By Gnarly Eyo
The mass cry for better governance in Cross River State will appealingly necessitate a transition from partisan politics to purposeful leadership, enhanced by an electorate who should ideally choose content and character over political and ethnic affiliation. While the candidate who will better appeal to voters must also be one that is accessible and focused, it is however not in doubt that the next governor of CRS, going by the convenience of zoning, will come from Cross River South. Listed below are six illustrious sons of Cross River South and potential aspirants to watch out for in the race to the 2023 governorship election. They are listed in no order of importance.
1. Senator Bassey Edet Otu
Better known in political circles as the “Sweet Prince”, because of his audacious approach to giving, Senator Bassey Edet Otu, can easily be fingered out in a crowd because of his towering political credentials. When he represented Calabar Municipality/Odukpani Federal Constituency in Nigeria’s House of Representatives from 2003-2011, his outreach, open-door policy, accessibility, popularity and humane character, stood him out exceptionally. On the back of this rare principles, he contested for and won elections as the Senator representing Cross River Southern Senatorial District in Nigeria’s Senate from 2011 to 2015. In 2016, Otu defected to the All Progressives Congress (APC) and became the Cross River South Senatorial flag bearer of the party in the 2019 election; he however lost that election in controversial circumstances. In 2023, he may be testing his popularity again after what seems like a political hiatus…and he cannot be ignored.
2. Ntufam Ekpo Okon
Ekpo Okon appears to have hit political limelight when he creditably represented the people of Calabar Municipality/Odukpani in the House of Representatives. Shortly after, he was made a commissioner by former governor Donald Duke and at the same time, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, party chairman because of his political sagacity. He later became Cross River State representative in the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, serving his time well and earning the respect and commendation of his people. In the 2019 governorship election in the state, Ntufam Ekpo Okon, defected to the APC and became the running mate of APC’s gubernatorial candidate, Senator John Owan Enoh. He lent his mass appeal to their quest but they lost to the system rather than the process. It is however yet to be seen if he will put his foot through the governorship door once the whistle is blown.
3. Prince Daniel Asuquo
Daniel Asuquo a.k.a Dansuki, is a vibrant young man who has enjoyed maximum political goodwill from his indigenous Biase/Akamkpa Federal Constituency. He was that young Chairman of Akamkpa Local Government Area from 1999-2002, who had a bitter disagreement, on principle, with former C’River governor, Donald Duke and ended up detention after that famed reconciliatory meeting with Duke in Lagos. He later became Director General, Cross River State Rural Electrification Agency in 2008, during the Imoke era. Dansuki also became member, House of Representatives in 2011 where he subsequently became a member of such plum committees like the Legislative Budget and Research Committee, Niger Delta Development Commission Committee, Marine Safety, Education and Administration Committee, Land Transport Committee as well as the Federal Character Committee, all in 2015. Asuquo has a strong and massive youth appeal and will exploit that as he eyes the gubernatorial seat in 2023.
4. H.E. Effiok Cobham
His Excellency, Effiok Cobham, former deputy governor of CRS, has been a faithful and humble party man who at one time served as state PDP secretary under the leadership of Ntufam Ekpo Okon. On the strength of his political acceptability and reach, he was nominated as deputy governor to former governor, Senator Liyel Imoke. Political pundits easily say he was able to unite the people of Cross River South to queue behind Imoke’s governorship. Effiok has remained humble and accessible to date. He undeniably remains a strong contender for the top job because he recently served as deputy governor, ran the state throughout the period Imoke was ill and had to be flown abroad, remaining level-headed and loyal to Imoke throughout that eight-year period.
5. Bassey Eyo Ndem
Bassey Eyo Ndem is an experienced urbane politician who served under former state governor, Donald Duke as commissioner. Credited with an awesome business reach that has seen him make an effective mark in the hotel industry with Axari Hotels and several other subtle business concerns, Ndem was also saddled with much of the positive work that berthed Tinapa Business and Leisure Resort. He was recently called up by the Ben Ayade administration to be part of a team that will help the administration ascertain the true debt profile of the state as well as help firm up an economic policy direction for the administration. He sticks religiously to his promises and can lead the state to the Promised Land. His political body language is positive.
6. Essien E. Ayi
Apostle Essien Ayi is a fourth term member representing Calabar South/Akpabuyo/Bakassi Federal Constituency in Nigeria’s House of Representatives. He has been there since 2003. At one time, he was Chairman of Calabar South Local Government area and earned himself the sobriquet, “ATM”, for his philanthropic gestures and huge investment in youths. His official residence in Abuja and his personal house in Calabar, are a Mecca of some sort as daily, people troop in and out in search of succor. In the House of Reps, “Funky” as he is called on the street, has been a member, House Committee on Sports, FCT Area Councils and Ancillary Matters, Petroleum Resources, Solid Minerals, Labour, Employment and Productivity, Solid Minerals, Electoral Matters and Political Party Matters as well as Customs and Excise. Will all of these work in his favour? We will see.
They may be others interested in running for governor in 2023 and indeed they have a right to aspire. As plans unfold, we will look in further and x-ray the aspirants.
Gnarly Eyo, writer, public speaker and activist wrote in from Calabar.
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