Cross River State wing of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is currently locked in an energy sapping battle over who flies the party’s flag in 2023 as its governorship candidate. Members of the National Assembly caucus from the state are literally up in arms against one other over the zoning of the governorship seat.
Three out of the eight PDP members in the National Assembly have already signified interest to contest for the PDP governorship ticket, the remaining four are also said to be interested in returning to the Upper and Lower chambers of the Legislative House.
While Senator Gershom Bassey, the leader of the Cross River caucus of the PDP at the National Assembly, and Hon Daniel Asuquo appear to insist on zoning, the rest led by Sandy Onor, insist that what the party needs right now to reclaim the state from APC is a person who has the acceptability, charisma and the financial muscle to stand up to the incumbent who is out to install a successor and by so doing bury the PDP.
Those who have signaled their intention to take over from incumbent Prof Ben Ayade include Sen Gershom Basey, Sen Sandy Ojang Onor, Hon Daniel Asuquo, and an educationist, Sir Authur Jarvis. While Sen Onor is the only one from the central senatorial district, the rest are from the southern sensorial district of the state who are clamouring for a power shift to their district.
While Sen Bassey, was a former Chairman of Cross River Waterboard and a key player during the seventeen years of PDP reign in the state and a two-time member of the Upper chamber of National Assembly, Prof Sandy Onor was a former chairman of Etung local government chairman, former Deputy National President of Association of Local Government of Nigeria (ALGON), former commissioner and a first time senator. He is also a lecturer at the History Department of the University of Calabar.
Asuquo was also chairman of Akamkpa local government area, Director-General of State Agency for Rural Electrification and a three time member of the House of Representatives while Sir Arthur Jarvis Archibong is a seasoned administrator, educationst and the Chancellor of Arthur Jarvis University, Calabar.
It was reliably gathered that as a result of the alleged vested interest of members ahead of 2023 elections, the leader of the caucus, Sen Bassey, has allegedly refused to call for a meeting where they normally deliberate on issues affecting the party at the state level and proffer solutions especially with regard to funding since Ayade had defected to APC.
It was further gathered that this development has equally affected the funding of the party as the new party leadership at the ward, local and state are believed to be in financial difficulties in terms of administrative costs and payment of allowances to executive committee members.
Sources close to the party leadership revealed that the executive committees at all levels in the state are owed about three months salaries and are not getting any help from any quarters as a result of the members political ambitions.
This development, it was gathered has not only caused discreet disagreement and disquiet among the lawmakers both at state and national levels as well as among stakeholders who are at a quandary on the next line of action, but has led to open threats and counter threats by proponents of zoning who believe that it is their turn.
Reacting to the alleged entrance of Sen Sandy Onor into the governorship race, the Director General of Gershom Bassey Campaign Organization, Barrister Ekpo Ada, said Onor’s declaration at the party secretariat spells doom for the party, especially for the southern Senatorial District as the party is already losing key members to other parties due to perceived injustice
According to him, “if the PDP does not come out strong within the next one month to state its position on power rotation and zoning, the consequences on the party may become disastrous warning that PDP should not toy with the issue of zoning.”
Ekpo Ada recalled that “in 2015, the state PDP Caucus, which is the highest decision making body of the party, of which Arch. Bassey Ndem was a member then, agreed that power will return to the Southern Senatorial District in 2023 in line with the zoning policy of the party for equity, fairness and Justice and wondered why the party is delaying in taking a position on zoning of power to the South.
“And if the PDP does not put its house in order forthwith by streamlining party members aspirations, the party may be heading for a total rejection in the southern senatorial district which in turn is to produce the next Governor of the state, come 2023.
“We, therefore, maintain that the southern senatorial district will only support parties that zone power to the south and nothing less, adding that Cross River cannot be an exception as other states in the country have embraced zoning as a workable policy to achieve peace, equity and political stability. The PDP in the state must avert mass defection as the south is irrevocably committed to power shift to the south, come 2023.”
Declaring his interest to contest for the governorship seat at his local government area last weekend, the member representing Akamkpa/Biase Federal Constituency, Hon. Daniel Asuquo, said: “Cross River State has over the years operated a rotational brotherly system and it is the turn of the southern senatorial district to produce the governor.
“But it is our wish that the governorship be micro-zoned to non-Efik speaking people of the southern district. By our calculation, Mr Donald Duke, an Efik son from the South, was the governor between 1999 and 2007. So it should be the turn of non-Efik this time around if finally zoned back to South.”
Declaring his intention to run at the party secretariat in Calabar, Prof Sandy Onor, a fellow of the Historical Society of Nigeria, said: “It is about time that Cross Riverians look out for competent hands from any senatorial district that can help salvage the pitiable situation of the state. I am confident in my ability to redeem and restore the state to the party of progress.
“We cannot compartmentalize our leadership, especially at this point where we need the best to lead us, the best that can be found in any senatorial zone today. So, the people must be allowed to determine who the best is.”