I felt like embracing Governor of Cross River State, Ben Ayade, a couple of weeks back when he left the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) for the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Was that because I work with a President elected on the platform of the APC? Not necessarily so. Yes, I’ve never really liked the PDP because I felt there was too much of buccaneering in the party, but I’d always been honest enough to give some governors in the fold of the party who were doing well their dues. I always mentioned Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State (he was still in PDP then), Danjuma Goje of Gombe State, and some others. They stood out for the good works in their states.
When the APC came, and made Muhammadu Buhari its presidential candidate in 2014, I gladly threw in my lot with the party, not as a registered member though. Whither Buhari goest, I go.
Ayade’s crossing over to APC was very good for the party. The more governors, the merrier, and the brighter your chances of retaining power at the centre. We will come back to that, but first, my reason for being happy with Ayade, to the point of considering a warm embrace.
Hear the Governor when he gave reasons for crossing the carpet: “Having seen and known the President and his commitment to this country, his nationalistic disposition and all the efforts he has made to bring Nigeria to where we are today, it is obvious that at this point, we needed to join hands with him to build a Nigeria that we can be proud of.
“We need all governors to recognize that it is not the party that matters, it is character, honour, commitment to the vision of this great nation.”
This resonates deeply with me. For if there is one thing lacking in our country, it is love for nation. Some Nigerians actually rejoice when negative things happen to their own country. They rejoice at iniquity, at evil, and they think somebody is being done in, not knowing that the land is the ultimate loser. They swallow poison, and think it would kill their neighbors. Pity!
Also lacking in our blessed but blighted country are virtues like character, honour, commitment, selflessness, transparency, which President Buhari has a-plenty, and which Gov Ayade has seen, and which brought him into the APC. That is the reason for the intended embrace. Cross River State has always been PDP, and may still be largely so, but Ayade did not mind. He was actuated by enough love for country to know that his former party was not the way to go any longer, not minding the personal consequences.
Now, listen to this one that bowled me over completely. The Governor came to see the President, and spoke to journalists covering State House. He told them: “What do I stand to gain? If police stations are attacked, policemen are killed, soldiers are killed, there is kidnapping everywhere, it makes the ruling party unpopular, and that is good for me. My party is likely to win. But that is what I want to depart from. The cumulative impact of that is you are celebrating while your country is undergoing a bloodbath. And the cascading effect is that your country is becoming ungovernable over a period of time.
“So, why don’t we join hands with a party that says we are open, rather than being at war with each other?”
That is the crux of my admiration for Ayade. His decamping is not strictly about himself, but about our country. Love for fatherland. That is food for thought. Something we need to ponder about, and check ourselves in the mirror. Michael Jackson sang about the man in the mirror. “I’m starting with the man in the mirror, I’m asking him to change his ways.”
Yes, Nigerians are the men in the mirror. We must change our ways. You rejoice when Boko Haram kills our troops. You are the man in the mirror. You exult when bandits carry away students into captivity. You are the man in the mirror. You dance when bombs and explosives go off, killing innocent souls. You are the man in the mirror. When economic indices are released, and things are looking down, you trumpet it from the rooftops. But when the economy makes gains, you pretend not to know. You are the man in the mirror. It’s time to learn from Ayade . It’s time to change your ways, and think Nigeria first. That is the lesson of the decampment, even when it is at great personal cost.
But if we can do some political permutations (which is allowed) Gov Ayade has given APC a shot in the arm, the very same thing Gov Dave Umahi of Ebonyi did some months back. APC started this dispensation with about 24 governors, while PDP had 12. All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) had one, which it still does today. Due to schisms and internal wranglings, APC dwindled to 19 governors. They were lost to PDP, which began to make strong showings. And then, Umahi came. Ayade came. Before you knew it, APC was back to 21 governors. The winner takes it all, the loser standing small.
By the nature of our politics, the more states you control, the easier it is for you to win the Presidency. APC has 21, and still counting. Some things are sure to happen in the months ahead. APC’s gain will be PDP’s loss.
What APC lost in the South-South by being ousted in Edo and Bayelsa states, it has now got by having Cross River in the kitty. Things are looking up. Politics is still a game of numbers.
Beyond politics, however, I think we should garland Governor Ayade. He has made a move in which he was not thinking of just himself, but of the good of the country. He deserves our praises, and our emulation. If only we think of the good of our country first, we would then change our ways.
I’m closing with the man in the mirror, I’m asking him to change his ways.
*Adesina is Special Adviser to President Buhari on Media and Publicity