Godwin AJOM, Calabar
Cross River State governor, Prof Ben Ayade has come under severe verbal attacks from a former governor of the state, Mr Donald Duke. Duke is accusing the governor of destroying everything good about the state, even as he described him as a chronic, shameless liar.
This is coming even as traditional rulers from all parts of the state have pilloried the governor for failing in his duties and refusing to release what is due them. The royal fathers from the north, where the governor comes from, were particularly irked that that they have not felt the impact of their son as governor for eight years.
These emerged when the PDP governorship train of Prof Sandy Onor visited the royal fathers as part of campaigns for penultimate month’s governorship election.
But Chief Okoi Obono-Obla, an APC chieftain and member of the party’s campaign team has countered Duke and believes that the governor has done well for the state and will win his senate election and go ahead to emerge president of the 10th senate.
At Odukpani on Monday, at the palace of the paramount ruler of Odukpani, His Royal Majesty,Etinyin Otu Asuquo Otu Mesembe 1V, Duke took time to rain abuses on Ayade. He said the governor was a disappointment to the state and that even though the APC governorship candidate was his friend, he would not do well as governor because nothing good could come from Ayade.
He described Cross River as a sick state that required a competent physician to bring it back to life.
Duke said: “When a man is sick, you don’t bring an orthopaedic doctor to treat a sick person with heart disease. The person that can cure Cross River now is Sandy.
“Ayade’s lies are too much. He deceived the Obong of Calabar that he will build a mega palace for the Obong. That was about five years ago. He has not built the palace. Wherever goes, he lies. Since I was born, I have not seen a man who lies like Ayade. He has messed up Obudu Ranch.
“He deceived us about Calas Vegas. But he lied. It is good to have your brother in an office. But when things gave turned this bad, we need a competent man to fix our state.
“This man called sandy, I have known him since 1995, 1996. He knows this state well. If he were not a good man, I won’t follow him here. I know that with Cross River in Sandy’s hands, we will be better as a people.
“I don’t hate prince Otu. I have known him since 1978. But a bad man can’t give you anything good. It will be very difficult for any man Ayade brings to do anything good for Cross River. Since I left office, I have not campaigned for anybody the way I am campaigning for Sandy. He is a very good man. Support him.”
A few days earlier, when the campaign team went to the northern part of the state, Duke had spoken in similar vein about Ayade. He was particularly irked that the Obudu Ranch Resort which he fixed and turned same into an international tourism site, had become useless under Ayade.
In fact, he made mockery of Ayade, saying that he usually enjoyed the governor’s company whenever he wanted to have a good laugh and forget about the troubles of this world.
At Ogoja, for instance, Duke said “I am in this project because we want to renovate the state. We need about four years to renovate before we administer the state. Ayade makes me laugh. He is a nice person. I enjoy his jokes. But immediately I see him, I start laughing.
“Putting Ayade at Government House was a joke taken too far. He is an undertaker. He came to bury us. He is a confused person. He told me to come and be the chairman of Calas Vegas. But I told him no. His defection is a stolen mandate.”
He urged the traditional rulers to ensure that Ayade and all that he represents are voted out. “The traditional rulers need to wake up and mobilise their subjects to vote for a purposeful government. As influencers, please get back our state.”
HRH Cornelus Ulem who represented the paramount ruler of Obudu had lamented to the PDP campaign train that they were suffering in the state. Ayade is from Obudu.
The traditional ruler said power supply was an issue for the paramount ruler office. He said even fan was not available in the paramount ruler’s office and that he had no official no fan and no official paraphernalia.
Ulem said they were looking forward to the victory of Onor as they would roll out drums in celebration. The chiefs prayed for the PDP candidate.
In Bekwarra, the lamentations were the same from traditional rulers. The traditional ruler, HRM Linus Ogbeche said any government(an apparent reference to the Ayade government), that does not touch lives was useless.
He said it was gratifying to see that Duke was on the campaign team. He recalled the days of Duke as governor and said the people had missed him.
He said roads in the area were in a terrible shape and get worse during the rainy season. “We wanted you to come and see this road. No hospital, no rural road, no boreholes. No dividends of democracy in this community in the last seven years.”
Onor who spoke to the traditional rulers also lamented the bad state of roads leading to the palaces in Obanliku and Bekwarra. He said it was shameful that such roads existed when their son was governor.
The issue of welfare of the traditional rulers was an issue everywhere they went. Onor promised that he would intervene to the best of his ability and would do much more for them when he wins.
He said the chiefs deserved much more form their government because “chiefs are the next God in our traditional institution. A chief is supposed to tell the truth because they are representatives of God on earth. God likes honesty and truth. They should live up to their office by telling the truth. We shall listen to you at all times.
