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C’River 2023 guber: The imperative of political stability in a polarised state

C’River 2023 guber: The imperative of political stability in a polarised state
November 15
17:23 2021

BY OKOKON INYANG

Where facts exist and are testable, it becomes a public duty to use them as nails, driven deep to the coffins of liars,” Wole Soyinka in ‘Benders of Truth, Fugitive from History’.

For more than two decades now, Cross River state has enjoyed some form of political stability devoid of a rancorous power-sharing and transition that many tagged the state as a one-party state. In 1999, after all the tussles, Donald Duke from the southern senatorial district was elected governor. On the verge of seeking a second term, ethnic politics orchestrated by what is today known as Atam Group — old Ogoja Province — shored up against Duke’s return. The opposition was quickly terminated as many citizens of the state rallied around to ensure that Duke completed his eight-year tenure.

By 2007, it was obvious that power was to shift to the central. And despite the palace coup to impede Liyel Imoke’s ambition from ascending the throne, he scaled through after convincing his then-boss, former President Olusegun Obasanjo of the urgency of the call to govern Cross River state. In the end, Imoke would become the political avatar and pathfinder of the state, having a firm grip of its politics and governance.

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As the governor of Cross River state for good eight years, Imoke towered like a colossus, following Duke’s administration tourism drive, retaining the globally acclaimed Calabar Carnival, and also cut a piece of democratic dividends for the teeming Cross River locals. In asserting his policy wonk and drive, Imoke took to rural transformation as a state craft and vibe of governance that would later transform the state into a construction site. From rural roads, electricity, renovation of schools, standardised healthcare service delivery and infrastructure became the norm and Cross River in turn was a toast to the world.

At the twilight of that administration, voices of dissent rose to insist that the governorship should go to the south owing to a phantom theory that Duke, Imoke and Gershom Bassey would govern Cross River for 24 years. Imoke stood his ground dispelling the inordinate story and that there was never such an agreement. Naysayers went to town to adduced that it was a mere political ping-pong game to delay and cause crisis in the state. But at that critical moment, Imoke would not only ensure equity in power-sharing among the three senatorial districts, but he would also later go on to zoned the governorship to the north, where Ben Ayade emerged as the governor; now in his 7th year.

With Ayade’s tenure coming close to its finishing line, voices of dissent are back. This time, attempting to erase the political stability that has become the hallmark of Cross River politics. First, there is a hasty tendency to dispel and deny the existence of the Ogoja-Calabar Accord initiated in the 1980s. Secondly, there has risen political surrogates whose desk of cards is to inject venom and acrimony in the polity of the state, by disparaging zoning and equity in power-sharing or arguing authoritatively that the governorship should or would not go to the southern senatorial district.

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Although Sandy Onor has not come out to clearly declare his ambition to run for the governorship of Cross River state in the 2023 election, his supporters have been beating that drum. Had the move to put an end to zoning been restricted to Onor’s political camp alone, it would have been understandable. But the cacophony of voices from the central senatorial district working rigorously to put asunder to zoning and equity portends great danger to the state. At the last count, former minister of Niger-Delta Affairs, Usani Usani; AIG Joseph Mbu (Rtd), Okoi Obono-Obla have regrettably joined the charade of twisting facts and rubbishing zoning.

With regards to Onor, his entrance into politics was received with great expectations, given his level of scholarship and intellectual achievement. It is somehow appalling that Onor is now the architect of instability and confusion in Cross River state, and even within the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). With his stellar performance at the senate, the thinking of all Cross Riverians was that Onor will assist the state in pushing forward critical legislations that will reposition Cross River and Nigeria at large.

Rather, his antecedents in recent times have sent discordant tunes amid dire political consequences for the state and the future. While it is the constitutional right of anyone to run for the governor of the state, a peaceful atmosphere and political stability should not be altered on the altar of ego and inordinate ambition. The people of Cross River southern senatorial district are urging Onor and other politicians from the central and northern senatorial districts to give consideration to the south in the 2023 governorship election for the good of the state. Attempts to change the rolling of the clock of political equity will be detrimental and dangerous to the smooth and cordial politics Cross River is known for.

Most importantly, what Cross River state needs now is not division that is a product of power tussle. Within the last eight years, the state has suffered misgovernance, maladministration and derailment of the real issues of governance, where nepotism, cronyism and incompetence have all taken the state hostage. The best for the state should be a conversation that will redeem her from this present quagmire. Already, there are media reports about disagreement among the three PDP senators from the state over the 2023 governorship poll. A trend never witnessed before in Cross River. Should this unnecessary tussle over the 2023 governorship ticket continue, the conflict will endanger the state with unintended consequences.

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As a people, though of different tongues, we owe Cross River State a peaceful and smooth transition of power in 2023 that is driven and enabled by sincerity, equity, togetherness and foresight to build for the future. The state is confronting so many challenges and a turbulent transition ensnared by bickering, hate, half-truths, dishonesty would endanger an already polarised state. The deterioration of governance in the last six years and some months have retarded the state. Cross River has lost the vibe that made her shine some years ago, all due to the convoluted and directionless government that has lost all the essence of governance.

Therefore, while we need to interrogate all the political elite positioning and repositioning themselves to ascend Pellegrino House in 2023, the imperative of political stability is key to ensuring that the state’s progress from this current nadir to a sane and stable slate in the run-up to the governorship polls. The people of the southern senatorial district have been cooperative with the rest of the state, the rest of our brothers and sisters in the central and north should tally and allow the south to go for the governorship shot. Disunity and distortion of facts and truths in our harmonious Cross River society would erode all the gains we have garnered these years.

The people of the south would like to work with our brothers in the central; from Imoke, Onor, John Owan Enoh, Victor Ndoma-Egba, Obono-Obla, Usani Usani, Soni Abang, Jake Otu Enyia, Obol Godwin Etta, Attach Ochinke, Dan Osim Asu, Speaker Eteng Williams to entrench a peaceful and progressive state. We plead for your understanding to see the reason why the governorship should go the south. It will create a good political atmosphere for brotherhood. We also urge Onor to look himself in the mirror whether he is ready to be the one that would disrupt Cross River state’s smooth power-sharing equation? What gain does he stand to benefit? What would be his legacy?

It needs to be stated that even in the south, no one is rooting for a weak political cabal to push lazy candidates on the throat of Cross Riverians. What we are asking for is a fairground, advanced by equity, honesty, fairness and oneness. The current political dynamics in the state would not be fertile for the acrimonious 2023 governorship race. Cross River is already running on an emergency, with dilapidated infrastructure, poor governance, the relegation of the state to the background, insecurity, poor economic indicators and elevation of sycophancy to state policy. Between a bitter transition embedded on tissues of lies and denials and political stability, Cross River should embrace the latter. For genuine democracy only thrives in equity, and not dominance.

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Inyang is a public affairs analyst, he writes from Calabar, Cross River state

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