Chairman of the PDP in Cross River State, Venatius Ikem, in this online interview with TNN, spoke on the recent outburst against the Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, even as he chastised his governor, Prof Ben Ayade for running away with votes won by PDP to the APC and concluded that the governor will not sleep well going forward.
Gov Obaseki has accused Gov Wike of trying to destroy Edo PDP the same way he destroyed the Cross River PDP. Can you put this in perspective? What was the level of destruction before you took over or how is the destruction now that you are chairman?
I am very convinced that Gov Obaseki knows nothing about what is happening in Cross River State PDP. If he knows anything at all, then his assertion is meant only to irritate, rather than a reflection of the reality. Cross River State chapter of the PDP has not fared better since Ayade became governor than now, despite the loss of revenue from government’s subvention.
You can see that the scramble to contest elections on the PDP platform far outstrips the aspirations on any other platform, including the so called party in government. We have robust democracy in practice while they are squirming under the jackboot of the dictator.
Generally, what do you make of the public statements of both Gov Obaseki and his deputy, against Wike?
It’s despicable for them to forget so soon how the same Gov. Wike salvaged them from political annihilation that they had been marked for. That remains the bane of Nigerian politicians. We tend to forget too soon. That’s why genuine loyalty is rare. Sponsors have dwindled over the years because of treachery.
Like Abraham Lincoln famously said, all men can stand adversity but it is when you give a man power that you know his true character. No matter the provocation, I expect Gov. Obaseki not to forget so soon the role Gov. Wike played in his remaining a governor. This attitude has consequences. As you can see happening to similar travellers like former Governor Umahi and Gov. Ayade who have murdered sleep because they jettisoned all those who brought them to political limelight.
So, you think Obaseki owes Wike and the PDP in Cross River an apology?
Absolutely. He owes his very survival to Gov. Wike and the PDP. Look at Lagos and see what they have done to Ambode. His fate could even have been worse.
For us in Cross River State, I think he was just clawing at straw to disparage Gov. Wike. If he had shown any interest in that chapter of the party as he should have, he would have known better. Even Gov Ayade has been living in regret.
Why do you think Ayade is living in regret as a sitting governor?
The terrain has not been very hospitable if what we have been hearing is anything to go by. The worst is the current predicament on the verdict from the Federal High Court with respect to Ebonyi state which is very similar to the case with Cross River State. I know he is because even he has confessed that he failed. There is one of those his weeping videos where he said he thought he could have changed lives but he hadn’t after over five years. Despite subsequent pretentions to the contrary, that’s the summary of his own score card in his moment of distress.
What is your least expectation from Ayade in times like this?
I don’t know what to expect from him beyond the idea that he will be pursuing public officials with money with the intent to bribe them. Fortunately, he is learning the hard way that not everyone has a price.
What if he decides to return to the PDP?
That is a decision we will have to deliberate carefully. We know he won’t come in peace and so we won’t accept him without conditions. All relevant organs of the party will have to meet and take a decision before we can readmit him if we agree.
Moving away from this, what do you make of the various projects promised by Ayade, about a year to the end of his government?
They are all utopia. I have shouted since 2016 and he has proven me right. The initial dance steps were very clear that he came to exploit the system not to improve it. The so-called industries were set to enable his interests import and construct the factories. He has no interest in their workability. Otherwise how can you explain why none of them is functioning despite the lies, deliberate manipulations to confuse the populace with periodic public shows of working, when we all know that none of them is functional? I mean deception has never been taken to this level before, making it a state policy. In all my years of politics and public service, I have never seen a governor consistently seeking to manipulate people with barefaced lies while keeping a straight face and talk about ‘politics with ethics’. It’s so disgusting, I lack words to qualify it. I thought all of us at least had the fear of God in us.
You are from Obudu. Ayade is from Obudu. You must have known a few things about him that Nigerians do not know. What are those things?
Some things are personal. I prefer to keep them that way. The English man says a gentleman doesn’t say it all.
I asked that question because he is believed to be nursing the ambition to become Nigeria’s next president. Can you paint a picture of what an Ayade Presidency would be like?
It is hilarious because even he knows that he failed as governor! He is looking for the senate seat which is already looking beyond him.
With what happened in Akpabuyo and Ogoja/Yala during the bye-elections, what do you foresee in 2023 in Cross River, between the APC and the PDP?
They are mourning, even as we are not happy. The brigandage was completely unexpected. The connivance with security was known and we raised the alarm but in the end, they did what they did. We have shown them that we don’t sleep over our rights and we won’t sleep over this one either. Nevertheless, we won two out of the three LGAs where elections were conducted. That ratio, if taken to 2023, gives us 12 of 18 LGAs. To think that’s where the incumbent governor comes from which they count as their major strength should tell you something. I am optimistic that we are on course. All we need is to tidy up a few loose ends.