The rescheduled Cross River State Congress of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) may be a mere formality as all warring factions in the state have opted for a consensus after a year of jaw jaw.
For over a year, the Sate Governor, Senator Ben Ayade, the State Party executives led by the Caretaker Chairman, Ntufam Edim Inok have been at daggers drawn with members of the National Assembly caucus from the state and founding members of the party over who controls the party structure in the state ahead of 2023 elections. Hence the August 8 scheduled State congress could not hold as tension and fear of insecurity was high and was subsequently shifted to August 15 by the NWC in a statement from the party’s National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan. He said the NWC of the PDP has postponed the State Congress in Cross River State by one week.
In view of this the Ayade team and that of the National Assembly caucus with the stakeholders have been meeting to arrive at consensus and one of the National Assembly caucus members, Senator Gershom Bassey representing Cross River South Senatorial in a phone interview yesterday said, “our position is quite clear. We congratulate the NWC and the party generally for successfully conducting the Ward and Chapter congresses and of course the officers have emerged out of that process and they are working and duly sworn in.
“The State congress is now the next step. His Excellency the governor who is the leader of the party has opted that instead of going for a contest in the field, we should have a consensus arrangement in order to avoid friction. Right now we are in the process of talking with His Excellency in order to achieve consensus. Of course you know that even if we achieve consensus we will still go to the field and test but we are now in the process of talking and we are trying to achieve consensus and that is our position.
“For us in the National Assembly caucus are prepared to work with His Excellency to achieve a fair consensus that is fair to us and fair to other stake holders. That is we have been talking with His Excellency about and in fairness, His Excellency is also speaking along the same line that the consensus should be fair to all. We hope that we can achieve fairness and if fairness is achieved, then the consensus will hold”.
On details of the consensus, Bassey said, “we are in the middle of discussion and I don’t want to go into the middle of what we are negotiating but we have proposed our position to His Excellency and we are in the process of discussing. We are waiting for His Excellency to call us for the next meeting. We have met with him and we have formed committees. He has spoken with us collectively and individually. He has sent his team to speak to us and we have discussed at length and we are waiting for a final meeting”.
If the consensus fails at the final meeting, he said, “you know consensus is supposed to be a prelude to the contest which is the primaries and if it fails we have to think about going for the primaries. But so far we are hopeful and optimistic that a consensus will be reached”.
Reacting to speculations that the Ward and Chapter results earlier approved by the NWC and the officers sworn have been jettisoned, Bassey said, “I am not aware that the Ward and Chapter results have been jettisoned. As at now it stands. It was sent to INEC and the people have been sworn in. As for the state congress and disqualifications, I don’t know why the people were disqualified because I am not privy to the reports. But I know that there was an allegation against one or two of them that they have just returned to the party and have not stayed long enough. Of course the people disputed that and I think at this moment they are trying to resolve that issue”.
On allegation that the NASS and the Governor’s group have bribed the NWC, he said, “Sorry I am not aware. The NWC has been very fair and very firm and transparent in the conduct of the Ward and Chapter congresses, so am not aware. They have not behaved like people who have been induced in anyway. As far as we are concerned we have not induced anybody in the NWC of the party, we have not done that.
He also debunked allegations that the entire fight is because personal ambition of some people and 2023, saying “somebody had once said that a week is a long time in politics and to me three years is an eternity in politics and anybody who starts to plan for 2023 contest in 2020 is wasting his time because there are so many variables and I think that all the players in the governor’s level and the national assembly are very experienced politicians, it is not about 2023”.