Ever since Donald Duke stamped his authority on the politics of Cross River State at the turn of the century, politics in the commercially laid back state has been a staged affair. Now, rumbling between the camps of the governor and the Senate leader is shaking the status quo.
Having been zoned by both the PDP and the All Progressive Congress to the Northern Senatorial District of the state which comprises of five local government areas, so many contenders are muting their interest for the post.
They include the loyalists of Senator Liyel Imoke and “outsiders” and from their body language; every aspirant is in strong contention no matter irrespective of the odds.
Already jostling for the coveted position is an array of influential and powerful politicians from the district. They include Mr. Fidel Ugbo, the serving Secretary of National Planning Commission, Mr. Goddy Agba, the General Manager Crude, NNPC, Professor Ben Ayade, the Senator representing the Northern Senatorial District, Mr. John Odey, former Minster of Environment, Mr Larry Odey, Speaker of the Cross River State House of Assembly, Mr Fidel Egoro, Deputy State Chairman of the PDP, Mr Mr Tanko Ashong, Legal Adviser NEMA, Mr Legor Idagbo, Commissioner for Works, Dr Julius Okputu, former Commissioner for Environment and Mr Peter Ojie, Commissioner for Local Government Affairs.
It is also generally believed by almost everybody that the PDP is the only party in the state with the capacity to produce a governor in 2015.
One group, comprising of core Imoke loyalists believes that Senator Imoke as the leader of the party in the state should be given the leverage and free hand to pick a successor, while the other group contends that the array of aspirants for the prime position should be allowed to contest on a free and fair platform for the winner to emerge on merit.
Those who want Imoke to pick a successor argue that having piloted the affairs of the state for eight years, he is well versed and adequately positioned to know who is competent enough to handle the affairs of the state after his exit.
“Mr Donald Duke wasted his first four years on trial and error; he hardly knew the names of the villages and communities not even those of his supporters. That is not what we want again in this state but someone who would hit the ground running and who should that person be but the one who has been following Imoke and is conversant with the politics and personalities in this state”.
Mr Lawrence Ekpe, a PDP stalwart told Vanguard.
Some political leaders of the PDP in the Central Senatorial District of the state, where Senator Victor Ndoma Egba, the Senate Leader comes from, also hold this view. These include Hon Owan Eno, House of Representatives member representing Obubra/Etung, Hon Chris Eta, Ikom/Boki Federal Constituency, Hon Bassey Ewa, Yakkur/Abi Federal Constituency and their supporters.
In a meeting held recently at the instance of Rep. Eno, the again came to fore as majority of the speakers insisted that Senator Imoke should be allowed to pick a successor. “He was the one who brought the PDP flag from Abuja in 1998 and has since then been the light in the tunnel and as a governor he deserves the right to pick a successor to succeed him”, Eno told the leaders.
Eno said clandestine meetings are being held by those he called “faceless” with the view to subverting the plan by Senator Imoke in order to install their own stooge as governor. “Governor Imoke means well for the state and has the massive support of the party members and where he stands is where every one of us here will stand so let no one deludes himself that he will subvert the plan by the governor to have successor of his choice”.
Speaking in the same line, Rep. Bassey Eko Ewa said Senator Imoke has been championing unity in the PDP at the national level and so should not be distracted at home by people who out of their personal ambition want to distabilse his political plan.
“Most initiatives by President Goodluck Jonathan to bring unity to the party is being driven by our governor so he needs the total support of everyone in the party and not to be clouded by personal ambition of some people.”.
He challenged anyone who wants to dare the will and direction of the party in 2015 to go ahead and do so because he would meet with total failure.
Leading the pack of those supportive of a free and fair primary to pick the PDP candidate is Venatius Ikem, a former national publicity secretary of the PDP and the Commissioner for Works in the state till December 2011.
To Ikem and his group, it is ludicrous for anyone to assume such a position given the constitutional provisions of the party and the 2010 Electoral Act. “I have heard that some friends of the Governor have expressed such a desire, but clearly, you know such desires do not have a place in our democracy, warped as it might be. If you go closer to look at the composition of such meetings, they are clearly laughable indeed,” Ikem said.
Ikem who has openly thrown his weight behind Mr. Agba said, given the fragmentation of the political class along lines of personal interests someone with a neutral background in the party should be given the opportunity to assume the position so that he will unite the party.
Besides the alleged support for Agba, Ndoma-Egba’s alleged plans to return to the Senate in 2015 is also festering bitterness within the PDP family in Cross River.
Though Imoke has not made any pronouncement on his choice of candidate from the North to succeed him, multiple sources close to him say he is increasingly inclining towards Ugbo who served as the Secretary to the State Government in his administration before his appointment as Secretary of the National Planning Commission.
It is on the assumed belief that Ndoma-Egba is inclined to Agba who incidentally is his in-law, that a political group Ikom for Liyel Imoke Movement at the end of a recent meeting came out with a communiqué declaring that the selection of a governor for the state in 2015 is the “sole prerogative”, of the governor.
The group which has Professor Osam Edim, S .A Strategic Planning, Mr Henry Ojugwu, Accountant General of the State, Mr Christopher Agibe, Secretary Carnival Commission, Mrs Magdaline Agibe, S. A Job Placement, Hon. Simeon Nkoro, Member, Cross River House of Assembly, Mr Fred Osim, S .A Political, and Mr Ndoma Egodo, faulted Ndoma Egba’s acclaimed support for Goddy Agba and restated the position of the earlier meeting of the Central Senatorial District that it is only Imoke who can give the directive on his choice of successor.
Nevertheless, countering that position, another group backing Ndoma Egba reminded them of past political developments in the state where those who had the backing of incumbents never made it to the post. “What they have forgotten is that in 1999 Mr Donald Duke came from outside the establishment to become governor of the state.
In 2007, Senator Imoke, even when it was apparent the establishment did not want him, became governor, how does Ikom for Liyel Imoke believe that the establishment, which is seemingly still speaking tongue in cheek as to who would be successor in 2015 be single handedly installed by the governor” they queried?