2023: Whither Cross River State?

By Bassey Okon

The nation Nigeria is in dire straits occasioned by festering security, economic and infrastructural challenges, the most worrisome being security due to its direct and indirect impact on all aspect of our existence as a people and a nation. These have led to a very fragile and fragmented nation like never before. Our people have more or less lost hope in the ability of the incumbent administration to save the nation and her people from the pangs of banditry and terrorism. There’s renewed and heightened clamour for restructuring/self-determination, early discussions about the 2023 presidency, etc.

Many questions are being asked and answers are being sought pertaining to the kind of presidency the people hope to see in the next dispensation with media influencers and political gladiators doing their utmost to push their diverse narratives. Similar questions are being asked by many citizens and residents of Cross River State because of the strong and general belief that the Ayade administration has failed woefully in delivering dividends of democracy. Therefore, discussions in Cross River State like at the national level have centred on how to headhunt the next leader of the State.

Our local discourse has inhered in it issues like which senatorial district and generation of political gladiators should produce the next Governor of the State. Like we are wont to do in our Nigerian brand of politics most analysts have approached issues about the 2023 gubernatorial election from a prism of self-interest and other primordial sentiments. In other words many have taken positions and options based on selfish considerations and ill motives. The more important issues of capacity, character and competence have been back-burnered. And this is the reason why I decided to put pen to paper.

I cannot imagine 29th May, 2023 with a Governor bereft of character and competence in Government House Calabar [GHC], a dispensation that the masses have put so much hope in to lift them out of the current difficulties and frustrations owing to the systemic failure of the present administration in the State. Any narrative that doesn’t promote competence as a cardinal trait of the next tenant in GHC doesn’t have the wellbeing and betterment of the people of the State at heart.

The issue of power sharing or zoning as some call it has continued to make screaming headlines in national discourse concerning the forthcoming electoral season. Similarly in our subnational polity we are also confronted by multifarious opinions concerning the governorship seat of Cross River State. Has the governorship ever been zoned in the State? Some say ‘YES’, some say ‘NO’. Analysts from both sides of the divide have posited strong reasons to back up or justify their position. Whether there was zoning or not one fact remains incontrovertible – the three senatorial districts of the State have all occupied the governorship with Senator Ben Ayade of the Northern Senatorial District [NSD] currently running his second and final term in office.

At the dawn of the current democratic dispensation, Mr. Donald Duke from the Southern Senatorial District [SSD] took the first shot from 1999 to 2007 followed by Senator Liyel Imoke of the Central Senatorial District [CSD] from 2007 to 2015. I’m not readily disposed to an alignment with either the naysayers or the ayes. However, it is crystal clear to me that the SSD has been off the number one seat for good fourteen years running while the CSD has been away for just six years. Therefore It would amount to cant to say any district can run since it’s the start of another cycle of the office through the three senatorial zones. If we are in a participatory democracy politics must be played with fairness and equity. It won’t serve our best interest, both immediate and long term, if we begin to bicker over a res ipsa loquitur situation.

There is no gainsaying the fact that in the matter of which senatorial district should produce the next Governor most rational and reasonable citizens of the State have aligned with the notion that the Southern Senatorial District [SSD] should do so come 2023. I’m in agreement with them.

However, in so doing the District must put its best foot forward for the task that lies ahead is enormous, requiring a character with exemplary track record, pedigree, proven competence and diverse skill set. S/he must come with a clear vision and mission statements including well-defined strategies to rejig the State and reposition it for greatness on every side, for ours is a land so blessed with immense natural resources and skilled manpower.

The era of candidates grandstanding on the soapbox to discuss Party manifesto is long gone. Party manifestos don’t deliver. They are a buffer for visionless candidates. Cross River needs a man or woman on a rescue mission.

The pervasive conspiracy of silence by the elites of our society is disturbing. If this trend continues they would have successfully left the space for elements with skewed narratives to peddle their self-serving options. One of such gratuitous paradigms is that the next Governor must be youthful – whatever that means! For me the next Governor can come from any generation. What should be key is the CHARACTER, COMPETENCE and CAPACITY of the personality. Some of our political gladiators today came into the scene twenty-two years ago while in their 30s and early 40s. Therefore, one can safely say we’ve always had young people on our political landscape. Whether they showed or proved character and competence over the years is left to the discerning mind to assess dispassionately.

I’m appealing to our elites to come out from their cocoon and address some of the issues raised here and even more. Our people need to be guided by those who are better informed and experienced. This is no time to sit on the fence and say que sera sera. This is the time to partner, collaborate, harmonize and push out sound discourse. Enough of the laissez-faire tendencies.

We can’t afford to miss it in 2023.

Deacon Bassey Okon, a political/public affairs commentator, wrote in from Calabar, CRS.

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