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2019 : Ayade's smooth ride to victory

Governor Ben Ayade

By Inyali Peter

Before the March 9, 2019 governorship election, many people had thought that Cross River State Governor, Prof. Ben Ayade was heading for retirement at such a young age. The emergence of Sen. John Owan Enoh as a candidate of the major opposition party, the All Progressive Congress, APC made the election appear tougher than it turned out in reality.

Sen. Owan Enoh is not a novice in Cross River State politics. He has been in the system for about 20 years growing from the State House of Assembly to the Senate. He was also a close ally of the Governor in 2015 as he has been part of the PDP since 2002 until he jumped sheep in 2017 to contest the governorship election.

Although Ayade's popularity has grown unprecedentedly in the past eight years where he has served as Senator representing the northern Senatorial District of the state and now Governor, going into a contest with a man with 20 years experience was expected to be a bit tougher than the result has shown.

In the social media, Owan Enoh had already won Ayade and was preparing to be sworn in on the 29 May, 2019 as the fifth elected Governor of the state. The noise and fake news dished out by his media team was so loud that some people didn't even give the Governor a chance.

Despite all these, the governor remained resolute and optimistic of his victory. In many fora, he said he didn't really see the need to campaign as his achievements in the last four years are enough to campaign for him.

Beyond the zoning arrangement which didn't favour his major challenger, as Owan Enoh's team were on social media spreading fake news, the Governor and his team were moving from place to place reminding the people that it was more profitable to vote for the sustenance of industrialization than for a government which was campaigning on nothing.

During the campaign, Ayade reminded Cross Riverians that the much talked about 260km superhighway, Calabar, deep seaport, Ikom Cocoa factory, Ogajo rice mill factory, the ultramodern toothpick factory, the Odukoani plantain and banana farm, the Calarpham and  many other ongoing projects was at risk of being replaced with stomach infrastructure.

While the governor was busy explaining how he has  combined his rapid infrastructural development with stomach infrastructure by appointing thousands of young Cross Riverians into his government, the opposition that seems to be against such policy never presented a better alternative policy framework.

The election which many had thought was going to be the toughest has now proven to be the easiest for Ayade and this is not unconnected to his massive infrastructural development in the state.

As announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC returning officer and Vice Chancellor, Federal University of Petroleum Resources, Effurun, Warri, Delta State, Professor Akii Ibhadode, Ayade polled 381,484 votes against Owan Enoh 131,161votes. The margin is a whopping 250,323 votes.

The results also showed that Ayade won overwhelming in all the 18 local government councils in the state including Etung where Owan Enoh comes from.

Reacting, a PDP Chieftain, Barr. Venatius Ikem attributed the failure of the APC to lack of leadership and selfishness of APC leaders in the state.

He said that "It's still the toughest by our state standards. I recall saying APC will improve the vote tally but cannot win.

"Few factors I see are, poor or absolute lack of leadership in APC. Selfishness of "leaders" who appropriated party patronage to themselves and their family members only.

Arising from 1, there is a lack of followership commitment to the party. That winning attitude is totally lacking

"And finally, lack of patronage for the party structures. The Appointees do not show any commitment to the party so funding is very rare and almost non-existent"

Also reacting, Chief Francis Bullem said that Gov. Ayade has done well to earn his easy reelection.

According to him "Let me go back to what Late Esama of Benin Lucky Igbenedion's father stated that if his son failed exams, he should be allowed to repeat but Ayade has not failed. He has a wide spectrum of visions which we believe with a good policy direction to support them, will be massive for the state".

He added that "APC don't have the structure to procure any election in Cross River State. Who was the candidate? Who contested against Ayade? Why didn't the party sponsor a candidate from the north in line with the zoning arrangement?, so we knew from the beginning that it was going to be an easy win for Gov. Ayade".

An APC Chieftain who pleaded not to be mentioned said that neither Owan Enoh nor APC factional governorship candidate, Pastor Usani Usani were a match for Ayade.

According to him "You know in Nigeria politics truth is rare. From day one, we knew APC was making a huge mistake by fielding Owan or Usani but we couldn't talk before they tag you anti-party agent. Non of them have shown in the previous positions they occupied that they're better or near Ayade.

"Ayade has performed in his first four years more than any Governor in the history of this state. Donald and Imoke in their first four years had nothing to show but Ayade has been talking about industrialization and they're many things on ground to show. So, for me, Ayade's victory is a clear indication that Cross Riverians appreciate his industrialization drive and I wish him all the best".
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