejoicing and like I said, my position remains. He is a man I know very well because of my previous relationship with him. So if they’re happy because they have expectation that the man is going to fund the party for them from state funds, you know he doesn’t have that character. The money there is not even enough for him to eat. He couldn’t fund PDP; in fact, it was his failure to fund PDP that led to the party structure moving out of his hand. His concern is just to grab and go. So he has not been in touch with the party and then the main party members, those National Assembly members were the ones paying the bills that were meant to be paid for running the party from the state. So the national officers became closer to the National Assembly members because those are the people that have been attending meetings that have been paying their dues and then relating to the party at that level. Since he became a governor, have you seen any party, even during local government elections, where there are party meetings going on and organization or campaign? It is those activities that keep the party intact, at least small things will fall out from there for the party members to have; but he doesn’t believe in releasing any money except money he wants to use and bribe people to do a wrong thing for him. So it will certainly have some effect in that some set of people will be happy the other way, not knowing that the happiness may not be long because they may not have their expectations. But we will just continue watching the terrain. To say that it’s going to APC will affect PDP not to win election that’s not correct because political party is made up of people. It is people that make up political party.
Thousands of people defected with him, how do you think the PDP will survive this?
How many people left the party? Don’t worry when the chips are down; don’t follow the euphoria of what you were seeing there. Politicians have taught us one thing, that it is not what they say that you follow, it is their body language that you follow. Let us just allow events to unfold. Some of them may just be doing it for the purpose of their stomach. Some of them are just APC members but their soul is still with the PDP.
The PDP has just constituted a caretaker committee in the state. What is your take on it?
It is a welcome development. In politics, you don’t leave certain gaps. We don’t want him to have a rethink tomorrow and then he comes back to gain the same thing. The caretaker committee was set to placate him, but he refused to be placated, he wants to have everything; it’s not done that way now, you have national assembly members, you have house of assembly members. You even have councilors, chairmen of councils, commissioners; why must you be the one that will handpick people even at the ward level. He’s from Obudu, even in Calabar South somebody who is a sitting senator will not know his own councilors because Ayade handpicked, and that is high disrespect for the people. So I’m happy about that. I’m even saying there were two persons contesting for the party chairman in the state and with Ayade leaving with Barr. Alphonsus Eba, then Venatius Ikem should just move and take over the secretariat because there is no contention again of him being the state chairman of the party.
You earlier made mention of Cross River North Senate seat, now that Senator Stephen Odey may likely defect with the governor. How will this affect the petition filed against him by the APC?
How we wish he did that before now but he has not defected anyway, he has not moved, he has not made that pronouncement, otherwise, if it had happened because we had concluded hearing, if it had happened when the hearing was going on, it would have been a point to raise at the election tribunal and I’m sure, even if he had made a pronouncement now, Joe Agi would have gone ahead to file something because he ran the election on the platform of PDP and the major contention is that he is a candidate of the PDP, that is one of the contentions at the tribunal. So if he’s no more a member of the PDP, he cannot hold the seat because that’s the platform upon which he’s standing there in the tribunal to claim that seat. So how I wish he had done this when the hearing was still going on, it would have changed the tempo at the tribunal. We will think seriously about it but he has not defected anyway. One or two persons who asked him questions he asked them, did they see him at the meeting? That he’s a member of the PDP.