….Young Aspirants Pose Threats
By Andy Esiet, Calabar
As the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC) have for now jettison zoning or power rotation lots things have been unsettled in the two parties.
Aspirants who before now did not dig deep for delegates are now on the move while few aspirants like the Senator representing Cross River South Senatorial in the Senate, Senator Gershom Bassey who have travelled the length and breadth of the 18 Local Government Areas wil consolidate.
With less than three months to party primaries, likely aspirants that may grab the PDP ticket through popular opinion is zeroed to three persons and they are Senator Bassey, Senator Sandy Onor of Central Senatorial and Sir Arthur Jarvis Archibong, the Chancellor of Arthur Jarvis University while in the APC, the mantle is hovering around the former Commissioner for Lands in then Donald Duke government, Mr. Bassey Eyo Ndem, former Senator Bassey Otu and two serving commissioners, Mr. Asuquo Ekpenyong jnr (Finance) and Mr. Edem Okon Effiom (Rural Transformation).
However, surprise jokers in the two parties could be a United Kingdom based engineer, Engr. Mkpang Coco-Bassey of PDP and the Chairman of the Ben Akak Foundation, Engr. Ben Akak of APC who have taken the advantage of not too young to run bill and under rating them is at your own peril.For now some of them are busy doing humanitarian through their foundations and active in social media. Akak and Coco-Bassey are very active on this.
Public opinion holds it that Senator Bassey of the PDP having been in the corridors of power right from the Donald Duke time to Liyel Imoke and now a two term senator, has what it takes to reset Cross River and make it work again.
A political analyst, Mr. Brian Ekong said a with critical look of events, Distinguish Senator Gershom Bassey’s finger print is evident in the lives and businesses of people.
He said, “From road projects scattered across the Senatorial District, some of which are the rehabilitation works on Atimbo Bridge along Calabar-Ikang Road – Akpabuyo; the solar lighting of the Atimbo Bridge; to Electrification projects; School projects; Water projects; Hospital Projects; Youth, Women and Community empowerment. Also there are myriads of sponsored Bills which impact directly on all strata of our society; some are the Federal Polytechnic Akpabuyo, Cross River State Bill 2019; A Bill for an Act to provide for Biometric Data Security and Protection for information relating to Persons including the receipt, storage, utilization or Disclosure of such information and Matters Connected therewith, 2021 et al.
“Unarguably, the experience garnered by this Very Distinguished Senator places him on the frontline in the race to rescue our dear State from the leadership cum administrative quagmire she has found herself in recent times. The popular dictum: whom the cap fit, let him wear, eloquently describes the suitability, readiness and capability of Senator Gershom Henry Bassey to take over the mantle of leadership of our dear state come 2023 as Governor.
“His track records makes one wonder if as a Senator representing a senatorial district, his resumé is this overwhelming, intimidating, mind blowing, and self evident, there is no gain saying that with Senator Gershom Bassey as the Governor of Cross River State come 2023, Cross River State will once again be the cynosure of all eyes, the number one foreign and local investment destination in Nigeria in particular and Africa at large.
“With the Distinguished Senator Gershom Henry Bassey as Governor, Cross River State will be great again and shall take her rightful place in the comity of States. With Gershom, business or pleasure, we will always be home. Let the drums continue to roll and let the ovations be at it’s highest as we continue to celebrate the Quintessential Gershom – the tested, trusted and reliable candidate for the rebirth of Destination Cross River come 2023”.
The recent pronouncement by both PDP and APC not to zone the governorship position to any Senatorial district has rattled most aspirants but Senator Bassey even though is an advocate of zoning has insisted that ” with zoning or no zoning, I will sweep the poll”.
The APC aspirants have not done much in the field as most of them are waiting for directions from Governor Ben Ayade as his Akwa Ibom state counterpart Mr. Udom Emmanuel did and fears are rife that if that is not done now, the governor may have the challenge reconciling people that have gone far in their aspiration.
Responding to a question on why the APC aspirants are not declaring their governorship ambition, a onetime Senator for Cross River South senatorial, Senator Otu in a recent South Senatorial Stakeholders forum opined, “APC has not done that because it’s law abiding. The ban on politics has not been lifted yet. We have a government in place and we have to support the government to succeed. APC aspirants are not shy, they are capable and able and once the ban on campaign is lifted we will be in the field and all the aspirations will come out” .
The aspirants in Ayade’s cabinet are insisting that one of them should be picked as the anointed candidate and flag bearer of the APC for the 2023 polls but majority of public opinion has is that most of them are political neophytes and do not have the experience and capacity to run the state. It is also argued that most of them may not have the capacity to match the heavy weights in PDP. Hence the mantle may fall on Ndem or Otu. Besides these two, the young under dog many admire is Akak who has been very consistent in philanthropy especially during the COVID-19 heat through his foundation. Many believe he could be a surprise joker the system may push up for the number one job.
For now there is confusion in the state as both the PDP and the APC have jettisoned the principle of zoning or power shift as before now the PDP which has been encouraging zoning overtime was undecided on the matter while the APC through its leader, Governor Ayade had on several occasions announced that the next governor to succeed him in 2023 must come from the Southern Senatorial district of the state.
There have been arguments for and against zoning from both parties. In PDP, Senator Onor is the lone voice that is against zoning among the eight aspirants of PDP. The seven other aspirants in support of zoning are from the South and they are; Senator Bassey, Sir Archibong; former member House of Representatives for Calabar Municipal\Odukpani Federal Constituency, Mrs. Nkoyo Toyo, Engr. Coco-Bassey, former Deputy Governor, Efiok Cobham, member representing Akamkpa/Biase Federal Constituency, Mr. Daniel Asuquo, former Odukpani Local Government Chairman, Pastor Eyo Okpo Ene and former Labour Party Governorship candidate, Mrs. Imah Nsa Adekoke.
