Saturday 26th of February 2022 is a sure date with destiny for the people of Ogoja/Yala Federal Constituency. The By-Election to fill the vacant House of Representatives Seat holds on this day.
It is expected that either one of the candidates of the two frontline political parties (All Progressives Congress – APC and Peoples Democratic Party – PDP) should emerge winner.
Chief Jude Ngaji flies the flag of the APC whereas Honourable Mike Usibe is the standard bearer for PDP. Given the popularity and pedigree of these two leading candidates together with the different political dynamics at play it is a very tough call to project an outright winner between these two. Whoever eventually wins is likely to do so by slim margins.
At a personal level l funnily find myself praying for the success of both of them at the same time if possible given my nearly 40 years of special relationship with both of them.
We were all in Mary Knoll College way back in the early 1980s. Hon. Usibe was in Form 4 or 5 when I started Form 1 at MKC, whereas Jude was only a class or one set behind my set.
We later bonded further with Hon. Mike when their dad was Treasurer in Abi LGA. I was in the University then and use to go visit Chief Dr. Jake Otu Enyia working with the LGA Treasury Department under Mike’s dad then. Itigidi was also the hometown one of my dad’s closest friends and brother now late Dr. AJS Elemi (Uncle Joe Elemi as we fondly called him – a very jolly good fellow). I always felt at home there. I also became close with Mike’s brothers who were friends and school mates with my younger brother and cousin. So, I have a close relationship with the Usibes from far back.
For Jude, he is actually a brother to me. Our families are deeply nested. His dad Senator Ngaji and my dad were not only classmates in the early 1960s at MKC but were extremely good friends through life. Indeed, he became my ‘loco parentis’ at Ogoja especially from 1984 when Kanu Agabi SAN who was a second father to me from childhood relocated from Ogoja to Calabar. Sen. Greg has always been a kind, generous, compassionate and easy going man.
Jude himself has a strong and good character even when some could misinterpret his often times taciturn nature for something else. He is neither rambunctious nor garrulous. But calm, collected, self-effacing and characteristically kind.
I recall a special incident in late 2010 at the then PDP State Secretariat where he stamped the mettle of his strong moral fibre and loyalty to friendship and family on my psyche. He was a PDP State official. I was then an aspirant for House of Representatives: Ikom/Boki Federal Constituency. All NASS Aspirants came for clearance. I concluded at my turn. May be one of the Panel members was expecting that I should drop ‘a thank you something’. It was not expressly asked and I did not give.That member made a little meaningless excuse to delay release of my clearance certificate. I fumed and was arguing. Jude walked in and asked me what the matter was. I explained. He said ‘don’t worry just go and wait for me outside and I will bring it for you.’
He did bring the Clearance Certificate to me after a short while. I pulled him into my car and handed a big chunk of cash in A4 envelope as thank you. He so pleasantly embarrassed and shocked me with the response: ‘what is that?’ ‘How can I do something for you and you give me money?’ I tried to explain that it was a token of appreciation after all he didn’t ask me for any money. He simply said: ‘please don’t do that again’ and never touched a penny of that money. That was outstanding conduct for me because I had old friends in that same Secretariat who consistently pestered for money for any or no reason at all.
Jude hinted me again in Abuja that his dad then a serving Senator is waiting to support my ambition with his monetary token gift. They had spoken. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get to eventually see his dad for that because of hectic demands of the grassroots campaign tours I was engaged in.
There is so much more between ourselves and our larger families. So, it is absolutely inconceivale for me not to wish Jude success or not to support the interest of Sen. Ngaji’s family same as Kanu Agabi family.
Back to some of the key dynamics that will influence the outcome of the election.
Both Jude and Mike are popular and accepted across both PDP and APC.
More that stand to Jude’s credit. He had previously been a key stakeholder of PDP and a high ranking official in the PDP government as Deputy Chief of Staff/Chief of Staff to the Governor. He is an Igoli boy in Ogoja in addition to being of Yala original. His paternal ancestral lineage extend to Ibil – Ogoja. His mom is Ishibori -Ogoja. His pedigree is quite high with his dad being a well-known philanthropist, socialite and a former political heavyweight there having been a Senator for the Senatorial District. Jude has also been outstanding in his philanthropic gestures with the setting up of a foundation to cater for the less privileged. He also has committed ‘boys’ on ground.
Mike has been Chairman of Yala and Commissioner in the State. That’s a big plus to him because of the wide spread of loyalist and popularity of PDP with the people. Very importantly, he will in addition be riding on the crest of goodwill and almost worshipful support being accorded Sen. JAJ in that Federal Constituency for his evident good works.
On a good day, Sen. JAJ and many other leading lights in Northern Senatorial District PDP would effortlessly acquiscie to Jude’s candidature but for party loyalty and the ego rumble involving the incumbent Governor who ported to APC with some erstwhile members of PDP not too long ago.
This election will therefore be the first real test in the battle of supremacy and vaunting egos between the incumbent Governor called ‘Digital’ by admirers and derisively labelled as the leader of ‘Team food on the Table’, against the serving Senator JAJ who is touted as leader of ‘Team Unconquered Generation’.
Finally, whether one or the other candidates succeed would depend on who employs superior strategies to woo the people and also heal the wounds arising from the earlier selection process of the political party candidatures at the primaries against the balance of probabilities and expectations for first recognition on equity and justice basis of certain sub-groupings within the Federal Constituency.
Political contest like most chance events in life are zero-sum games. One man’s win leads to another’s loss. But it becomes a win-win where the process is fair, transparent and peaceful with the contestants seeing themselves as patriots and partners in progress in the quest to uplift the people no matter the seeming outcomes.
I wish both of them every success. God Almighty gives power to whomsoever He wills notwithstanding the circumstances. May it please Him to grant final victory to His elect at this time that will satisfy the needs of the people and glorify the name of God Almoghty. Both candidates are worthy and either ways a win for one is a win for all.
Ceejay Ojong an interested party in CRS politics and governance, wrote in from Abuja.
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