By Jonathan Ugbal and Patrick Obia
The leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Cross River State, has said the position of governorship in the build up to the 2023 general elections will be open to all party members irrespective of their senatorial districts.
Zoning, in the past few months has raised dust and controversies on which senatorial district should produce the next governor. And, this puts to rest, controversies surrounding the position of the PDP on the issue after aspirants from the central and southern senatorial districts declared their intentions to contest.
The incumbent, Governor Ben Ayade of the All Progressive Congress (APC), is from Obudu in the northern senatorial district. He recently said his party will go by the zoning structure – power returning to the southern senatorial district in 2023.
Ayade’s argument hinged on the fact that over the course of six election cycles in the fourth republic from 1999, the three senatorial districts starting from the south to the central and north, have all produced Governors.
But, the PDP remained quiet until two days ago when the Chairman of the party in the State, Venatius Ikem said the party is not going to follow the zoning structure.
In a statement to CrossRiverWatch, Mr. Vena, noted that, the party under his watch will not tow the part of Governor Ayade who said he will hand over power to a southerner.
Mr. Ikem who said the decision was based on “wisdom from experience,” however, emphasized that his party will give all aspirants a level playing ground and “to do what is right and at the appropriate time.”
Proponents of zoning had referred to the 1980 Calabar – Ogoja accord as the basis for what is now known as the “back to south campaign.” A leader of the National Youth Council of Nigeria in the State, Daniel Obo threatened to shut the secretariat of the PDP for not zoning the guber position to the south.
The Calabar – Ogoja accord was entered to foster a united front against the political blocs of what constitutes present day Akwa Ibom State.
The old Cross River State had five blocs or districts. While the present day Akwa Ibom had three, the current Cross River had just two. So, an accord was entered to rotate power between the northern and southern part of what is Cross River State today.
However, the split into two States left a loophole as an extra senatorial district was created in Cross River. And, anti zoning proponents such as former Niger Delta minister say the accord does not reflect the geopolitics of the fourth republic as nearly ever zone has produced a guber candidate in elections held since 1999.
Read Mr. Ikem’s statement in full below:
“My position on calls for Zoning in the People’s Democratic Party, Cross River State.
“I am told that I should make a pronouncement that PDP will zone the next Governorship candidate of our party to the Southern Senatorial district because Gov Ayade has so pronounced.
“I am sorry to say that whenever I decide to do what Ayade is doing, accept that the party under me has failed.
“Wisdom from experience rather dictates that we should be skeptical about everything Ayade does because he doesn’t do anything out of goodwill, but a self serving motivation.
“Most importantly, if I allow our party’s strategy to be dictated by what our opponents are doing, then I do not deserve to lead the party!
“I will lead my Exco, the PDP State executive committee, to do what is right and at the appropriate time, gauging correctly the mood of the people, demanding for a full say as to who emerges as the next Governor of Cross River State, in a free and fair atmosphere, where we are guaranteed a level playing field, where we shall discuss without fear and shall not fear to discuss the petinent issues that confront us as a state. Happy new year in advance.”
Venatius Ikem Esq
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