Judex Okoro, Calabar
The crisis rocking the Cross River state People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has continued unabated as a group, the Movement for the Restoration of Cross River PDP (MFTROCR), has called for the suspension of Governor Ben Ayade and five others for dragging national PDP and its officers to court over congresses.
Following the directive by the National Working Committee (NWC) of the PDP, ward executive committee members in Cross River were inaugurated in 196 wards on Thursday, April 30, and were sworn-in by a Notary Public, Okimasi Ojong, Esq, principal partner of Barr Okimasi Ojong and Co, in accordance with the provisions of Section 65 of the PDP Constitution as amended in 2017.
Aggrieved by the action, the Ayade faction, led by Ntufam Edim Inok, the caretaker chairman of the PDP, in collaboration with some party members including Messers Pastor Otu Edet Marshall, Mr Terence Orok, Raphael Stephen Ntui and Henry Ekpwnyong Edem, instituted a legal action challenging the inauguration of ward and local government executive committees.
The applicants, including Messers Pastor Otu Edet Marshall, Mr Terence Orok, Raphael Stephen Ntui and Henry Ekpwnyong Edem, had claimed to have emerged in the ward congress conducted by Ntufam Edim Inok-led state executive committee but was not inaugurated. Consequently, they sued the PDP, the National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, National Organising Secretary, Col. Austin Akobundu (retd) and State Chairman of PDP, Ntufam Edim Inok.
In a suit dated July 2, the claimants prayed the court to restrain the national leadership of the party from acting on any list except one submitted by the Cross River PDP in relation to the recently conducted ward and local government congresses in the state.
After listening to the motion, Justice Elias O Abua granted an order interim injunction restraining the party chairman, Ntufam Edim Inok (4th Defendant) or any other person(s) from inaugurating persons in the National Organising Secretary of the PDP, in Col Austin Akobundu’s (retd) letter dated April 26, as persons elected as executive committee members of the party at the March, 2020 ward and local government congress in Cross River State pending the hearing and determination of the motion
Speaking in Calabar on Thursday, the coordinator of the group mostly made up of founding members, former elected and appointed officers and National Assembly members (NASS), Raymond Takon, alleged that their investigations have revealed that the litigants are sponsored and bankrolled by the Ntufam Inok, the party chairman, through the office of the Governor as the claimants/applicants cannot muster enough financial resources and courage to take the party to court.
Takom recalled that the claimants and the aggrieved members had tactically withdrawn a similar case with suit No.HC/115/2020 and dated Thursday, April 30, as they didn’t put up appearance during substantive hearing of the case on June 30.
He said: ‘We were aware that the party chairman, working for the governor, has been shopping for a court to obtain an injunction to restrain the authentic ward and local government executive committees from functioning at least to cause chaos and ensure that duly elected committees don’t take part in the pending state congress and primarily election for the northern senatorial district by-election.
‘Besides, we are aware that some of his die-hard loyalists are said to have advised their boss to quit PDP if they refused to allow them have their way in terms of who takes over the party structures. We also have it on good authority that the Governor has been discreetly discussing with some top APC members in Abuja on how to defect.’
Against this background, ‘we call on the national party leadership to take drastic action against the state leadership led by Ntufam Inok by sanctioning all those who took the party to court and their sponsors,” adding that the processes that produced the ward and local government executive committees followed all the party constitutional guidelines.’
Dismissing the anti-party allegation as hogwash, the Press Secretary/Special Adviser to the Governor on Media and Publicity, Mr Christian Ita, said: ‘Governor Ben Ayade is the leader of PDP in Cross River and under his inspiring leadership, the party is growing in leaps and bounds as shown by the outcome of the recently held local councils.
‘The governor is too preoccupied with the issues of governance, especially in the areas of industrialising Cross River, to be distracted by jobless busy bodies that are clearly on the fringes of ignorance. Governor Ben Ayade, therefore, refuses to be drawn into joining issues with paid hirelings whose stock in trade is nothing but political jobbing. Remember, some people also went to court in Abuja on the same matter. So, they should be also sanctioned.’
Governor Ben Ayade and some critical stakeholders including founding members, former elected officers and National Assembly members (NASS) have been embroiled in a battle for the soul of the party, climaxing to the factionalisation and subsequent inauguration of parallel executives at ward and local government levels.