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Cross River: North and South districts form alliance for 2019


Cross River State governor, Senator Ben Ayade

• Insists On Northern Governor For Equity
•No Zoning In Our State— Bassey

Elders and opinion leaders from North, South and Central senatorial districts of Cross River State are divided over 2019 governorship seat.

Already, some elders of Northern and Southern senatorial zones have formed an alliance to unanimously return Governor Ben Ayade of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for a second term in 2019.

The two zones also resolved to formally rotate governorship position among the three senatorial zones, and promised to meet with elders of Central at a subsequent meeting.

Sources close to the meeting said the elders were, however, not happy with the governor, as he was not picking their calls. The planned tour of his projects could also not hold, though the meeting was with government’s collaboration.

The three zones have governorship candidates for the 2019 race, but with this latest alliance, the Northern and Southern elders have jettisoned the candidature of Senator John Owan-Enoh of the All Progressives Congress (APC), who is from the Central and Mr. Eyo Ekpo of Social Democratic Party (SDP) from the south.

Rising from a recent meeting, at the residence of an elder from the South, Chief Asuquo Ekpeyong, whose son and Commissioner for Finance is billed to take over from Ayade by 2023, the Northern and Southern elders said the meeting was of “elders and opinion moulders from the two Senatorial districts to fashion out terms of engagement and future alliances.”

The meeting had in attendance many dignitaries from across the state. At the end of the day, the gathering resolved “that the principle of rotation and zoning of governorship seat should be maintained and sustained amongst the three senatorial districts in all future elections. That such rotation and zoning consist of allowing each senatorial district complete its eight years of two terms, as this was the case in the Southern and Central Senatorial Districts.

“Upon completion of the second term of the Northern Senatorial District in 2023, the rotation/zoning shall recommence in the Southern Senatorial District and follow in that sequence, as earlier instituted. There is need for further engagements, starting with a meeting between the North and Central Senatorial districts. This will be followed by a tripartite meeting of all elders, leaders, opinion moulders and stakeholders of the three senatorial districts to consolidate these arrangements, and make them broadly acceptable to people of the state, as a means of ensuring peaceful political coexistence and stability.”

Before the combined meeting, the Northern Senatorial district meeting met the same day in Calabar. Gen. Ukpo said the forum would meet with other zones on the need to maintain the current zoning formulae.

The elders noted that before political parties had their primaries, the Forum advised them on the need to produce governorship candidates from the North on the grounds of equity.

“Here, we have decided we are going to have an interaction with elders of the Southern Senatorial District. The purpose is to solicit their support to ensure that Northern Senatorial District returns Governor Ben Ayade, being the only candidate from the North. This is a consultation, and we are also going to the Central to solicit their support. The parties have finished their primaries. They could have influenced zoning the position to the North. But since they didn’t do that, we are now saying directly to the electorate through the Elders’ forum of the various Senatorial districts that they should vote for the only Northern candidate, which in this case happens to be Governor Ben Ayade.”

But an APC stalwart from the south, Chief Sam Bassey, who was not at the meeting, has maintained a different opinion.

He said: “for me, there has never been zoning, especially the governorship position in Cross River State. I say so because in 1999, Donald Duke contested and he had my good friend, the late Mark Ukpo as contender. Donald contested on the platform of PDP and Ukpo contested on the platform of the defunct All Progressives Party (APP). When he tried second term, he also had Ambassador Obi Odu and Emmanuel Ibeshi as candidates from the North.

In 2007, when Senator Liyel Imoke contested, he had as contender Prof Eyo Etim Nyong from the South. There were also Emmanuel Ibeshi from the North and Pastor Usani Usani from the Central.

“All these years, we have never had a situation where one zone, be it South, Central or North, was allowed to be the only zone to produce candidate. All other zones have been making a foray into the contest. So, we cannot start now.”

The Nigerian Ambassador to Uganda, Chief Eyoma Nya Asuquo from the south, also rejected the position by the alliance, as he said: “Since 1999, the north has been challenging others for the seat. The position is not reserved for any zone, but through contest. They should show me any piece of paper that talks about zoning. It is just by convention that PDP has been ruling this state since 1999. So, if their convention favoured that arrangement, it is okay, but others also contested.

“If there was zoning, nobody from any other zone would contest. Nobody should talk about zoning. We should not descend into mediocrity. Zoning does not necessarily bring development or personal benefits. What we need is good leadership and the person that can give us that is Senator John Owan-Enoh.”

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