by crossriverwatch admin
Historically, any candidate anointed by the establishment usually does not win the Cross River State governorship election, writes Jude Okwe
“Power does not corrupt. Fear corrupts, fear of loss of power,” a political scientist, John Steinbeck once said. Although every political actor is well at home with the dictum that all political careers end in failure, only a few do think of political demise with equilibrium and good faith.
Those who leave political office bragging to have been relieved soon discover that the loss of absolute power means the loss of absolute relevance. Aware of this, those in power become disturbed once their days are numbered. Either they perpetuate themselves in power or handover to a puppet that will be pliable to their command.
Since the Second Republic, Cross River State has been parading an establishment that is not politically eclectic. Each administration comes with a mentality that is fixated on a particular aspirant succeeding it. It is not interested in reading the writing on the wall hence it goes ahead to sponsor such a candidate whom the electorate easily oppose at the poll.
The lack of democratic spirit in the politics of the state is often responsible for the imposition of candidates especially at the grassroots level. At the state level, such kingmakers do not have it easy as providence does have other plans. This leaves the outgoing establishment with emotional pains and pleas through the back door not to be probed.
The current campaign of calumny against some gubernatorial aspirants on the platform of the PDP indicates that the inner circle struggle between the cabal and some reactionary forces in the party is becoming sharper. It is sad to watch new breed politicians falter on a unique experiment in democracy (zoning) and make it fall for good. It is an open secret that the PDP in the state today is factionalized. Things are falling apart in the once boastful united family.
To be or not to be is the question over Liyel Imoke’s successor. The issue of zoning of the Cross River State governorship to the Northern Senatorial District has sent the PDP leadership in the state to a tizzy. First, it was agreed that it is the turn of the north to produce the next governor of the state, but of late, this decision is receiving a second thought by those controlling the levers of power.
They are cold to Cross River North Senatorial District’s lukewarmness about its gubernatorial chances, and sceptical about any of the aspirants’ leadership capabilities. The succession question is once again upbeat and the media before now found other things to be obsessed with, but in the shadow of recent comments that the race was still open to all senatorial districts except the Central, the political sphere of the state has suddenly been made far more attentive to the zoning question.
Yet more than a decade after considering democracy a birthright, Cross Riverians lately are made to learn the humiliation of having their choice subjected to the whims and caprices of a greedy clique. Their votes continue to sink, slump and plummet in the whirlwind of election malpractices both at the primary and general election levels.
It is an open secret today that there are misgivings in the state chapter of the PDP all because of 2015 occasioned by varied interest and support. It is no understatement to say the party is facing implosion, with citizens of the state learning that its political system is in part, a casino built on derivatives; solid institutions that are supposed to checkmate highhandedness are instead used to fight enemies, real or imagined within. The party has been bending the rules to rein in dissidents.
The political insurgency that put the PDP in the state into power since 1999 also has the potential to leave the party so divided that it may struggle to put its house together ahead of 2015. This may not come as a surprise as the struggle to install a preferred successor has become legendary in the politics of the state since the Second Republic.
When the then Federal Electoral Commission (FEDECO) unveiled its timetable for elections to return Nigeria to democratic rule, the military establishment in the state led by Col Paul Umo had its eyes on a particular aspirant and did everything to water the ground for him. But Dr. Joseph Wayas and the late Senator Victor Akan had a different aspirant for the National Party of Nigeria (NPN).
In the succession struggle that ensued, the establishment lost out as former Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) governor, Dr. Clement Isong emerged the standard bearer of the party and went ahead to win the election proper.
Isong, now late, was not in the picture at all. Wayas, Akan and others drafted him into the race and made him governor. He governed the old Cross River State for only four years though.
The crisis of confidence that rocked Isong’s administration consumed him as he lost out in the cold war with the Lagos front ably led by Wayas who was the president of the senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
He was the only incumbent governor of that era who failed to pick a second term ticket. The inter-play of forces pushed him out of office, thus, Chief Donald Etiebet of Annang ethnic extraction became governor but for only three months, no thanks to the Mohammadu Buhari coup of December 1983.
In 1991 when the military government of Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida rolled out an elaborate timetable for a return to civil rule, the military establishment led by Col Ernest Kizito Attah and its civilian collaborators favored a retired permanent secretary, Chief Wilfred Oden Inah to succeed it.
The NRC and SDP two-party system of the IBB era had many governorship aspirants but those in power wanted Inah desperately. Again Wayas came to the scene and ensured that Inah was defeated.
