Gov Ben Ayade
  • Confusion rocks PDP over primaries

  • Court clears Hon Jarigbe, restrains PDP NWC on delegate lists

  • Ogoja sentiments gaining ground

The October 31, 2020 by-election for the Cross River North Senatorial District promises to be another acid test for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the South-south State. In this piece, UBON EKANEM highlights the intrigues and calibre of leading aspirants in the race, noting that the galloping ambition of Governor Ben Ayade; threat of internal wrangling in the PDP; and the untainted personality of the Vice Chancellor, University of Calabar, Professor Zana Akpagu, who has thrown his hat in the ring on APC’s platform, clearly indicate the battle ahead is not for the faint-hearted.

APC and PDP…game on

THE BATTLE ROYALE
Derailed by their internal wrangling and roundly beaten by the ruling PDP in the 2019 general elections as well as the recently held local government councils’ poll, another opportunity is presenting itself for the APC to hopefully redeem its badly battered image in Cross River State.

And in what many believe the outcome may point the direction towards 2023 in the state, especially in relations to Governor Ayade’s passion of returning to the Senate after his eight years tenure in the Peregrino House, contenders lining up for the battle royale to decide who completes the remaining time for Cross River North at the ninth Senate are in their numbers.

From verifiable records and political calculations on ground, the coast however seems clear again for the ruling PDP, with members of the opposition APC yet to retrace their steps and adhere to President Muhammadu Buhari and the Party’s NEC directives that all pending legal matters be withdrawn from court.

Though both PDP and APC remain the leading lights jostling for power at every election, with their commanding followers in each of the 196 Local Government political wards in the state, the contending forces within the APC have continued to weaken the party with their struggles for power and control of structures.

AYADE’S MOVES
And the stage looks set for Governor Ayade and his party to once again run away with the spoils of political battle when the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) finally conduct by-election for the vacant Senatorial seat

Stamping its political superiority and steam rolling others to achieve victory in every political contest has become the norm for PDP. Undoubtedly, their position is further strengthened by claims that the South-south geo-political zone of the country is their safe haven and fortress.

Insiders told Forefront that though nothing drastic has taken place to dent such vaunted record by the PDP, spiraling events in the political space have always call to question the place of unalloyed loyalty and support that can no longer be taken for granted by anyone. So, a litmus test for political gladiators looms with the roll call of contestants seeking to fill the void created by the death of Senator Rose Oko, who represented the Cross River North Senatorial district in the ninth National Assembly. From emerging scenario, it promises to be a parade of politicians with intimidating credentials.

THE LINEUP
Aspirants on the PDP platform include Hon Jarigbe Egom, considered as former Governor Liyel Imoke’s anointed political son and member representing Ogoja/Yala Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives; and Dr Stephen Odey, Chairman of the State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) touted as Governor Ayade’s dependable ally and surrogate that would likely pave way in 2023 for the Governor to actualise his second missionary journey to the upper legislative chamber.

Also lining up at the starting block in the race is Dr Martina Odom, a retired Career Civil servant, whose aspiration enjoys a breath of fresh air with gender based affirmation action for women-oriented policies as her catch phrase

THE ENTRANCE OF AKPAGU: For the opposition APC in the state, the current Vice Chancellor, University of Calabar (UNICAL), Professor Zana Akpagu, who is quitting his top job at the Ivory tower soon is the candidate to beat. Other known APC aspirants are former governorship candidate in the 2015 election, Mr Odey Ochicha and Joe Agi SAN. But political pundits are already crediting Professor Akpagu’s candidacy as his deserved payback time.

Information pieced together indicate a seeming consensus that it is about time Akpagu reaps the fruits of his good deeds and kind gesture of raising the literacy bar of Northern Cross River Youths through educational empowerment. They credit his Vice-Chancellorship as witnessing increased admission ratio as well as high employment quota for northern part of the state, such that other sections will take time to match these massive intellectual investments.

