Matters arising from PDP, APC primaries in Cross River
It was an uphill task for both the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Cross River and Akwa Ibom states as they managed their primaries, especially at the governorship level.
In Cross River, the APC zoned the governorship ticket to the Southern senatorial district while the PDP that was the originator of zoning dumped the idea, but rather preferred a free for all contest as stated by the State PDP Chairman, Mr. Venatius Ikem. In Akwa Ibom, however, there was no issue with the senatorial zoning by both parties except the issue of micro zoning and internal wrangling that saw aspirants cross carpeting.
APC had 18 governorship aspirants in the race and after all efforts to arrive at a consensus failed, even with the Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba led consensus committee, the battle ground shifted to Abuja.
The aspirants split into two groups, the young and the old. A one time Commissioner for Lands in the state, Etubom Bassey Ndem, led the aspirants in the old group, others sacrificed their personal ambition and nominated Senator Bassey Otu as their preferred candidate. Governor Ben Ayade at the Abuja meeting announced Otu as the APC governorship consensus candidate.
The State Publicity Secretary of APC, Mr. Erasmus Ekpang, lauded the consensus arrangement saying, “the emergence of a consensus governorship candidate was the unanimous decision by the 17 aspirants and party critical stakeholders.”
He said, “the meeting, which was presided over by the Governor and leader of our great party, had in attendance the state chairman, Barr. Alphonsus Ogar Eba, other Executive members and the 17 gubernatorial aspirants under the platform of the APC. The meeting of the Party, which held at the Transcorp Hilton hotel in Abuja was a congenial political family meeting, which resolved to donate power to Sen. Prince Bassey Otu to fly the flag of the party as its gubernatorial candidate.”
Meanwhile, dissenting voice of Agara campaign organisation in statement by its Director General, Mr. Richard Ogbeche, rejected the APC consensus saying, “we will like to remind the pseudo democrats in the room that Section 84 (9) of the Electoral Act, 2022 provides that consensus may be used after cleared aspirants have emerged. Also, the written consent of the aspirant must be extracted before any consensus would be said to have been arrived at. Cleared aspirants who must have bought the nomination form and gone through due clearance are the ones who can enter into consensus agreements not pretenders to the Crown at Peregrino Hall.
“Democratic civil rule does not confer the status of a monarch or potentate on the governor or president for that matter and therefore the Governor’s word or preferences cannot become law unto all. We have chosen to disagree with the Consensus Option and are fully prepared for the governorship race of Cross River State at this time, no matter the number of comedy strips, threats of violence and all types of intimidation that we may come against in the course of prosecuting our legitimate aspiration.”
However, Agara and Senator John Owan-Enoh who had reservations with the consensus arrangement went into the primary with Otu and lost.
Now the eligibility of the APC consensus candidate Senator Otu to contest the 2023 governorship election has been challenged as Owan Enoh has dragged Prince Otu, INEC, APC to court, seeking the court to determine “whether Prince Otu was qualified to participate in the election primary of the APC conducted on May 26, 2022 in Cross River State, having not been cleared by the Screening Committee of APC. Whether, having been disqualified by the Screening Committee and Screening Appeal Committee for questionable academic credentials and failure to produce his First School Leaving Certificate nor his West African School Certificates, Prince Otu, ought to have participated in the election primary of the APC conducted on May26, 2022. Whether the APC National Organising Secretary has overriding power to clear Prince Otu, who was disqualified by the Screening Committee and the Screening Appeal Committee, being the bodies responsible for the clearance of aspirants for the APC primaries.”
Owan-Enoh is also seeking a determination “whether an individual who had been disqualified by the Screening Committee and the Screening Appeal Committee, but was cleared by a body not responsible for clearing such an individual to participate in the APC primaries, did not constitute a breach of the Constitution of the APC. Whether, in the absence of an Appeal to a domestic organ of the APC, superior to its Screening Committee and the Screening Appeal Committee, Prince Otu, was eligible to participate in the APC election primaries.”
But Otu’s campaign organisation said no cause for alarm, as Otu was later cleared by the party. The party and the Campaign Organisation of Otu said all issues surrounding the certificate issue of Otu have been rested following a final clearance from the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party. The party issued the final clearance based on the attestation from West Africa Examination Council (WAEC) confirming that Senator Otu attended Salvation Army Secondary School in Akai Ubiom of Akwa Ibom state in 1977 and he genuinely secured his certificate.
Giving clarification on the certificate matter, the Media Aide to Senator Otu, Mr. Ekpenyong Akiba, said the highest hierarchy of a political party, which is the National Working Committee (NWC) had cleared Otu, claiming the position of the screening committee as was clearly stated was inconclusive since they knew that there was another step that needed to look into the matter for a final position and that step is the NWC, where the National Organising Secretary of the party is in charge of the conduct of the election and the manager of party activities.
The National Organising Secretary of APC, Alhaji Sulaiman Mohammad Argungu, in a letter to the Chairman 2022 Governorship Primary Election Committee, said, “Please be informed that Mr. Bassey Edet Otu has been cleared to participate in the governorship primary election. To this end it will be appreciated if he is accorded all respect and privileges deserving of a governorship aspirant in Cross River state.”
Akiba said, “So, as of today, his name has also been uploaded on the official website of the party where other candidates across the state were uploaded. His name as we speak is going to be forwarded to INEC as the candidate of the party in Cross River State.
“If Prince Otu was not duly screened and cleared the party would not forward such a name to INEC. So, all that has to do with Prince Otu has been put to rest by the position of the NWC of the party, which the constitution empowers to oversee the activities of the party at all levels.”
