By Ushang Ewa
Ahead of the 2019 general elections, the political scene in Cross River State is gradually heating up with strategies been perfected as party primaries draw nearer.
The primaries are slated to hold between August 18 and October 7, 2018 by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in accordance with section 87 of the electoral act 2010 as amended.
And, so far a few aides to Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River State have announced their resignation.
These include Mr. Godswill Edward, Mr.
Ejemot Esu and Mr. Donclems Enamhe.
Several others have so far shown interest but are yet to either declare or resign their appointments.
These include, Mr. Jude Ngaji, Mr. Dane Osim Asu, Mr. KJ Agba, Mr. John Etim Bassey, Mr. Godwin Ettah, Barrister Tina Agbor, Mr. Martins Orim, Mrs. Helen Egodo among others.
No fewer than two dozen of Mr. Ayade’s appointees have indicated interest to contest for different positions despite alleged assurances from the governor that the present federal representatives will be given another term in office.
But, sources say Mr. Ayade had directed his aides not to contest in the forthcoming election even as he is seeking for a consensus ticket for him in his party, the People’s Democratic Party.
All are contesting to be either state or federal lawmakers.
“He (Ayade) only wants opponents from the north and that is why they spent that much on those endorsement campaigns earlier in the year.
“He is also hoping for the PDP to give him an automatic ticket despite the fact several party stalwarts have indicated interest with one even declaring so far,” a chieftain of the PDP who did not want his name in print told this reporter on Monday.
The chieftain said Mr. Ayade has spent so much on rallies and endorsement shows than financing the entire party machinery as members would have wished; a situation which is said to be creating a stir that led to the two protests against him in Abuja.
The protests were pro Emmanuel Ibeshi, former aide to Ayade and special envoy of the state to the African Development Bank. An alleged reprisal led to the tearing of Ibeshi’s posters and billboards in the office of a pro Ibeshi group in Calabar on July 8, 2018.
“The vandals specifically targeted and destroyed campaign materials used to brand the fence of the campaign office located at Clement Ebri Drive, State housing estate, Calabar,” a statement signed by the group, Ibeshi Support Coalition working for the emergence of former PDP National Publicity Secretary as the guber candidate of PDP in the 2019 general elections.
Unconfirmed information suggests that there will be at least two more people that will emerge from the PDP to contest against Ayade, all from the northern senatorial district and at least one from his native Obudu.
From the All Progressives (APC), five people; Mr. Paul Adah, Mr. Venatius Ikem, Mr. John Upan Odey from Obudu as well as Professor Etim Nyong, Eyo Ekpo and Edem Duke from the southern senatorial district have declared their intentions to run.
But, some say they lack the financial war chest to match that available to Mr. Ayade to spend.
However, information has emerged that the current senator representing the central senatorial district, John Owan-Enoh will declare his intention to run for governorship in the coming weeks.
This is said to have excited many as he is believed to have the financial power to match and even cause upset in the camp of the governor.
His exit as a Senator will open up the seat especially as the old Obubra and old Ugep axis of the zone are clamoring for the position claiming they have not had it since the advent of the fourth republic in 1999.
Boki held the position for four years, Ikom for twelve years and Etung will have completed a twenty year cycle for the old Ikom/Boki bloc if Owan-Enoh remains as Senator till the end of the eighth National Assembly.
Also, Niger Delta Affairs Minister, Usani Usani, is rumored to be interested but no concrete information has been gotten from his camp yet.
Divided into three senatorial districts, eight federal constituencies and 25 state constituencies, there are 36 positions up for grabs excluding that of the governor.
In the northern senatorial district, the two House of Representatives members, Mr. Legor Idagbo and Mr. Jarigbe Agom are said to be working towards their reelection already despite rumors that Mr. Idagbo is facing serious challenge from New Cities Development Board Chairman, Mr. KJ Agba, a former aide to Mr. Ayade, Donclems Enamhe and Koko Dan from the APC.
However, political watchers say Mr. Dan and Mr. Agba may have the issue of being from the Governor’s local government area work against them despite massive acceptance of Mr. Agba by youths in Bekwarra and Obudu.
