From Judex Okoro, Calabar
In every democratic setting, the opposition parties play significant roles in advancing democracy. Among others, the opposition parties act not only as alternative governments but help to checkmate the excesses of the ruling party.
So, when the PDP had a landslide victory in the last general elections in Cross River, one had expected the opposition party, APC, in the state to take up the gauntlet. Besides, analysts had expected that with APC forming the government at the national level, it would have been a done deal to easily wrest power from the PDP in the state.
Perhaps, it was in the light of the above that shortly after the emergence of President Buhari, former PDP, LP party bigwigs and elders defected to the ruling APC.
Prominent politicians who defected include former Senate Leader, Victor Ndoma Egba, former governor of the state, Mr. Clement Ebri, former senator representing the southern senatorial district of the state, Senator Bassey Otu, former PDP governorship aspirant, Price Gody Jedy, immediate past chairman of Cross River State internal revenue service, Dr. Peter Oti.
Others were former executive secretary of national planning commission and Labour Party governorship aspirant in the last general elections, Barr Fidelis Ugbo, Chief of Staff to Imoke, Alex Ogbonna, former PDP state chairman, Ambassador Sonny Abang, former two times House of Reps member and the immediate commissioner representing the state in NDDC, Rt. Hon. Paul Adah, Venatus Ikem amongst others.
Party embroiled in leadership crisis
Since the formative stage of APC in the state, it has been dogged in leadership tussle. While the old ACN members who merged into APC were piqued that Pastor Usani Usani was from the outset not qualified to head the party in the state, others felt that he is more neutral. This led to the polarisation of the party.
Besides, the emergence of Mr Odey Ochicha as the party’s governorship candidate in the last general election was the last straw that broke the camel’s back. Daily Sun investigations revealed that the party chairman and the governorship candidate were working at cross purposes. While Ochicha was busy campaigning across all the local government areas all alone, the party leadership in the state was discreetly working against him.
Further investigations revealed that the party in the state did not fund their candidates even when funds were made available from the national to them. The party chairman was accused of diverting the funds to ensure that none of them emerged as he was said to be eying ministerial slot.
Again, most of the party members felt disappointed at the attitude of the Usani Usani, who rather than concentrate on party leadership, abandoned the state to lobby for ministerial position which he eventually got. Some party big-wigs had felt he should have sponsored another nominee instead of presenting himself.
Daily Sun also has it on good authority that even as Usani emerged Minister of Niger Delta, he has refused to let go the party leadership as he still has a strong grip on the party. The minister and his allies are said to be angling for the governorship seat in 2019 and it would have been politically suicidal to hand over the party machinery to an ally that is not trustworthy.
Reacting to the leadership crisis, Bar Utum Eteng, admitted that APC in the state is in disarray and wondered why the ruling party should not be organised in the state to challenge the PDP.
Utum, who also defected to APC recently, said “Well, I think there is a disagreement among party members in the state but that is normal in a democratic society. Again some party leaders are said to have relocated to Abuja jostling for appointments at the detriment of the party.
“To be frank, this attitude will make it difficult for APC to offer alternative views at the state level though there are a few voices. But I think everywhere is calm and quiet and the ruling PDP in the state is operating like a colossus.
“We are giving them lots of latitude to operate rather than creating a balance. Look at what is happening at Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa and Rivers states; APC there is kicking and alive. But that would not stop the party from forging ahead because most of us are die-hard supporters of Buhari as long as he can reposition the country and possibly recover our loots from past leaders.”
Tussle between the old APC and New APC
When the National Working Committee of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) led by the national chairman, Mr John Oyegun, formally received former Senate leader, Victor Ndoma Egba, and others to APC on Saturday, February 13, 2016 at Atu Government Primary School, Calabar, it was welcomed with pomp and pageantry.
To analysts, it was the beginning of the end of PDP in the state considering the calibre and personalities that moved over to the new APC. Even within the PDP, there was panic as the leadership was said to have felt threatened and tried to reposition by quickly sending their members to wards to mobilise against further defection.
But the defection of these heavy weights seem to have thrown the party into two factions of old and new APC. To old members, they contend that the new defectors must wait for their turn as they cannot just come in and reap from where they did not sow.
To this group, these new entrants were part and parcel of the PDP behemoth that fought and frustrated them while in opposition. So, their coming in now means they must queue behind those of them who have been die-in-the-wool supporters of Buhari before now.
