2023: What Buhari told me before I joined presidential race – Gov Ayade

The governor of Cross River State, Ben Ayade, has formally joined the race for the presidential ticket of the All Progressives Congress (APC).

Mr Ayade, who met with President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday, said he had no intention of joining the race until he was asked by the president to do so.

He disclosed this to journalists after the meeting with the president.

Mr Ayade said he was at the villa to seek guidance from the president on how to proceed with his political alignment but Mr Buhari asked him to join the race instead.

According to Mr Ayade, the President said, “You are governor from the south-south, go out there too and consult. I am happy that you didn’t come here to tell me you want to run, you came here to say you want to support me. Let me watch you as you go out there.”

He described himself as a standby candidate, even though he will support the candidate of the president.

“I will support the president’s candidate. Even though I am on standby, if I’m available. If you’re the choice, I will support the president’s candidate,” he said.

Mr Ayade added that the same approach landed him the governorship seat in 2015.

Describing his emergence as a “stroke of luck, the governor said the same stroke of luck is visiting him again.

Mr Ayade, a professor, was a senator on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) before he was elected governor in 2015 also on the platform of the party. He defected to the APC in May 2021, making him the only governor of the party in the South-south zone.

The Cross River Governor, who will be rounding off his second term in May 2023, has joined an already crowded APC field which include Governors Dave Umahi of Ebonyi and Yahaya Bello of Kogi State.

Also in the race are former governor of Lagos State, Bola Tinubu; Vice President Yemi Osinbajo; Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi; former Senate President, Ken Nnamani; former Imo State governor, Rochas Okorocha; Labour and Employment Minister, Chris Ngige and others.

In addition, former President Goodluck Jonathan and Governor Kayode Fayemi are also believed to be “making moves” to declare their intention to run.

There has been a clamour from some groups for Mr Jonathan to join the race on the platform of the ruling APC, the same party that defeated him in 2015.

Last week, some groups protested at the home of Mr Jonathan in Abuja. While addressing the groups, Mr Jonathan did not give a concrete response on joining the race or not but merely told them to “watch out.”

When asked about his chances against the former president, who is also from the South-south region, Mr Ayade said he would be willing to support any candidate that emerges.

If elected, I will fix naira to dollar…

Speaking on how he intends to fix the economy, particularly the naira that has been doing badly against major currencies in the world, Mr Ayade, a professor, said Nigeria has no business subjecting the naira to forces of demand and supply.

He vowed to fix the naira on a permanent exchange rate to the dollar. According to the governor, the concept of demand and supply does not work in real life.

“Nigeria has no business subjecting our currency to the forces of demand and supply all things being equal, when we know the concept of ceteris paribus, never applies in real life.

“First October 2023, our Independence Day, the dollar rate to naira will be fixed.”

He also promised to mandate all oil production companies doing more than 200,000 barrels per day to establish modular refineries in the country.

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