C'River : Why a northern candidate should be APC best option in 2019 By Inyali Peter

Since the dawn of uninterrupted democracy in 1999 in Nigeria, there have never been a time that the political future of Cross River State is clothed with uncertainty as now. The state generally after the 1999 general elections has been perceived to be a stronghold of the PDP. However, after the victory of APC at the centre in 2015 coupled with the disagreement of some political gladiators with the former and incumbent Governor, there have been a mass exodus of major political leaders of the PDP to the APC.

Some of them include, Distinguished Sen. Victor Ndoma-Egba who is now the Chairman of NDDC, Chief Clement Ebri, former Governor of the state, Sen. Florence Ita Giwa, Sen. Prince Bassey Otu, Sen. John Owan Enoh, Rt. Hon. Paul Adah, Barr. Venatius Ikem, Rt. Larry Odey, Dr. Peter Oti, Dr. Alex Egbonna, Chief Francis Bullem, Chief Ray Morphy Ugbal, Ntufam Fidelis Ugbo, Prince Goddy Jedy Agba, Mr. Jude Ngaji amongst others.

Unlike in previous elections where it was almost certain that any candidate sponsored by PDP would emerge victories in the general elections, the 2019 scenario would be different as the opposition APC is waxing very strong to takeover power from the PDP in the state.

However, while the prospect of taking over from the PDP is exciting and a possibility, the APC must put it house in order to ensure a candidate that would foster the peace and understanding enjoyed among the different ethnic groups and senatorial districts of the state fly the party's flag in 2019.

Prior to the 2015 election, there was an understanding among the political leaders that the Cross River northern senatorial district which was the only zone at the time to produce Governor be supported to also lead the state like other zones. From 1999 to 2007, the state was under the watch of Mr. Donald Duke who hails from the southern senatorial district. Duke handed over power to Sen. Liyel Imoke who also did eight years before shifting power to the incumbent, Gov Ben Ayade who is about to complete just first terms of four years from the north.

The southern senatorial district will be 12 years out of power by the time Gov. Ayade would complete his four years in May next year. While the central that produced Ayade's successor will just be four years out of power.

However, the buildup to 2019 has seen some people from the central in APC act like other senatorial districts have become slaves to them. Although the APC also have governorship aspirants from the south, they have not shown the level of betrayal and desperation displayed by those from the central.

This leads me to this simple question; if the south has waited for 12 good years and probably willing to wait for 4 mores for the north to complete eight years like other, why can't the central wait? The South has the highest voting strength in the state therefore if there's any zone that should protest that power should return to them, it should be the Southerners not the central who just left power.

In their antics to hoodwink Cross Riverians, they've come up with the narrative that to win the incumbent, the APC needs to fill a candidate with a deep pocket. While it's true that money play key role in our politics, what is not completely true is that money without credibility can't win election.

For instance, President Muhammadu Buhari was the poorest of all the APC Presidential aspirants in 2014 but because overtime, he was demonstrated resilience and unmatched integrity, he defeated other aspirants with larger pocket. He went ahead to win the incumbent, President Goodluck Jonathan who had the whole state resources at his beg and call.

Apart from President Buhari unequivocal integrity, the major thing that counted against Jonathan was zoning. It was believed that since Jonathan incidentally became President after the death of President Umaru Musa Yar'Aduah who comes from the north, the northern part of the country was supposed to produce a President in 2015 in line with the PDP gentleman zoning agreement. But Jonathan undermined this sensitive issue because he felt he had all the money. Equity and justice death with him as he became the first incumbent President to be defeated by the opposition.

Ahead of the APC governorship primaries, the leaders of the party in Cross River state  and national alike must learn from Jonathan's mistake that although money is important in an election, money is not everything. Also, they must learn that although zoning is not constitutional, equity and natural justice recognize zoning.

A central governorship candidate for APC would mean a disaster. This is because the south that has waited for 12 years would prefer to vote PDP massively for power to return to them after four years than support a central person that would do eight years thereby stretching their wait from 12 (16 if the north have another four years) to twenty (20). The north in the other hand would vote PDP in protest of the injustice done them by the APC.

Similarly, the two governorship aspirants from the central have been in leadership positions for so long and their record doesn't suggest that they would be better than the available option. In fact there's no indices that suggest that they would perform better as governor.

For instance, one of the aspirants is a Senator who has spent almost 20 years in the legislative business. He was in the assembly for four years, house of representatives for 12 and now in the Senate. When his impact is put head to head with the incumbent Governor, Cross Riverians would surely vote against him because available records placed him far below Ayade as long the business of legislature is concerned.

People have questioned why some APC leaders have even projected him as the best man to succeed Ayade when he has failed to match Ayade's Senate record. People have asked that, if he couldn't perform better than Ayade in the Senate, is it as Governor that he will? This would lead to one conclusion, the "devil we know is better than the angel we don't know".

For the second aspirant from the central, the simple fact that he presided over the meeting that APC officially zoned it governorship ticket to the north in 2014 and considering that the masses know that APC practices eight years zoning formula, his integrity and sincerity would be under serious scrutiny. People would question why APC would present and want them to trust a man who cannot respect an agreement he played key role in reaching.

The "very first job of a leader is to inspire trust. Trust is the single most essential element to our ability to deliver extraordinary results in an enduring way. Trust is integral to building high performance because it enables an organization to work as it should; it’s the first defense against dysfunction and the first step towards delivering better outcomes", (anonymous).

APC can't win with a man that has trust issues hanging on his neck.

From the South, although they have genuine reasons to want to seek governorship after 12 years, waiting for just four more years won't be too much a sacrifice to make for peace, justice and equity. Anybody that would come from the north would do four years and handover power to south. Those with genuine ambition now should wait till 2023.

Besides this, sentiment would naturally count against one of the aspirants would hail from the same area with the only APC southern senatorial aspirant. It would be difficult for APC to get massive support required to win governorship from the south when the party present governorship and senatorial candidates from one local government.

The other aspirant who has picked form doesn't enjoy so much goodwill that can win a governorship election. Comments and post on social media clearly points to the fact that he's perceived as a failed hotelier therefore there's the belief that a man who cannot manage his personal business cannot be trusted to manage the state.

All this permutations by all standard still favours a northern candidate. Fielding a northern candidate would be the best thing that can happen to APC because like earlier stated, the south would prefer a governor from the north who would do four years than central for eight years.
John Upan Odey, the only northern APC governorship aspirant

Again, already the incumbent doesn't enjoy so much popularity in the north where he comes because of the belief that people have not really felt the impact of his government. For instance, the terrible roads situation which only an APC aspirant from the north can use during campaigns against him. But if APC field a candidate from another party, the bad road which would have been a plus for the APC would become a minus because the incumbent would campaign vigorously that if voted out, a Governor from another place would abandon the road project. And naturally, people would into such campaigns. Your own na your own!

Similarly, the only governorship aspirant from the north who has picked form is a young vibrant youth. If the APC present him in 2019, he will enjoy enormous support from the youths who are agitating that power should shift hands. The fact that he's the youngest person amongst all the aspirants across party would also project APC as a youth-friendly party.

The possibilities are there. All the permutations favour the north. The APC now has to choose between fielding a northern candidate with goodwill and strong character to win Cross River or present the ticket to the highest bidder and not only loose to the PDP but present the party as a commercial platform for the highest bidder before the masses.

The views expressed here are solely the opinion of the author and not Fearless Reports.
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