The clamor by certain interest groups for Boki to stake a claim for a position in the National Assembly come 2019 has reached feverish pitch. Some people are exemplifying Boki nationalism in this demand. Interestingly everyone seems to focus on the position of House of Representatives. Nobody wants to demand for the Senate seat. The simple question is; should Boki contest the seat of House of Representatives in 2019?
This statement is my contribution to that debate. In making this statement I am acutely conscious of the risk I run; because the debate is fuelled more by sentiments and emotions to the detriment of logical reasoning, I stand the chance of being misunderstood. Being a democracy, each person should at least have a say, and by this write up I demonstrate my entitlement to that basic democratic right.
Why Is Boki Not Running For Senate?
Governorship is rotated on senatorial district basis; Senate rotates on federal constituency basis, while Federal House rotates on local government basis. That said, when Senate was in Ikom/Boki federal constituency from 1999 to 2014 (16 years), Boki had it for 4 years while Ikom had all of 12 years.
The calculation of those angling for Federal House for Boki in 2019 is the rumored support by the governor for a particular aspirant from Ikom for the Senate. Thus, it is reasoned, if the Senate goes to Ikom, then Boki should run for Federal House. Though this appears a logical argument, I beg to differ.
Like I said, when Senate was in our federal constituency, Ikom took 12 years while Boki took only 4 years. So if, and a big IF it is, the Senate is coming back to our federal constituency in 2019, it should come to Boki, not Ikom.
So why is Boki not presenting this argument? The reason is simple; Senate is not expected back to our federal constituency by any logical sequence; the expectation is that the Senate will return to this federal constituency because the governor says so. If that is so, does the governor not have friends in Boki to run Senate? My first surprise on this issue is that those who are shouting “Boki should not be cheated” are also supporting an aspirant from Ikom for Senate. So Ikom that took 12 years in the Senate before should also have the next chance in the Senate ahead of Boki? Where is our Boki nationalism? Why don’t we start the fight from here?
Where Should Senate Go?
It is necessary I state here that I do not support the idea of Senate coming back to our federal constituency at this time simply to aggrandize a particular interest against all logic and principles of rotation and fairness. The idea that a particular person will be imposed as senator on the people of central senatorial district, against all principles of rotation and equity, is an insult on the people of this senatorial district. I do not intend to answer to that insult, and in this I am in good company.
Like I said earlier, Senate is rotated on the basis of federal constituencies. Ikom/Boki federal constituency took the first turn in this current dispensation and managed to keep it, by a combination of several factors, for 16 years. It has now moved to Etung/Obubra federal constituency where it’s been for just one term. My understanding is that Etung/Obubra federal constituency will, at the very least, be allowed to do two terms before it moves to Abi/Yakurr federal constituency.
It has been argued in some quarters that the Senate should at this point rotate to Old Obubra as against Old Ikom. I find this argument self-serving and founded on ancient proclivities. Old Ikom and Old Obubra were federal constituencies in the old Ogoja senatorial district at a time Akwa Ibom state was part of Cross River. It has been over 30 years since we moved from this position. To drag out this proposition from Methuselah’s bag demonstrates a lack of a better argument.
To argue that Senate should move to Abi/Yakurr federal constituency after 4 years in Etung/Obubra federal constituency is unfair to the people of Etung/Obubra federal constituency; they cannot be punished just because Ikom/Boki federal constituency kept the Senate for 16 years. Etung/Obubra should have their fair share of the pie. We cannot expect Etung/Obubra stomachs to be filled because of what Ikom/Boki ate.
Indeed the argument of Old Obubra and Old Ikom will work against the people of Abi/Yakurr federal constituency. Look at it this way: if somebody from Obubra local government area wins the Senate in 2019 for instance, and whenever he or she is vacating the seat, we tell the people of Abi/Yakurr that Old Obubra have taken the Senate so it should return to Old Ikom, will the people of Abi/Yakurr federal constituency be satisfied? I don’t think so; that federal constituency is entitled to its turn in the Senate in due time. Not in 2019. Let Etung/Obubra Federal Constituency do another term at least.
Moreover, Abi/Yakurr federal constituency has not been particularly idle in terms of political opportunities: all the governors, all the Speakers and all the Ministers have come from there. It is just fair that these opportunities should serve to postpone their turn to the Senate, and fertilize their patience.
So against this Herculean argument for Senate between Etung/Obubra and Abi/Yakurr federal constituencies, for somebody to come up from Ikom or Boki and stake for Senate in 2019, is irritating and politically naive. Whoever is sponsoring that agenda should know that it is a disruptive proposition that has capacity to consume the proponents. The people of Central senatorial district have leaders the whole state and country rely on, and we will decide our fate.
For the above several reasons, I do not believe Senate is coming to Ikom or Boki at this time.
Should Boki Run Federal House?
This is the crux of the matter since apparently Senate is not available for Boki. Even if Senate is imposed on our federal constituency, Boki nationalism does not appear strong enough to fight for it as we seem to have so readily conceded it to Ikom without negotiation. So what about federal house?