However, one of the founding members of the party, Chief Okoi Obono-Obla, has said with the fall out of the primaries, APC is beyond redemption.
Obono-Obla who lost the Central senatorial ticket to Ayade’s favourite said “the potentate makes sure that you must have his endorsement before you can aspire to become a candidate. Aspirants that did not have the endorsement of the potentate, had sorts of obstacles thrown along their paths. I was the target from day one. The powers that be were at a crossroads on what to do with me and therefore devised crude and inferior methods to edge me out. The APC has completely deviated from the philosophy of its founding fathers. Let us see how the anointed aspirants will deliver the party in Cross River State. As it stands the party is fractured beyond redemption”.
Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to the Governor, Christian Ita said all positions in the state were evenly taken from the South to North senatorial and there was no dichotomy of “Old” and “New” APC
He said, “Our attention has been drawn to a piece by a respectable member of our great party, Chief Godwin Okoi Obla, wherein he made a flawed analysis of the state of the All Progressives Congress, APC, in Cross River. Chief Obla’s position is a mere regurgitation of the same false claim by some party chieftains who have refused to avail themselves of the facts about the APC in the state. As a lawyer and a senior one at that, Chief Obla knows that facts speak for themselves. However, at times like this, we need them to show the disposition of elders and leaders because in every political contest, not everyone will win. Some will win, while others will lose but in the final analysis, everybody is a winner because we are one indivisible party and one family.”
FOR the PDP, the back to south arrangement and consensus failed after all efforts and the aspirants went to the field after which Senator Sandy Onor from the Central senatorial district emerged winner in a contest that was adjudged free and fair.
It was speculated that the Back2South agenda was killed through betrayal by top politicians from the South who did not support Senator Gershom Bassey and Mr. Daniel Asuquo who came second and third respectively.
Dr. Patrick Ene Okon lamented that Senator Gershom Bassey’s loss in the PDP primary is a blow to the entire Cross River South Senatorial District (SSD) and a loss for the Efik people. “The Back2South advocacy became very loud and even deafening! But that is where it all began and ended. We, in the South lacked the will, the tenacity and the sincerity to drive it to a logical and successful conclusion.” He went on to blame former governor Donald Duke for betraying the agenda even when he was a beneficiary in 1999.
But former commissioner for Justice and Attorney General in the state, Mr. Eyo Ekpo put the blame squarely on the Southern aspirants that refused to step down and go with one aspirant. He said Senator Bassey’s loss and that of his partisan supporters is not the loss of the South Senatorial District and not synonymous to Efik.
“It would have been nice to have both major parties present candidates from the South senatorial district, but if PDP that has ‘rotation and zoning’ written into its constitution failed to produce a Southern Senatorial candidate, it was clearly for the five PDP aspirants from the South – Senator Gershom Henshaw, Hon. Daniel Asuquo, Chief Arthur Jarvis Archibong, Mrs. Nkoyo Toyo and Mrs. Ima Adegoke – who refused, despite repeated entreaties, to step down for each other, to explain how they collectively snatched an embarrassing defeat from the jaws of an almost certain historic victory. They faced a single aspirant from the entire old Ogoja Province. How on earth could any of them have expected to win?”
He added: “Hon. Patrick Okon, understandably upset, perhaps even bitter, at his principal’s entirely predictable loss, now seeks to make former governor Donald Duke the scapegoat for his principal’s failure. He needs to calm down and recall a little history. The seeds of this historical loss were sown in 2007 when Liyel Imoke, with the passive-active assistance of Gershom Bassey turned his back on and ran Donald Duke out of the PDP and almost out of Cross River State. Between 2007 and 2015, the PDP “family” built with huge effort, sweat, tears, blood and even precious lives fell apart. The resultant schism was solidified with the advent in 2015 of Governor “Professor” Ben Ayade who knew nothing about that “family” and had no qualms, and no problems, with scattering the family to the four winds and bribing the youth of that family to his side with his clearly unsustainable food-on-the-table agenda. If not for that falling apart, how could Cross River have become a state that has given rich pickings to the APC? So much so that the APC now looks set to retain Peregrino Lodge come 2023?
A political analyst, Pius Effiong, on his part said, “as we approach the threshold of the 2023 general elections, there have been a lot of scheming, plotting, and power play at different levels of the politics and across political parties. What every true lover of the South and indeed Cross River State should know is this, there’s a grave plot to not only undermine but completely scheme out and relegate the South, especially the Efik to the background. And it’s very unfortunate that this plot is being executed with the connivance of some supposedly major power players and key political office holders and stakeholders in the South.
“What played out in the gubernatorial primary elections of the PDP should be an eye opener and a clear indication to the South that all is not well and it is high time they called themselves together and put their house in order. They should get it clear that the race was not all about Gershom Bassey, but about the corporate political interest and survival of the Southern senatorial district, now and in the future. The clouds have gathered and it is about to rain and this rain shall fall on every roof, both the high and lowly, the weak and the strong. I pity those Southerners who are busy celebrating the emergence of Sandy Onor as PDP’s flag bearer. In case you don’t know, eight years from now power will shift to the North and Senator Jarigbe Agom is seriously strategically positioning himself to grab it.”
He said it was the ‘Back to South’ Agenda for personal aggrandizement… calling for the need to have a grand alliance across party lines, especially with the recent happenings in the APC. He warned that there would be a protest vote against PDP in favour of APC so that power can come to South and the zoning arrangement sustained.