By Andy Esiet, Calabar
The battle for the All Progressives Congress (APC) governorship ticket has taken a different dimension as all aspirants have been ordered to meet in Abuja on Monday for a crucial make or mar consensus meeting on Tuesday.
The Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba, SAN seven man committee to prune down the large number of aspirants from 18 to four that is two each from the two senatorial zones that have entered the race, on Friday night submitted its report to the State Chairman, Mr. Alphonsus Eba for onward transmission to the State Caucus headed by the State Governor, Senator Ben Ayade.
But with tension building in the state over the issue of consensus, its final State Caucus meeting scheduled for May 7 to choose a consensus candidate for its 2023 governorship race was cancelled.
Already majority of the aspirants are grumbling with the consensus process saying the best thing would have been allowing every aspirant to buy the form and come to the negotiation table instead of pushing the “dirty work” to the committee and Caucuses to decide.
A press statement on May 7 by the State Publicity Secretary of APC, Mr. Erasmus Ekpang said, “the ruling APC Cross River State Chapter regrets to announce that the proposed State Caucus meeting scheduled for today (last Saturday) has been cancelled. A new date for the state caucus meeting will be communicated soon…the local government caucus can be rescheduled for tomorrow (Sunday) or as it is agreed with various chapter chairmen” .
The party had said that the aspirants in their April 26 meeting with the party had agreed that in the spirit of concensus only one form should be bought hence the setting up of the Ndoma-Egba led committee to prune down the number of aspirants.
It was reported that the Ndoma-Egba led committee had prune down the aspirants from 18 to four and submitted but due to some wrangling and fraudulent processes to pick one person the May 7 State Caucus meeting could not hold as the leader of the party, Governor Ben Ayade through the state executive had ordered that all the aspirants should move to Abuja.
Top APC sources disclosed that the idea of relocating to Abuja was to get the presidential form for Ayade and the one form for the consensus candidate that may likely be unveiled there.
It was also gathered that a top business man in the state a political god father (name with held) doled out the N100 million on behalf of some well wishers for the purchase of the presidential form for Ayade.
Some of the aspirants who were seen at the Margaret Ekpo International Airport on Sunday hustling to get seats in the only available flight for the Abuja trip so as to catch up with the emergency consensus meeting are said not to be happy with the entire development as they suspect some foul play.
Senator John Owan-Enoh Otuekong Orok Duke were the only two voices out of the 18 aspirants in the April 26 meeting between the state executive and the aspirants that opposed the purchase of the one form for one governorship aspirant thus rejecting the consensus plans of the party.
But Owan-Enoh in a sharp reaction through his the Director General of his Campaign Organization, Sir Hubert Ogar (KSM) said, “the unambiguous position of its principal at the said meeting wherein he said he agreed to the purchase of the said one form only to the extent that it was purchased in his name. John Owan Enoh is yet to be informed that this has been done with just three remaining days left for the purchase of such a form.
“The reason for the above position by our principal is clear enough. John Owan Enoh was the APC candidate for Governor in the 2019 election. Despite the contrived crisis that attended this, both the Federal High Court as well as the Court of Appeal affirmed this. He should therefore have the right of first refusal in any consideration of the party’s 2023 Governorship candidacy, to the extent he has indicated a strong desire to contest. Although even on compassionate grounds, he merits this”.
Party sources told Pillar Today that “the people have so much compromised themselves to the extent they are confused and do not know what to do. Now they said the party will tell the aspirants in the Abuja meeting the recommendation of the Ndoma-Egba led committee report. Under normal circumstances only those that have bought the form suppose to come to the table and talk and not this free for all thing which you do not know serious candidates and the surrogate candidates.
“This is ridiculous. In the presidential race the party in Abuja allows everyone that is interested to buy the form but here we are doing hide and sick. The party had at a point stopped talking to the aspirants but as tension and anxiety went high the party now ordered all the aspirants to come to Abuja on Monday and the form(s) will be bought on Tuesday morning”.
Some party stalwarts who are not happy with the consensus arrangement said, “a workman is worthy of his wages, why do we love consensus so much? Allow people to test their popularity in the field anyone who looses will go home satisfied. Consensus is a form of bullying, yet we cry that our kids are bullied in school are those children not acting like their parents.
The State Chairman of the APC has in a leaked document to Pillar Today confirmed the Abuja meeting in a notice saying, “good afternoon dear leaders, ahead of the deadline for purchase of Governorship intent and nomination form, I wish to humbly notify all aspirants that our mandate to purchase one nomination form will be done tomorrow (Monday) while final decision on same will be taken on Monday night in a meeting to hold in Abuja with all Governorship aspirants and major stakeholders of the party.
“I wish to use this opportunity to invite all concerned to pls be in Abuja tomorrow as meeting will start by 8pm at a venue to be communicated to you tomorrow morning.
“We humbly urge all leaders to make their inputs to the list of states and LGA delegates which are being done at the various wards and LGAs today” .
Meanwhile Governor Ayade’s presidential ambition has received a huge boost as his supporters across the country under different aegis including Niger-Delta Youth, Eko Boys, Arewa Youth and Friends of Ayade for President are set to pick the APC presidential nomination and expression of intention forms for the governor.
An unsigned statement released on Saturday said the forms will be presented to the governor on Monday at the Cross River state Liaison office, Abuja at 3pm as he fits the description of a president Nigeria needs in 2023.
The statement said, “at this critical stage in Nigeria’s history, we need a president who is a unifer, a pan Nigerian, urbane and cerebral . Nigeria needs a president who will bring an exhilarating freshness to the polity and His Excellency, Senator (Professor) Ben Ayade undisputably fits this description. This explains our tireless effort to see that he emerges Nigeria’s next President and we will not rest till the Ayade presidency berths on the shores of reality “, the statement read in parts.
“Ayade is Nigeria and Nigerians’ only chance to forge enduring nationhood and unity. Here is a man who sees no tribe and sees no religion in anyone; all he sees is humanity. Indeed Ayade’s constituency is Nigeria and humanity. He is the only Governor in Nigeria that has Nigerians from all ethnic and religious groups-Igbo, Yoruba, Hausa, Fulani, Ijaw, Edo, Akwa Ibom etc- in his cabinet with many holding vital and sensitive positions.
“Nigeria cannot afford to miss this man. Not only is he a detribalised Nigerian and a bridge between the young and old, he is also a performer, having dotted Cross Rivers’ landscape with industries in just seven years in an industrialisation drive never before witnessed in any state in this country.”
On why various support groups pooled resources together to purchase the presidential nomination and intent forms for the governor, the unsigned statement said: “No amount of money is too big to sacrifice for a noble cause which the Ayade presidency project represents. We met and resolved that N100 Million should not be a barrier between us and the best man for the job because Ayade is simply the best of the pack.”