One of the commissioners who was recently sacked by the Cross River State Governor, Ben Ayade for not defecting to the APC, Gabe Oji, in this interview spoke on his working relationship with Ayade as well as the zoning question for the governorship seat of the state. He also expressed his fears and hopes for PDP in the state. The interview was transcribed by CHIEMEKA ADINDU.
Why did you decide to leave the Ben Ayade government at this time?
I appreciate Ben Ayade as a person who has been very passionate about me. He gave me the opportunity to thrive in his government, first as a commissioner for water resources and in this second term as commissioner for infrastructure. I must say that these two portfolios made me have a sense of duty and self actualization unlike the former governors- when it comes to fighting, I will always be there but when it comes to portfolios, they give me less appointment. But Ben Ayade is unlike them, he has given me statutory appointment so I appreciate him for that. But that is that.
However, I have been a member of the Peoples Democratic Party for about 22 years now and I’m entrenched in the PDP. As far as I’m concerned, the future and the state of Cross River is still founded on the PDP so I can’t move over to the APC because I have looked at the APC and I don’t think there’s anything APC can offer. We are in APC government which has created the worst insecurity in the country, the worst of everything so I can’t go to that party. If APC were doing better than PDP, then I will say I can change but APC is doing worse than PDP. So how I can move to such a party?
Was there any condition attached to you remaining in office that if you don’t want the APC you should go?
Yes, he said we should move with him, then if you’re not moving with him then you resign your appointment. So I chose to remain in PDP.
Who told you that one?
Very good question. That was the governor’s body language, that’s all. I don’t want to say specifically but that was implied in every of his actions. You can imagine that in my own case, the governor did not even call me to find out, Gabe are you going to follow me or you’re not going to follow me, he just heard that I’m not going with him and that’s that. If not, I can tell you that I was one of his best commissioners in the sense of accountability and in the sense of performance. So he has no issues with me, he has never had issues with me and he tells people that I’m one of his best commissioners if not the best but, when these issues came up, the next thing was to say that Gabe has been relieved of his appointment and as far as it concerns that, I’m perfectly okay with that. I can’t go to the APC.
How was your working relationship with him; I know that as a commissioner you are in charge of infrastructure, you were also in charge of water resources. Now can you lead us into your working relationship with him?
Truly, all politicians know me that when Gabe talks, you can always rely and depend on what he says. I would say that my working relationship with Ben Ayade was okay, it was good. No issues, no wahala. Our differences came when he moved to the APC and him feeling that I on’t want to move with him to the APC and definitely, I don’t want to go to the APC.
Let’s look at approval for projects and exco meetings because I understand that sometimes it is difficult to get the governor’s attention to approve projects, to look at memos. How was it with you in your own case?
I think my initial answer has captured all that. You asked me how was my working relationship with him and I said my working relationship with Governor Ayade was smooth going, it was okay, it was satisfactory, which means he attended to my official memos, he approved what should be approved. And you know that those memos normally, it is the exco that approves them, but he gives the initial approval, he did that. As far as that is concerned there were no issues at all.
So what project can you point to that you initiated, that you implemented, that you supervised, that you executed, that was completed by you?
The projects, approved, executed were still on-going now have to do with the dualization of the Odukpani highway. You know the Odukpani gridlock along Calabar-Ikom highway has always been a heartache of all transporters; the Ikom-Calabar or Calabar-Uyo-Ikot-Ekpene road. So that was one of the projects that was executed by the ministry, the dualization of that highway. Right now also; there is an ongoing roundabout that is being constructed there, if you go there right now you will see it ongoing.
At Odukpani junction?
Yes, at Odukpani junction.
Is the roundabout different from the Spaghetti Flyover?
No, no, no, it’s the same flyover we are talking about.
The Spaghetti Flyover?
Yes, there will be a Spaghetti Flyover and a roundabout at the same time.
Okay, since that project was actually going on under your ministry, can you tell us what stopped it from coming out for people to see? At a point somebody said if Spaghetti Flyover wasn’t going to be possible, the governor should give us Indomie Flyover.
No, no, no, it’s not a matter of many years actually, you know one thing with me is that I call a spade a spade; I think it’s about two years now that he started talking about Spaghetti Flyover and you know a project has to be conceptualized before it’s executed. So it was in the conceptualization stage when it was being talked about, two years ago, I think as far as the dualization of that highway is going the construction of that Flyover and roundabout will be done, the governor has kept to expectations.
So when do you think people will start making use of this Flyover?