It is unclear where the fate of the House of Assembly members currently lie as almost all excluding that of Obudu which the lawmaker has died seeking reelection for second terms in Ogoja and Yala 1 and third terms in Obanliku, Bekwarra and Yala 2.
The Senator, Mrs. Rose Oko is said to be facing a stiff challenge from the State Security Adviser, Mr. Jude Ngaji who is said to be gradually wining the affection of party members in the zone.
In the central senatorial district, incumbent lawmaker representing Ikom/Boki federal constituency, Chris Agibe is said to be fighting hard for a second term with a long list of people from Boki said to be in contention.
These include the secretary to the state government, Mrs. Tina Agbor, new cities commissioner, Mr. George Ekpungu, a former federal lawmaker, Mr. Eddy Ogon, former state lawmaker, Mr. Ernest Eki, works commissioner, Mr. Dane Osim-Asu and an aide to Mr. Ayade, Mr. Feddy Ncha.
Feelers suggest an aide to Ayade and former youths president, Yakubu Shendam is said to be in contention even though his newly formed party does not have a presence in the state.
In Ikom, state lawmaker, Fred Osim and a former chairman of council are said to be in contention too.
In the Obubra/Etung federal constituency, incumbent Mike Etaba will go against unionist, Eyam Abeng among others.
In the Abi/Yakurr federal constituency, chief of staff to former governor Liyel Imoke, Mr. Alex Egbonna, speaker of the House of Assembly, Mr. John Lebo, in-law to former President Goodluck Jonathan, Mr. Godswill Osim, former information commisssioner, Akin Ricketts and Eworo Enenche.
Meanwhile, federal lawmaker, Bassey Ewa will be vacating the Abi/Yakurr position in the green chambers after 12 years for the red chambers if his ambition scales through.
He will face stiff opposition from Mr. Chris Agara whom many say is backed by Mr. Ayade, the education commissioner, Mr. Goddy Ettah and sacked water board managing director, Godwin Igile.
Also, journalist and biographer, Kammonke Abam is said to be in contention.
For the state house of assembly, almost all sitting members excluding the speaker are said to be considering reelection.
In the southern senatorial district, the heat is on already in the Calabar South/Akpabuyo/Bakassi federal constituency where fourth term Rep, Mr. Essien Ayi is said to be seeking a fifth term.
Not only is he in a battle of survival, sources say the PDP is ready to lose the seat should the party hierarchy give him the ticket to contest as their candidate.
He will face his protégé, Joseph Bassey who is currently the deputy speaker as the permutations are that this will position him better to contest for governor in 2023.
Also, former Attorney General, Eyo Ekpo and an aide to Mr. Ayade, Austine Ibok are gearing up for the challenge while others are still hush about their ambitions.
In the Calabar Municipal/Akpabuyo federal constituency, incumbent, Eta Mbora will square off with an aide to Mr. Ayade, John Etim Bassey who declared his intention last week.
The Odukpani bloc is said to be insistent in their calling out of those who had agreed that the member to represent the constituency in the ninth assembly will hail from that local government area.
Meanwhile, in the Akamkpa/Biase federal constituency, third term representative, Daniel Asuquo popularly referred to as ‘Dansuki’ will face a relative of the incumbent Deputy Governor and former Governor, Ejemot Esu and the chairman of the governing council of the Cross River University of Technology, Emil Inyang among others yet to declare their intentions.
For the senatorial position, former PDP chairman, Ekpo Okon will square up with long time ally and incumbent, Gershom Bassey while two people are said to have indicated interest from the APC including Prince Bassey Otu.
The battle in the southern senatorial district is said to be one of getting two things; a higher bargaining chip for the 2023 guber elections and the financial war chest to prosecute that.
Mr. Ayade is said to be enjoying support from the south due to the fact that business mogul, Asuquo Ekpenyong and many others galvanized and agreed to follow the zoning formula and allow the northern senatorial district serve for eight years.
His son who is the finance commissioner, is said to be placed strategically to understudy Mr. Ayade and garner experience to contest in 2023 while Dansuki and the incumbent Deputy Governor, Professor Ivara Esu, Gershom Bassey, Ekpo Okon, Joseph Bassey are said to be in contention.
With only 17 days left to the commencement of primaries, indeed, the polity in the state will gradually heat up especially as many aspirants have tapped into the power of the social media.
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