“This is election time; politicians will come and tell you lots of stories laced with lies. During Duke, Obudu Ranch became an international tourism site of the world. Imoke consolidated on the ranch; the local government system was functioning.
“We had the Bebbi Airstrip and good roads all abandoned by your son. This is not politics. What we hear is hot air and big grammar. Anybody who votes for APC needs a psychiatric attention. We need a change for your children.
“When you vote PDP, we shall sit together and draw the needs of the people. I won’t lie to you. Bring back PDP to power because we mean well for the people.”
Paramount ruler of Obanliku, HRM Amb Dr Amos Itim who received Onor and his campaign train had lamented that the ranch resort had deteriorated badly. He said “anytime I go up the ranch, I weep. We love good things, we love peace and progress.”
He urged Onor to remember the chiefs when he wins, saying that village heads in the area earned a paltry N7500 per month.
“We are not given our rightful places. We used to have our incentives direct to us so we can take care of ourselves. We live in penury because what comes to us is very meagre. Village heads earn N7, 500. We pray, when you win, return our dues to us.”
In his comments, Senator Jarigbe Agom Jarigbe whose seat Ayade is battling to take, said Ayade was a mistake. “We know your stipends are too poor. Your stipends, put together, cannot pay Ayade’s gateman. We shall increase your stipends by 100 per cent between now and when Sandy would be governor.”
In response to Duke’s attack on the governor, Mr Christian Ita, Chief Press Secretary to the governor told TNN that Duke must have been misquoted “because this is the same man that only a few months ago was very effusive in his praise of the Governor, even suggesting that the governor deserved a noble prize for his agric-industrialisation strides.”
But Obla who also reacted to Duke’s attacks on Ayade said “I am hugely disappointed that somebody of his status, so sophisticated and exposed, would descend from his Olympian height and come to the gutter to use uncouth, intemperate, and scurrilous language against the governor of the state.
“The unwarranted attack on Governor Ben Ayade is beneath Mr. Donald Duke’s status as a former governor and statesman in the country. Of course, Donald Duke is not saying what is factual. Everything he has said in that remark is a mere farrago of words and lies.
“I will even say to use the word “phantom” smacks of exaggeration because what is on the ground is fundamentally different from what he is trying to convey.
In the first place, what is the dictionary meaning of the word ” phantom”? It means an appearance or illusion without material substance, such as a dream, image, mirage, or optical illusion. A person or thing of merely illusory power, status, efficacy, etc.!!
“I do not think the projects, Governor Ben Ayade has put on the grounds are phantom or illusive, or imaginary. Phantom connotes something that doesn’t exist. It is a gross misrepresentation of facts and phantom to say to suggests that.
“It is inconceivable and unfathomable for Donald Duke to make such an argument that is dripping with sound and fury but signifying nothingness.
The projects Governor Ben Ayade has put on the ground are real. Just yesterday when I travelled to Obanliku to participate in the APC campaign there, I took out time to visit the Obudu International Cargo Airport and marvelled at how Governor Ben Ayade could conceive and execute such an ambitious project given the fact the state he inherited from Donald Duke and Liyel Imoke was virtually tottering on the brink of bankruptcy arising from the phantom debts left by them.
“I think Donald Duke is envious of what Governor Ben Ayade has done even though he took over a State that was broken. Everything Donald Duke did pales into insignificance as compared to what Governor Ben Ayade has done.”
In a related development, villagers from Yakurr Local Government have expressed disappointment with the state government over the dearth of basic infrastructure in their area. They were particularly angry with the governor and the speaker, Eteng Jones, for failing to keep their election promises.
The villagers who spoke to TNN in separate interviews regretted that they have been left to their own fate without potable drinking water, access road, electricity and job opportunities.
“You see this this community, we have never been omitted in any elections since 1999, but we are not very lucky. The only men that have done us well is Mr Donald Duke and Imoke, who gave us this electricity we use to have and the road, I mean the road you drove into this town. The worst is that this our son Eteng Jones, the one that is the speaker of the House of Assembly has failed us.”
Also speaking, one of the chiefs who identified himself as Ata Irom Iron Oyira, explained that “If people were like me, Eteng Jonah wouldn’t have even contested to that position and win because since we voted them into power, they have never come to this community.
“When they want to go back to power, they are now coming for Agoi people to vote them, if we vote them into power, they will just turn their back against us, go home without thinking to help our sons and daughters.
“They promised to empower our youths, but we have seen none of those things. When they want votes, they will remember us in Agoi with fake promises, but when they win, they forget us. They want to silence us again. Look at our road, see our central palace, we don’t have water, none of the pipes is working,” he said.