There are very strong indications that Governor Liyel Imoke of Cross River State has finally given his support to the Vice-Chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Ecology, Professor Ben Ayade, to succeed him in 2015.
Ayade, who is a representative of the northern senatorial district of the state, is considered a strong contender for the governorship ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), more so with the recent belief within party circles that Imoke has suddenly thrown his weight behind the governorship ambition of the senator.
Sources within the PDP confided in THISDAY that recent events that emanated from the crisis rocking the party in the state might have influenced the decision of the governor to swing his support to Ayade.
It was gathered that before Imoke decided to support Ayade, he appeared to have been tinkering with the idea of supporting the Executive Secretary of the National Planning Commission (NPC), Ntufam Fidelis Ugbo, or the immediate past Commissioner for Works, Legor Idagbo to succeed him.
A source who pleaded not to be mentioned, told THISDAY that during the crisis and the struggle for supremacy between Imoke’s camp and those of his opponents that trailed the November 1 ward congresses of the PDP, the governor would have lost out if not for the moral and material support provided by Ayade.
The source said the development made Imoke and members of his inner circles to take a second look at the man they should give the nod to fly the governorship flag of the PDP during the forthcoming general election.
It was gathered that the governor and most of the members of the inner circles of the leadership of the PDP decided that Ayade was a better option besides Ugbo and Idagbo given the expected challenge that another governorship aspirant, Godwin Jedy Agba, is expected to pose against Imoke’s camp during the governorship primaries.
Jedy Agba who enjoys the support of the former governor of the state, Mr. Donald Duke, and a cross section of the PDP members, is considered to be a serious threat to Imoke’s aspiration of getting his proxy to succeed him.
The source said: “Initially, Imoke had supported Ugbo and continued to encourage him until the outcome of the ward congresses where it was clear that the party leaders had lost out in Abuja. You know the state is broke, and if not for Ayade that stepped in and provided the means, the governor’s camp would have lost out completely.
“Some people were able to convince the governor that Ayade is the only person that can withstand the onslaught of Jedy Agba in the primaries and after, should he decamp from the PDP to another party. Imoke had already submitted the name of Ayade and Ugbo to President Goodluck Jonathan, but the truth is Imoke is supporting Ayade which is contrary to the his initial agreement with Ugbo,” the source said.
The source said Imoke forwarded the names of Ayade and Ugbo to the president this week, but might have gone ahead to recommend Ayade as his possible successor.
The development was said not to have gone down well with Ugbo’s supporters, who before the recent development had concluded that Imoke would handover to their principal, especially as he is considered to have all it takes to run the affairs of state, which is considered to be financially bankrupt.
It was further gathered that Ugbo’s supporters and some elders of the state are currently putting pressure on Imoke to make a rethink and support the NPC Executive Secretary whom they believe would be able to attract investors and goodwill to the state so as to improve the economic lot of the people.
Some members of the Ugbo camp who corroborated the development, said in the event Imoke sticks to the much speculated decision that he has given his support to Ayade, the only option left is for a free and fair governorship primary election where all the aspirant cleared would slug it out on their individual merit, for the ticket of the PDP.
“We still believe Ugbo can win the primaries because he enjoys goodwill across the state. He came out tops when the aspirants met with the local government caucuses and very meaningful members of the party; delegates are waiting to nominate him. We just hope the primary election will be transparent and will not be militarised like the November 24, ward congresses. We are looking up to the primaries to nominate our governorship candidate,” another source confided in THISDAY.