ZONING : Who Will Be Cross River South's Jedy-Agba In 2023?

Dr. Goddy Jedy-Agba, OFR 

The politics of the next general elections holding in 2023 has saturated political discourses at all levels in the country. Discussions on Social media, beer parlour, political meetings, etc, are now centered on who gets what, how and why. 

In Cross River State for instance, the debate on where the next Governor comes from is generating heated debate on social media. Pro and anti-zoning campaigners have ensured that there's no single day that passes by without them trying to advance their discussions with different reasons.

The pro-zoning campaigners believe that, in 2023, when Governor Ben Ayade would have completed his tenure, power should rotate to Cross River South Senatorial district which would have been out of power for sixteen years by then. 

However, those opposed to this argument are insisting that since the current round of rotation will end in 2023, any other Senatorial district can start the next round of zoning and not necessarily the South.

Three prominent Cross Riverians ; two serving Senators and a former Governor have even joined the debate in the past two weeks. While the Senator representing Cross River South, Senator Gershom Bassey spoke in favour of power shift to the South, his counterpart who's representing Cross River North, Senator Jarigbe Agom and Donald Duke opposed his position. 

Agom and Duke had argued that none of them won their elections as Governor and Senator because of zoning therefore whoever has interest from any Senatorial district should go to the field and work as zoning is unconstitutional. 

The remarks, especially from Duke who hails from the South has generated even more debates and political tension in the state.

The current round of zoning started in 1999 with Duke himself from the South. Duke was in office for eight years and handed over to Sen. Liyel Imoke from Cross River Central Senatorial District in 2007. Imoke like Duke, did eight years between 2007-2015 and handed over power to Sen. Ben Ayade from the North.

Ayade who was the Senator representing Cross River North Senatorial District at the time became the first Governor from the North. South and Central had previously produced Governors in the previous republics. But North, before 2015 was the only Senatorial district in the state that was yet to produce Governor.

In 2015, even though natural justice had zoned the position to the North, Imoke was alleged to have a hidden agenda. He demonstrated this by asking all his political appointees from Cross River North to pick Governorship form in his party, the PDP while preparing Sen. Gershom Bassey, his friend and member of the triumvirate of himself and Duke to succeed him. 

While in the open, Imoke was saying he will handover to the North, secretly, he had blessed Gershom to complete the agreement of the triunvirate to rule the state for 24 years to succeed him. The game was simple, get every single interested person from the North to pick form to contest the primaries against Gershom alone from the South. 

Cross River North is the minority Senatorial district with only five local governments. South is the biggest with seven while central is second with six. With Gershom, Southern delegates votes would have been intact while Imoke who had absolute control of his Senatorial district would have delivered his friend, leaving the twenty three aspirants from the North to struggle for the minority votes. 

This plot was however dashed by Dr. Goddy Jedy Agba, OFR, the then Group General Manager (GGM) of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, Crude Oil Marketing Division. Jedy-Agba who hails from the North and the son of the longest serving traditional ruler in Nigeria single handedly funded and led a revolution in 2014 against Imoke's plot. 

Jedy-Agba had picked form for the seat and galvanized support from every nook and cranny of the state. His name was reverberating in pages of newspapers and social media. But Imoke who called the shot at the time vowed never to let Jedy-Agba succeed him. 

In an attempt to stop Jedy-Agba from moving to another political, Imoke jettisoned his plan to hand over to his friend, Gershom Bassey and picked Ayade, Jedy-Agba's kinsman who was never in the race. Ayade had picked form to return to the Senate but Imoke felt that the only way to stop Jedy-Agba who was not in the race only for the seat but also to force Imoke's hands to pick a Successor from the North was to allow a Northerner, non less his kinsman from Obudu to succeed him. 

And like magic, immediately Ayade was given the ticket, Jedy-Agba demonstrated uncommon love for his people by not only withdrawing from the race, but becoming the major financier of the election. He was the Chairman of the campaign finance committee and mobilized the funds used to procure the elections. 

Many people in the state today believe and rightly so that, without Jedy-Agba, the North, despite being the only Senatorial district yet to produce Governor at the time would have lost out to Imoke and Bassey. Because Imoke's plans didn't work, he settled his friend with the Senate ticket at the detriment of Sen. Bassey Otu who had wanted a second term. 

Ahead of the 2023 Governorship election, it's increasingly looking like the South will need their own Jedy-Agba for power to return to them. This is because, most of the prominent figures in Cross River politics who have spoken about the next election are titling towards the opinion that the seat should be opened for all zones. 

Also, they are people who have rightly  accused Southern Leaders of not working but waiting for power to be donated to them through zoning. The next election is about fourteen months from now but there's no sign of seriousness from those with aspiration from the South yet. No consultation, no dialogue, no negotiation no activity that suggests their interests in the top seat. 

This has given people from other Senatorial districts the impetus to push the narrative that power is not zoned in a vacuum. 

With the way things are going, if the South don't produce their own Jedy-Agba as the North in 2015 to begin a serious push for the Governorship seat, then, there's a high possibility that they may lose it to another Senatorial district in 2023 like a North would have if not for him, (Jedy-Agba).
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