The Governor of Cross River State, Prof Ben Ayade, on Thursday defected from the Peoples Democratic Party to the All Progressives Congress.
He announced the decision after a closed door meeting with six APC governors, which lasted over one hour at the Executive Chamber of the Governor’s Office in Calabar.
The governors in attendance were those of Ekiti, Kayode Fayemi; Jigawa, Mohammed Badaru; Yobe, Mai Mala Buni; Kebbi, Abubakar Bagudu; Imo, Hope Uzodimma; and Plateau, Simon Lalong, as well as the Minister of State for Petroleum, Timipre Silva.
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Speaking during the defection, Ayade said, “We need to join hands with President Buhari in his determination to enhance the fortunes of the country.
“I need all governors to similarly join me and understand my decision to join the APC.
“We need to work ahead with the President for the future and unity of Nigeria. We all need to sit on the same dining table with Mr President to save Nigeria.
“It is my responsibility to bring back Cross River to the centre in order to enhance her fortunes.
“I, therefore, formally declare myself as a member and leader of the APC in Cross River State.”
Also, speaking after Ayade joined the party, Buni said the governor automatically became the leader of the party in the state.
Reacting, a former Special Adviser to former President Olusegun Obasanjo on National Assembly Matters, Senator Florence Ita-Giwa, said the decision of Ayade was a “right move in the right direction. Where the leader of the state goes, I go with him.”
The Secretary to the State Government, Tina Banku-Agbor, in her reaction, said, “The governor has taken the right decision. We give him the chance. He is the right leader.”
Other political appointees such as commissioners and special advisers declined to comment on the governor’s defection.
It was gathered that some of the appointees were taken unawares though some saw the defection coming.
Prior to the defection, Ayade had complained about the manner he was allegedly being treated in the PDP, especially his being denied the leadership of the party in the state.
Crisis had rocked the PDP in the state over the control of the party at all levels.
The Minister of State for Labour and Productivity, Festus Keyamo (SAN), wrote on his official Twitter handle, “I welcome one of the most cerebral, the most progressive, the most enlightened and the most accomplished Govs, Professor Ben Ayade to the fold of the progressives. As my elder brother and friend from the South-South region, this is the day we have been waiting for.”
Also, a former Senate Majority Leader, Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba, congratulated the governor Ayade, describing the defection as a well thought out decision that would be of huge benefit to Cross River State.
A former presidential aide and chieftain of the APC, Chief Okoi Obono-Obla, was also excited about the defection of Ayade.
“He has done his best for Cross River State, and he is still doing his best. Cross River State has a huge debt profile which Governor Ayade inherited, but Governor Ayade has managed the state’s economy excellently, paying salary and doing projects. I salute him. He is a man of sagacity and courage,” Obla said on his Facebook page.
The APC governorship candidate in the 2019 election, Senator John Owan-Eno, said, “We waited with baited breath and measured anticipation. I am enthused today that finally, the rumour has now become a reality.
“The historic nature of your entry into our party is not lost on every well meaning Cross Riverian. It evinces hope and has lit the light of unbridled optimism in the minds of party members and the teeming supporters of our great party in the state and across the nation.
“Your entry into our party at this auspicious time in nation building, a period of profound challenges confronting the nation, is remarkable.”