Cross River: PDP, APC strategise ahead of 2019
After 16 years of an uninterrupted rule in Cross River State, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) will for the first time face its biggest challenge as the race for 2019 has commenced in earnest.
Political pundits in the state have described the 2019 race as a battle of PDP versus “PDP”.
This is so because in the wake of the 2015 elections, the PDP split into factions as some top and aggrieved members decamped en-masse with their supporters to Labour Party (LP) and All Progressives Congress (APC), but after the 2015 elections, they moved to APC.
Top PDP members that decamped in Northern Senatorial district are: former PDP Governorship aspirant Mr. Jedy Agba; former PDP governorship aspirant, Ntufam Fidelis Ugbo; former National Publicity Secretary of PDP, Mr. Venatius Ikem; immediate past NDDC Commissioner, Mr. Paul Adah.
In Central are the immediate past Senate Leader, Chief Victor Ndoma Egba SAN; former State Chairman of PDP, Ambassador Sony Abang; the LP Central Senatorial candidate, Dr. Sandy Onor; immediate past Chief of Staff to former Governor Liyel Imoke and LP candidate to the House of Representatives for Abi/Yakurr, Dr. Alex Ogbonna; former House of Representatives member, Mr. Chris Etta; and former LP House of Representatives candidate for Etung/Obubra, Mr. Egbe Abeng Jabengo among others.
In Southern Senatorial district, former Senator, Prince Bassey Otu, former Deputy Speaker and LP House of Representative candidate, Mr. Dominic Aqua, immediate past Calabar South Local Government Chairman, Mr. Ekeng Henshaw led thousands of their supporters to join APC.
It is expected that the 2019 elections in the state will not be a tea party as the aftermath of the 2015 elections has thrown up APC as a force to be reckoned with.
Determined to unseat PDP, APC in the state recently put together a strategic retreat with the theme, “APC, Cross River State: The Way Forward, Reconciliation and Strategies of Winning Elections” and the former Senate Leader and the APC South South Chairman, Mr. Hilliard Etta predicted the fall of PDP come 2019.
Senator Ndoma-Egba at the one-day retreat at Transcorp Hotel, Calabar said, “the PDP has given us a template of how not to be a political party. All we need to do is to avoid the mistakes PDP has made. One of the biggest mistakes of the PDP is the issue of ownership of the party. In APC ownership of the party must reside with the common members of the party like you and me. We must protect the ownership of the party.
“The second lesson we must learn from PDP is that impunity anywhere is not sustainable. There is nothing like doing the correct thing. Let us apply democracy in whatever we are doing in selecting our leaders at all levels. We must apply the rules and be fair to all. It is our choice to win.”
Recalling what led to his exit from the PDP, Senator Ndoma-Egba said, “Everybody who was sympathetic to me was shut out of PDP. For three years, I was not invited to any PDP meeting in Cross River State. We were constructively evicted.”
However, the Special Assistant to the President on Prosecution, Chief Obon Obla cautioned that in order for APC to take over power from the PDP in the state, they must practice true democracy by giving equal opportunity to everyone.
He stated: “If you must take over Cross River State from PDP, we must have unity of purpose, we all must be treated as equal. In a situation where a particular person would want to control the entire structure of the party will be strongly opposed, so we must be democratic to give equal opportunity to everybody whether as a Minister or as an S A, we must be treated as the same”.
While the APC was busy in a retreat strategizing for 2019, the PDP spent quite some time trying to reorganize its house injecting fresh blood through its just concluded ward, local government and state congresses to ensure that it remained in power in 2019 despite the movement of some of its strong members to the APC.
The congresses were the first test case for the state Governor, Senator Ben Ayade in critical party affairs that may make or mar the future of the party. The exercise ended peacefully and Ntufam Edim Inock Edim emerged as the State Chairman of the newly elected 27-man executive.
Former governors of the state, Senator Liyel Imoke and Mr. Donald Duke; former deputy governor, Mr. Efiok Cobham; Senator representing Northern Senatorial district, Dr. Rose Oko; member representing Akamkpa/Biase federal constituency, Daniel Asuquo; member representing Calabar South/Akpabuyo/Bakassi federal constituency, Pastor Essien Ayi; former chairman of PDP in the state, Ntufam Ekpo Okon were conspicuously absent at the congress suggesting that all was not well with the party in the state.
It was gathered that the PDP big wigs boycotted the state congress because they were allegedly sidelined by the leadership of the party in the state with respect to the selection of members to fill the various positions in the party. It was alleged that the congresses from the Ward to the State level even though very peaceful through consensus, threw up fresh issues of impunity and imposition.
Top party sources who described the just concluded congresses as a ‘tactical dismantling’ of Senator Imoke’s structures, said, “this unusual quietness among these leaders is dangerous for the PDP leadership in the state and usually a dog that is to be killed does not perceive the smell of an excreta”.
Apparently not happy with the congresses, Pastor Ayi in a chat with some newsmen in Calabar, said, “I predict doomsday for PDP if imposition continues in PDP. The party guidelines are very clear. What the law says was that INEC must witness the congress, but to my greatest surprise, the exercise was not done like that in Calabar South.
The National Assembly member said, “My advice is that people should do the right thing in line with the party’s constitution. Already the party is polarized into different factions and we should learn from the mistake of the past. PDP did not win the last election because there was a lot of imposition. If the proper things are not done, all these noises that PDP will take over power in 2019 at the centre will be a joke or disaster.”
However, Governor Ayade said the peaceful congresses happened because “we had a consensus, we had a good understanding. We have to consult to see that it is democratically done. We also know that PDP has a culture of dominating Cross River state because when we resolve all our disputes, we resolve in favour of equity, in favour of justice, we resolve in favour of history of hard work to the party and that is why you can see everybody working peacefully. Just have it that this is the most peaceful congress of all.
“I thank you for hosting the most successful congress. It is the most peaceful congresses … we must therefore, open up opportunities for further deliberations to create a more harmonious environment for the party to thrive”.
Senator Bassey who some claimed was not satisfied with the congresses, said, “I think the voting went well. As you know, we went through series of meetings building up to this state congress and in the meetings we discussed the direction of the local governments, my local government and my senatorial district. I am satisfied with the process. What we agreed on was to work together in one direction and to live as one party”.
On his party, the immediate past PDP State Chairman, Ntufam John Okon commended members for showing that “the party in the state is a united family that cannot be destroyed and the state has remained a stronghold of the party and would continue to be dominated politically by the PDP because of the understanding of party politics by members”.