A governorship aspirant of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and Senator representing Cross River Central in the Senate, Professor Sandy Onor has described those agitating for zoning in the state as cowards and ethnic jingoists.
Even though Senator Onor did not mention names but by implication, it means that people agitating for zoning in the state like the Obong of Calabar, Edidem Ekpo Okon Abasi-Otu V, the State Governor, Senator Ben Ayade, elders of Cross River South Senatorial led by Senator Bassey Ewa Heshaw, all the PDP and All Progressives Congress (APC) governorship aspirants and many others are cowards in the state.
It is recalled that the Obong of Calabar, Senator Ayade, Senator Gersham Bassey and many others have insisted that in terms of fairness and equity considering the fact that the three Senatorial zones have had a fair share of the governorship seat starting from the South in 1999, it was proper that the zoning or rotation should start from the South again having gone round.
But in a press conference early on January 3, 2022 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”.
The governorship aspirant said, “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. That nobody or group of persons should divide our state and its people in the name of zoning. We are a people who share commonalities with deep historical roots and it would be thoroughly unfair for anybody to fan the embers of geo-ethnicity, just to satisfy their selfish ambition”.
He said, “in the course of the consultative visits, leaders of our party were united in their resolution that the contest is open for anybody who thinks he has what it takes to contest, no matter what part of the state the person comes from. The leaders were firm on this, as reflected in the communiqué they issued”.
Onor expressed his determination to work with past leaders like Donald Duke and Liyel Imoke and follow in their footsteps as “every good father will be proud to have a child who will do better than him. Therefore, I will strive to surpass their achievements…On my honour, I will work in consultation with the generality of our people across the state.”
He also promised to “partner with you, journalists. I will hold periodic interactions with you before, during and after the elections and throughout the duration of my tenure. I am and will remain a man of honour…As Governor, I promise on my honour, to do only those things that will make Cross Riverians happy again. Cross River people, especially our youths and women, will make a living through dint of hard work and will be encouraged to compete with their counterparts in all parts of the world. Luckily, our state is richly endowed with various natural resources”.
On governance, he said, “I will take deliberate steps to restore the tourism glories of our state and will pay specific attention to ecotourism, which of course, is unique to Cross River. The local government system will be resurrected and its full autonomy restored. Our people depend on this tier of government for survival. I have been a local government chairman and had also served as chairman of the local government service commission. Under my watch, the dry bone called local government system in our state will live again.
“Every responsible government has a duty to protect lives and property. Knowing how critical security is to every society, I will do everything to secure the lives, the people, their investments and all that we hold dear in this state. Our state was once known to be an oasis of peace and that was why investors and tourists thronged every part of the state. We will get back there. I will pay attention to our civil service system. Once upon a time, we used to have a vibrant civil service. We will get the civil service back to the path of growth and both active civil servants and retirees will feel it”.
Commenting on the support he gets from outside, Onor stated, “I am not the only person who has support from outside, Duke had support from outside, same with Imoke and Ayade, why is my case different . On my own, I have done well for myself and a moving force to reckon with at any level .
“For my relationship with Wike I’m a proud to be associated with him because he has been amongst the few persons who have carried PDP along .Those against my ambition feel aggrieved because they cannot twist and turn me like a pun, those who are speaking about my relationship with Wike are intellectually lazy” .
However some top politicians in the state have described Senator Onor’s statement as “a mere delinquency, pride and arrogance typical of one who has no respect for others and this is a clear sign of how he will rule the state if given the opportunity, God forbids”.
Meanwhile former governor of the state, Mr Donald Duke during a courtesy visit on him last week by the campaign team of Senator Onor, noted that he was not against zoning per se, but if there has to be zoning in Cross River State, then the Political Leaders of Cross River 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.
He said “not when it suits you, then you talk of Zoning at other times when it doesn’t suit you, you dispense with it”.