Andy Esiet, Calabar
After much intrigues and scheming, Senator Prince Bassey Edet Otu otherwise known as “Sweet Prince” has emerged the All Progressives Congress (APC) consensus candidate for the 2023 Cross River governorship election.
The State Governor, Senator Ben Ayade announced this in Abuja, early hours of May 10 after a protracted meeting of all the 18 aspirants, party executives and others that constitute the State Caucus. The Journey to his eventual emergence was intriguing.
The Victor Ndoma-Egba SAN led seven man committee had included his name among the four recommended aspirants out of the 18.
Irrespective of the recommendation, the 18 aspirants were divided along the old and the new brigade in politics and it was gathered that there were deliberate attempt by the powers that be to scheme the ticket in favour of the new brigade out of pressure.
The new brigade include the immediate past Commissioner for Finance, Asuquo Ekpenyong jnr, an oil and gas magnet Nsa Ekpenyong and a business mogul Ben Akak.
The old brigade in politics comprising Arch. Eyo Ndem, Barr. Edem Ekong, Prince Otu, Otuekong Orok Duke, Silvester Nsa, George Obenechi, Chief Ogban Ebock and few others who have been meeting as aspirants, mobilised and told the governor that they were ready to collapse their structures and work with Prince Otu.
Hence he (Otu) was asked to go to Abuja and pick the form on their behalf and as their candidate incase of any foul play.
Worried with the growing tension, the governor through the party ordered all the aspirants to move to Abuja on Sunday May 8 for the State Caucus meeting in Abuja on Monday, May 9.
The meeting started at about 9pm with the state governor and the APC Leader in the state, Senator Ben Ayade presiding. He explained that the meeting was moved to Abuja because that kind of meeting doesn’t need people clustering around creating distractions.
The meeting dragged into the night and majority of the aspirants of the old brigade made it clear that they reread to collapse structure if the ticket was given to Prince Otu even though Chris Agara and Senator John Owan-Enoh informed the meeting that they had bought their forms already and majority of their supporters had signed.
At about 1.16 am, May 10, Governor Ayade asked all the aspirants to stay action and collapse structure for Prince Otu as the consensus candidate of the party.
Top sources at the meeting said the governor apologized to them saying that circumstances didn’t allow for them to have held the meeting much earlier and that he has been under immense pressure.
That the governor emphasized that two people have been spending money on him when he had the first court matter and even the last one and that he doesn’t know how to face Asuquo Ekpenyong, and also Nsa Ekpenyong (not related) who had been around supporting him whenever he had issues but that this election is one he wants to key into without sentiments and that it also requires someone with experience in elections. That on equity and fairness the governorship ticket suppose to go to Biase/Akamkpa Federal Constituency because they have not had it before.
Ayade according to the sources, said the new decampees from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the APC have taken everything like the seat of the State Chairman and the National Women leader etc and so for a better balance, it was also good to look at the old APC members so as to build confidence for everybody to come.
He said that the consensus process was open as all the aspirants were there but in the earlier days, people said “power is not given, you take it” but in these days, power is given, people sit and arrange to give power just as they have given to Prince Otu so it is not Prince’s power but power given to him. In fact in his innermost mind, if he (Ayade) was free to give, he would have given it to Chris Agada who has been his friend for more than 30 years and they have done a lot of things together and his first consideration would have been Chris.
Ayade told the meeting that the persons he is indebted to in recent time is the Asuquo Ekpenyongs but they should take it in good faith as the governorship election does not need a fresher but someone who has experience of contest.
This evening all of the aspirants and others including the new consensus candidate will have a dinner in Abuja.
Prince Otu was first elected in 2003 to represent Calabar/Odukpani in the House of Representatives, Senator for Cross River South in the April 2011 elections, under PDP platform. He later defected in 2016 to the APC and emerged the Cross River South Senatorial flag bearer for the 2019 election but lost to Senator Gershom Bassey of the PDP.