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Ayade, Zoning & Sandy Onor : Why C'River North Is Most Appealing Bride In 2023

By Inyali Peter 


On Tuesday, the Senator representing Cross River Central Senatorial District, Sen. Sandy Onor finally put a seal of approval to the rumour of his governorship ambition in 2023 with an official declaration for the office. 

For political watchers in the state, it was a matter of when he will declare for the office and not if. This is because since 2019 that he won the Senate election, his body language and those of his supporters and political movement, The Caterpillar Movement pointed clearly to his interest in the race.

In 2020 when he was barely a year in the Senate, his governorship posters were listered everywhere in Calabar. Although he came out to deny the posters at the time tagging it handiwork of mischief makers, he didn't expressly deny his interest. 

So, his official declaration was more of an affirmation than anything else.

While he has declared for the race, the Governor, Ben Ayade on the other hand, has gone public again to reaffirm his commitment to power rotation.  The Governors latest reaffirmation came yesterday while delivering a speech in a rally to welcome thousands of PDP Defectors from the Cross River South to the APC. 

The Governor's position is perhaps, sterm from the fact that, although zoning is not official in the State, it has played a huge part in the election of Governors since 1999. The trajectory has been from one Senatorial district to another. 

The first Governor when Nigeria returned to democratic rule in 1999, Mr. Donald Duke is from Cross River South. Duke did eight years and handed over to Liyel Imoke from the central and he also did eight years before power rotated to Ayade from the North which was the only Senatorial district yet to produce Governor in 2015.

Moreso, it's worthy of note that despite rotational leadership always prevailing, there has never been an election in the state that the contest was restricted to just one Senatorial district. All the Senatorial districts have always participated in all the elections since 1999 but in the end, the Senatorial district that rotational argument favours always come out top. 

It is not rocket science. It's a product of political alignment and re-alignment which may also playout or already playing out ahead of the next election with the defection of key PDP members from the South to the ruling APC. 

In 2023, most Cross Riverians believe that the South which would have been out of power for sixteen years by the time should produce Gov Ayade's successor. But Sen. Onor is challenging this popular argument that since power has gone round, 2023 would be a new rotation era hence, it can begin from anywhere.

But his argument does not go down well with Ayade who is himself a product of power rotation and many others. With Ayade strongly backing power rotation and the South vowing to vote massively against anybody and party with candidate from zones other than South, there's a new policial realignment in the state that put the North in the driver's seat. 

Before Ayade became Governor, the political alignment in the state was more between South and Central. When PDP was in power at the federal level, critical appointments that came to the state were mostly shared between the central and South. Under the PDP, the last key fedeal appointment that went to the North was when Late John Odey was made Minister in the Olusegun Obasanjo's regime. 

Throughout Imoke's tenure for instance, despite the Central and South producing Governor and Deputy, when it was time for the State to send Ministerial nominee as it's the tradition in the PDP, the establishment still sent the name of Chief Edem Duke who was from South as the Deputy Governor and left the North with nothing. Even the Chairman of board of the Niger Delta Development Commission which many consider to be as big as Ministerial appointment still went to the South. 

At the time, the politics of the State revolved around Central and South that shared Governor, Minister, Deputy Governor, Senate Leader, Ambassador and many other key positions amongst themselves. The only position of note that they allowed to go to the North probably not out of will but political exigency was the Speaker of the state house of assembly. 

But going into the 2023, the tides would probably change as things that counted against the North like low voting strength and not having a leader that they can really around has changed. Currently, the North holds the two biggest political offices in the state; Governor and Minister and the voting strength has improved remarkably. 

Out of the one million, five hundred and twenty four thousand, six hundred and eighty nine (1,524,689) registered voters in Cross River State , Cross River South has the highest voting strength with 602,079 while central which is second has four hundred thousand, three thousand and twenty six (493,026) registered voters while the North now boost of four hundred and twenty nine thousand, five hundred and eighty four (429,584) registered voters. 

The difference between the Central and South now is just sixty three thousand four hundred and forty  two (63,442) registered voters while the difference between South and central stands at one hundred and nine thousand, fifty three (109,053).

This means that, if the South produces a governorship candidate in the APC and Onor wins the PDP ticket to slug it it out with a Southerner, the South is likely to win because of the support of the North where the Governor comes from. No doubt the central voting strength is slightly above that of the North, but the different can be covered by the advantage of the South. 

It's also important to note that, Etung where Onor comes from has the least voting strength in the state. This follows that, the APC which boast of members like Sen. John Owan-Enoh, Sen. Victor Ndoma-Egba, Chief Clement Ebri, Barr. Mary Ekpere, Pastor Usani Usani, Chief Okoi Obono-obla, Chief Utum Eteng, Hon. Alex Egbonna, Chief Akin Ricketts, amongst others from the central would still give him (Onor) the fight for his money in his own Senatorial district should he pick the PDP ticket. 

Although, Onor has also realized that the North may be the deciding factor in the next election and has formed an alignment with Sen. Jarigbe Agom, the Senator representing Cross River North Senatorial District, Agom's popularity has not been tested in the Senatorial district because he emerged Senator through the court.

In 2023, if he seeks reelection into the Senate which is looking likely, that's when his popularity would be tested but he would be going against the Governor who has always won overwhelmingly in the North whether as candidate or supporter of any APC candidate for Senate and a serving Minister, Goddy Jedy-Agba, OFR who's also from the North. 

However events turnout in the coming days, one certainty about the next gubernatorial election in Cross River State is that the North would not only play a major role but would be a deciding factor in the race. 
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