Goddie A Akpama
In the build up to the 1999 governorship election in Cross River State, the emergence of a governor from the Southern senatorial district of the state had assumed its own life as an important political issue in the state.
No less a huge political personage than a former governor of the state, Senator Liyel Imoke has corroborated this fact when he said he stood and promoted the candidacy of Mr. Donald Duke of the PDP in 1999 to break that retrogressive myth that a politician from the South cannot emerge as a democratically elected governor of the state.
Indeed in 1999 and 2003, Imoke lead the election campaigns of Mr. Donald Duke who reigned for two unbroken terms up until May 29,2007.
The election of Donald Duke from the south laid the foundation of zoning of the office of governor in Cross River State, a trend that continues successfully till date with Imoke from the Central senatorial district succeeding Duke in 2007, and the incumbent Professor Ben Ayade, succeeding Imoke in 2015..
In one of the media interviews granted by Donald Duke while arguing on the issue of zoning, he said he deserved to be given credit for offering himself to be used as Guinea Pig for the experiment on zoning.
With the 2023 elections at the corner, the major political slogan is ” Back To South,” meaning the Governor Ayade’s successor should come from the South, so as to sustain the zoning arrangement and benefit therefrom the political peace and harmony experienced across the state since 2003 when 8 years tenure based on zoning was successfully engraved.
Unfortunately, it appears Mr. Donald Duke,from the South, the first beneficiary of zoning, is working seriously against zoning, particularly the emergence of a politician from the South as governor in 2023.
Information making the rounds has it that Mr. Donald Duke is uncomfortable with the possibility that the candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Senator Prince Bassey Edet Otu, from the South emerging governor in 2023.
Impeccable sources have it that in recent times, the former governor has gone on political forum shopping with the intent of drafting, and enlisting many politicians from the South to contest the governorship election against Prince Bassey Otu.
There is no doubts that Prince Bassey Otu is overwhelmingly popular among the electorate in the state, especially in the South, so in the view of the sources, raising governorship candidates for other parties from the South, would reduce Prince Otu’s votes in the senatorial district.
Recently, there has been a lot of frenzy in the social media about Engineer Ben Akak, from the south, possibly emerging as the governorship candidate of the NNPP.
Already, governorship candidates from the South include Amimmbemiso Bassey of the African Democratic Congress, ADC, and Joseph Coco-Bassey of the Young Progressives Party, YPP. More are still expected from the South, on the possible prompting of former governor Donald Duke.
Ordinarily, there is the tendency to argue that since Donald Duke belongs to the PDP , is isn’t obliged to support Prince Bassey Otu of the APC irrespective of the fact that they are from the South. But the fact is that in the current transition period ahead of the 2023 polls, Duke has shown penchant to support less popular aspirants to political offices from the South.
For instance, a meeting of Southern senatorial district stakeholders he summoned endorsed Sir Arthur Jarvis as the consensus candidate of the PDP in the South against Senator Gershom Bassey and others. As it turned out Jarvis trailed behind Senator Bassey in the PDP governorship primaries won by Senator Sandy Onor from Central Cross River State. Analysts say if Duke was in support of the South producing the next governor, he would have thrown his massive political weight in support of Senator Gershom Bassey, his long standing friend. Perhaps, he would have influenced other aspirants to step down for Senator Bassey who proved to be the most popular from the South.
One is afraid that Donald Duke is working at proliferation of governorship candidates from the South so as to injure the chances of Price Bassey Otu winning overwhelmingly in the area at the 2023 polls..
The street popularity of Donald Duke cannot be denied. However, his popularity may have become a kind of political burden to him as he has always craved the prime position in terms of political visibility.
Politically, Donald Duke considers himself the ” Eagle ” that flocks alone or must flock alone if no where else, but the South. So, so long as he is within the political sphere in the state, there mustn’t be another Eagle from the South, and in this case Prince Bassey Otu who is also popular in his own right.
Followers of the politics of former Governor Donald Duke hold strongly to the view that it is in Donald Duke’s character not to play second fiddle to anybody hence he lost the golden opportunity to emerge as the nation’s Vice President to Musa Yar’Adua in 2007; a position President Olusegun Obasanjo awarded to a humble President Goodluck Jonathan which eventually catapulted him to become Nigeria’s president when his boss was no longer available to continue.
It is worthy to note that Prince Bassey Otu holds Donald Duke in high esteem and has never, and would never aspire to be another Eagle. Senator Bassey Otu is content with been address as Sweet Prince.
Mr. Donald Duke should realise that he became governor because majority of the political leaders of the South of his current status mobilised and voted for him overwhelmingly to become governor irrespective of the fact that his party the PDP was playing second fiddle in the 1999 general elections in the state.
Donald Duke owes the South that reciprocity of gesture by supporting Prince Bassey Otu, the choice of the South, and the entire state, to emerge Governor in 2023.
Goddie A Akpama, a politician and social critic, writes from Calabar