by crossriverwatch admin
As the months countdown to weeks and to days and the Cross River State local government elections 2013 draw closer with each passing minute, political battles are simmering in nearly all the council areas across the state as gladiators seek to undo one another to occupy the number one slot at the third tier of government.
So many political dynamics are coming into play that can simply be deduced as putting to bed the second term ambition of most of the incumbent local government chairmen in the state.
With the elections scheduled for September 2013 and with no strong opposition, breaking of subsisting political alliances and contracting new relationships within the ruling PDP is considered more strategic and beneficial.
From all indications, most of the incumbent council chairmen and councilors angling to return to their posts in December 2013 on the Peoples Democratic Party ticket have been left in the cold as the Cross River State Governor, Senator Liyel Imoke has insisted that zoning of positions must have to take place so that those who have not had a touch of such offices could be given an opportunity.
Senator Imoke who is the leader of the PDP in the State told party caucuses and stakeholders in a meeting held at about 3am on Sunday April 21, 2013 that zoning of offices in the coming election is mandatory because it enhances peace and equity so those seeking to return to their posts should give way for others.
The governor said he is aware that those who are angling to return are harping on the fact that they have performed satisfactorily and should be given another three years but that would not be fair to other party faithfuls who have been waiting in the wings to occupy such positions.
“His Excellency knows that there is not much that a council chairman does since most of the projects are executed by the state and sees the position of chairman or councilor as empowerment for the boys and so if one person has had his share, it is only fair that another be given the same opportunity”. A source that was at the meeting told crossriverwatch.
Imoke who had before his trip to the US during the Easter period saddled his three Personal Assistants on Political Matters (north, central, south) to collate the list of wards and units that have not had the opportunity of producing chairman or councilor to him told the political stakeholders to “ensure that they keep to the tenets of equity and fairness and accordingly zone the elective positions in their local governments and wards”. Our source said.
This directive is said to be generating a lot of ripples and collisions amongst political camps in the local councils as most of the gladiators are struggling to plant their favored candidates while the incumbents are pushing to return.
Nowhere is the game more acrimonious than in Yakurr, one of the most populated and politically strategic council areas of the state where the mudslinging, back stabbing and bad blood is in full swing among the political contenders and their backers.
Already a big chasm exists amongst the key political players there as four major political groupings have emerged to contend for the post. They bear such nomenclature as Leaders Group, Invaders Group,Elders Group and Non Aligned Group.
The Leaders Group is led by Hon. Bassey Ewa, the member representing Yakurr/Abi Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, and backed by such political heavy weights as Jones Williams, Chief Dodeye Dumbra, Hon. Akpang Ewa, Hon. Itam Ettah (incumbent Chairman of Yakurr LGA), Captain Eno Utum, etc.
While the Invaders Group which says they are the amalgam of progressives, is led by embattled State Commissioner for Information, Chief Akin Rickets who is presently facing a certificate forgery allegations. Stoutly behind him is Goddy Etah, (PDP State Secretary), Dr. Eteng Etoma, Mike Mbang Ekpo, Johnson Ugbor, Omini Oden and Mfawa Efegobi.
The Non Aligned Group our correspondent learnt, comprises Chief Willy Inah Ibor, Dr. Otu Abam Ubi, Chief Wilfred Eko, Sir Dembem, Etim Ayomobi, Bassey Inah and Chief Obeten Okorn while the Elders Group is led by Mr. Clement Ebri, former governor of the state.
There is much talk about the position of chairman moving to Yakurr constituency 2 having been held by constituency 1 these past several years spanning from the military era to date.
Constituency 2 comprises of Mkpani, Nko, and Agoi Ekpo. There are presently about fifteen contenders for the post most of them from constituency 2. These include Chief Sam Mbang Oju, Dr. Goddy Egile, Chief Ikpi Akpama, Mr. Efoli Esuku, Rev. Dr Mercy Akpama, Hon Jones Williams, Captain Eno Utum, Hon. Eyo Abu, Hon. David Ekpo, Barrister Ayitu Akpama, and Omini Oden.
The Bassey Ewa group has pencilled down four aspirants from which they would finally pick one for the Chairmanship. Those penciled down include Hon. David Ekpo, Chief Ikpi Akpama, Jones Williams and Captain Eno Utum.
The Chief Akin Rickets Group has penciled down Sam Oju whom the group believes fit its criteria of political experience, maturity, intelligence, and being accommodating. It is this difference in terms of choice of a candidate that sources say is the cause of the face off and palpable tension between the warring parties in Yakurr.
In neighboring Biase, the battle is between James Aniyom former Chief of Staff to Mr. Donald Duke and presently Imoke’s Commissioner of Agriculture and the current council chairman, Dr. Emil Inyang.
