by crossriverwatch admin
Chief Linus Okom, fondly called Ada Bekwara is a political kingmaker in Bekwara Local Government Area and Cross River State. He was recently selected as the chairman of the northern senatorial caucus of the ruling PDP in the state. The caucus has been saddled with the task of producing a single candidate out of the numerous rumored aspirants from the district to be governor of the state.
In this interview with CrossRiverWatch, he says the party has not adopted anyone for the coveted position adding that the other two senatorial districts are effectively out of the 2015 race.
Chief, the Northern Senatorial District Caucus of the PDP which you are chairman has been assigned the onerous responsibility of screening and selecting someone from the north to bear the flag of the party in the 2015 election, how far have you gone with that task?
In retrospect, I will like to take your minds back to the period before we got to this stage in our political life as a state. Cross-River is a humble much disciplined state. This is so because its leader, Senator Liyel Imoke is very compassionate and has disabused our minds over what we regarded as a political trinity in the governance of the state. That is, those who nurtured the idea of a new beginning for the state by bringing together Cross Riverians as a political family for the good of the state. This idea was brought about by three persons and they are Senator Liyel Imoke our governor, Mr. Donald Duke our former governor and Mr. Gershom Bassey. They succeeded in winning the hearts and minds of the people of the state and it got to a point where they had the understanding that Duke should start and he governed the state for eight years. After that they agreed among themselves that another person should succeed Duke and it was Imoke who came on the throne and he is now finishing his term of eight years and the question arose where do we go from here? But through the magnanimity of the governor, he said for unity and peaceful co-existence in the state let us give our brothers in the north an opportunity by bringing a person from there to rule the state and I think he has done well.
Don’t you think this decision is tongue in cheek to fool the north particularly with the mandate that the Northern Caucus should select one person as candidate of the PDP which is not feasible going by the number of aspirants?
In an expanded Executive Council meeting, the governor led us to agree and nobody objected to the idea that somebody from the north should rule in 2015. How can a meeting of everybody with influence in the party decide on something and you tell me that decision is tongue in cheek. If you may know, he did not stop there; he asked the other two senatorial districts, that is the Central and South districts to help the north get someone to govern the state. He also put a functional index to that decision by creating three Caucuses in the party, one in the north, the other in the central and the other in the south to guide the party in the selection process and he gave me the mandate to be the chairman of the Northern Senatorial District Caucus. The next question now is since it is incumbent on us to create an avenue that would produce a governor from the north how do we go about it.
Yes, how are you going about that now?
That is the job we are doing right now. We have held a few meetings and have got to a point where we have created sub-committees to handle the process. These Committees include the Planning and Contact subcommittee which has me, Chief Linus Okom as Chairman, Political and Support subcommittee which has Moses Oko as Chairman, Publicity subcommittee is handled by Mr John Ulafor, Logistics subcommittee is headed by Secretary to State Government, Mr. Mike Aniah, the Elders Forum headed by Chief Peter Ogbang, Youths Mobilization sub Committee has Mr. Emmanuel Ajom as its chairman while the Women Mobilization has Mrs. Francisca Agbor Oniga as its head and Religion subcommittee has Hon Tom Agi as chairman.
Have these Committees started work and possibly identified and adopted someone acceptable to the people, the party and to the governor?
We have not even known the main contenders in the race. As at last count we heard there are about twenty-two but we cannot go into that now. When we start the screening we shall know the serious ones and those who are not and with the criteria we are going to adopt, it is after each aspirant has appeared before the Committees that we shall select the ones we consider capable and acceptable and write the report to the party and from there to the governor. For now, the party has not given us the go-ahead and we don’t want to create the situation where the party will feel we are too much in a hurry. What we have now are aspirants who are merely indicating their wish. It is when we say come and get form to express your aspiration and those who respond by getting the form would be screened by the various committees and a recommendation is sent via the party to the governor to give him our own view. He at that point will moderate how he wants it.
But the governor is asking for a consensus candidate not a long list of aspirants?
That is what I am saying because when these committees make their recommendation, it will come close to a consensus candidate because the criteria they shall adopt is basically the same . When we forward the list, we shall have done half the job by saying to our great party and His Excellency, ‘this is our thinking’. The party and the governor have the right to say this is our own thinking too. They may commend us or ask us how did you arrive at this and if not satisfied may say go back and do the job again.
Do you have a time line to accomplish this task?
We have between now and November to complete everything.
Is everyone interested in the race going to be allowed to participate in this process?
The position is zoned to the north and the criteria is that if you want to aspire; you must be from Cross River State and must also be from the north. Every man has an inherent right to contest to any position but we are subject to the party and in this case the position has been zoned to the north and anyone from the South or Central that enters the race is doing so ultra-vires
The other two senatorial districts, what part are they going to play in the emergence of a candidate for the party from the north?
The other two senatorial districts are part of the process. No single senatorial district can produce a governor so we have engaged them in the process.
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