Bassey Offiong commends efforts of Governor Liyel Imoke’s administration in entrenching democratic culture at the grassroots level
Since the inception of democratic governance in the country in 1999, Cross River State has ranked among the few states that instituted democracy at the grassroots level by conducting local government elections, which installed functionaries at that level in November of that year.
Without any interruptions, the state has since consistently operated democracy at that level, thereby entrenching democratic values and consciousness in the minds of the people to the understanding that democracy is the best form of government, which gives everyone a voice in terms of votes and effective representation especially at the grassroots.
This consciousness has become so heightened and ingrained among the people throughout the state such that everyone wants to
participate actively in the election process either as participant in government by contesting for the position of local government
chairman, councillor or on the other hand, function as a stakeholder by playing active role in the emergence of those considered qualified and suitable to occupy positions in the local government.
This continuous democratic tradition at the grassroots has provided
stability and created understanding and harmony among the various facets of government in the state such that each effectively plays
its role within the confines of its limits without infringing on that of the other and this has significantly benefited the state and the people as development is rapidly taking place all over the state.
It is in this perspective and with the release of the time-table for the
conduct of the local government election scheduled for the month of September 2013, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which is the dominant party in the state, led by its leader, Senator Liyel Imoke, has conscientiously been working towards having a peaceful conduct of the party’s primaries to pick flag-bearers through meetings and consultations by the party caucuses, elders and stakeholders in the various local governments to sieve those angling to contest the elections under the party’s umbrella and select one person and subsequently present same to the governor.
These meetings have essentially been convivial and in an atmosphere free of rancour as each local government caucus in conjunction with
the elders adopts modalities peculiar to their political situation viz-avis zoning, communal interest, and proven tested capability of the aspirants, and then, reaches a consensus and selects one to bear the party’s standard as ward councillor and local government chairmanship candidate.
Often, this is done through a collegiate vote where all the caucus members and elders’ forum members cast votes to pick one person among the aspirants. The person so selected is presented to the party. However, in the few cases where the leaders and caucuses failed to agree or come to a consensus, especially in the case of picking a chairmanship candidate, the governor, in his capacity as the leader of the party has had to intervene by calling on the aspirants to present their manifesto to the caucuses after which he calls for a vote.
The aspirant with the highest number of votes is chosen as the one to bear the party’s flag. Suffice it to state that most contenders after these
transparent processes in selecting one of them often express satisfaction with the choice and readily pledge their support for the person picked.
This peaceful and transparent method of choosing the party’s candidates is a marked departure from the 2007 open election method which was characterised by rancour, animosity and bad blood which created
chasm and deep wounds among not only the aspirants but also among their leaders who felt sidelined and often condemned to irrelevance by those who subsequently became elected to bear the party’s flag.
Ntufam John Okon, the state Chairman of PDP said the peaceful process adopted by the party and its leader speak volumes of the level of maturity attained by the party in the state which should be emulated by other parties.
“Over one thousand people applied to be councillors and those seeking to contest the chairmanship election under our platform and we have just eighteen local governments and one hundred and ninety-six wards. So, rather than allow our party members to go out there and fight, we have to adopt a peaceful method where everybody will be satisfied since it is transparent.”
The PDP chairman asserted that as the ruling power in the state, the stakes are high to bring development to the people and engaging in anything that can divert and distract the attention of government from delivering the dividends of democracy to the people tantamount to the betrayal of the trust placed on the party.
“We are development-conscious and what we are doing is to give us room to do that fast and it needed to be emphasised here that without being councillor or chairman, there are other positions like supervisors, special advisers and board members. So, we are capable of taking
care of everyone without necessarily being in an elective position.”
-Offiong is a member of the PDP in Cross Rivers State