By Awassam Bassey
Months away from elections, Cross River’s prospective candidates are all quiet, biding their time for outgoing Gov. Imoke to declare his preferences. The truth is, Cross Riverians are a peace-loving people. It’s not for nothing that Cross River State is known as “The Peoples Paradise”. And this love for peace actually permeates every sphere of the life of Cross Riverians so much that even politics is played in a very brotherly manner, reminding one of the “politics without bitterness” doctrine of the late Waziri Ibrahim of the defunct Great Nigeria Peoples Party, GNPP.
To lend credence to the quiet and brotherly way politics is played in the state, a keen observer will not miss the fact that there is little or no political activity going on in the state to suggest that a few months from now, political parties and the electorate would be required to elect a new governor, three senators, eight House of Representatives members, and 28 members of the State Assembly.
When INEC warned political parties against campaigning before it officially lifts the embargo, it did not stop individual politicians from making public their aspirations to allow the electorate properly evaluate their choices before going to the polls in February 2015. It is common knowledge that some folks tapped into the usual Christmas celebrations last year to undertake some “empowerment” programmes in villages and communities across the state with the usual mini-bags of rice and tins of vegetable oil, but even this does not replace the need for these contenders to speak directly to the electorate and in the media about their aspirations and the programmes they intend to implement to allow for proper assimilation.
Recently, stories have gained currency that the state is currently divided between those waiting on Governor Liyel Imoke to appoint his successor from a “family” within the ruling Peoples Democratic Party called “The Cross River Development Agenda”. The opposing group considered “anti-family” is led by Senate Majority Leader, Victor Ndoma-Egba.
As these stories go, the pro-Imoke group has a long list of loyalists waiting to be anointed governor by outgoing incumbent, Imoke. They include the Secretary of the National Planning Commission, Fidelis Ugbo; all serving and many past cabinet members of the Imoke government from the northern senatorial district of the state where the office of governor has been zoned to by the PDP. The cabinet members said to be waiting for this anointing include Peter Ojie (Local Government Affairs), AttahOchinke (Justice), Patrick Ugbe (Sports), LegorIdagbo (Works), and former commissioner, Julius Oputu, among others.
On the other hand, the pro-Ndoma-Egba group is said to be built around the governorship ambition of Godwin Jedy Agba, currently General Manager (Crude) at the Pipelines and Products Marketing Company, PPMC, who is also said to be the sole financier of this group. Statements credited to the PDP chairman in the state to the effect that Mr. Agba is not a PDP member, let alone a member of the “family” that would produce Imoke’s successor, is the subject of a petition sent to the PDP national chairman, AdamuMu’azu.
An interesting aspect of this dogfight is that it is all happening within the PDP. Some have suggested the possibility that the “mega” opposition All Progressives Congress, APC, might be waiting for the state PDP to implode so it can be the beneficiary of the exodus that would follow.
Maybe now that a Cross Riverian, Iliad Atagbo, has been elected National Vice Chairman (South-South) of the APC, the party might start moving to lure “non-family” members of the PDP into its fold. This might do something to change the status of Cross River State as a one-party state (though opposition politics hasn’t simply held enough attraction for Cross River politicians in the past).
But, rather than wait for the APC to come wooing, it might be a great idea for the PDP members who are considered “non-family” members, specifically the Agba group, to reach out to the new party, APC, and be integrated early on. That way, they could undertake a microscopic view of the activities of the “pro-family” camp and carry out a forensic assessment of the achievements of their principal (Governor LiyelImoke) in the past seven plus years of his administration.
Awassam Bassey wrote in from Calabar.