The Cross River North senatorial district is in the eye of the storm. The old Ogoja province made of five local government areas of Ogoja, Yala, Bekwarra, Obudu and Obanliku once noted for its political sophistry and rich cultural heritage has been turned into another political theatre.
Presently, the Northern senatorial district occupies a strategic position in power equation in Cross River. The zone is presently the power base because it parades the most powerful political offices in the state including the incumbent Governor, Prof Ben Ayade (PDP), the Minister of State for Power, Chief Goddy Jeddy Agba (APC) and Prof Zana Akpagu, the Vice-Chancellor, all from Obudu local government area.
But all seems to be falling apart in the zone as the legacies of leadership succession and rich political cultures left behind by their founding fathers have all become a thing of the past. In its place, the new generation of leaders have resorted to political chicaneries, unprecedented violence, hate speech and winner-takes-all.
The new generation’s unbridled quest for political power and sit-tight-syndrome has thrown overboard all known norms of democratic tenets. The food-on-the-table brand of politics, which is similar to late Adedibu’s ‘Amala politics’, has thrown the zone into a theatre of war as witnessed in the parties’ primaries held at Ogoja, the senatorial headquarters recently.
PDP, APC primaries in a shambles
However, Thursday, September 3 and 5 would remain a political albatross for politicians in the Northern senatorial district. It was a week that APC and PDP held their primaries respectively and four candidates emerged to take over the vacant coveted senatorial seat following the death of Sen Rose Oko.
In APC, two results were announced as Prof Zana Akpagu and Joe Agi, SAN, are laying claims to the ticket and insisting that they are the authentic winners of the September 3 primary.
In the results announced by Mr Lazarus Undie, the Senatorial Returning Officer for the party, Akpagu scored 75, 490 votes to defeat four other contestants for the APC ticket. According to him, the closest aspirant in the race, Mr Joe Agi, SAN, polled 12, 813 votes, while Harry Odey got 2, 039 votes and Mr Fidel Egoro scored 27, 000 votes while Mr Odey Ochicha got 1, 612 votes.
Undie while announcing the result said Akpagu who polled the highest votes in the contest has become the flag bearer of the APC in the election scheduled for October 31. He said: “Based on what we have declared here, we state that Professor Zana Akpagu having scored the highest number of votes in this contest is the winner of the APC Senatorial primary election,” adding that the result was announced in the presence of Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, representative, Mr Asuquo Afia who observed the conduct of the election and Atsu Liberty Zonal Organising Secretary of the party.
Also announcing Joe Agi, SAN, winner in the same primary election, the Chairman of APC Electoral Committee for Cross River North senatorial by-election 2020, Alh Suleiman Nakowa in company of the Secretary, Jenkins Gwede, scored 113, 229 votes, Prof Zana Akpagu polled 8, 635 votes, Harry Odey polled 2, 708, Odey Ochicha Anthony polled 5, 838 and Fidelis Egoro scored 2, 151 votes.
According to Nakowa, “Agi having won the highest number of votes and having been declared the winner of the party primary will be the standard bearer of All Progressives Congress in the forth-coming by-election.”
In the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, it is the same macabre dance as two personages are poised for a showdown. The five-man Electoral Committee for Cross River North Senatorial bye-Election was sharply divided over the issue of delegates’ list leading to misunderstanding among them. Consequent upon this, two candidates- Jarigbe Agom Jarigbe and Dr Steve Odey have emerged.
Declaring Jarigbe Agom Jarigbe as the authentic winner of the September 5 PDP primary in a report signed by Messers Ibok Esu and Kenneth Zota (all members of the Electoral Committee) and submitted to the National Organising Secretary and obtained by our correspondent, the Electoral Committee for Cross River North Senatorial Bye-Election, stated that Jarigbe Agom Jarigbe scored 381 votes, Dr Stephen Adi Odey 71 votes, Dr mary Iji 25 votes, Mrs Martina Odom 18 votes and Lukpata Ogana 12 votes.