Federal House is shared between Boki and Ikom. That’s why it is Ikom/Boki federal constituency. Federal House was first in Ikom in 1999 for just 4 years. After that it came to Boki, while the Senate moved to Ikom from Boki, in 2003. Boki held unto the Federal House for 12 years from 2003 to 2015 before ceding it to Ikom. Against this back drop, some people are arguing that Ikom, having just kept this position for 4 years, should return it to Boki. Now let’s think carefully; when it came to us we kept it for 12 years straight, but we want Ikom to keep it for just 4 years and return it to us. What logic is that?
This clamor for Federal House is not because we believe it is fair, but because we believe that the powers that be will successfully impose a Senator on Central who will come from Ikom; a mission impossible in my view. Assuming this scenario of Senate coming to Ikom is eliminated, can we still sustain the clamor for Federal House for Boki? Upon what logic?
The best argument I have heard why Boki should contest Federal House in 2019 is that Boki cannot be vacant; that we cannot be out of the National Assembly. Truth is that the situation of Boki being absent from the National Assembly will occur again and again. There are 6 local governments in central Senatorial district and 4 national assembly positions. This means at every point in time 2 local governments in Central will not be in the National Assembly. At some point it will be our turn to be absent from the National Assembly. That point is now and it will occur again in future.
In the 20 year existence of the National Assembly in this republic, some local governments in Cross River state have never occupied any position there. In Central senatorial district, Obubra, inspite of its size, has only occupied a national assembly position for 4 years; the current term being served by Hon Mike Etaba. Abi local government, for good reason though, is yet to occupy a position in the National Assembly. Akpabuyo, inspite of its size, has been to national assembly for just one term in the last 20 years. But Boki has, luckily, been to national assembly for 16 out of 20 years. We cannot possibly cry seriously about being short changed.
Is This A Just War?
I am, by this argument, not the most popular Boki man at the moment. But leadership is not about populism. In our custom, however loud the people clamor for war, the leader or chief may look at all the scenarios and forbade war if the cause is not just. A good leader will not lead his people to an unjust war. A good leader must choose the wars his people fight, and the wars they avoid. This is one war Boki should avoid and I appeal to our leaders to brave up, and lead us right to avoid it.
A fight for Federal House now will pitch us against Ikom for a long time. It will mean that Ikom will also not respect zoning when it is Boki turn. The consequence of this is that the National Assembly position will become a free-for-all between Boki and Ikom. This will make it expensive to contest. Zoning improves the chances of a poor person running an election. A free contest means only the rich can run. The victims of this scenario in future are my brothers and sisters now supporting a fight against Ikom in 2019.
But let’s assume we enter this fight, bully Ikom and take over the Federal House seat in 2019. Will that be the only position a Boki man will run? Or is it that tomorrow, when a Boki son is running Senate, or governor, we then go back to the same Ikom that we have bullied, and tell them not to mind us, but that they should support us for Senate or governor? Of course the enmity we will generate by this unnecessary fight for Federal House in 2019, will eliminate chances of the much needed political collaboration between Boki and Ikom in future. Indeed, it will allow Ikom and Boki to be used against each other by other local governments. This effect will be the same if we try and fail; when it is our turn, Ikom will try too, thus creating a vicious circle to the mutual damnation of both peoples.
Is Boki Empty?
No Boki is not empty. Secretary to the State Government (SSG) was zoned to Boki as compensation for our absence in the National Assembly. Not all local governments got this privilege during their absence from the National Assembly. SSG is not a mean position. While we take full advantage of the position of SSG, can we turn round and argue marginalisation?
Is National Assembly That Important?
Yes of course! So how did Boki benefit from its importance in the 16 years we occupied it? What legacy or project was implemented in Boki in the 16 years we were there? What Boki problem did we solve in those 16 straight years for us to create future enmity with Ikom today?
Surprisingly, the projects done in Boki by Chris Agibe, a non Boki son occupying our federal constituency seat, in the last 3 years, are comparable to the projects done by Boki sons in the 16 years we held the National Assembly seat. In some places Agibe has done far more in 3 years than our sons did in 16 years. I am ready to stake the statistics with anybody that disputes this.
So while national assembly is important, its importance is not in Boki occupying the seat, but in Boki making full use of the opportunity when we have it. We can learn the lessons; knowing that we will not always be in national assembly, we better make good use of it whenever we get it. For now we should constructively engage any occupant of the National Assembly seats answerable to us, for projects that benefit our community, beyond what comes into our pockets.
Of course the above postulations are not cast in stone. It is possible that the horse trading of political opportunities may serve to disrupt any projected sequencing of positions. When that happens we can adapt. But until, and unless, that happens, it is better to plan and move on the basis of foreseeable evaluations. It will be foolhardy to forgo a bird at hand for what is at best a highly speculative enterprise.
I have made the above argument conscious that politics is not catechism; knowing that the hand of God in the fate of men is supreme; Confident that Boki people will concede to me my right to hold an opinion, and faithful to the principles of fairness, courage, truth and equity which remain eternal compass in my life and my politics.
Attah Ochinke, a legal practitioner, is a one-time Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice in Cross River State.
NOTE:Opinions expressed in this article are strictly attributable to the author, Attah Ochinke, and do not represent the opinion of CrossRiverWatch or any other organization the author works for/with.
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