C'River : Agom's Victory A Big Blow To APC But Not Signaling PDP's Return To Power In 2023

Senator-elect, Jarigbe Agom

By Inyali Peter 

The Appeal Court affirmation of its July 30th judgment declaring Rt. Hon. Jarigbe Agom as the duly elected Senator for Cross River North Senatorial District has sparked a wide jubilation in the ranks and files of the opposition People's Democratic Party, PDP. To the Senator-elect's supporters and members of his party, his victory signals the strength of the party and possible reclaiming of the pelegrino hall from the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC come 2023.

Recall that on Saturday August 14th, the Abuja division of the Court of Appeal affirmed the ruling of its Calabar division declaring Agom as winner of the December fifth Cross River North Senatorial by-election. Sen. Steve Odey, a factional candidate of the PDP who had concluded plans to join the Governor in APC, was occupying the seat haven been declared winner by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). Odey and the candidate of the APC in the by-election, Joe Agi, SAN, had approached the appellant court to review its judgment that gave Agom the victory. 

The court in a unanimous decision, ruled against their appeal and rather asked the appellants to pay the winner one million naira each. By the ruling, the matter which has dragged for almost seven months after the elections has been laid to rest, finally. 

The development, however, has been generating a lot of discourse, with PDP members claiming that the defeat of Odey  who was strongly backed by the Governor was an indication of what will happen in 2023 when the PDP and the APC will lockhorns for the soul of the state. 

While it's true that Agom has enormous electoral value and his victory is undoubtedly, a major blow to the ruling APC, the claim that his enthronment as Senator by the court of appeal is a sure ticket for the PDP to reclaim power in the state is a fantastic metaphor, to say the least. His victory is a boost but enough for such political conclusion. 

In fact, such insinuations are mere dreams. It's good to dream big but it's best if such dreams have some semblance of reality. Unfortunately, this doesn't. 

For those who are familiar with the politics of Cross River State, it is clear as crystal that the PDP'S dream is more of a wishful thought or simply put, a hallucination. It's like a football team full of average players thinking of winning the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) Champions League because they manage to win a League Cup finals on penalties.

PDP supporters have been boasting that they will have a smooth ride in 2023 because they now have all the three Senators from the state and four house of Representatives members which is more than APC's three. But of all the seven PDP national assembly members, Agom is the first to win an election without state powers and his success came through the court which is akin to penalties in football. It's more of a game of luck. 

Without State powers, most of the remaining six if not all, won't and can't win elections. A good example is Senator Sandy Onor, the Senator representing Cross River Central Senatorial District. He failed woefully when he left the PDP which was the ruling party then to contest the Senate seat in 2015 under the Labour Party. It was until he returned to the PDP which was still the party in power in 2019 that he won. 

Similarly, only a handful of national assembly member in Cross River State today, both APC and PDP can bit their chest and say they can win their local government without State support if elections were to hold today. Sen. Gershom Bassey, the Senator representing Cross River South was imposed on the people against the popular choice, Sen. Bassey Otu both in 2015 and 2019 by state powers. As popular as Sen. Otu is, he lost to Gershom Bassey twice largely because he (Gershom) had State support. 

Apart from Rt. Hon. Essien Ayi who has been in the house of Representatives for more than twenty years, Rt. Hon. Daniel Asuquo, Hon. Alex Egbonna, and maybe one or two more, no other present national assembly member from Cross River State can conviently say they can win their wards not to talk of their Senatorial districts or constituencies on their own. This includes APC National Assembly members too, but their case is different as those who will get the party's tickets in 2023 will still enjoy State backing. 

Rt. Hon Chris Agibe and Rt. Eta Mbora who represents Boki/Ikom and  Calabar Municipality/Odukpani federal constituencies respectively are as unpopular as English Championship players. They're not known because they have undeniably underperformed. This explains why they struggled the most of among all others to win re-election in 2019 despite having State backing. Yet, they are part of those PDP is relying on to help them win the 2023 elections. 

Also, apart from Senator Onor who has contested elections before in an opposition party and of course failed, no current PDP lawmaker has before. This will greatly dwindle the party's chances of reclaiming power because the experience of running election as ruling and opposition party differs. Until 2019 where APC put up a serious fight, once any politician gets the PDP ticket for any election in the state, the election was sure as over. It won't be the same in 2023. 

Outside the support from the central government, the APC will be going into the next elections for the first time in the state with the Governor, Deputy Governor, Minister, eighteen out of the twenty four house of assembly members, all the eighteen local government Chairmen, all the 196 Councilors, more than twenty five Commissioners and other retinue of State and federal appointees. This line up is too heavy for anybody to assume that because the PDP now has three Senators or majority national assembly members, their bid to reclaim power in the state is as sure as anything. 

Some will argued that the Governor had all these people but lost out to the national assembly members in the fight for the control of PDP structures before his defection. But they've forgotten one salient point that internal party politics is totally different from external politics. The leadership of a political party can decide to handover its structure to anybody and that was what happened in the PDP. For contests that will involve other political parties and governments, the dynamics are different. 

In the last election, through the instrumentality of the state, as popular as Senator John Owan-Enoh, the APC governorship candidate who was also a seating Senator is, he could not win his own Etung local government nor win his house of assembly seat in the last election. None of the PDP national assembly members talking tough now enjoy half of the goodwill Sen. Owan-Enoh enjoys. 

Nevertheless, the APC in the state was not a pushover before the Governor's defection. One of the major issues that the party was contending with was funding. With the Governor now in APC, this issue is as good as solved. The issue of not having the resources to fund the expensive nature of Nigeria politics will no longer be there in the next election. 

With Agom set to be sworn-in as Senator, his current position, Ogoja/Yala federal constituency will become vacant. The claim of the PDP that Cross River is still a PDP state despite the defection of the Governor and larger structure of the PDP will be tested. Even with the support of the state, the election in 2019 wasn't an easy win for the PDP and now as opposition, it'll be a surprise to see the party put up any serious challenge not to talk of winning. Except, of course, the APC fumbles in its choice of candidate! 

With the state's current political configuration, like in Edo State, where it was largely reported that most APC members within and outside delivered Governor Godwin Obaseki out of sheer protest against former national Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, it's only APC that can stop APC from continuing in power in the state in 2023 if the leadership refuses to do the right thing or choose to undermine party members. 

Realistically, the best the PDP can hope for is to win some national assembly seats if they play their politics well. But for the governorship, the task is herculean and looks nearly impossible as of today thus, it's good that the party stop giving it members false hopes and rather set more attainable targets ahead of the next general elections. 
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