Judex Okoro, Calabar
The intractable crisis rocking the Cross River All Progressives Congress (APC) appears to be gathering momentum as the two factions have issued conflicting statements on the pending May 30th local government election.
While a faction led by Sir John Ochala had dissociated the party from the pending local election, describing it as a “charade”, the other faction led by Mr John Etim said it is fully prepared to take part in the council poll.
Since 2014, the Cross River State APC has been engaged in a leadership tussle, leading to the factionalisation of the party, even as the national leadership has made spirited efforts to settle the supremacy battle.
In spite of this, the chairman of Cross River State Independent Electoral Commission (CROSIEC), Dr Mike Ushie, has fixed Saturday, May 30th for local government election.
The election was originally scheduled for March 28th before the advent of the COVID-19 emergency. The new date was contained in a letter dated May 22nd entitled “Notice of Poll” with reference No CROSIEC/PAD/002/26 and signed by the CROSIEC Chairman.
The electoral umpire said the submission of names of polling unit agents by political parties will end on May 28th, while the election proper will take place on May 30th, with voting to begin at 8:00 am, and the election ending at 3:00 pm to give room for collation and announcement of results. Issuance of certificate of returns to successful candidates will be done on June 2nd.
Responding to the arrangements, Sir John Ochala in a press statement made available to journalists in Calabar on Monday said that the processes leading to the conduct of Saturday elections for Councilors and Chairmen/Vice Chairmen of local governments in the state have been froth with irregularities and deliberate subversion of basic constitutional requirements guiding the conduct of the election.
‘APC in the state will not be part of the charade on Saturday as the party is in court with CROSIEC and Cross River State Government seeking to compel the state electoral body to adhere strictly to the dictates of the Constitution/Acts of the National Assembly and the CROSIEC bye-laws,’ he stated.
Discountenancing Sir Ochala’s statement, the factional state Chairman, Mr Ntufam John Etim, in another release entitled “Stop Press” and dated May 26th said Ochala lacks the locus standi to speak for the party as he is neither the state APC Chairman nor a member of State Working Committee (SWC).
Mr Etim argued that in the event of any irregularities discovered in the build-up to the election, a ‘boycott is not an option,’ noting that ‘by our extant laws only a candidate in an election or participating political party in an election can validly question ita conduct.’
According to him, ‘no decision to boycott the forthcoming local government poll on Saturday was made by the State Working Committee…’
He urged all candidates to continue with their campaigns, calling on party supporters to turn out in their numbers and vote the party’s candidates on Saturday.