Difficult terrain, funding, threaten APC registration exercise in Cross River
Difficult terrain, funding, lack of materials are threatening the ongoing registration and revalidation exercise of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Cross River State. The exercise started two weeks ago but materials from the headquarters did not arrive on time. That notwithstanding, members have been turning out for the registration, though not to the expectation of party officials.
For instance, Mr. Joseph Obi of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Joseph Ngbe, with their supporters at Iso-Bendeghe in Boki Local Government Area, defected to the APC to be part of the party’s registration exercise.
Obi said; “I am leaving the PDP to APC because I believe in APC I can breath. There is too much of marginalisation. So this exercise is an opportunity for people like us to come onboard.”
Also, former Chairman of Yakurr Local Government Area, Obol Ubi Itam Ettah and a former DPP Senatorial candidate in the 2019 polls, Pastor Ikona Ubi Etowa joined the APC in the course of the registration and revalidation exercise.
However, some have expressed reservation about the registration exercise, saying it would make or mar the party if not properly handled. Fears are also rife that the exercise would amount to a waste of funds that would have been invested in various levels of the party in the states to further strengthen it. Those of this belief say the exercise may be skewed to favour some people.
A top leader of the party and former governor of the state, Mr. Clement Ebri, had last November in an interview with The Guardian suggested that “whatever registration or exercise they are doing they should be very transparent. They should do it in such a way that all stakeholders are involved. The fear of certain persons is that the exercise will be hijacked by certain forces for their 2023 ambition and that will tear the party further apart, but if they do it in a very transparent manner and ensure that all the major stakeholders agree and accept the modalities for implementation it will be successful. If that does not happen, it will break and completely destroy the party and that is the last thing we want to happen at this time, especially when we do not have somebody like President Muhammadu Buhari running again. So it should not be hijacked under any circumstances and nobody or faction or whatever should be given the advantage.”
On funding, he’d said, “people at the leadership should find a way to fund the party, because uneasy lies the head that wears the crown. If all these things are done, the registration is going to be a very successful one. But for now, I think that there is need to tidy up a few areas else it will be terrible for the party. We cannot afford to get this one wrong; we must get it right. All partisan interests must be put aside and the survival of the party should be of utmost importance at this time and not individual interest. Nobody knows tomorrow and the future is not free. It is said that the end of conversation is the beginning of violence. This period of anger in the land and an attempt to add further anger to this would lead to very unpalatable consequences.”
Former Senate Leader, Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba, who re-validated his APC membership last week at his ward in Akparabong village in Ikom Local Government Area, noted that the exercise was a welcome development.
According to him, “the registration and membership re-validation exercise of the party is a welcome idea that is necessary to consolidate on cohesion in the party,” but suggested that going forward, the exercise should be made continuous and provisions made for it to be done online.
Ndoma-Egba commended the smoothness of the exercise, saying what he noticed was that party officials handling the exercise were well trained as “they took me through the exercise seamlessly but what I think is a sort of impediment to the rural dwellers is the requirement for two passport photographs. I personally had to make provision for a photographer to be around the registration points for anyone who has no passport.”
The former Senate leader, who also inspected the various registration points in his village, encouraged the rural dwellers to identify with the government of Nigeria at the centre and charged them to come out en mass for the APC registration.
APC chapter caretaker chairman in Ikom, Mr. Erim Egiga, said the exercise in Ikom had been successful and many people were responding and “some even come to register after returning from farm. As you can see, the exercise is a huge success here.”
A chieftain who is also the party’s state Publicity Secretary, Mr. Bassey Ita, said, “the party has had to basically the challenge of funding the exercise to achieve it’s full potential. We have also had cases of shortage of materials, lack of critical ones that would naturally make the work of registration officers and supervisors a lot easier. And when you consider the difficult terrains in Cross River, you would appreciate the place of liquidity in addressing these challenges.
“Shortage and lack of sensitive materials, for instance, in areas affected by communal violence like New Netim in Odukpani Local Government Area, among others, is a challenge,” he said.
He stated that lack of funds to acquire personnel, materials and logistics to access the state’s difficult terrains in Boki, Etung, Obanliku, Bakassi and others could also hamper successful registration exercise.
For instance, Ita said, “if we leave out Beebo/Bumaji Ward where a critical stakeholder like Hon. Cletus Obun hails from, for lack of materials, then we are bound to fail in the entire Boki, because of the massive population of APC membership in those areas. Beebo/Bumaji borders Cameroun.