An insider in the emerging power play said that another strong point in Akpagu’s quest for the senatorial seat is support from Minister of State for Power, Chief Jedy Agba, whose father is the paramount ruler of Obudu. The source hinted that the highly respected royal father appreciates his son’s appointment by the President Buhari-led Federal Government.

Prof Akpagu

PDP NWC FACTOR
However, speculations renting the air that PDP National Working Committee (NWC) could move against Ayade in terms of the state party structures, the Governor is keeping open various options to promote his ambition of returning to the Senate come 2023 thus working to ensure his man Friday succeeds both in the PDP primaries and the by-election.

This may have accounted for Ayade’s insistence on hand picking all PDP chairmen and counselors at the recently held local government poll in order to properly position his loyalists and favoured party members.

In furtherance of efforts at realising his dreams of a Senate return, the governor has reportedly extended his tentacles and reach of lobby groups for Dr Odey to party leaders in and outside of Northern Cross River, especially among party elders and the royal fathers.

POSSIBLE SNAG
It was however gathered that Ayade’s headache is being orchestrated by his current spat with Hon Jarigbe Agom and the seeming heightening political rivalry between him and some founding fathers of the PDP and National Assembly members from the state as well. Both sides have been engaged in a political war, leading to factions within the ruling party and subsequent inauguration of parallel ward and local government executive committees.

Besides Ayade’s battles to rein in those so-called PDP ‘deviants’ in the State, it was gathered that sentiments are expectedly running wild among stakeholders in the senatorial district just as claims and drum beats of marginalization are taking the center stage of political discourse and permutations.

On this score, arguments have emerged that of five local government areas in the northern zone comprising Bekwarra; Obanliku; Obudu; Ogoja; and Yala, only Ogoja is yet to produce a serving Senator since the current political dispensation flagged off over 20 years ago. The roll call of those who have so far represented the Senatorial district at the upper legislative chamber include: Senator Joseph Wayas, former Senate President – (Obanliku); Kanu Agabi (SAN) – (Bekwarra); Musa Adede – (Obanliku); Greg Ngaji – (Yala); Ben Ayade – (Obudu) and late Rose Oko – (Yala).

Highlighting the issues concerning the forthcoming by-election and the need to address the cry of marginalisation, reports quoted a senior citizen and indigene of the area, Ntufam Abang Monjok, as saying that Ogoja Local Government Area deserves to be treated fairly and equitably in the elective representation going forward.

THE OGOJA CLAMOUR
In an obvious consensus building and support for Hon Jarigbe Egom, an Ogoja son, the 71-year-old Monjok, retired politician, said considering that the local government is yet to produce a Senator since the creation of the State, it would be difficult to break the Ogoja unity this time around in their demand for fair play.

An insider hinted that the relevant stakeholders are daily being persuaded by the Ogoja marginalisation sentiments with many including community leaders already queueing into the project to support one of their sons, Hon Jarigbe.

FEDERAL HIGH COURT INTERVENES
Meanwhile, confusion is trailing the planned conduct of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) primaries for the Cross River North Senatorial by-election scheduled for today, Saturday, September 5, 2020.

This follows the ruling by a Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital on Friday, September 4, 2020.

In its ruling, the Court presided over by Justice I. M. Sani, stopped the National Working Committee (NWC) of the PDP from tampering with or altering the lists of party’s executives elected on March 7 and 21, 2020 during the party’s Ward and Chapter polls

According to a statement made available to journalists in Calabar on Friday afternoon, Justice Sani also upturned the purported disqualification of Hon Jarigbe Agom Jarigbe, considered a leading contestant for the Senatorial ticket and two-times House of Representatives member

Similarly, the judge also ruled that venue for the scheduled primary must remain within the Cross River North Senatorial district.

Despite several moves aimed at bringing all contending parties to the dialogue table, controversy continues to trail the ward and chapter executives list that was initially endorsed by PDP NWC about five months ago

Though October 31, 2020 looks a long shot, the political actors and their parties are already in the trenches to fine tune and perfect their winning strategies.

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