Further investigations revealed that there is a frosty relationship between the Minister of Niger Delta, Pastor Usani Usani, and Chief Okoi Obono-Obla on one hand and between usani and the rest of the stakeholders including the defectors. It was learnt that he is poised to working alone without caring a hoot about others.
It is also rumoured that there is no love lost between him and the National Vice Chairman South-South, Prince Hillard Eta, and the BOT member representing APC South South women, Mary Ekpere. Even Chief Clement Ebri, the former governor, is not spared of Usani’s antics as he is said to be tacitly fighting him.
For those who defected from PDP to LP, Usani Uguru Usani is up in arms against them as he is said to have vowed not to be ready to incorporate them into the scheme of things.
However, for the new defectors to APC, they seem also poised to fight back as they are not ready to give in to blackmail that they are just coming and therefore should wait at the background first.
One of the APC leaders, who don’t want his name in print, said, “Whether we like it or not, these new entrants are coming with their clout, experience and cash to reposition the party. So, we must work together to wrest party from PDP.
“It would be preposterous to side-line these bigwigs and still refuse to open the system. To be frank, PDP is still a party to beat in the state, so we must be united and focused.”
Some of the defectors confided in DAILY SUN that since they joined APC, there have been some subterranean moves to shove them aside, but added that any attempt to do that would spell doom for the party, thereby giving PDP room to further operate as a colossus.
Another APC defector confided in our correspondent that the party is having a running battle in some wards especially at Mkpani/Agoi Ward, in Yakurr LGA as Ebri and the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Pastor Usani Usani, battle over who controls the politics in that area and then in the Central Senatorial District.
PDP dust APC in Assembly re-run election
In what appeared as a battle of titans, the PDP has again dusted their closest rival, APC, to clinch the house of Assembly re-run election in Cross River state.
In the keenly contested election for Yakurr II state constituency, Eteng Jones Williams of PDP polled 4, 380 as against Bassey Utum Inah of APC and Eno Utum Inah of LP who polled 3, 370 and 2, 180 respectively.
Speaking shortly after emerging winner, Eteng William said, “Despite speculations making the rounds that PDP is almost dead in the state, I have proved that the party is still in charge in Cross River. The fear of the so-called bigwigs exiting PDP for APC recently does not hold waters. It the people that decide who lead them.”
With this victory, all the 25 House of Assembly members are from the ruling PDP, leaving the rival APC with no seat.
However, the failure of APC in the Yakurr II state constituency election has been blamed on Usani Uguru Usani and the leadership crisis in the party.
But it was learnt that die-hard supporters of Usani has blamed His Excellency, Chief Clement Ebri for supporting the Labour Party candidate.
And as the cold war between the duo rages, the APC has suspended the former governor of Cross River State, Dr. Clement Ebri over alleged anti-party activities attributed to the elder statesman.
Chief Ebri has just been admitted along with former Senate Leader, Senator Ndoma Egba, SAN into the Board of Trustees of the ruling APC.
The letter dated March 21, 2016 and signed by 17 out of the 20 executive members, including the Chairman, Monday Emma Oboma and Secretary, Joel Ekpo Agbor of Mkpani/Agoi Council Ward of Yakurr local government area, was addressed to the Chapter and State executive of the party in Cross River.
In the letter the leadership alleged that an investigative panel set up by the Mkpani/Agoi ward of the party has indicted the former governor of anti-party activities.
The letter said, “A report of anti-party activities was forwarded to the Ward and a 7 man panel was constituted to investigate and report to the Ward Executive within 7 days of receipt. The Committee’s report officially indicted Chief Clement David Ebri of anti-party activities before and during the Yakurr II State Constituency re-run election of March 12, 2016.
“However, in line with the provisions of APC Constitution, Article 21 (D) sub-section (i), the Executive of Mkpani /Agoi Council Ward therefore imposes the suspension of H.E. Chief Clement David Ebri from his council ward (Mkpani/Agoi) in line with article 21 (D) sub-section (f) of the APC Constitution as amended in 2014.”
Speaking, the Vice Chairman of the party in Cross River Central Senatorial District and former member of the Cross River State House of Assembly, Hon. Cletus Obun said the purported suspension of Chief Clement Ebri cannot stand and declared that the action was a nullity.
Pundits are worried that the new bride, APC in Cross River rather than consolidating is busy fighting and creating factions within the party.
They are also worried that with all the who-is-who in the Yakuur 11 state constituency, APC still lost to PDP, fuelling speculations that the party is not on ground. And this does not depict well of an opposition party in which the people have hope on to wrest power from the ruling PDP in the state.