Changing Election Demographics In Cross River State And The Imperative Of New Engagement BY VENATIUS IKEM

In Breaking News, Opinion, Politics

When Governor Ayade told me a few weeks ago as the heat of his reelection campaign caught up that he was going to win all 18 Local Governments in the elections, I was incredulous! I thought as usual that he likes to make flamboyant assumptions that are unrealistic. I recall sharing this with a friend and brother, Chief Tony Undiandeye and we both concluded that we must continue to mount pressure on the Governor to work more realistically so as not to bring a monumental embarrassment to us and the entire Northern Senatorial district!

Indeed the Governor had earlier told me that he will win 8 of the 10 wards in Etung local Government Sen. John Owan Enoh’s Local Government, a proposition I considered ridiculous, unrealistic and preposterous! Well, it turned out he was right on both scores and I was wrong. Needless to say, like he reminded me yesterday when we had a laugh at all the permutations that I was very anxious indeed! I was and I warned Chief Undiandeye that both of us will be the ones to suffer the consequences if the Governor failed.

As the elections drew near and I had a peek into the current registration figures released by INEC, I began to see more prospects in victory.

As I lay down to sleep last night having arrived from Obudu earlier on, all that preoccupied my mind was what really happened? I determined to take a closer look at the figures that the elections turned in and what I saw is what I am inspired to share with you this morning.

First, permit me a little digression.

I recall a meeting at Perigrino Hall in 2007, when in the heat of the election fever of that season when, together with our elder brother, Kanu Agabi, (SAN), Sen. Musa Adede and Chief Tony Undiandeye, we had dared the lion in Government House and successfully challenged the conduct of the congresses to elect delegates to the congress that was to vote in the Gubernatorial primaries of that season, in which Kanu Agabi and I were aspiring from Cross River State North Senatorial district, in the belief that it was our turn to hold the Governorship in 2007.

Angered by our audacity to dare petition the process, Gov. Donald Duke convened a meeting to prep up for a fresh congress. While there he lampooned us in very demeaning terms to a hall filled to the very brim, as “faceless” renegades from Abuja who had no home support but were only out to forment trouble and cause disharmony in their very united “family”!

After a long monologue, he asked if anyone had any response. After Rt. Hon. Orok Duke spoke, I managed from the farthest end of the Hall to get the MC’s attention and the microphone was sent all the way back to me, without knowing who it was! When I announced myself the entire Hall turned backwards to see this strange specie! When I also announced that I was one of those who wrote the petition, a palpable hush fell on the hall and more “dressing” took place!

Importantly I recall reminding Donald Duke and his palace jesters then that the guidelines provided for a petition and as such it was a legitimate process in our electoral process. I also reminded him that it was via this route that he himself became Gov. Since it was Kanu Agabi that had been declared winner in 1999 primaries of PDP.

Anyway, the important point of historical note and relevance to the moment is that in my concluding comments that night, I told the powers then that yes, today we from the North may be treated like pariah, and like a conquered people, but one day God will raise a Governor from us that they would regret all the injustices they were metting out to us. I know Hon.Orok Duke to have a better memory than I have. I am sure he can recall more of my words on that occasion.

I do not know if Gov. Ayade is such a Governor today but I know from what I saw on the figures released that there is a comprehensive paradigm shift in election permutations within the short period he has been Governor, enough to reposition the Northern Senatorial district as the more dependable political stronghold of the State, as it used to be!

I am not a tribalist. My records speak for me. I do not believe that speaking up for your people makes one a tribalist.

Now to the demographics.

The total votes for Governor Ben Ayade from the Northern Senatorial District alone totalling 176, 124 votes are only short of the total combined votes of Central and Southern Senatorial District by 7, 620 votes!

If that does not give you a punch, the votes from Obudu and Yala ( 107, 444) are more than the combined votes of the entire 7 Local Govts of the Southern Senatorial District! ( 91, 501)! And Central Senatorial district (92, 243)!

Now assuming we discountenance the Obudu vote as driven by emotions and son of the soil syndrome, the votes from the remaining 4 local Governments of the North (Ogoja, Yala, Bekwarra and Obanlikwu), 111, 154, still over run the votes of the entire Southern Senatorial District, at 91, 501. They also over run the total number of votes cast for PDP (Ayade) in the entire Central Senatorial District, 92,243!

It is even more ridiculous when you realize that in terms of voter registration, the South will boast of very intimidating figures, but in actual delivery it has always been the North!

While Calabar South for instance, can boast of a 160, 000 registration figure it’s peak delivery has never exceeded 25, 000! Ditto for Calabar Municipality. The citizens do not turn out to vote but the politicians often make so much noise with the registration figures any neophyte politician will be intimidated. That unfortunately has been the bane of my friend Sen. Prince Otu’ s latest political outings!

In addition to this is the often ignored preponderance of the “atam” contribution to the registration figures of the South, especially Calabar South and Municipal councils. A friend remarked while discussing this situation yesterday that Calabar looked like a ghost town last Saturday, election day, because most of the “atam” people traveled home for elections!

Now back to the significance, if you like, imperatives of the demographics is the clear message that we must not denigrate even the least amongst us because you never can tell what the future holds.

After years of suppression, the reality of the potency of the Northern Senatorial District vote is beginning to be felt and indeed this is our glorious moment. We can only be ignored to anyone’s peril.

For the APC in particular, where the district is treated as an inconvenient attachment, let it be known that our 5 local Governments are not a disability. It is an ability shrouded in years of unjust political manipulations that saw a local government removed from us and given to the South (Bakassi), creating in its wake a false sense of an inferior political group with only 5 Local Govts! Only 5, 000 votes come from Bakassi, less than an average ward in the North would produce, yet Bakassi enjoys all the benefits of a full fledged local government!

Etung was similarly created out of 2 wards of Ikom! What, for crying out loud, makes those two wards equal to the ward I come from, if you compare registration figures back to the days, prior to local government creation? Today Etung pretends to have 39, 000 voters! From where? At election they could only muster 5, 000 votes!

I hope I am not coming out as haughty in my analysis. I am having a loud sigh of relief and letting it be known that I intend to enjoy the discomfort of those who discomforted us in the past! That power is transient and must be exercised with the utmost care for good. Not used to oppress and suppress.

Most importantly, the demographics suggest that we must form workable alliances across the state to win elections and we in the north are not the least of considerations in the discussion moving forward. That indeed we are the beginning of the discussion because barring legal provisions as to spread we have a bigger potential to produce a Governor with support from only one other Local Govt. across the State! That we will unleash this potential if need be in future, in favour of any political party that aligns with us and our aspirations. We are not a weak link in any political calculation.

We will be making the calculations! See you in 2023!

Congratulations, Governor Ben Ayade!

Venatius Ikem is a PDP Chieftain and writes from Calabar.

NB: Opinions expressed in this article are solely attributable to the author, Venatius Ikem and do not in anyway represent the opinion of CrossRiverWatch or any other organization the author works for/with.

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