Emil Inyang who has been Chairman for two tenures is eying the House of Representatives in 2015, but since 2015 is still some years away, he wants one of his cronies, Mr. Ngim Okpo whom he brought from being a councilor to becoming a member of the State House of Assembly to resign from the Assembly and run for the LG Chairman so that in the runoff election after ninety days, he would contest for the vacant seat in the State House and remain in the Assembly till 2015 when he would run for the House of Representatives.
With the position zoned to Umon Clan which has not had a shot at the post of Chairman since the creation of the council area by General Abacha some fifteen years ago, the agitation is for the post to move to Umon.
Already the political gladiators in the area, Dr. Ivara Esu, Jimmy Aniyom, Dr. Michael Ana, Dr. Iyam Ugot and Bishop Alex Ukam have positioned their choice aspirants from Umon whom they consider fit to occupy the post. “Some people sit down and make wrong political calculations because they selfishly consider themselves the only people fit to benefit from political arrangement but I can assure you that Emil Inyang and Ngim Okpo would fail this time around. Jimmy who is the political leader in Biase has asked all others to step down for Akpu Ana and I think that is who the Biase people want” a source in the area said.
Hon. Ngim Okpo is currently the Chairman, Cross River State House of Assembly Committee on Information. As the spokesperson of the House, he has persistently refused to talk to the press about the activities of the House either deliberately or due to incompetence and some journalist who spoke to crossriverwatch expressed worry about having people with such antecedents at the helm of affairs at the local government level.
In Odukpani local government area, there is interplay of intrigues as the PDP in the area is struggling to keep its three contending camps at peace since it has become obvious that the so called large umbrella of the ruling party may not contain everybody.
The battle in Odukpani is between three erstwhile political soul mates. Mr. Stephen Asuquo, the present Chairman who wants a second tenure, Hon Oqua Edet Oqua, a former member of the Cross River State House of Assembly, and Prince Pius Bassey, a onetime Secretary to the Council under Akiba.
The chummy relationship between the three has not only gone sour but frosty and bitter following the decision by the incumbent Chairman to break a political agreement to run for one term and now seeking re-election.
The battle among these three erstwhile political friends has torn apart the once cordial political family in the area known as E and E (Efiok Cobham and Ekpo Okon). Efiok Cobham, the deputy governor of the state is supporting the re-election of Stephen Asuquo, Mr. Ekpo Okon, the former Chairman of the PDP in the State is backing Oqua Edet Oqua while Pius Bassey’s ambition has the support of Senator Bassey Otu.
In Calabar South council area, the incumbent Chairman, Ekeng Henshaw is battling two members of the Essien Ayi family, Mr Aloysius Ene and Effiong Eyamba Ekarika. While the three are looking up to Essien Ayi to back them, zoning is not said to have much role to play here as the council is considered urban area where any unit can take a shot at any available position.
The gridlock in Obudu has already produced a casualties with the brutal killing of three persons already by cultists and the suspension of the council Chairman, Hon. Emmanuel Ikwen from the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) which may have put pay to his plans for re-election. Hon. Emmanuel Ikwen along with the Leader of the Obudu Legislative Council were reportedly suspended from the party following their disobedience of a directive by the state exco to re-instate the impeached deputy leader of the Obudu legislature following crises arising from the N6m Awardgate scandal.
The incumbent chairman who is still embroiled in the N6m Awardgate Scandal has since fallen out with his godfathers like Professor Ben Ayade after reconciling with Barrister Venatius Ikem who in 2010 facilitated his emergence as the PDP standard bearer for the post of Chairman above the more popular Victor Agwu, a former member of the State House of Assembly representing Obudu.
He is said to have gone back to prostrate to Barrister Venatius Ikem who “has not said anything or declared his support for anybody amongst all those indicating interest for the post”. Our source said.
Hon. Emmanuel Ikwen our source say has the backing of Hon. Paul Ada, a former member representing Obudu and Bekwara in the House of Representatives but he has to contend for the post with a plethora of aspirants like Larry Agim, Emmanuel Ugbe, Elder brother to incumbent Commissioner for Youth and Sports, Mr. Patrick Ugbe, Dr. Mrs. Sylvia Atsu, Dr. Vincent Ushie, Ken Akla and Mathias Ake for the post.
And with Professor Ben Ayade said to have thrown his weight behind Ken Akla, the Secretary of Obudu local government council who just resigned to contest the election and the rumored Preregrino Lodge support for Dr. Sylvia Atsu, the Chairman obviously has his 2nd term ambition clipped in the wings.
Dr. Ekpo Ekpo Bassey, the Chairman of Bakassi council area is locked in a bitter battle with Senator Florence Ita Giwa who is the main power broker in the area. The duo have been battling over where the Bakassi Resettlement site should be. While the Chairman is insisting on Ikang where the present settlement is, Ita Giwa is asking for Dayspring Island and this ostensibly is the outcome of their political battle.