“In Odukpani Local Government Area, Prof. Eyo Etim Nyong, Hon. Ekpo Okon and Prince Bassey Ita can’t afford to lose the retinue of members around the Cross River border with Akwa Ibom for lack or shortage and their effort to acquire these materials can only be limited.”
In this regard therefore, “the party needs so much of support and that is the reason the state’s party chairman, Sen. Matthew Mbu Jr, “has consistently appealed to stakeholders, especially the national leadership to come to the aid of Cross River APC, which has the potential of election victory.
“Don’t forget that the likes of Mr. Eyo Ekpo, a former attorney general of the state, son of the former Chief of Staff to General Yakubu Gowon, among others, are now in APC, an indication that the party has taken a new direction for good. Sen. Ndoma-Egba, Prof. Nyong, Dr. Ntete Bassey-Duke, Mr. Harry Odey, Mr. Mary Ekpere-Eta, Barr. Adie Aplife, Hon. Esther Bepeh, Hon Runyi Kanu, Hon. Alex Egbona, among others, all lend their voices to assure Cross Riverians of an APC that respects and sustains their dignity and welfare against the impunity of the past.
“However, our expectations of a huge success are as high as those of a labourer over his or her wages. Let me also say that the steps taken so far by the new leadership under the watch of Sen. Mbu Jr to revive the party have attracted enormous goodwill and value-addition capable of a blossom. With the renewed vigour and the strength of character of the new leadership, APC is poised for more victorious exploits.”
Since the registration of the party in 2013 and the first membership registration in 2014, Ita said, “the APC has never nurtured the plan to have an accurate data bank. Besides, members could not boast of means of identification and were not financially obliged to the party. But this exercise is capable of addressing all of those challenges. I think the thought of money being wasted is idle. Money has to be spent on innovative outcomes, which the exercise represents.”
The Minister of State for Power, Prince Goddy Jeddy-Agba, has said that the All Progressives Congress (APC) would welcome as many as 200 million Nigerians to the party, noting that the exercise so far was successful despite criticisms in some quarters. Jeddy-Agba, stated this at the weekend after an inspection visit to some registration centres in Cross River Southern Senatorial District last Thursday. He visited his community in Obudu Local Government Area, where he encouraged people to join the party after his revalidation exercise. And on Friday in company of the former Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Pastor Usani Usani and other party stalwarts, he visited Ikom, Cross River Central to inspect the exercise.
He stated that that, “APC belongs to all of us and that’s why I’m here today to see what we’re doing. So far, I’m impressed with what I’ve seen across the state, but like Oliver Twist, I want to encourage us to do more. We don’t have limit on the number of people to register. Our doors are widely open for more people to join. Politics is a game of numbers and party exists to win elections. The only way to win elections is to increase our membership strength.
“Ordinarily, I would have gone quietly to my ward to register, but I decided to do it differently by visiting all the three Senatorial districts to encourage more people to accept and see APC, as the best option for us as a people. As a state, we have benefited so much from the President Buhari-led APC government and for us to stand a better chance to ask for even more. We need to register so that during elections, we can vote massively for the party to have the grounds to make more demands.”
A prominent Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) member and leader of Biase Legislative Council, Mr. Charles Eko, said the APC registration exercise “is a normal exercise as people have to revalidate their membership. New members have to register and I don’t see anything wrong with that. But if there is a secret agenda to skew it in favour of some persons, it is bad, otherwise I see it as a good thing, something that should be done.
“Ours is supposed to be a multi-party democracy, but along the line we seem to be having one dominant party and it is not the best. It does not allow for choice-making, competitiveness and it makes people go to sleep. A particular state will be named a PDP or APC state. The party is supposed to earn support from the people and not get the support by imposing itself. I believe if free and fair election comes and there is competitiveness, it will even help the system or society to throw up better leaders that will give them better leadership that they deserve.”
However, for ordinary Cross Riverians on the street, it does not matter what they do, as a social commentator, Agbor Etim said, “you see, politicians in Nigeria are always up to something when they introduce some new things in their party or in governance. In our democracy, I have not seen sincerity in most actions and promises of our politicians. It is all about their personal interest.
“So my brother. don’t be surprised this exercise by the APC may be a way of trying to outwit some persons in the party in view of who controls political structures of the party in view of 2023 general elections. I do not trust Nigerian politicians, at least for now.”