In APC, a very close friend of Governor Ayade and a business associate, Mr. Chris Agara, Senator John Owan Enoh who represented Central in the Senate and former Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Pastor. Usani Usani met recently and kicked against zoning and queried why the governor took a decision on zoning unilaterally without consulting them.
The aspirants for the APC who are from the South in support of zoning are, Arch. Ndem, Mr. Ekpenyong jnr; Engr. Akak, Senator Otu, Mr. Effiom, the former Special Adviser, Department of Public Transport, Mr. Edem Effiom Ekong and former deputy governorship aspirant, Chief Ogban Ebock.
But in a surprise development on April 4, the State Chairman of the APC, Mr. Alphonsus Eba in a press briefing said the party has not zoned the governorship ticket to any particular zone in the state saying, “a final position has not been taken by the party as this will be done by the caucuses of the party very soon. Although the governor promised to zone the governorship to the South , he remains a democrat and not an autocrat…the party has not zoned the governorship position of the party and that decision will be taken in a proper caucus of the state executive.
“The constitution of the party spells out those who are members of the caucus, the beauty of it is that the governor is one of the persons that is going to sit in that caucus meeting, as State Chairman, I will sit there, former national assembly members, local government chairmen, some recognised officers will be part of it as stated in Article 9 of the party”.
Similarly, the State Chairman of the PDP, Mr. Venatius Ikem who had earlier maintained neutrality on zoning, last week said, ” Cross River state PDP hasn’t denied zoning. Cross River state is one of the states in Nigeria where power has revolved round the component units in terms of Senatorial districts successfully. We hope that it continues that way. What we in PDP are saying is that we achieved that not by agreeing on which zone to take on the table, but by elimination in the field of contest.
“That Donald Duke defeated Kanu Agabi in the field. Senator Liyel Imoke similarly defeated the rest of the contestants in the field. So when it was only the north left to complete the circle there was no need to contest with the north. We should use the same process of zoning by elimination as we did in the first round. If it worked for us then it will work for us now and in the future and every zone will take their turn. That is the crux of the argument” .
Former Ambassador of Nigeria to Uganda and APC Chieftain, Etubom Nya Asuquo insists on zoning, saying, “in Cross River State I think it is only fair that the governorship position is zoned back to the south as the governor has rightly said. The south did it first, and then it went to central. I remember when I was contesting for governor under CPC, everybody in the south was telling me it should go to central. And a lot of people from the south did not support me because they said it should go to central, after central to the north. So it stands to reason that it should come back to the south for the rotation to restart. A lot of us who look at politics more in terms of fairness think it should be so, even though you cannot prevent whoever wants to contest from contesting”.
The Stakeholders of Cross River South Senatorial district of both the PDP and APC have also reaffirmed their stand on power returning to the Southern part of the state.
They argued that the governorship position has gone through the three senatorial districts of the state starting from the South in 1999 to 2007, Central 2007 to 2015 and North 2015 to date. So having gone round peacefully in that order it is expected that the chain will continue
Former Senator Florence Ita-Giwa had in the APC stakeholders forum of Senatorial district said, “we thus, express our solidarity with the governor of Cross River State, His Excellency Sen. Prof. Ben Ayade for his total and unwavering commitment to the return of power to the Southern Senatorial District come 2023..Based on the governor’s pronouncement I urge the party to come out with a zoning formula in the state for APC. On Ayade we stand, we thank him for identifying with us.
“The governor remains the leader of the APC in the state and indeed the South South Region and has the right and authority to give direction to the party in the state. We thank the governor for this direction which he has provided and we stand with him firmly on this” .
However while the South is insisting on power shift, two (Akamkpa and Biase) out of the seven councils that make up South senatorial are also agitating that if the governorship comes to South and the Efiks that constitute the remaining five councils (Calabar South, Bakassi, Akpabuyo, Calabar Municipal and Odukpani) should also be prepared in the spirit of equity and fairness to shift or zone the South senatorial seat to Akamkpa and Biase in2023 that have not tested it before.
The Director General of Gershom Bassey Campaign Organization, Mr Ekpo Ada had warned that “if the PDP does not come out strong to state its position on power rotation and zoning, the consequences on the party may become disastrous.
Ada who said his principal is prepared for primaries with or without zoning recalled that “in 2015, the state PDP Caucus, which is the highest decision making body of the party, of which Arch. Bassey Ndem was a member then, agreed that power will return to the Southern Senatorial district in 2023 in line with the zoning policy of the party for equity, fairness and justice and wandered why the party is delaying in taking a position on zoning of power to the South”.
He declared that “if the PDP does not put its house in order forthwith by streamlining party members aspirations, the party may be heading for a total rejection in the southern senatorial district which turn it is to produce the next Governor of the state, come 2023” , noting that the southern senatorial district will only support parties that zone power to the south and nothing less”
Equally reacting to the issue of zoning, a businessman Mr. Bassey Etim said, “this is not the business of PDP and APC alone. It is the business of Cross River. We from the south are concerned and we want our own son or daughter to be the next governor. This is just equity and fairness. Anybody talking against zoning or rotation of power is just being selfish and wicked. There is nothing like zoning by elimination. Its just selfish interest and wickedness. If not of zoning person like Venatius Ikem would not have emerged as the PDP National Publicity then but he emerged because PDP zoned the position to South which was further zoned to Cross River state.