By Magnus Effiong
As preparations for the Saturday’s Governorship and House of Assembly elections intensify, leaders form the southern senatorial district of Cross River state have derided former governor Donald Duke for allegedly working against the State having the next governor from the south and addressing Senator Bassey Otu, the governorship candidate of the APC, as Gov Ben Ayade’s surrogate.
The leaders, who came under the umbrella of the Southern Initiative, said this in Calabar, Thursday, during a press conference.
According to them, Duke, after benefiting from the magnanimity of the Cross River people for eight years could turn around to work against the zoning arrangement of the State which they said has brought unity and peace.
Recall that Donald Duke was quoted as describing the Back to South agitation as an attempt by Gov Ben Ayade to continue in office through a surrogate, Sen Otu. Both Donald Duke and Bassey Otu are from the southern senatorial district.
Co-ordinator of the group, Etubom Bassey Ndem, who was flanked by former envoy to Mali, Amb Nya Asuquo, former Head of Service of the federaion, Mrs Winifred Oyo-Ita, Dr Grace Akpanika among many other leaders from the zone’s seven local government areas, said Duke’s vituperation against the agitation of his people was “disingenuous and treacherous.”
A press statement, read by former deputy governorship candidate, Hon Sylvester Nsa, on behalf the group, said “Our son, HE Donald Duke, cannot deny that the people of the southern senatorial district and others stood very firmly with him as relatively unknown as he was in 1999.
“For our own son to equate the beautiful principle of orderly and equitable rotation of power encapsulated in the Back to South Slogan, and rather equate it to ‘Back to status quo’, “Back to Ayade’s”, ” Back to single-handedly picked surrogate”, is a most unfortunate betrayal of every Cross Riverian who believes in justice, equity and accommodation.
“It is more painful that this is coming from someone from the South who benefited so much but now left the south stranded at the end of his flashy reign.”
The leaders reaffirmed their belief in the zoning, insisting that the governorship position should return to the southern district for equity, fair play and unity.
“Back to South is merely another way of saying, let the office of Governor rotate sequentially from one senatorial district to another. This is for the sake of justice, equity, fair play, and brotherly accomodation; For the sake of minimising cut throat and violent competition; For the sake of minimising the oppresion of the minority.
“In a fledgling democracy within a multi-ethnic and multi-religious society, the zoning and rotation of offices ensure that minorities get a fair share, equal opportunity, and access to various offices.
‘Rotation helps to stop Might is Right and the oppression of any disadvantaged segments of society. There have been aberrations over time and now we have an opportunity to work together to correct same
“That is why the Southern Initiative sees as most disingenuous and treacherous, the attempt by our son, HE Mr Donald Duke to upturn the principle of zoning and rotation as recorded in his latest outburst on social media.
“The 2023 gubernatorial election is NOT about Ayade, as he is not in the contest. Our son Donald Duke knows, based on bitter experience, that every governor is responsible and must be held personally accountable for his own success or failure. If not, is he willing to take responsibility for all of HE Gov Imoke’s actions whom he installed brazenly into office? Did they not fall out a few months after?
“HE Gov Imoke ready to take responsibility for all of HE Ben Ayade’s actions whom he claims to have sponsored, and did they not fall out, within months, to the extent that Ay ade finally left the PDP party, after 20 years, in order to escape from Imoke and Duke’s dictatorial tendencies.
“It is very bad when leaders who know better, try to deceive our people to think that after taking office, Senator Prince Otu will be anybody’s stooge or surrogate. Have the 2 ex-govermors forgotten that Senator Otu was the one who bravely fought their evil dictatonal system to a standstill when Imoke thwarted the popular will of the people for the sake of his friend? Was that not what made him leave and singlehandedly install and fund Labour Party in Cross River State?
Prince Otu is not anybody’s pushover, and the fact that he has run a campaign, devoid of calumny and name-calling, despite all the nasty provocations, points to his strength of character.
“Whatever perceived inadequacies of the outgoing administration should, therefore, not be transferred to, or used as indicators to pre-judge Prince Otu’s anticipated performance.
“Our son Donald must be reminded today, that power comes from God and not from any man.
“It is only God that knows how anyone will perform while in office. Many examples abound of persons who were considered bad and hopeless but ended up performing very well as Governor. There are also many examples of those who spoke well and raised the hopes of men but ended up being the worst performers.
“So let no man pretend to be God and arrogantly predict how any other person shall perform. Only God knows.”
Our reporter learnt that while the governorship candidate of the APC, Senator Bassey Otu, is from the southern senatorial district, that of the opposition PDP, Sen Sandy Onor, is from the central Senatorial district and has Mr Duke behind him. Both have supporters across the three Senatorial Districts of the State.