Amidst claims and counter claims, the Cross River Caucus Chairman in the National Assembly, Senator Gershom Bassey has cleared the air on zoning insisting, “there is zoning and rotation in the state”.
Former governor of the state, Mr. Donald Duke and the current Senator representing Cross River Central in the Senate, Prof. Sandy Onor had at different fora declared that there was no zoning or rotation of power in the state.
Duke during a courtesy visit on him last week by the campaign team of Senator Onor, said, “let me say it here for all to hear, there was never zoning in this state. I fought a titanic battle with Kanu Agabi
“And if there has to be zoning in the state, then the political leaders of the state across party lines (both intra party and inter party) should in a joint meeting sit down, adumbrate and unanimously draw up the modus operandi and modus vivendi of Zoning, as commonly agreed by all politicians of the state and “not when it suits you, then you talk of Zoning at other times when it doesn’t suit you, you dispense with it”.
Similarly, at a press conference on January 3 at the Ernest Etim Bassey Press Centre, Calabar, Senator Onor said, that “zoning has never, and I repeat, zoning has never been practiced in our state since the advent of the current democratic experience in 1999. We cannot afford to sacrifice competence on the altar of zoning, as we prepare to choose a candidate for the governorship or any other election…those who are promoting and spreading the message of zoning are either cowards who do not have what it takes to contest the party’s ticket under a free and fair process, or are ethnic jingoists who are only interested in misleading our people in pursuit of their very personal and selfish interests”.
However it is on record that the State Governor, Senator Ben Ayade, the Obong of Calabar, Edidem Ekpo Okon Abasi-Otu, former members, House of Representatives (Yakurr/Abi), Mr. Bassey Ewa, Mrs Nkoyo Toyo (Calabar Municipality/Odukpani), elders of Cross River South Senatorial led by Senator Bassey Ewa Heshaw, all the PDP and APC governorship aspirants in the state and many others are insisting on zoning of the governorship to Cross River South.
But in a sharp reaction, Senator Bassey who represents Cross River South in the senate and is also aspiring for the 2023 governorship ticket under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state, in a statement yesterday said, “it is very clear that the people of the south have insisted on zoning and there is need to zone the governorship position to the Southern Senatorial district in the upcoming election cycle (because) the PDP, explicitly stipulates the party’s position on the principles of rotation and zoning in party activities and political candidacy.
“Section 7(3)(C) of the PDP Constitution, mandates that in the pursuit of its aims and objectives, the party shall adhere to rotation and zoning policies in Public elective offices in pursuance of the principle of equity, justice and fairness. Therefore, the significance and recognition of these principles by the PDP cannot be overemphasised. Moreover, the applicability of these principles in the Cross River State PDP Governorship candidate selection process, are embedded in the Party’s Constitution.
“Secondly, the people of the Southern Senatorial district have solidly stood behind the power rotation principle. After Donald Duke’s tenure in 2007, they wholeheartedly supported a candidate from the Central Senatorial District.
“They did this in my party, by not presenting any candidate from the South in that election. Furthermore, they voted massively for the PDP candidate from the Central Senatorial district. Of course, power shifted to Central and Liyel Imoke became our Governor.
“Thereafter, the people of the South stood solidly behind the North and the zoning principle that was applied in the PDP. The South did not present a candidate in 2015. They supported the North”.
He stated that, “there were potential candidates from the South who could have created a contest in the field in 2015, but the people of the South decided to go with the zoning principle and supported the North on grounds of equity and fairness.
“In 2023, we believe that now is the turn of the South, under the same rotation principle. As the incumbent Senator representing the Southern Senatorial District, I currently hold the mandate to speak for the people of the South.
“My constituents in the Southern Senatorial district categorically and without equivocation, expect that power will come to the south in 2023, based on the rotation principle. In my party specifically, the PDP, we expect that the governorship will be zoned to the South in 2023.
“The reason for this is very clear. In 2015, when my brother, Donald Duke, was not in the party, there was a caucus meeting which zoned this governorship to the Northern Senatorial District, with the understanding that after the North, rotation would continue with the South.
“The vast majorities of Cross Riverians agree with this rotation and agree that it is the turn of the South. As is now common knowledge, I am contesting the 2023 elections and I have said repeatedly that my candidature does not depend on zoning. I will contest the election for Governorship with or without zoning, confident that I have the capacity to win and win for the PDP””.