The committee members said: “Jarigbe Agom Jarigbe, being the aspirant with the highest number of valid votes cast was declared winner”, adding that the primary election was conducted using the authentic delegate list issued to the committee by the National Secretariat of the party and sanctioned by Court just as it was observed by INEC officials.
Equally submitting report on the outcome of the PDP primary, the chairman of the electoral panel, Olorogun Taleb Tebite, declared the former chairman of the State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB), Dr Stephen Odey, as the winner of the party’s ticket.
Tebite said Odey polled 450 votes to defeat his closest rival and member of the House of Representatives, Jarigbe Agom Jarigbe, who garnered 90 votes, describing the process as peaceful and orderly.
According to him, INEC official, Mr. Amula Timotheus, who observed the primaries, expressed satisfaction with the exercise and added that the exercise was conducted in line with INEC guidelines.
Reactions trail emergence
While some political observers described the APC primary held on Thursday, September 3, as “political day-light-robbery”, others described PDP’s own held on Saturday, September 5, as “Rambo-part-five-style-of-election” as it was characterised by all vestiges of a war situation. Besides, while APC’s primary was a display of the highest political wit and alleged leadership conspiracy, PDP’s was a display of political brigandage and a case of the state versus the people.
However, a closer look at both primaries showed that it was mostly a power tussle among the Obudu-born political heavy-weigths as represented by Governor Ben Ayade, Chief Goddy Jeddy Agba, incumbent Minister of Power for State, Prof Zana Akpagu, Vice Chancellor, UNICAL, and Venatius Ikem, former National Publicity Secretary and Special Adviser to President.
While Ayade is rooting for Dr Steve Odey, from Yala, for Senate, Ikem is angling for the chairmanship position of PDP, and a die-in-the-wool supporter of Jarigbe Agom Jarigbe, from Ogoja, for Senate.
In APC, Agba, the Minister, is said to be solidly behind Joe Agi’s emergence as he is opposed to another Obudu son, Zana, clinching the senate seat in October 31 bye-election. Agba and Zana, both in APC, are political enemies as Agba is stoutly opposed to Zana’s senatorial ambition and rather pitched tent with Joe Agi, SAN from Yala.
It was learnt that the fight for survival is being exacerbated by the quest to control the various structures of the parties ahead of 2023 as both Ayade and Agba are somewhat repositioning their political structures so as not to be irrelevant in future political permutation.
Hailing the emergence of Dr Steve Odey at PDP primary, the Conference of Nigerian Political Parties (CNPP) made up of twenty-one political parties and a member of House of Representatives, Legor Idagbo, in their separate congratulatory messages described Odey’s victory as a reflection of the peoples unwavering confidence in his ability to represent them in the Senate.
In a letter signed by Sunday Michael and Castro Ezema, State chairman and Publicity Secretary respectively, they said: “The decision of the delegates to elect you as the PDP candidate from among other distinguished aspirants is a testimony of how far and wide you consulted, further to this, choosing a Yala son in compliance with the directive of the CNPP to all political parties demonstrates the commitment of your party in bringing balance, equity, fairness and justice”
The umbrella body of opposition political parties further commended the delegates and the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC monitoring team “for abiding by the rules”.
On his part, Idagbo, who is Chairman, House Committee on Nigeria Content Development and Monitoring, stated that Odey’s emergence as candidate of the PDP was a reflection of the will of the people through the delegates of the party in the Northern Senatorial district.
Commending the electoral committee for working in tandem with the authentic delegates’ list and Court order, leading to the emergence of Jarigbe Agom Jarigbe, the Coordinator of Movement for the Restoration of Cross River PDP (MFTROCR), Raymond Takon, said: “The game for the Senate is heating up and becoming interesting. All the party needs at the moment is to come together as one family and put forward their best foot, which is Jarigbe, because APC is waiting on the wings to feast on our mistakes.
“We urge all stakeholders to drop their boxing gloves and queue behind Jaribge because as at the moment, he is the most popular politician in the North who can stand the test of time. We observed the primary election, and anybody who witnessed it would know that with Jarigbe, victory is sure. Anything short of that would cost us the seat.”