Chief Clement David Ebri that the establishment did not want got the NRC ticket and went ahead to defeat Dr. Matthew Ojong of the SDP in the governorship election. Though Ebri was governor for only 22 months, his tenure was memorable. Through him, Donald Duke and Liyel Imoke were brought into political limelight. They built on the foundation laid for them hence today they are calling the shots.
And when the Abdulsalami Abubakar administration decided to appease restive Nigerians in 1999 with democracy, the old fight continued. Two formidable parties, PDP and APP emerged on the political scene with almost equal strength. Though the PDP floored APP in the gubernatorial race finally, the establishment was at its antics again.
Mr. Kanu Agabi (SAN) of the PDP was preferred by the military establishment. Everything was working in his favor but his ambition had no provision in the economy of providence hence Donald Duke became the candidate of the PDP mysteriously.
This scenario continued in 2007. Though Imoke, Duke and Gershom Bassey are of the same political family, the desire by Imoke to succeed Duke did not receive wholehearted support of the latter. He had his eyes on his deputy, Dr. Walter Eneji, a man of charisma but without political clout/structures.
Imoke floored him at the primary election making it a no contest. Duke swallowed his pride and afterwards, supported Imoke in the governorship election.
In the 2011 governorship election, former state chairman of the party, Chief Soni Abang challenged Imoke to the ticket of the party. It was a woeful outing by Abang believed to be from the political camp of Duke. Since then, he has been out of political circles with his whereabouts now a subject of controversy. Some said he has relocated to Cotonou in Benin Republic trading on second hand cars, others claimed he’s now in South Africa. The Boki born strategist is being missed.
The drama is yet to abate. If anything, it’s at its worst stage now. Authorities in the state are playing games with where the next governor will come from and who it should be.
Currently, all is not well with the ruling party in the state. Camps, factions and even ethnic alliances have emerged fighting for the soul of Cross River State. The decision to zone the governorship position to Cross River North is being viewed with suspicion given the inexplicable hatred for Mr. Goddy Jedy Agba, one of the aspirants from that zone.
Others eyeing the office include Fidelis Ugbo, Ashang Tanko, Emmanuel Ibeshi, Senator Ben Ayade, Emmanuel Ubi, Legor Idagbo, Francis Bullem, Joe Abang, Peter Ojie, Fidel Egoro, John Odey, Larry Odey, Julius Okputu, Joe Agi. The only notable aspirant from the Southern Senatorial District is Imoke’s political ally, Gershom Bassey.
Of all those interested in the race, none has been vilified, lied against and petitioned like Jedy Agba. May be the establishment sees him as the aspirant to beat and is afraid. Though relatively unknown in the Cross River State politics, this flinty, outspoken oil magnate has already become a phenomenon in the state’s politics – the wildcard aspirant in what could be Cross River’s first real multiple horse race in the gubernatorial election since the dawn of the Fourth Republic.
Agba, according to findings corroborated by his campaign office, has come under the eagle eye of the Cross River establishment. Some faceless persons believed to be sponsored have written many petitions to the EFCC and ICPC raising various allegations against him. There was even a lobby for him to be sacked outright by the management of the NNPC. As if that was not enough, they have resorted to online attacks against him.
It is now a taboo for a government functionary in Calabar to identify with Agba. Those seen with him are often allegedly queried and threatened with sack. But the more the government tries to make Agba a pariah, the more its aides sneak in the night to visit him. The last Easter celebration was a typical example. The powers that be seem to have forgotten that human instinct identifies with the oppressed. Sympathy is growing everyday for him.
Could the unfolding plot against this NNPC staff billed for retirement soon validate the tradition that he who the establishment does not want wins the governorship race?
Yet any attempt to reduce the ambition of the north to a child’s play will be a political paranoia of the most demeaning sort. One can’t think of anything that Cross River politicians need more now than a renewed respect for the power of reason, sweat reason that power must go round based on the choice of the people.
follow us on twitter @crossriverwatch
Since You Are Here, Support Good Journalism
CrossRiverWatch was founded on the ideals of deploying tech tools to report in an ethical manner, news, views and analysis with a narrative that ensures transparency in governance, a good society and an accountable democracy.
Everyone appreciates good journalism but it costs a lot of money. Nonetheless, it cannot be sacrificed on the altar of news commercialisation.
Consider making a modest contribution to support CrossRiverWatch's journalism of credibility and integrity in order to ensure that all have continuous free access to our noble endeavor.