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Cross River APC enmeshed in three-sided crisis

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Senator John Enoh

With just a few hours to the party’s primaries, Cross River State chapter of All Progressives Congress (APC) is neck deep in a three-dimensional crisis.

The party is faced with the issue of zoning, and the lingering issue of state executive.

Also, there are concerns about the stipulation of direct primary by the national leadership of the party.

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In the last count, five APC aspirants had picked and submitted their forms in a bid to unseat Governor Ben Ayade come 2019.

Out of the five aspirants only one is from the Northern Senatorial District of the state, Mr. John Upan Odey, two from central (Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Pastor Usani Usani, and Senator John Owan Enoh) and two from South (Prof. Eyo Etim Nyong and former Minister of Culture and Tourism, Chief Edem Duke).

Worried by the emergence of aspirants from other senatorial zones, the people from Northern Senatorial District of Cross River State, under the aegis of Cross River North Solidarity Forum (CRNSF), have threatened to vote for PDP in 2019 general elections if the party does not pick its candidate from the north.

A similarly group from the South, in a statement signed by Mr Ekeng Henshaw and over 30 others, have also insisted that the next governor for 2019 should come from the South. 

A statement issued in Calabar by the group’s Spokesman, Joseph Ogah, said the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government has not been fair to members of the party from the zone in terms of appointment and would resist any move by people who just defected to the party to hijack the ticket from the North and if APC did not want people from the Northern Senatorial District of the state in the party, they would not hesitate to seek their political fortune elsewhere.

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They questioned why zoning was observed in the recently held congresses from ward to national but some “greedy and self-seeking intruders” are going about planning to take what was zoned to the North in 2014, adding “The message we have to pass in this press statement is simple; we will vote the PDP massively if the governorship ticket is given to another senatorial district.

Akwa and Anambra States have, in line with the party instructions, retained the 2014, zoning but in Cross River some people, who don’t mean well for APC, are trying to scuttle the agreement.

The PDP has two aspirants from the north and they are the incumbent Senator Ayade and Emmanuel Ibeshi. 

“In 2014, party positions were zoned and the governorship ticket was zoned to the north. Odey Ochicha from the north was APC governorship candidate and he came second in that election.

It was because of Ochicha’s effort that President Buhari had up to 28,000 votes, the highest votes an opposition party ever had in the state while others who are eating fat today were nowhere to be found. 

“Many of us used our money to work for APC but when the party won, the zone was completely neglected.

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No reasonable appointment was given to the north despite the numerous juicy appointments that came to the state.

Central alone got Minister of Niger Delta, NDDC Chairman, career ambassador, Special Assistant on Prosecution to the President, Auditor-General, etc.

The South has the Head of Service, ambassador, NDDC Commissioner, Director-General National Centre for Women Development and many others.

The North was left with nothing. Even the governorship candidate who sacrificed so much for the party in 2015 was not given anything reasonable. 

“The National Chairman of APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, and other NWC members are products of zoning.

Nobody from the North contested against Ntufam Hilliard Eta, the National Vice Chairman (South South) because the position was zoned to the Southern Senatorial District.

Nobody from the north contested against Dr. Achigbe because the state chairmanship position was zoned to the Central. So why are people struggling with what was zoned to the north now? Are we slaves in APC?”

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They urged the party to respect zoning, adding, “If APC is ready to win Cross River State aspirants from other zones must jettison their selfish interest to allow the North field a candidate.

Failure to do this will mark doom for APC as PDP will have 100 per cent support in the North in all positions.”

But on the other hand, stakeholders and elders of APC from the Southern senatorial districts of Cross River state have resolved that the party’s governorship candidate for 2019 should come from the south.

Resolution reached recently during a meeting of stakeholders convened by the caucus leader of APC Southern Senatorial District, Elder David Okon, unanimously resolved that “whereas the state chairmanship slot of the party had been zoned to the Central part of the state and the Central District is already loaded with many appointments from the Federal Government under our party, it will be unwise to have any governorship aspirant or candidate from there.
 
“Moreso, the Southern Senatorial District has more numbers of local government areas than others as well as higher voting strength, being over 50 per cent of the entire voting strength of the state, which puts them in a better position to secure victory for APC.

