The Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in Cross River State is determined to reclaim political power from the All Progressives Congress, APC, by March 11, 2023, even though leaders of the party also belong to different camps of the party at the national level.
But going by their determination and the seeming popularity of their candidate, and given lingering complaints from the people against Ayade’s administration, the party has consolidated its grip on the State.
It is for this reason that the ruling APC and Governor Benedict Ayade, a professor, is not leaving anything to chance.
Ayade deserted them (PDP) on May 20, 2021, to join the then struggling opposition party, APC.
As a result, structures in the APC were dramatically strengthened overnight and has become formidable since he is determined not to return to PDP.
Ayade had decamped from PDP because he was facing real heat from other stakeholders who alleged that he was becoming unduly dictatorial. They claimed that they were not allowed to have a say in the control of party structures.
As a result, they wrestled power out of Ayade’s hands and he felt frustrated.
Ayade moved with a sizable member of his cabinet, supporters and aides to APC, took over the control and it became the state ruling party.
APC, with state resources, resolved that it must retain, according to Barrister Alphonsus Eba, its chairman.
“With our political evangelism, we have realigned and united. We are formidable. We have worked harder to gain respect and love of the populace in the state.
“We have been able to change the status quo. We have been able to allow the majority of our people to be part of our government through massive appointments and job creations in our long list of factories. There is food on the table. Above all, for this election, our candidates have the most appeal to the people”, Eba said during a campaign.
So, everything is put in place to ensure that Prince Bassey Otu, a one-time Senator representing the Cross River Southern Senatorial District, succeeds Ayade.
His choice was deliberate, as the party rightly argues that it is the turn of the South to produce a governor. And they believe that Otu, going by his perceived popularity amongst a section of the southern district – mostly his Efik kinsmen – can help to swing many votes.
But then the other sections of the district, that is the Akamkpa and Biase LGA axis have vehemently protested, saying they have never produced a governor and asking whether it is the Efiks alone who populate the District.
As a result, it is very unlikely that they are happy with the choice of Prince Otu whose running mate is Peter Odey from Ogoja in the northern part of the state. He is the majority leader of the state House of Assembly.
A long time House of Representatives member representing that axis, Daniel Asuquo, who is candidate of Labour Party, LP, for southern senatorial district had this to say:
“It is gross injustice to keep denying Akamkpa/Biase axis the opportunity to vie for the governorship of this state. We are a big and very critical factor in the district. It is wrong to feel that it is the Efiks alone who make up the southern district. We should never be subjugated or subservient to other parts of the district.”
For this reason, feelers from that axis show that most may swing their votes to the PDP governorship candidate, Prof Sandy Ojang Onor, a sitting Senator, who though from the Central Senatorial District of Etung LGA has strong matrilineal links to the Ejagham nation and has influences in the Akamkpa/Biase axis.
Findings also confirmed that they are not quite convinced that their LP guber candidate, Ogar Osim, also from Ikom LGA in the Central District, has the required popularity, pedigree and influence to make any impact in the governorship race.
With such subtle morale-boosting and hope-raising support from LP supporters, leaders of PDP, the leading opposition party, have reiterated their sheer determination to reclaim power.
Chairman of PDP in the state, Venatius Ikem said they are unstoppable in their quest to flush out Ayade whom they have continually regretted that they gave the opportunity at the detriment of others to emerge as their guber candidate in 2015 election.
“Everywhere we went on the Door-to-Door Sensitisation, as well as the mega political campaigns we have carried out across the 18 LGAs, the people have affirmed their love for our party, PDP. Of course, you know that Cross River has always been a PDP state, which they want to reclaim. Our governorship candidate is the most popular and acceptable, even in the south.
“The Ayade misgovernance has helped our campaign so much. This is because the people are overly disenchanted with his deception. Go round and feel the pulse of the real people, even members of his government are complaining. So this has helped us.”
Ikem expressed optimism that his party will trounce APC in the northern senatorial district where the state governor is a candidate. There are fears that due to intense interests by both parties, the election there might witness violence.
In the south, it is believed that the governor had initially favoured the son of a prominent businessman in the state, Asuquo Ekpenyong jr whose father, Chief Asuquo Ekpenyong Sr had been supporting Ayade’s elections, to vie for governorship but conceded for Prince Otu due to pressure. But there are other more popular and experienced politicians such as Daniel Asuquo of LP and that of PDP, Ntufam Ekpo Okon – a former House of Reps member and NDDC Board member.
Speaking during a radio programme, ‘Let’s Talk Nigeria’ on Sparkling FM Calabar, a PDP stalwart and former member House of Representatives, Ambassador Nkoyo Toyo contended that APC has nothing to show for its eight years in power in the state but only succeeded in plunging the people into untold poverty, hunger, deaths, lamentations and sufferings, which reason the people have disliked them.
“APC does not have any scorecard at all to present to Nigerians in the state. They have continued to perpetually blame PDP for their incompetence and failure. Wouldn’t they have been able to make a difference, by reducing hunger, reducing criminality, and improving governance? Instead they have become worse. They are a complete disaster.”
Responding during the same programme, spokesman of the APC campaign council in the state and former presidential aide, Chief Okoi Obono-Obla said their party has done very well in about eight years in power and blamed the current hardships experienced by Nigerians on the 16 years of alleged misgovernance of the opposition PDP.
According to him, PDP in the state left humongous debts which has told much on federal allocations to the state.
“In Cross River State, we are expected to right all the wrongs left by years of poor leadership of the PDP; they left very ugly legacies of debts,” he said.
On his part, former minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Usani Usani who is People’s Redemption Party, PRP, governorship candidate, has continually dismissed the insinuation that his party is not rated amongst the top three political parties in the state.
“Is it not the politicians that make up any political parties? For me, it is the person running the election that matters most, not the names of parties.
After all, is it not the same types of people that dominate the so-called two biggest parties and they continually rotate themselves.
“For me, it is my person, contents and my programmes that stand me out of the pack.”
Usani may not have the humongous resources to continue with statewide governorship campaigns but he relies much on his fame, popularity and pockets of groups spreading bills in some towns.
Overall, people’s attention is on either APC or PDP for governorship. And as it looks, the ruling APC will have to be prayerful to retain power.
This is because even the Inter-Party Advisory Council, IPAC, seems to be unhappy with the leader of APC in the state, Gov Ayade.
They have dragged Ayade to court over an alleged statement from his deputy chief press secretary, Linus Obogo suggesting that IPAC has been compromised with N50m to thwart the general election.
They have called on the authorities to look into Ayade’s alleged sponsorship of security personnel to work for APC.
2023 polls: APC faces tough battle in Cross River