By Asuquo Eniang
Events over the past few days have made politicking in Cross River State pretty interesting, especially on the side of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. It would seem that the selection on the side of the All Progressives Congress, APC, candidate is already considered a done deal with the anointing of Prince Bassey Otu by the party’s caucus.
So what is happening on the PDP side? We have already been regaled with the push of the likes of Senators Sandy Onor and Gershom Bassey.
One mentions Onor first because he was the earliest to challenge for the gubernatorial prize. His declaration headlined the controversy that followed. The controversy stemmed from a certain rotational arrangement that was meant to have been in existence in the PDP. It was meant to be the turn of the south to produce the next governor.
Onor would have none of that argument and has decided to push his chances as he did successfully against Victor Ndoma-Egba in both the PDP when he wrestled and won the senatorial seat and when the latter went to the APC.
A chance taker, Onor, who calls himself the original caterpillar, feels he can take the prize especially with a war chest that is being supported by his friend and ally, Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike. But Wike’s support can only go so far, as he is now more concerned with his own presidential campaign and trusts Onor to be able to deliver, not only the gubernatorial ticket, but solidarity votes from Cross River State at the presidential primaries.
This is probably the equation that a Donald Duke may have seen that made him seem to pitch his support, first for Onor (he denies it was an endorsement), then for Wike as the latter officially declared his presidential ambition in Makurdi.
Stranger still is Duke’s hand in a recent endorsement of political newcomer, Arthur Jarvis Archibong by a group of traditional and social leaders from the Southern Senatorial District, for the gubernatorial seat.
While he explains that the endorsement came as a result of a straw poll among the leaders, it is clear to see that the former governor’s signature is all over the place. How this will weld PDP together has yet to be seen.
So, as the story unravels, we can see clearly that there are major players here – Wike and Duke. Duke, however, seems late to the party, as his fellow journeyman, Liyel imoke, seems to have placed his hands on the apple pie a lot earlier.
Imoke appears to have the machinery of the CRS PDP in his pocket. As taciturn as Imoke may appear to be, almost all the ward chairmen of the party defer to him. This was evident in the recent ward congresses held by the party in the state especially in the Central Senatorial District. Imoke’s men were able to occupy a major chunk of the delegates’ list.
What does this mean?
Imoke has not hidden his support for Gershom Bassey, who is the incumbent representing the Southern Senatorial District and leader of the National Assembly caucus. Both of them were once part of a triumvirate, which hitherto included Donald Duke. Acrimony set in after Imoke succeeded Duke as governor. With fragile peace now existing between them, Duke has yet to resume solidarity with the group. He now ‘belongs to everybody and nobody’.
Albeit, Gershom Bassey is vying for the 2023 CRS gubernatorial ticket. Bassey already has a clean sweep of the delegates from the Southern Senatorial District. Add Imoke’s acolytes from Central and a few delegates from the North and the gubernatorial ticket is clearly in Bassey’s pocket. The announcement by the handpicked leaders from the South declaring for Arthur-Jarvis Archibong, makes no impact nor sense. It is a move that will go nowhere. No doubt, Archibong is a man of good standing. Apart from being the son of one of CRS’s most outstanding governors, Brig-Gen Dan P. Archibong, he has come into his own, being the only individual to establish a private university in the state. But that is where his call to fame ends. He has no political pedigree, has no delegates, and thus, can not deliver the gubernatorial seat even if he were given the PDP ticket by consensus. But consensus is clearly out of the question. The aspirants are in no such temperament.
Should Gershom Bassey get the PDP governorship ticket, he most likely faces Prince Bassey Otu. There is history here. Gershom Bassey has defeated Bassey Otu severally – at the 2015 Southern Senatorial District PDP primaries, at the general elections, when the latter moved to Labour Party, and at the Election Tribunal. At the 2019 elections, with Otu as APC candidate, he was also defeated by Gershom Bassey. Otu went to the Election Tribunal again but later withdrew his petition. It is highly unlikely that Otu can upstage Bassey in the South, match Imoke’s prowess in Central, except hang on to Ayade’s stronghold in the North, which may just be imagined as Ayade has yet to really test his genius without the instrument of state in the North.
They say lightning does not strike the same place twice. That is not correct. Lightning always chooses the easiest path to strike. Unless, the dynamics have changed, Prince Otu remains an easy strike. But all that hinges on the outcome of the PDP gubernatorial primaries come Wednesday, 25 May 2022, when as sure as there is night and day, for Gershom Bassey it is a clear goal.
Asuquo Eniang is a public affairs commentator and lives in Calabar.
The views expressed are entirely the author’s and no others.
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