Thursday, 8th June 2023

How Tinubu rescued Cross River APC from Zamfara nightmare

By Leo Sobechi, Deputy Politics Editor, Abuja
02 January 2023   |   3:25 am
Owan Enoh’s fresh demands on Ayade “I wish to call on the leadership of the party in Cross River State to open a new page in the party based on this new development. On this new page, there should be unity, love and justice to all. May we continue to invest faith in our party…

Ben Ayade. Photo/FACEBOOK/DanielHWilliams/BenAyade

Owan Enoh’s fresh demands on Ayade

“I wish to call on the leadership of the party in Cross River State to open a new page in the party based on this new development. On this new page, there should be unity, love and justice to all. May we continue to invest faith in our party for a better tomorrow.”

It was with those demands that the former chairman of Senate Committee on Appropriation and All Progressives Congress (APC) governorship aspirant for Cross River State, Senator John Owan Enoh, announced his withdrawal from further judicial interrogation of the party’s gubernatorial primary of May 2022.
Having succumbed to the ambush laid on his path by Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, Senator Enoh, stylishly pushed the moral burden of reconciling and reintegrating diverse interests in the party for a genuine cessation of hostilities.
The events leading to Enoh’s surrender was predicated on efforts by party leaders to avert a repeat of the Zamfara debacle that cost the party the important Northwest state during the 2019 poll.
Consequently, it could be seen that the December 20 Town Hall meeting by the APC Presidential Campaign Council in Calabar, Cross River State, was programmed as a different kind.
It was obvious from the planning stage that the party’s presidential standard-bearer, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, was determined to keep the state in the APC corner as the general elections draw near.
Everything was being done to save Governor Ben Ayade from political humiliation and looming failure. Governor Ayade made headlines when he defected from the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), on which platform he was elected for a second term as Cross River State governor.
Also, prior to Ayade’s coming, the representative of Cross River Senatorial District in the Eighth Senate, John Owan Enoh, whom he beat at the 2019 gubernatorial poll, was also oiling his structures towards a repeat gubernatorial contest in 2023.  
But, having joined APC, where he first aspired for the party’s presidential ticket only to step down for Tinubu, Ayade’s plan to implant a successor brought him into another political cum legal cross-fire with Senator Owan Enoh. With his pedigree as a grassroots politician, farmer and philanthropist, the former Cross River Central Senator was set on pushing the state chapter of APC down a similar dangerous cliff like its Zamfara State counterpart suffered in 2019.
Outgoing governor Abdullaziz Yari decided to block Senator Marafa’s gubernatorial ambition as well as replace him in the Senate. The infighting led to the disqualification of Zamfara State APC’s candidates for the 2019 poll.
It was therefore in a bid to stave such ugly experience that Tinubu and APC PCC staged its Town Hall meeting in Calabar. Not only is Ayade and Cross River the only APC governor and state in the South-South geopolitical zone, their strategic position for electoral spread compelled Tinubu to intervene vigorously in the deep political crisis caused by Ayade versus Own Enoh supremacy battle.
Perhaps, beneath the bitter rivalry between Governor Ayade and the former chairman of Senate Committee on Appropriation, was the insistence of the governor to donate the APC governorship and Central Senatorial tickets to his preferred pawns.
Incensed by that overbearing political disposition, Owan Enoh and Mary Eta resolved to retrieve their mandates through the courts. The twin legal challenges had capacity to disrupt the Cross APC to huge political disruption of an earthquake magnitude.
Although the Federal High Court and Court of Appeal, Calabar, had ruled against Owan Enoh’s suit, the Senator was sure that the Apex Court would do justice to the matter of APC gubernatorial primary. Owan Enoh had complained against manipulation of the straw poll, contending that Senator (Prince Bassey Edet Otu was  ‘wrongfully and illegally’ returned as winner despite his non-clearance by both the screening and the screening appeal committees set up by the party.
In his petitions to the party’s Appeal Committee, Senator Enoh noted that Otu’s academic records are replete with questionable gaps, even as he stressed that the aspirant’s participation in the governorship primary was in total breach of the laid down rules and constitution of the party.  
But, showing great leadership and political experience during the Town Hall meeting, Tinubu publicly urged Owan Enoh and Mary Eta to back down from the dangerous litigation.
The APC presidential contender disclosed how he met with Senator Enoh at the Airport and pleaded with him to discontinue the judicial disputation in the interest of the party, adding that he was repeating that plea again.
“Mary Eta and I didn’t start today, we have been friends long ago. And Senator John Owan-Enoh, no matter what, you are bound to be disappointed as far as you are human but please, withdraw your lawsuits. Let us work together,” Tinubu remarked.  
Just as the former Senator was supplanted by Ayade’s Otu for the governorship ticket, the incumbent Speaker of the state Assembly, Wiiliam Eteng, was propelled by the governor to trounce Mary Eta for the Cross River Central Senatorial ticket.
While noting that negative impact continuous bickering could have on the fortunes and cohesion of the party, the former Lagos State governor declared: “I am a front wheel driver, driving Nigeria forward is the only reason I am running. Division, anger, breaking apart will not solve Nigeria’s problem. It is only by building a team of intellectuals, visionaries that we can build a great Nigeria.”
There was no mistaking the fact that resolving the crisis in Cross River State chapter of APC was the highest point of the South/South Town Hall meeting in Calabar, not only because of the priority accorded to the plea, but that healing would ensure that the party returns the maximum votes during the general elections.
Perhaps, to demonstrate that Tinubu’s gesture and intervention achieved the set purpose, barely one week after the Town Hall meeting in Calabar, Senator John Owan Enoh, called a press conference in Abuja.
Tracing the genesis of the crisis, the former Senator stated: “After the last state governorship primary of our party, I sought a civilized route to address my misgivings through the court, which is the acceptable standard in any democracy that is worth its name.
“I have been dissatisfied with the last two court judgments from the Federal High Court and Court of Appeal, both in Calabar. I have the option of proceeding to the Supreme Court to exhaust my inalienable constitutional right to fair hearing and justice.
“However, the occasion of the Town Hall meeting of Tuesday December 20, 2022 at the instance of the presidential candidate of our party, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, has gone down as a watershed and turning point for me in seeking further redress in the matter…
“The public appeal by the presidential candidate and national leader of our party is such a humbling experience which I cannot ignore under any circumstance.
“I have had cause to confer with my immediate family and consult widely with my teeming supporters across the state after that occasion. On this note, therefore, I have taken the hard decision to put an end to the litigation and instead work for the success of the party.”
There is no doubts that Senator Owan Enoh has thrown in the towel and decided to put behind his misgivings over the lack of internal democracy in APC, which helped to empower new joiners over older members in reward and recognition. But, it is left to been seen in the days leading to the February 25 presidential, National Assembly polls how far the party was prepared to learn the lessons of “shared history and common political destiny.”
How far will Ayade’s winner takes it all go to win the main election by retuning his favourites as governor and Senators, where he is also a contender for a return to the Red Chamber?
All is now left for the voluble Ayade to walk the talk and prime Cross River State APC for the huge challenge posed by the charging PDP.