I hereby move that the Southern Senatorial District should produce the next governor of the state come 2019 elections and our people in the South should hold onto that common goal.”

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The motion was moved by Chief Bassey Eyo Ephraim and seconded by Comrade Iso Edim.

While giving reasons why the governorship ticket should come to the South, Ephraim said, “Looking at the result of the recently concluded bye-election in Obudu Federal Constituency where the party has no fewer than three governorship aspirants, APC could not win even a political ward.

It is obvious that any candidate from the Northern part of the state would not secure victory for the party in 2019.

I strongly move that we must produce APC governorship candidate from the South.”

While seconding the motion, Comrade Iso Bassey Edim added, “The South must put its best foot forward by producing a person with proven record of capacity, integrity and acceptability across the state to emerge as the governorship candidate of the party.” 

The motion was unanimously adopted and the elders, particularly the convener/caucus, leader was charged to initiate processes and subsequent meetings that would lead to the Southern Senatorial District coming out with a single aspirant from the numbers that have so far shown interest. 

While speaking at the end of the meeting, Elder David Okon, said as a caucus leader in the district, “We are convinced that the best option for APC and for Cross River State is a governorship candidate of the party from the South.”

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However politicians from Central are not leaving any stone unturned.

They believe that all zones have taken their turn and that it is now a free for all or survival of the fittest.

One of APC stalwarts, Chief Sam Bassey, said, “For me in Cross River State, there have never been zoning, especially the governorship position.

I say so because in 1999, Donald Duke contested and he had my good friend, late Mark Ukpo as contender.

Donald contested on the platform of PDP and Ukpo contested on platform of APP (defunct All Progressive Party)…when he tried a second term, he also had Ambassador Obi Odu and Emmanuel Ibeshi, as candidates from the North.

In 2007 when liyel Imoke contested, he had Prof. Eyo Etim Nyong from the South who contested; he had Emmanuel Ibeshi from the North, and Pastor Usani Usani from Central who contested.

“All these years, we have never had a situation were one zone, be it South, Central or North was allowed to be the only zone to produce the candidate.

All other zones have been having a shot in the contest. So we cannot start now.

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As far as I am concerned, the governorship of Cross River State should be thrown open to the three senatorial districts and anybody who wants to contest should come out.

We want the best candidate to come out and that we can only achieve by making it open, as it has always been.

I want somebody to contradict me from 1999 Cross River State has never left any zone alone to produce the candidate and we are not going to start in 2019.

“APC is prepared to unseat Ayade despite the internal wrangling; we will settle the disagreement in a civilized manner. We are very prepared for the election and we are going to win.” 

The Nigerian Ambassador to Uganda, Chief Eyoma Nya, while Asuquo quoting Hitler’s spokesman, said, “If falsehood is peddled so many times it may become the truth.

The position of zoning is absolute falsehood.

Since 1999 the north has been challenging others for the seat. The position is not reserved for any zone; but through contest.

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So they should show me any piece of paper that talks about zoning but there is nothing like that.

It is just by convention that PDP has been ruling this state since 1999; so if their convention favoured that arrangement okay but others contested.

“If there was zoning, nobody from any other zone will contest. Nobody should talk about zoning. We should not go down to mediocrity.

Zoning does not necessarily bring development or personal benefits; what we need is good leadership and the person who can give it to us is Senator John Owan-Enoh.”

Another issue that may thwart the 2019 effort of APC in the state is the existence of parallel executives despite the intervention of the national secretariat of the party.  

The National Executive of the party, led by Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, had in August sacked the two factional executives of the party in the state, led by Ntufam Godwin Etim John and Dr. Mathew Achigbe, and went ahead to conduct fresh congress that saw the latter emerging as the state chairman who was subsequently inaugurated.

John’s group, which is in court already, has the backing of Usani while Achigbe’s is backed by Owan-Enoh, a former governor, Mr. Clement Ebri, Prof Nyong and others.

Achigbe has since taken over the party secretariat at Barracks Road and operating normal party functions while John’s faction now operates at Marian.


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