Judex Okoro, Calabar
As the race for the Cross River northern senatorial seat gathers momentum, Governor Ben Ayade has moved to lobby Sen Liyel Imoke and National Assembly members for his preferred candidate.
Following the death of Sen Rose Oko and subsequent declaration of the seat vacant by INEC, Governor Ayade had drafted his dependable ally and chairman, State Universal Basic Education Board, SUBEB, Dr Stephen Odey, into the senatorial battle.
Butt shortly after Odey rolled off his campaigns drums, Hon Jarigbe Agom Jarigbe, representing Ogoja/Yala federal constituency declared his senatorial intention, thereby climaxing the political rivalry between the Governor and the lawmaker.
Since 2015, Ayade and some founding fathers of PDP and NASS members have been engaged in a discreet political battle, leading to factionalisation of the ruling party in the state and subsequent inauguration of parallel ward and local government executive committees as well as series of litigations since February, 2020.
And sensing a gang up against his preferred senatorial candidate, Dr Stephen Odey, Governor Ayade a few days ago discreetly dispatched lobby teams to Abuja and Ogoja to solidify ground and reach out to some aggrieved persons within and outside PDP.
While the Abuja team was sais to be headed by Chief Tony Udiandeye, Chairman Forestery Commission, the other was allegedly led by the former chairman of Yala local government council and commissioner for New Cities, Mr Mick Usibe.
At Abuja, it was learnt that the lobby team met a brickwall as almost the personages including Sen Liyel Imoke, NASS members and other senior citizens were non-committal to Odey’s cause and rather maintained that whosoever emerges from the primary elelction would be totally supported by all.
It was further learnt that the meeting with Jarigbe was shocking as he stated emphatically that he is running and whosoever emerges from party primary shall be the candidate all shall work for.
He was also said to have advised the Udiandeye-led team that, since they are all one PDP family, the campaigns should be devoid of the usual mudslinging and rather be based on politics of ethics and played in line with the party tenets of rebuilding internal democracy.
However, the team pleaded that it is high time PDP went to the poll with a united front rather than dissipating energy fighting one another and then end up losing out to rival APC.
Another source close to another team sent to Sen Imoke disclosed that the Ayade’s predecessor advised them to go and do the proper thing as nobody jumps into the such a race without consulting the relevant stakeholders
For the Mick Usibe team, an insider hinted that they are not making any headway either as the Ogoja marginalisation sentiment seems to have rent the air and community leaders are queueing into the project spearheaded by Hon Jarigbe, one of their sons.
And in what appeared as a political minus for Ayade’s faction, the National Working Committee of PDP had in a meeting held with the NASS caucus within the week reaffirmed the earlier lists released to the states including that of Cross River.
A party source said the NWC had assured the lawmakers that everything was done in the interest of all stakeholders and therefore not prepared to conduct fresh congresses in states that have been endorsed by NEC and NWC.
The national leadership of the party had in a letter dated April 26, 2020 and signed by the national organising secretary, Col Austin Akobundu (retd), released the approved authentic list for ward and local government executives for all the 196 wards and 18 local government councils of Cross River.
According to the statement, the approval of the National Working Committee, NWC, on behalf of National Executive Committee, NEC, was as a result of the successful conduct of the ward and local government congresses held in the state on March 7, 2020 and March 21, 2020 respectively and after careful consideration of the reports of the electoral committee and appeal panel.
Reacting to the development, a senior citizen, Ntufam Abang Monjok, 71, said it would be very difficult to break the Ogoja unity this time considering the fact that they have never produced a Senator since the creation of old Cross River State, adding that the death of Sen Rose Oko is symbolic in many ways including offering a golden opportunity to redress the injustice meted out to Ogoja community.
Abang, who hails from Ogoja local governemnt area and a retired politician, disclosed that out of five local governemnt areas in the northern zone including Ogoja, Yala, Bekwarra, Obudu and Obanliku only Ogoja has not tested the Red Chamber of National Assembly.
He listed those who have been to Senate to include Sen Joseph Wayas, former Senate President, (Obanliku) Sen Kanu Agabi, SAN, (Bekwarra), Sen Adede Musa (Obanliku), Sen Greg Ngaji ( Yala), Sen Ben Ayade ( Obudu) and late Sen Rose Oko ( Yala).
But one of Gov Ayade’s appointees, who dont want his name in print, said: “Ayade is the governor and no doubt he is behind Dr Odey’s because he wants to go back to senate in 2023. Surely, he would pull through. We only want the party to be fair to all while I urge the political actors to play according to the rules of the game.”