Governorship : Watch Out For Cross River North In 2023

Governor Ben Ayade 

By Inyali Peter

The battle for the soul of Cross River State has begun in essence ahead of the 2023 general elections. Politicians and political commentators have been engrossed in heated debate on who succeeds Governor Ben Ayade as the next Governor of the state.

Admist several other things, one issue that has been reverberating everywhere and may be a constant variable between now and the next election is the debate on zoning and power rotation. 

A cross section of Cross Riverians mostly from central have been at the vanguard of no-zoning debate. They want the Governorship to be thrown open to all zones so that it'll give powerful politicians from the central the opportunity to snatch the top seat.

The argument, just like those by the pro-zoning advocates is gathering momentum with more stakeholders getting involved.

Yesterday, the Senator Representing Cross River South Senatorial district, Senator Gershom Bassey lifted the lid on his rumoured governorship ambition in a speech that has now gone viral in the social media. 

The Senator who has been at the forefront of zoning of the Governorship to the South make a dramatic U-turn yesterday by declaring that he no longer wants zoning. 

He said that his argument for zoning was premised on the fact that the South was due but since some people have now assumed that he's only depending on zoning to advance his governorship interest, he was no longer interested and now ready to match anybody from anywhere naira for naira and dollars for dollars.

His remarks has been generating a lot of debate in the social media since with a lot hitting him for bragging about his war chest instead of his blue print ahead of the elections. 

While the debate continues, one is careful to note that, those who have given publicity to his speech mostly are proponent of the no-zoning in 2023. To them, his declaration that he no longer wants zoning or depends on zoning to run the Governorship election fit exactly into what they've have been agitating for.

Although Senator Bassey's statement can be termed sarcastic, his perceived opponents in his party, the People's Democratic Party, PDP who are rooting for his colleague, Senator Sandy Onor who represents the Cross River Central Senatorial District district at the red chambers feel that he has played into their hands.

Well, if the anti-zoning campaigners have their way and the Governorship is thrown open in 2023, they may get the shocker of their lives as Cross River North Senatorial District which is currently in power will join the race and give central and others the fight for their money.

Clearly, Cross River North is the underdog in the race in 2023 but like in Rivers State in 2015 when politicians were busy fighting for zoning and the incumbent Governor, Nysom Wike who hails from the same Senatorial district as the then Governor, Rotimi Amaechi stole the show, Cross River North may not only be the deciding factor in 2023 but may steal the show by retaining power. 

There's this belief in the North that if Central that has held power for ten years asked for return of power to them in 2019 and doing same ahead of 2023, then the North that's producing Governor for the first time since the creation of the state will want to retain power beyond 2023. 

Chief Clement Ebri was Governor from central for two years in the short third republic while Sen. Liyel Imoke also from central has done eight years in the current dispensation between 2007-2015. 

Even though, the anti-zoning campaigners have categorically excluded the North with the argument that, even if the Governorship is thrown open, the race will be between South and Central being that the North is currently in power, the North may likely not bow to this argument and steer clear of the race.

By the end of the current round of zoning which will end in 2023, only the South and North would have waited for 16 years without power in the current democratic dispensation. So, there's the likelihood that, South and North may form alliance against the Central in 2023. 

Besides, on like before where the Central brags about the gap in voting strength with the North, according to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC data, the gap between the two Senatorial districts is not that wide again. 

Out of the 1,524,689 total registered voters in Cross River State, South have, 602,079, 
Central, 493,026 and North 429,584. The gap between Central and North is about 60,000 which can be covered with the over 200,000 advantage the South has over the other two Senatorial districts. 

Similarly, even though the North may not allow the opportunity to retain power pass them by, so far, politicians from the Senatorial district are still watching from the sidelines and look more favourable to zoning of the position to South. Even when the Senator representing the Senatorial district released a scattering statement against zoning, different interest groups from the zone came out and openly rebuked him. 

The seeming support from the North for Southern Governor in 2023 would make it easier for the South to concede the seat to the North if the Senatorial district were to choose between them and Central. Central senatorial district is gradually becoming a black sheep amongst others because of their politicians constant fight to disrupt the state's zoning arrangement. 

The Senatorial district tried it with the North in 2023 when Sen. John Owan-Enoh attempted to stop Gov. Ben Ayade and indeed, the North from doing second term like others. Same thing is happening today again with the South. So, there's a common ground for South and North to meet to form alliance to fight their common enemy which is the central. 

Howbeit, as things continue to unfold, the picture on where the next Governor of the state will come from will become clearer soon but one thing is certain, if the race is thrown open, the North will likely slug it out with other Senatorial districts, especially central rather than be spectators from the stance.
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