You know I’m no more in government, so I cannot talk specifically right now. If I was still in government, I will know that and I will talk specifically, I’m no more in government so I cannot say something that tomorrow it will not come to pass. I will only say that work is in progress and before Ayade leaves office, the project will be completed.
Having worked with him for some years, what would you say about his leadership that you really did not like?
Governor Ben Ayade is one who gave me utmost respect as a veteran politician who has fought political wars for governors from Donald Duke to Liyel Imoke to him, Ayade and he is the only one who gave me appointment commensurate to my status. Yes, he was not happy that I was not treated very well by being given appointments below my status. So he gave me that appointment commensurate to my status and retained me for even a second term. With that kind of honour and appreciation he gave to me, I will not like to make any public statement against him.
Apart from refusing to join him to the APC, what would you say is your grouse with him?
There’s no man who is an angel, that’s why when certain persons who have been part and parcel of other governments try to take on Ayade, I also will come to tell them what I know about former governors. They’re good and also bad; that’s that, even if I become a governor today, with all the good qualities people associate me with, they will also criticize me in one way or the other. Ayade has his great points and he also has his weak points. I can say that the issues that led to the crisis in PDP, that put PDP apart, the crises I believe is what the governor could have avoided.
So would you say he was misled into that decision to leave the PDP?
Ayade by nature is a good person oo, he has this human feeling that he doesn’t like hurting people. In fact, that is innate in him, I’m a philosopher, I’m a metaphysician so I can read people. It’s innate in Ayade not to hurt persons so I believe that whatever that happened that national assembly members were not taking things, I believe he was misled because him on his own does not like hurting people. I believe that he was misled by some political charlatans around him because he himself does not like hurting people. Because that’s where the whole crises started, the national assembly members were not given their place as far as their wards and local governments were concerned, that’s that.
As a deep thinker and metaphysician, can you predict into the future of Cross River state? What do you think holds of Cross River being that Cross River has been divided between the PDP and APC? Let’s do some predictions.
The politics is in a state of flux but I believe the next one year, things will stabilize and by that time we can specifically know whether it is PDP or APC that will have the day but, for right now is like throwing a bomb into a place and everybody is running and everybody is trying to stand at his feet so it’s in a state of flux for now. Cross River state for now is in a political flux but, within the next 6 months to one year, things will take shape and we can predict accurately.
But are you afraid that the way things are going the PDP may lose Cross River state?
Well, PDP will only loose Cross River state if PDP does not rebrand itself. If you ask me the question, what does it take PDP to rebrand itself, PDP has to rebrand itself by making sure every step it takes is democratic. PDP has to rebrand itself by making sure that there’s nothing like imposition of candidates. PDP has to rebrand itself by knowing that today many leaders have emerged and with all humility, I am one of such leaders. I’ve been a former state secretary of the party, I’ve been two times a commissioner, I’ve been two times special adviser, etc. So new leaders have emerged and those new leaders have to be part and parcel of whatever decision is to be taken in PDP. This point is very important that PDP will rebrand itself knowing that presently, new leaders have emerged and those new leaders have to be part and parcel of every decision that is to be taken in PDP, that’s the rebranding we are talking about, it’s not a thing of three wise men again. It is a matter of collegiate leadership and collective decisions, collective responsibilities, democratic, that’s what I mean by rebranding the PDP. You know when Senator Victor Ndom Egba was interviewed a few weeks ago, he described as being owned by specific individuals. No one person or group of persons should act in any way as if they own the leadership of the PDP.
What’s your take on zoning of governorship in Cross River?
Zoning of governorship in Cross River has been based on what we call zoning by elimination. Zoning by elimination means that a part takes is for 8 years and gives way so that has been completed. In this dispensation, we start all over again, the North can still run, so it starts from anywhere there’s nothing like saying it started from the South to the Central and to the North, so it should come back to the south because any time, governorship elections comes, all the senatorial districts runs. South has always run every governorship election, it ran during the time of Donald Duke, it ran during the time of Imoke, it ran during the time of Ukpo, the north has virtually been running every election; it ran during the time of Donald Duke, it ran during the time of Imoke and ran also under Ayade, likewise the Central. The only thing is that any senatorial districts that picks it, after serving it gives way, so we have never at any point sat down to say it should start from here and then to here and there’s nobody, when I say there’s nobody, there’s nobody at all who has the moral authority to say that the governorship should right now be turn of the South, nobody has that moral authority right now because I said cannot be contradicted. The 3 senatorial districts have taken it and the circle is complete so it can start from anywhere.