From Andy Esiet
Chatting with some newsmen in Calabar at recently, the Cross River National Assembly Caucus Chairman, Senator Gershom Bassey, said, “the issue of Bakassi is definitely not dead”.
Bassey who is also the Senator representing Cross River South Senatorial district in the senate, said, “I can assure you that because we in the National Assembly have not ratified that treaty and there is reluctance in the National Assembly to ratify the treaty”.
Bakassi is one of the seven Local Government Areas that make up Cross River South Senatorial district and Bassey said, “so far as we don’t do it (ratify it), the matter is not closed and so I want to assure you that the matter is very much alive. Government is a continuum, so as long as it is open, at any point, that issue can come up”.
On whether the current senate will bring up the issue, he said, “I think what the current senate can do is to ensure we don’t ratify that treaty and then it becomes an issue for the executive”.
Recall that Nigeria lost Bakassi to Cameroon at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in 2002 at the Hague and the Green Tree Agreement of 2006 finalised the handing process with a window for an appeal but Nigeria did not until the period elapsed but Bassey has assured the people of Bakassi and Nigeria at large that the matter is not over yet.
On the 2023 general elections and the usual fears by Nigerians that their votes do not count due to massive rigging by politicians , Bassey who is being fingered as one of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) likely governorship aspirants for 2003, assured the electorates that this time around votes will count.
He said, “power belongs to the people and that is why the debate we had in the senate and National Assembly on the electoral bill was so important. It is important that people trust and understand that they can exercise their franchise and vote, and that vote will count.
“We are also doing our best to ensure that we eliminate rigging of elections so that if I am a councillor and I don’t do well, I can be voted out by the citizens. If a president is not doing well, we should be able to vote him or her out and for me, that is the most important thing. So if you have an issue with security like we do in Nigeria right now, except there is a rapid change, it should become an issue in the 2023 elections”.
“If you look at the electoral law as it is now”, he said, adding that “the process of voting has been fine-tuned. The final icing on the cake was supposed to be the electronic transmission, but even before you get to that, there are many stages that have been fine-tuned. For instance accreditation is now full biometrics, so the issues in fine-tuning the electoral process are ongoing. Now, with or without the legislation, the constitution gives INEC the full responsibility to conduct elections as they see fit.
“So the Internet National Electoral Commission (INEC) has come up with a set of rules which actually includes electronic transmission. So with or without the law, electronic transmission is going to be in the process, though we are not sure of anything. So, the type of election you may have had in 2007 will not be the type you will have in 2023 because there has been incremental progress and as a result of that, we should ensure that we take this good news to the electorate and tell them to come out and vote because their votes have a 90percent chance of being counted. Before it may have been a 60percnt chance, but we are moving more towards perfection and it is getting closer and closer”.
On whether the defection of Governor Ben Ayade to the All Progressives Congress (APC) will not affect the chances of the PDP in 2003, he said, “I am not sure that the governors conduct elections. So, I think INEC conducts the elections, not the governor. So I think that his relevance in the 2023 elections will be very minimal. In fact, I believe that because of his abysmal performance in Cross River state, him endorsing any candidate will be like an albatross on the candidate’s neck.
“PDP is the dominant party in Cross River state. We are not the opposition party like somebody said yesterday; we are the party in power, because we are the dominant party in Cross River State and we have won all the elections. nd so the party is entrenched. The party is beloved by the people, because of the dividends that the party has brought to the people of Cross River State, especially in the Donald Duke era and the Liyel Imoke era”.