By Daniel Kanu
Senator Bassey Gershom is the leader, Cross River National Assembly Caucus and Senator representing Southern Federal Constituency.
In this exclusive chat with Sunday Sun, the lawmaker who enjoys massive love and popularity among his people speaks on Cross River politics, impeachment threat to President Muhammadu Buhari, security challenge, and why he did not defect to the APC with Governor Ben Ayade, among other crucial issues. Excerpts:
As the leader of Cross River National Assembly caucus; the PDP has concluded its primary elections across board. What can you say about it in terms of the processes that threw up the candidates in the state? Are you satisfied, given kicks in some quarters?
I believe generally that the elections were peaceful and fairly okay. Of course, the condensed electoral colleges meant most eligible voters (by the Peoples Democratic Party constitution) – statutory delegates, could not vote. We are yet to fully understand the impact of this. Of course, you don’t expect the election to be 100 per cent okay, but it was peaceful, fairly okay and it has come and gone. If there were mistakes made, you learn from it and perhaps, strategise better next time.
You were one of the leading aspirants in the governorship election in your state, Cross River. How do you feel after losing the ticket to your colleague in the Senate, Senator Sandy Onor?
I feel concerned for the party especially as our main opponents opted to follow the guber rotation that existed in our state. However, Senator Sandy is my friend and he is a decent fellow.
Senator Sandy Onor emergence as governorship candidate from Central Senatorial District of the state seems to have altered the zoning arrangement and the clamour for back to South, which you strongly believed in. What are the feelings of your people that zoning was jettisoned?
Well, the answer is simple: it means my senatorial district is being asked by the PDP to wait for at least eight years after having waited patiently and loyally for 16 years. It’s a very bitter pill to swallow. Well, that is politics for you. Sometimes you may not get what you planned for or your expectation. The challenge is for you to remain focused and continue to push what you believe in, believing that one day, it will materialise. You don’t quit trying just because you lost an opportunity. As one who is committed to serve his people, you still keep your eye on the ball and be consistent, expecting that it will click with time.
How will you react to the blame that the South senatorial zone presented about eight governorship aspirants in the race and none refused to step down thereby giving Sen. Sandy an edge and advantage, being the only aspirant from Central. Even when moves were made to arrive at consensus candidate from the South there was no agreement among the aspirants? Do you have regrets?
The North had 15 or so aspirants in PDP in 2015. It’s nothing new. The aspirants from the South were well within their rights to contest. We in the South had waited patiently without contesting any primaries since 2007. So, there was nothing bad in the contestants expressing their rights to contest. The beauty of democracy is that it is self-correcting, meaning that when you fail or made a mistake, you correct it next time when election period comes around. Also when the people choose or elect their candidates and they did not perform to their expectation, they have the right or opportunity to reject them at the next election using their vote. The ultimate choice in all is the voters who will make statement with their votes. So, for now, no regrets.
PDP in Cross River just set up a reconciliation committee and they have been going round. But echoes of back to South still reverberate. What are your pieces of advice to party members ahead of 2023?
There is nothing you can do than to keep trying, hoping that one day you will succeed in the project. You don’t quit just because you failed. You just have to keep trying until you succeed, until you win.
From the political permutations and considering that APC is now the ruling party in Cross River, are you still optimistic that PDP would reclaim the state?
We need to work very hard. It’s not impossible. It is doable and we are committed to ensuring that we achieve victory. Our party remains the party to beat. We have worked hard and we are hopeful.
Crisis is rocking the national PDP arising from Governor Wike and Atiku’s fallout. What do you think can be done for genuine reconciliation ahead of 2023 election?
I think what can be done is being done, but I would advise that we don’t get into the blame game. The PDP Senate caucus visited our presidential and vice presidential candidates with our national chairman in attendance, I’m convinced that they are fully committed to complete and total reconciliation across the length and breadth of our party. What we are experiencing is not abnormal, of course, there are bound to be disagreement in political parties, but what matters is ensuring that reconciliations are made. Our party has a process of reconciliation if aggrieved and I am confident that genuine reconciliations will be made and there will be nothing to worry about. In a democracy, sometimes, you disagree to agree.
This is not the first time the National Assembly is threatening impeachment. What is the guarantee for this threat?
The threat is real. The National Assembly is not joking. My advice to our president is to take the bull by the horns and sort this security matter out once and for all. That is what the National Assembly wants. We want safety and security of all Nigerians and people living in Nigeria. The present state of insecurity has become embarrassing and the president should take the bull by the horns. The buck stops at his table, so he needs to inspire hope to all Nigerians and provide the right type of leadership at this critical period.
There was this expectation from some political quarters that you will move with the governor (Prof. Ben Ayade) to the All Progressives Congress (APC)?
No, I am not moving to the APC. Those political quarters expected wrongly. I am a founding member of the PDP and I will continue to remain in the PDP. Our party is beyond the control of any particular person. The PDP is a very unique party, it belongs to everybody and does not belong to one individual. It is the nature of the party right from inception. When you have a situation where one person may want to own the party, he will run into problem. The party belongs to the men and women of Nigeria. It is a national party, cutting across all political zones and religion. Cross River State is fully PDP compliant, so there is nothing to fear.