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Emergence of Egbona may alter political power-play in Cross River 

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Alex Egbona


The emergence of Dr. Alex Egbona of All Progressives Congress (APC) as the member representing Abi\Yakurr Federal Constituency in the National Assembly has thrown up a new vista of political leadership in that constituency and Cross River at large. Egbona, in a re-run election as ordered by the Appeal Court, Calabar, late last year for Ekureku 1 and 2 in Abi Local Government Area to add up with other valid results, defeated the former Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Mr. John Gaul-Labo of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

Thus in the final result as announced by the state’s Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Dr. Alalibo Johnson, show that Egbona scored 29,716 votes to beat Gaul-Labo, who got 26,039 votes. The victory would throw up new challenges as it may likely widen the gulf between the former governor Senator Liyel Imoke of PDP from Itighidi, who is seen by many as the political godfather of Abi and Cross River State and Egbona, his political son, now in the camp of APC.

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Besides, for the Minister of State for Power, Mr. Goddy Agba, Dr. Egbona is seen as the next highest elected political office holder of APC in the state and there would be much pressure on him to deliver or outwit Imoke, his political godfather, as politicking unfolds for 2023 in the state. Certainly, a new line of loyalty is being established for the electorate and politicians alike.

Thus as a build-up to the election and during the election proper at the weekend, tension arose because of rumours alleging that the former governor of the state never wanted his former Chief of Staff, Egbona, to represent Abi/Yakurr Federal Constituency so as not to enact any strong political rivalry. On election day in the two wards, people openly alleged that the former governor tried to stop their man. They insinuated that as far as they were concerned, the election was between Egbona and Imoke and not the former speaker, Gaul-Lebo.

Besides, it was seen as a challenge for the people of Ekureku not to have someone like Egbona, who is the highest political office holder in their community, in the National Assembly.

But the allegation that Imoke worked against Egbona was dispelled by Peter Ewa, who is one of the youth leaders in Itighidi, saying, “Such an impression against Imoke is complete nonsense. The Imoke we know is a father to all and has a soft heart. Egbona was in his government for eight years; so, how can he not want him to continue to grow? After all, both of them were in PDP together, but now that Alex joined APC, naturally you will expect the former governor to support John Gaul-Labo his party man.

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“This is politics and people will say so many things, whether it is true or not. The only problem is that Gaul is also close to Imoke, but he does not relate with people and is not a giver. For eight years that he was speaker during Imoke’s time he did nothing for his people. So, he is paying for it and if care is not taken this victory by Egbona may force John Gaul-Labo back to his law practice”.

On the other hand, the people of Ekureku see Egbona as the only one they have, as Iwara Ejike declared, “For Alex, we are ready. This is the only man; even when he was in Imoke’s government we really felt his impact. He is a grassroots’ man and man of the people. You can see from the crowd; we have the young and the old, boys and girls, men and women. In fact, if under aged were allowed to vote the entire community would have come out for Alex. He is the one we know.”

That was the kind of enthusiasm and sentiments exhibited on Saturday. The people of Ekureku showed Egbona real love. Even after voting, thousands of people except the aged refused to leave but stood firm to witness it all till nightfall. The tension and mobilization was high.

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The emergence of Egbona for the second time after the Appeal Court in Calabar terminated his victory last year has thrown up the challenge of political control or dominance in Abi, especially as he is from APC. The victory will definitely give PDP a run for its money in Abi and some other parts of the state if only APC could put its factional house together in the state.Imoke has, however, charged all politicians in the state to sheath their sword and unite for the interest of the state.

Apparently conscious of the bad blood the Saturday and other elections might have created in the state, Imoke said, “For the maturity exhibited through this election season, now that elections are over, I believe the better politicians won; we must all sheath our swords and unite for our common good. We must condemn and abhor the denigration and abuse of leaders and the perpetuation of divisive tendencies”.

Imoke, in a statement on Sunday while commending politicians and electorate of Abi/Yakurr and indeed Cross River State on the outcome of the rerun and other polls, said, “The state can only grow if we give our representatives the requisite support. Elections are over; it is time for all to unite for the common good of the people of the federal constituency”.He acknowledged that “through the course of this season as is always the case, tensions were perceived to be high… but ultimately the elections were peaceful.”

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