Cross River 2015: Momentum Builds Up BY EMMANUEL UNA

In Columnists, Opinion, Politics, Reports

by crossriverwatch admin

Emmanuel Unah
Emmanuel Unah

The Cross River State political landscape may presently be bereft of posters, intimidating billboards or screaming headlines in the media on political developments in the state but the momentum is rapidly building towards a defining moment for the emergence of Governor Liyel Imoke’s successor in 2015.

About 22 persons from diverse political backgrounds have so far indicated interest in succeeding Senator Liyel Imoke as governor of Cross River State.

Given Imoke’s own exemplary stance in not trading his present office for a higher office, the stakes in Cross River are unique.

A series of political developments have unfolded in the recent past and more is still unfolding, especially in the ruling People’s Democratic Party, PDP, all geared towards the emergence of someone to step into Imoke’s shoes.
The governor’s May 29, 2015 terminal date, like those of his colleagues in other states across the country is fast approaching.

Howbeit, unfolding political scenes in the state may be markedly different from those in the build-up to 2007, which enthroned Senator Imoke. But as always is the case, no two separate dramatic events have the same plot, personae and theme. So unlike the one direction and rapidity of 2007, the 2015 scene is slowly but steadily evolving into shape for the emergence of Imoke’s successor.

Step 1: Zoning

The first concrete step towards the actualisation of this process is the zoning of the position by the Caucus of the PDP to the Northern Senatorial District of the state which has five local councils, namely, Ogoja, Obudu, Yala, Bekwara and Obanlikwu.

The move came on the heels of the pronouncement by Senator Imoke in August 2012 that his successor, as promised during his electoral campaign, will come from the northern zone.

Step 2: Emergence of aspirants

As expected, the zoning of the position to the Northern Senatorial District has brought out quite a number of potential aspirants to the scene. Currently, there are about 22 aspirants ranging from the traditional pretenders to the conspicuous front-runners. Some of them have started laying structures and criss- crossing the state to woo party delegates and stakeholders for support.

Step 3: Political war chest

Interestingly, most of the contenders do not have large financial war chests for the battle of a gubernatorial magnitude but in politics one cannot be written off based on monetary considerations alone.

On the line up are both insiders, that is, Imoke’s close political allies and so called outsiders, who are not holding elective or appointive positions in Imoke’s administration.

Those who have thrown their hats into the ring include Mr. Larry Odey, the Speaker of the Cross River State House of Assembly; Barrister Lego Idagbo, the Commissioner for Works; Barrister Fidel Egoro, the PDP Deputy State Chairman; Dr Julius Okputu, former Commissioner for Environment; Mr. Goddy Jedy Agba, Barrister Fidel Ugbo, Secretary National Planning Commission; Professor Ben Ayade, the Senator representing Northern Senatorial District; Barrister Tanko Ashang, Director Legal, National

Emergency Management Agency; Mr. Gerald Ada, Special Adviser to Imoke on Trade and Investment and Mr. Patrick Ugbe, Commissioner for Youth and Sports.

Though there are others who are still operating behind the scene those who are active on the field are the ones listed above and it might not be wrong to say that the next governor is likely to come from among that group.

Already some of them have opened campaign offices in strategic parts of Calabar, the state capital and if not for the clamp down on high tempo political activity by the PDP state chapter, many of them would have hit the road full blast.

Senator Imoke is yet to openly declare his backing for any of the aspirants. It is expected that in the coming weeks, he, like any other political benefactor desirous of enthroning someone he feels has the capacity to continue with his political vision and also live above conflicting loyalties when he assumes office, is expected to throw his weight behind one of them.

Towards this end, he has purposefully been reaching out to the delegates and other stakeholders by consciously patronizing them through contract awards and car gifts. This is to form a bulwark of support for his likely candidate.

Among the aspirants Mr. Agba has taken the battle farther in terms of laying political structure and reaching potential delegates at the primary election one-on-one. Recently, the governor held a meeting with political stakeholders from the North at the Obudu Ranch Resort where he handed them a daunting task of picking the best candidate among them to be adopted by delegates in a primary election.

Political observers say this is where crisis may erupt. They are wondering the modalities through which this can be achieved in the light of divergent political interests and array of personalities involved in the contest.
“I don’t think it is feasible at this point to come out with one person. What are the parameters to be used in selecting such a person?

The Northern Senatorial District has people in various strata who are contesting for this job, so I would feel that naturally, it is fair to look at two to three persons and if that is not okay, the number can be expanded to five so that you can bring them together and re-examine them and if possible cut down the number and finally present them before the delegates in a primary election,” Barrister Tanko Ashang, one of the aspirants told CrossRiverWatch.

Step 4: Primary election

Barrister Venatius Ikem, one of the foot soldiers of Agba said the governor has not said anything new with such
pronouncement because he knows that cannot be achieved overnight.

“The statement still raises suspicion of the agenda on ground because the only thing that can reduce the candidates to one is a primary election where all the aspirants are allowed to contest in a free and fair platform”.

A PDP stake holder from the north, Edaka Ejembi told CrossRiverWatch that the governor knows what he is doing by
that pronouncement. ‘What he has done is to put the machinery in motion for the aspirants and the Northern
Caucus to discuss and prune down the number because there is no how the PDP can present 22 aspirants as they presently are in a primary election without causing confusion in the party”.

Essentially, the next few weeks hold much politically in the state as the new face of Cross River will be unveiled
whatever approach is adopted.

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