Since the present democratic dispensation began in 1999,the three senatorial districts of Cross River State have produced a Governor,each in the persons of Mr Donald Duke from the south, 1999_2007,Senator Liyel Imoke, from central, 2007_2015,Senator Ben Ayade,from the north, 2015_2023.
The orderly process that has produced these Governors have been adjudged peaceful, satisfactory and a transition mechanism that has given all the senatorial districts a sense of belonging and more importantly the electorate have keyed into the rotation of power principle which they embrace as fair and equitable, making Cross River State stand out and emulated by other states of the federation.
Let it be stated clearly that arriving at this rotation of power principle among the three senatorial districts was not easy.
This is so because before 1999,the general belief among the political class in the state was that nobody from the south especially an Efik man could ever become Governor judging by their voting strength compared to the other ethnic groups in the state.
But Donald Duke’s emergence erased that misconception as the governorship in the state goes beyond ethnic contest
Perhaps that misconception must have explained the reason the late Senate President, Dr Joseph Wayas was able to convince his then party, the All Peoples Party, APP to withdraw the governorship primaries ticket convincingly won by then Dr Eyo Etim Nyong and given to the late Mr Mark Ukpo from Yala in the northern senatorial district who did not even contest the APP primaries election.
Unfortunately,Prof Eyo Etim Nyong was unable to overturn the party’s decision and injustice suffered by him because the court ruled that the matter of party nomination was strictly a party affair and the seven local government areas in the southern senatorial district which at that time were dominated by the APP had to collapse their structures in protest against the injustice on Prof Eyo Etim Nyong and support Mr Donald Duke of the PDP who is from the south.
It is worthy to also note that the APP was equally popular across the central and the northern senatorial districts of the state, which was why the governorship election in 1999 was very competitive.
It is on record that Mr. Donald Duke did not get the PDP governorship ticket on a platter of gold nor the general elections.
He worked tirelessly for it and finally got the nod of the party having had a formidable figure like Senator Kanu Agabi from the north to contend with.
The rest is history as Mr Duke finally won the general elections against Mr Ukpo in a very keenly contested election.
Of course so many intriguing factors played out before Donald Duke could occupy the Perigrino lodge.
That rigorous process and very competitive one for that matter which Mr Donald Duke went through brought out the best in him as a Governor with landmark achievements across the entire state.
He cannot be accused of marginalizing the central and the northern senatorial districts in his administration or even to favour the south where he comes from as he was quoted as saying that he was a Governor for the entire state and not of a section.
His second term wasn’t easy either with the emergence of Atam Congress targeted at his administration in line with the ethnic card.
Though he emerged victorious in all,one may understand his position on zoning of power, based on his experience, but when we look at the larger picture,the principle of power rotation has come to stay,to ensure all sections, weak or strong are carried along without sacrificing excellence in service delivery because the best hands can be found every where.
When Senator Liyel Imoke from the central emerged as Governor in 2007,though there were contestants from the PDP and other parties from other senatorial districts, nobody was supported from the south because Donald Duke just finished from the south.
What that meant was that,subtly the governorship was zoned out from the south to the other two zones.
This arrangement was dominant in the PDP which was the ruling party at the time in the state.
The scenario of power rotation continued after Imoke left office in 2015 when he handed over power to Ayade from the north.
Though the PDP that practiced this power rotation arrangement is no more in control at the government house Diamond hill,the general psyche of the electorate in Cross River state is that after the north, power should come back to the south to give the south a sense of belonging after waiting for 16 years, post Donald Duke’s tenure.
Anything short of that will become an aberration which will not augur well for the state.
And of more disturbing development is the danger of introducing ethnicity in achieving selfish political gains.
The people should not be classified under ethnic labels as this could portend grave danger in the future to reunite them for collective endeavors.
Our ethnic diversity should be positively used for our common good and not to be exploited for political gains.
The major political
parties have picked their governorship candidates and the campaigns will soon commence.
We expect the campaigns to be issue based focused on measures to alleviate the suffering of the masses and the building of a strong economy.
The campaigns should be devoid of ethnic sentiments if we must progress as enlightened people who had set the pace for others in the past.
The governor that will emerge is expected to be a governor for the entire state and not an ethnic champion who will come to execute an ethnic agenda since he was elected on his ethnic card.
If we must forge ahead as a people bonded in love,unity and progress with a common destiny,we must elect a leadership that cuts across ethnic barriers and we must reject clannish leaders in what ever guise they present themselves.
Our dear state is richly endowed with manpower and natural resources and needs leaders that can harness these resources for our common good.
Leaders that are propelled by external money bags to mortgage the future of our state must be rejected by the patriotic voters of Cross River state.
This state must not be allowed to become an appendage to its counterpart and which decisions will be tele-guided by the piper who dictates the tune.
We have a duty to build our state by ourselves and not allow external power brokers to determine who governs us.
The southern senatorial district needs to be supported by the central and the northern senatorial districts to produce the next governor because the south supported the central and the north and as they say, ONE GOOD TURN DESERVES ANOTHER.
Dr. Eniang Ndem is a Journalist, writes from Calabar