Andy Esiet, Calabar
All seems not to be well in the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Cross River State barely few days after its consensus meeting in Abuja that produced Senator Bassey Otu and others as consensus candidates.
The party had in a stakeholders meeting presided over by the governor, Senator Ben Ayade in Abuja on May 9 and 10 produced Senator Prince Bassey Otu as its consensus candidate for the 2023 governorship race in the state. This position was rejected by two out of the 17 aspirants at the meeting. A business man and friend to the governor, Chief Chris Agara and former Senator John Owan-Enoh who had bought their forms later rejected the consensus.
They have since been screened and cleared to contest the primaries. In this regards, going by the electoral act, the consensus has failed and Otu, the preferred aspirant will have to face Agara and Owan-Enoh in the primaries.
Similarly, the party in another meeting went ahead to allocate other positions through consensus and the position of Senate was taken away from Akamkpa/Biase and as probably as a compensation given to the former governorship aspirant, Mr. Asuquo Ekpenyong jnr from Odukpani LGA where Otu is also from. This did not go down well with the Akamkpa/Biase people who have not produced a governor or senator before.
The South Senatorial has seven LGAs with five (Bakassi, Akpabuyo, Calabar South, Calabar Municipality and Odukpani) predominantly Efiks while two (Akamkpa and Biase) are non Efiks and are predominantly Ejagham and some persons have argued that for the interest of equity and fairness which the governor had even promised, the Senate seat suppose to come to the people of Akamkpa/Biase who are now feeling short-changed in the micro zoning arrangements. “We are now Five-Alive and Two-Dead” , exclaimed one of the aggrieved persons in Akamkpa/Biase Federal Constituency, “it’s no more Seven-Alive”
The Technical Assistant to the Vice President on New Media, Mr. Philip Obin has cried out for justice for Akamkpa/Biase saying, “I support Senator Bassey Otu (Odukpani) for Governor, but is it too much to ask that the Southern Senatorial seat be zoned to Akamkpa/Biase? Akamkpa and Biase are bleeding politically and crying for help. The orphaned LGAs urgently need a Liberator. Who will bell the cat?”
A staunch APC member in Biase who pleaded anonymity said, “this is a wrong calculation by APC. The consensus has failed and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) if they are smart should take advantage and do the right thing and zone governorship to south and in micro zoning, zone Senate to Biase/Akamkpa. What APC has done now is, Odukpani governorship , Odukpani senate and both Efik” .
He said, “if APC wants to win election let them do the needful. For instance, if Akpan’s family takes A, Udoh will take B, Adiaha Udoh will take C and that is how you carry everybody along. Even within the Efik domain, how do you explain that you took everything and put in one place? The problem is not even Akamkpa/Biase but our politics. Even the law talks about federal character where appointments must spread and so it is a constitutional matter. We wanted governorship for Akamkpa and Biase and the governor agreed to that, then we had a meeting in Abuja. If we talk about fairness and justice, this thing should be Akamkpa and Biase. Not giving governorship to Akamkpa and Biase is not fair and just but if that is the case, let them surrender all the positions to Odukpani so that we know that Odukpani is more important than every other local government area. This is the position and it is unrealistic because you cheat people and ask what they can do about it, that is what it means and by so doing, you ask them to do what they know how to do best, which is going to their villages to vote.
“This election going by what INEC is doing and the last by-election in the state, is going to be free and votes will count as there is no more digital rigging like before, so you know it is a serious matter. My worry is about the party… some people think about themselves alone, if Biase or Akamkpa was thinking about themselves only, they would not have agreed to consensus because I know that my people are being cheated and there is neither fairness nor justice but we allowed all that so the party would come out strong”.
He explained that, “many people don’t understand the dynamics of this new system where the differential votes really matter and not just the volume of votes. If a local government has 10,500 votes, and the wining party scored 5,500 and the other scores 5,000, the difference there is only 500 votes which means the winner has only an advantage of 500 votes. If you go to another local government which has only 5,000 votes and one party scores 1,000 while the other scores 4,000, the difference is 3,000 votes. So the LGA with 5,000 votes is at an advantage than the other LGA with 10,500 votes and that is what we mean by differential votes and not volume of votes. People do not understand this dynamic.
“If we organize ourselves well, one party can win all the votes and the differential will be high, that is why I said they will go home and do what they do best. They have few votes but they can make it very effective by differentials, anybody who wants to dare it can go ahead and try”.
Similarly the people of Bakassi and Akpabuyo in Bakassi/Akpabuyo/Calabar South Federal Constituencies are not happy with the consensus arrangement.
Mr, Etim Ene from Bakassi said, “Calabar South has taken the position for 20 years so it would have been proper for APC to zone it to either Bakassi or Akpabuyo instead of Calabar South. If the right thing is not done we will prefer to give our votes to Mr. Essien Ayi of PDP who is the incumbent”.
Meanwhile the Agara campaign organizations in statement by its Director General, Mr. Richard Ogbeche rejected the APC consensus saying, “we will like to remind the pseudo democrats in the room that Section 84 (9) of the Electoral Act, 2022 provides that consensus may be used after cleared aspirants have emerged. Also, the written consent of the aspirant must be extracted before any consensus would be said to have been arrived at. Cleared aspirants who must have bought the nomination form and gone through due clearance are the ones who can enter into consensus agreements not pretenders to the Crown at Peregrino Hall.
“Democratic civil rule does not confer the status of a monarch or potentate on the governor or president for that matter and therefore the Governor’s word or preferences cannot become law unto all. We have chosen to disagree with the Consensus Option and are fully prepared for the governorship race of Cross River state at this time, no matter the number of comedy strips, threats of violence and all types of intimidation that we may come against in the course of prosecuting our legitimate aspiration”
The State Publicity Secretary of APC, Mr. Erasmus Ekpang lauded the consensus arrangement saying “the emergence as a consensus Governorship candidate was the unanimous decision by the 17 Governorship aspirants and party critical Stakeholders”.
He said, “the meeting, which was presided over by the State Governor and leader of our great party, had in attendance the State Chairman, Barr. Alphonsus Ogar Eba, other Exco members and the 17 Gubernatorial aspirants under the platform of the APC. The meeting of the Party which held at the Transcorp Hilton hotel in Abuja was a congenial Political family meeting which resolved to donate power to Sen. Prince Bassey Otu to fly the flag of the party as it’s Gubernatorial candidate.
“The Party expressed it’s sincere appreciation to the leader of our party, our Chairman, all the governorship aspirants, critical stakeholders and members of our great party for arriving at this historic milestone and looks forward to a robust Primaries”.