A competent source in the area told crossriverwatch that the post goes to Atabong and the Chairman is not from the area. “Nma (Ita Giwa) has said she would personally select the Chairman, his Vice down to the Councillors so nobody has made any comment or open indication to which post he or she wants to contest until Nma has said so”.
In Obanlikwu, what is transpiring politically on those mountains still remain shrouded in ominous secrecy but with political gladiators like Fidelis Ugbo and Frank Ada who are both angling for the post of governor of the state in 2015, it is expected that a battle royal would ensue there in the next few weeks as the PDP releases its guidelines for the election.
In Etung, Mr Etim John, the serving chairman is eager to return but the post may be out of his reach as power brokers from the area like former military administrator, Col. Pam Ogar rtd., Mr. Gab Orji and Dr. Walter Oke have since turned their backs on him. And in addition the post has been zoned to Itaka; out of Bendeghe where Etim John comes from and his people who are greatly outnumbered by the Efraya people are said to have been given a fair share with the election of Etim John in 2011 from Bendeghe. “Before Etim John could be elected, about seven people lost their lives and so to think about the issue of his return does not exist”.
In the line up to succeed Etim John is Cosmas Ndifon, Emmanuel Enya, Kuti Inok Eba and Emmanuel Ekudim. Kuti is said to have the support of Gabriel Orji, the Special Adviser to Senator Imoke on Forestry and former Secretary of PDP in the State.
In Akamkpa, Ntufam John Okon, the Chairman of PDP in the state wants Mr. Nkiri Nkiri the present chairman to continue and other political rousers like Daniel Asuquo are yet to talk.
In Ogoja, considered the uncrowned capital of northern Cross River State, the post has been zoned to Ogoja Urban 1 and 2 Wards where several aspirants including John Inaku, Rita Ayim, Ama Agboje, Ibu Monkom, the cousin to Oko Inaku, Secretary of the Ogoja Urban Development Authority, Wogor Umari, Igbe Aruku, the Protocol officer to Imoke, are all slugging it out for the post.
However, the current chairman, John Makpan, who is from Ekajuk zone wants to run for second term. “He is seeking for second tenure, we wish him success” a political leader in the area told crossriverwatch.
In Yala where the post is currently occupied by Mr. Gab Ugor, a plethora of aspirants have emerged also under the PDP platform to run against the incumbent who is said to be interested in returning to the post for a second tenure come December 2013. Those who have so far indicated interest for the position include Mr. Casmir Obok, Barrister Daniel Ugbama, Mr. Clement Obok, Emmanuel Unah, Henry Onwe . Others are Mike Usibe, Emmanuel Ezama, Ogar Clement, Hon. Sam Anwegbe, Mr Simeon Ujiji.
Mr. Gabriel Ugor who is from Yache constituency 1 wants to rerun for a second term but the zoning arrangement does not favor him as the post has been zone d to Ukele North. “He is a product of zoning and he now wants to break the zoning formula, he certainly has hit the rocks” a source in PDP told crossriverwatch.
In Akpabuyo, the incumbent, Rosemary Archibong is from Akpabuyo 1 which comprises Idundu, Atimbo, Nakanda while her two challengers, Dr. Patrick Ene Okon and Effiom Eneyo are from Akpabuyo 2 consisting of Eneyo 1, and other communities.
In Abi, Senator Liyel Imoke’s home council, with the exit of Frank Etta the incumbent chairman who has been zoned out of the race, the contest is between the Chief of Staff to the Governor, Alex Egbuna and Mr. Bolaji Anani, the National Financial Secretary of PDP who are both backing different aspirants. While the Chief of Staff is backing the former secretary to council, Mr. Bassey Bassey, Anani is said to be insisting on Mr. Peter Eborty.
Anani as far as the politics of Cross River is concerned wields enormous influence and has the capacity to cause any changes while Mr. Egbuna holds the purse and has not been doing too badly in terms of reaching out to the people of the area.
The caucus members in the LGA are thorn between supporting the man of power and the man with the bucks. The battle here is keen but which ever direction Imoke winks at is likely to have the PDP ticket.
In Obubra, with the decision by the leader of the PDP in the state , Senator Liyel Imoke’s directives that the elective positions be zoned, the ambition of Pastor Obase, the incumbent chairman who was bent on muscling his way back to office has been put paid to and so the people of Apiapum and Iyamoyong area are now to produce the next chairman. Already Egbe Jabengo and some other “key field players”, as a political stalwart in the area puts it, are jostling for the position.
There may be no visible posters everywhere to announce the coming of the local government polls scheduled for September, but the raging political battle is palpable across the State. It is hoped that the acrimony that characterized the 2007 and 2011 elections would be avoided particularly in the PDP where everyone is angling for the ticket for Chairman or Councilor.
The electorate must also stay vigilante and make up their minds to avoid the temptation of accepting tokenism. Government and civil society must also increase the tempo of sensitization of the electorate towards the polls as a means of empowering and enabling the voters make the right choices at the ballot.
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