2015: The Cross River Scene BY JOE ODEY

In Columnists, National News, Opinion, Politics

by crossriverwatch admin

Barrister Joe Odey
Barrister Joe Odey

It’s getting on for 2015, in Cross River state presently, this period is one of political unrest. It is because general elections are barely seven months away. Strong political undercurrents are swirling as gladiators and lightweights begin to covertly build alliances and align themselves in anticipation of the tough contest ahead.

Unlike the 2007 and 2011 cases, 2015 will be keenly contested and only the toughest and smartest will emerge as winners of the respective executive and legislative offices.

Not surprisingly, the senatorial district where the governorship slot should go is an issue and its being hotly disputed by the various political interest groups in the state. It appears unlikely that a consensus will be reached on this issue before the polls come.

The general feel though is that, since the state has three senatorial districts; North, Central and South, the Northern district should produce the next governor since the zone is yet to have a governor since inception, whilst the other two zones have had it all.

From 1999, Mr. Donald Duke of the South held sway until 2007 when third republic senator – Liyel Imoke – of the Central, won the seat in the general elections of the year. Governor Imoke has almost concluded his eight year tenure, hence the clamour by politicians of the Northern district for the slot to be given to the zone.

Notwithstanding the moral claim of the North on the seat, and the declaration by the incumbent governor of his support for a Northern candidate, important stakeholders from the Southern senatorial zone have also interpreted the zoning formula to their own benefit by invoking the Calabar – Ogoja accord of old Cross River state and using it as their trump card although the North has said the accord is unacceptable because it was crafted in the second republic before the excision of Akwa Ibom state from Cross River state. The accord was to ensure a rotational system of power sharing between the two existing blocs then. In the said agreement, old Ogoja and Ikom constituted a single bloc while present day Akwa Ibom and Cross River South Senatorial District was the Calabar zone.

From the angle of this particular group of Southern politicians, the present Central Senatorial District having held power these last eight years, and being a part of the old Ogoja, it should be taken that Cross River North has had its fair share and the governorship should now go South. But the Northern group has said that this position is entirely baseless because since the creation of the state, the South had been occupying the office except when Clement Ebri from Yakurr in the Central District was in office from January 1992 to November 1993.

Preceding Mr Ebri, Chief Don Etiebet from Ikot Ekpene in the then Calabar zone occupied that office; and before Etiebet himself was Dr Clement Isong from Eket in the same Calabar zone who held the coveted post from 1979 to 1983. Following the return to civilian rule in 1999, Mr Donald Duke, still of the South was on the seat again for eight years. The Northern Cross Riverians, therefore, are of the opinion that even if the Calabar – Ogoja accord were still valid, the core Ogoja should be supported by the other zones to produce the next state governor.

APC/PDP Equation

Aside the accord and the North arguing that it behoves the South to support its bid, a strong determining factor which will determine where the next governor emerges from is the APC/PDP formulae.

It is common knowledge that the recent debut of APC in Cross River State politics is sure to have a tremendous influence on the hitherto monolithic PDP establishment in the state. Presently, it is widely recognized also, that APC is working to gain a strong footing in the state; though, it understands that it’s an uphill task due to the weakness of opposition parties in the state which gave room to PDP to entrench itself and make the state its stronghold before the emergence of APC. Interestingly, APC has zoned its gubernatorial ticket to the North.

According to them, it is to foster justice and fairness which are what the party symbolizes.

As it stands, APC is earnestly maneuvering to win the guber office but, if it had intended to score a political point by the zoning, it is not to be as the Peoples Democratic Party has also unconditionally zoned its ticket to the North; although it is believed to have been done for reasons of political expedience.

Despite speculations that the PDP zoning may not stand the heat of the coming primaries, the state chairman of the party, Ntufam John Okon, has reaffirmed that his party was very committed to ensuring that the zoning work. On his part, the governor has also restated his resolve to endorse only a governor from the North.

In the light of the fact that the two major political parties have zone their tickets favourably, several candidates from the North are already jostling to get the number one seat. These moves have reportedly created factions in the ruling party as the bigwigs are sharply divided over the choice of candidate.

It is said that the Senate Leader, Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba, representing the Central District, has thrown his weight behind Mr Godwin Jedy-Agba, from Obudu in the North and this has soured the once robust relationship between the senate leader and Governor Liyel Imoke who is known to have other preferences. The list of contenders for the office includes; Mr Odey Ochicha, Emma Ibeshi, Barr Lazarus Undie, and Joe Agi (SAN). Others are, Hon Larry Odey, Ambassador Akpang Obi Odu and Ntufam Fidelis Ugbo.

Notwithstanding the zoning by APC and PDP, some persons from the Central and South Districts may opt to contest on the platform of other parties. It is now the duty of the Northern people to close ranks, consolidate and see to it that they enlist the support of the other two districts as only the North cannot do it; nor can the North and the Central only; nor can the North and the South only.

In the interest of the zone, they should be a harmonization amongst the candidates so as to present a formidable front in its quest to clinch the office. The North should refuse to be beguiled into forming unrealistic alliances which could foil its drive.

It should be noted that if Cross River North does not actualize this vision come 2015, the buck will stop on her table without any modicum of doubt.

Joe Odey is a lawyer and writes from Calabar

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