The ministerial nomination of former Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, egghead and politician, Goddy Jedy Agba, has stirred up a contentious debate about how the rotational governorship accord between the three senatorial districts in Cross River State should be applied from 2023, www.calitown.com can reveal.
While the Southern and Central senatorial districts in the state have each had Donald Duke and Liyel Imoke respectively, govern the state for eight years each, Ben Ayade who is presently governor and from the Northern senatorial district, has just begun a second term in office that should hopefully see him complete the North’s eight years in office come 2023.
It has however emerged in the last 48 hours that most Cross Riverians are already looking beyond Ayade’s governorship and projecting into 2023. If all visible, invisible and imagined parties to a long held political convention in the state agree, in 2023, the governorship should seamlessly go to the Southern senatorial district. But as small talk is becoming word on the street now, the South of Cross River may be in for a spanking surprise as there is already argument that since the rotational convention has been spun full circle, the governorship can start from any of the three districts.
Goddy Jedy Agba, who was gradually sliding into the political back brains of the state, has suddenly become a key factor after President Muhammadu Buhari included him in his list of ministerial nominees. Agba ran for governor of the state in 2015 in a blitz, was almost homing in on the ticket before he was clearly prevented from picking the PDP nomination by then governor, Liyel Imoke. Imoke it was who clearly told Cross Riverians at several campaign rallies that, “I know who will not be governor, but I don’t for now know who will be governor”, meticulously shutting Agba out and bringing Ayade in, in a last ditch effort.
As Agba begins life as minister and enjoys the spoils of office, he may again be reminded that he can be governor. The argument is already deepening that, “… (in) 2023 when another Obudu son contests Governorship…see if the heavens will fall. After all it has gone round. It doesn’t matter where it starts from”, former Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Venatius Ikem, recently wrote. But one Diana-Abasi Alphonsus Udoh, differs: “The result of the 2019 governorship elections in CRS clearly shows you that you can’t alter the variable of zoning in CRS politics. There is a difference between ambition and results. Expressing an ambition to run an election cannot change the constant political equation on ground. The Implication is very obvious”, she wrote in reaction to Ikem’s submission.
Abasi’s 2019 election reference is in the decision of John Owan Enoh of the All Progressives Congress, APC, from the Central Senatorial district, who went against the rotational convention and ran against Ayade. Enoh’s decision to run whipped up sentiments and pitched him against proponents of the rotational convention who felt piqued that he was out to alter a gentleman’s agreement already in place. It appears Enoh action has provided impetus for the convention to be further defined or even jettisoned. “Well this is politics so anything can happen. Don’t forget a Central man (Owan Eno) made a bid for the Governorship despite his Central man Imoke already did (sic) eight years. So had Owan won would he have been prevented from governing CRS? So I don’t see anything stopping Jeddy from making the bid in 2023 if he has the resources (which he does)”, Bassey Archibong submits.
Can we actually point to the fact that Enoh’s action alongside that of some of his political brothers from the Central Senatorial district is one of the alluvial plains provided for this new agitation? Ikem responds: “When I warned you people that what you were doing in Central trying to oppress us was dangerous politics did you listen? Indeed you were the champion of “it is on merit”! Now on merit Obudu has Governor and Minister and we should not be happy? And we will have lots more! In history, any time you set out to oppress a people, deliberately, God comes to their rescue. Mark that if it didn’t sink in. I knew we will rise again! Some say I preached ethnicity! No! It’s just the truth they cannot handle so they give it a name. We will fight amongst ourselves still but we will be fighting over the spoils.”
John Gaul Lebo, immediate past Speaker of the Cross River State House of Assembly, CRSHA, in his assessment of the situation, sounds cautious, “… let’s see what Jeddy is made up of. He could use this Ministerial outing to make a case for his next Governorship bid if he does well.” To Ikem and Lebo’s submissions, Kalita Aruku replies; “I remember, it was Prophetic but can the Obudu people allow it reach other parts of the North?” This is a great concern for several other Cross Riverians in the Northern Senatorial District who are feeling marginalised, even deliberately kept out of the equation. CR North has five local government areas: Ogoja, Yala, Bekwarra, Obudu and Obanliku, but are the other LGAs overshadowed by the Obudu ‘mafia’? Answers will ideally depend on personal perceptions.
There are concerns though. In 2023, it would have been 16 years since someone from the South of Cross River last served as governor of the state. The seven local governments (Biase, Akamkpa, Odukpani, Calabar Municipality, Calabar South, Akpabuyo, Bakassi) have a predictable voting pattern and are often influenced by the widely spoken Efik language among them; the Central and Northern senatorial districts do not enjoy this latter advantage. Political cohesion backed by a uniform language is a formidable political tool and this will be deployed when the time comes. Add too that Calabar Municipality and Calabar South have a high voting population, ably complimented by what the remaining five local government areas in the Southern Senatorial District, bring to the table.
Three things most ambitious men crave for are money, sex and power. While it may be too early to conclude, men like Jedy Agba, who have long enjoyed the whiff of money can still do with a little bit of power. Will he or will he not, is a question we cannot provide answer(s) to now. But then, whatever political rumblings throw up whoever, people like one Bassey Inyang from the South of CR maintain to his brothers up North that, “let us not alter this arrangement, after Ayade, let the governorship return to the South!”. Do politicians always listen? Hardly.
Additional reports: Mfon-Obong Ntiero, Patrick Bassey
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