The battle ahead of 2023 in Cross River Cross River is gathering momentum as the former PDP state chairman and APC former governorship candidate, Ntufam Ekpo Okon, and thousands of supporters, especially in the southern senatorial district, have dumped the party for rival PDP.
Others to join the exodus include the former deputy speaker, Hon.Dominic Edem, Hon. Wilson Ekpeyong, representing Bakassi state and Odukpani state constituencies respectively and Bassey O. Bassey, Esq. The trio of Okon, Edem and Ekpenyong were all staunch members of PDP and they defected to APC between 2015 and 2019.
Sources close to APC secretariat disclosed that Ntufam Ekpo and others are said to have already tendered their resignation letters at ward, chapter and state levels. The source added that they might have left the party as most of them were allegedly not carried along in the just-concluded ward, local government and state congress.
Their defection is coming barely a month after some APC stalwarts in the northern senatorial district defected to PDP during the thanksgiving ceremony of Sen Jarigbe Agom Jarigbe held at Ogoja and at a time the state executive committee–elect of APC are still embarking on a reconciliatory meeting some party big-wigs across the state.
The source further said that APC should expect more defections early next year as most old members are so dissatisfied at the way the new defectors from PDP shoved them aside and took over the party structure from ward to state levels.
Confirming the return to PDP, a member of executive in Akamkpa ward in Odukpani local government area where Ntufam Ekpo Okon belongs, Chief Bassey Ekpo Bassey, 49, said: ”It is true that our leader, Ntufam Okon has returned to PDP where he was one of the founding members but left because of irreconcilable differences.
“Today, he has returned home to his roots and we welcome him with open arms. I can tell you that with his return you should expect mass movement because Ntufam Ekpo knows how to mobilise us to victory. So, we are very happy and thank the leadership for really reaching out to old members. As I am talking with you, our Oga Ekpo is already working with PDP leaders on the next move. ”
Another party chieftain from Bakassi local government area, Elder Emmanuel Inyang, 56, confirmed that Hon Dominic Aqua is also back to PDP after several sojourn in Labour Party and APC, adding that PDP is still the party to beat in Bakassi.
“We know that APC is trying to manage their internal crisis resulting from the crisis emanating from the party congress. We expect more defectors and we shall all work as a team to reclaim the state from APC. Even at the ward, we have been mobilising and reaching out to our brothers with like minds to come back. Just watch out for a mass exodus from APC to PDP soon,”he stated.
At the state PDP secretariat located at Mary Slessor Avenue, Calabar, a top party official, who doesn’t want to be quoted, admitted that some wards and chapter executive committee members from Odukpani, Akpabuyo and Bakassi have notified them about defection of some APC top shots, but are yet to be briefed with regard to the number of people joining the party.
He further said the party is in high spirit as it has continued to get the support of some APC members who are willing to defect to PDP following the alleged hijack of the party structure by Governor Ben Ayade loyalists and their subsequent alleged marginalisation.
He disclosed that by Tuesday, December 7, 2021, the party may receive thousands of defectors while moves are on to embark on some ward tour by some party chieftains aimed at sensitising the populace and keeping them abreast of ideals of the new PDP in the state.
Hailing the party leadership for reaching out to their old members and lobbying them to come back, PDP stalwart from Obanliku, Chief Chris Agba, said they are working round the clock to reposition the party by reaching out to those who left the party for one reason or the other
Agba revealed that more heavyweights from APC would soon defect to PDP, adding that they are still consulting with the likes of Hon Alex Egbona, representing Yakurr/Abi federal constituency, some serving commissioners and former APC executive committee members on the need to return.