From Judex Okoro, Calabar
The battle over who controls the Cross River State All Progressives Congress, APC, structure has continued unabated as Governor Ben Ayade and some stakeholders are at loggerheads over the chairmanship zoning arrangement allegedly being adopted.
Ahead of the state congress, the party, at the behest of Governor Ben Ayade, set up a zoning committee led by Sen Victor Ndoma Egba to among others ensure equitable distribution of all party offices across all chapters and accommodate critical stakeholders with a view to reducing tension and acrimony, especially with regard to the chairmanship position, ahead of the October 16, 2021 nation-wide state congress.
A member of the committee had confided in our reporter that they had zoned the state chairmanship to the north with an eye on Ogoja with about eight aspirants in the race.
So far those who have indicated interest in the chairmanship position are Alphonsus Eba, Esq, Engr Thomas Aruku, the Director General, Cross River Road Maintenance Agency, CRROMA, Dr Peter Ojie, former Deputy Chairman of PDP, former Commissioner and now Senior Special Adviser to the Governor on Political Matters, Mr Ogbiji Nyiam, an SA to a former Minister, Goddy Nyiam, Director General, Department of Public Transportation and James Alicha Okpamu.
Investigations revealed that while the majority of stakeholders want the state chairmanship position zoned to Ogoja and are said to be rooting for Dr Peter Ojie, the Senior Special Adviser to the Governor on Political Affairs, Governor Ayade wants the state chairmanship position zoned to Yala and is rooting for one of his aides, Mr Alphonsus Eba, the Cross River State Director-General of Due Process. Eba (a.k.a Okadigbo) has been Ayade’s chairmanship candidate in PDP before the duo defected to APC.
The stakeholders said to be behind Ojie include Sen John Owan Enoh, former Senator representing central senatorial district, Hon Alex Egbona, member representing Abi/Yakurr Federal constituency, Pastor Usani Usani, former minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Prof Eyo Etim Nyong, and Sir Maurice Effiwat.
Some of these stakeholders had argued that Ojie has a wealth of experience in party administration as he has been Deputy Chairman of PDP in Cross River State for 12 years, Acting Chairman and a Commissioner during Sen. Liyel Imoke’s administration and therefore has the contact and capacity to redefine and redirect the affairs of the party ahead of 2023. A reliable family source hinted to our correspondent that the state chairmanship slot was one of the juicy offers made to Ojie before he defected to APC.
It was also learnt that some youths rooted for Mr Thomas Aruku for the plum job of state chairman and he has already made some in-roads in terms of reaching out to some former chairmen including Amb Soni Abang, Chief Ekpo Okon and Achort Okon, who are advocate of young generation holding out in party office, before he was said to have been ordered to step down for Eba.
Statistics made available have shown that Yala like Obudu is already overloaded with political appointments including The Vice Chancellor of UNICROSS, chairman of SUBEB, chairman of Internal Revenue Services,, the state Auditor General just as the next House of Representatives member for Ogoja/Yala Federal constituency is coming from Yala.
But they are piqued that in spite of repeated appeals by these critical stakeholders to see reasons while Ogoja should be allowed to produce the next APC chairman to give them a sense of belonging and answer to the cry of marginalisation, the Governor made a volta face and discreetly set up another sub-committee, headed by Rt Hon Legor Idagbor, member representing Bekwarra/Obudu/Obanliku federal constituency who micro-zoned it to Yala chapter to favour ‘Oga’ loyalist, Eba.
This development has not only pitched the governor against some party stalwarts, but has raised dust among other party faithful who have expressed disappointment at the move by the Governor to impose a candidate on the party after he had failed to do that at PDP.
Kicking against micro-zoning of about 27 party offices, the State Publicity Secretary, Mr Bassey Ita, in a press statement titled, “micro-zoning of party positions should be disregarded.” said: “The State Leadership of our great party, is taken aback at the news of the micro-zoning of party positions for the State Executive Committee(zoning of positions to local government chapters)
“The State Chairman, Sen. Matthew Mbu Jr, has also affirmed that he has not authorised nor consented to the zoning process as currently conducted across the senatorial districts. In the light of the development,the State Caretaker Committee wishes to dissociate from the exercise.
“The report of the Zoning Committee recently submitted to the party is still being reviewed by the leadership and will soon come up with a ratified arrangement on the exercise. The leadership has a well intended plan to sustain the existing stable climate within the party by involving all interests in the party administration and will therefore not compromise this position. Stakeholders are to therefore disregard whatever is done in the guise of zoning to local government chapters which is without due authorization by the leadership.”
Also reacting, a party stalwart, Emmanuel Egbe, from Abi, said: “We are not happy with the Governor on the alleged move to impose one of his aides on the party after he has promised party members that we shall be allowed to elect who leads the party.
“We are watching and would do everything to resist it. If the they have zoned the state chairman to the north, they should not again micro-zone it to Yala excluding Ogoja. It would be a repeat of history and an invitation for another round of in-fighting in APC, which the governor would not be able to contain.”
Another party leader from Ogoja, Chief Mathew Monjok, said: “I don’t know what Ogoja has done that this present administration does not want Ogoja to have juicy political appointments. In PDP, Ayade did all to block Ogoja people from going to the Senate until the court decided otherwise. Again, we are faced with the same scenario after we were assured that it is the turn of Ogoja to produce the party chairman. Please let the party leaders intervene else some of us would defect back to PDP.”
But supporting the zoning to Yala, a chapter leader from Bekwarra, Akwaji Daniel Akwaji, said: “the governor is the leader of the party. He decides who takes, when and how. We should not drag him into another battle. He knows what is good for us so we should allow him to give us leaders who would drive the process and lead us into victory in 2023. It is too early to start a fight now.”